The O’Hearn family appears from the best sources available to originate with the family of Ua hEachthighearna or alternatively Ua hEachthigheirn meaning the descendants of Eachthighearna, horse-lord. The Anglicized form of the name is Echtigern (Welsh ‘Edeyrn’?), similar to Vortigern (Wyrtgeorn, Gwyrtheyrn, Gurtheyrn), king of the Britons of Arthurian legend, and also the 6th Century St. Kentigern (Cyndeyrn) of Scotland , and the 8th Century St. Kentigerna of Ireland and Scotland. Echtigern was a son of Cinneidi, King of Thomond ( North Munster), and his wife Babhion ("Fair Maid"), daughter of Arcadh, son of Murchadh (Murrough) O’Flattery, King of Iar Connaught ( West Connaught), and brother of the great Irish ard ri (high-king) Brian Boru. Another brother or half brother Mahon had risen to the rank of king of the Munster province before Brian became high-king during the Viking wars about 1000 AD.
The people of their tuatha or petty kingdom styled themselves as Dal gCais or race of Cas, claiming descent from an ancestor who was supposedly related to the southern ruling family elite called the Eoganachta who ruled from their stronghold of Caiseal in Tipperary. In actual history however, they were of a people called the Deisi or vassal people who apparently acted as mercenary soldiers to the more powerful kings of both North and South. Some originated around Deece near Tara, and migrated south into the Decies of East Cork and Waterford before the Christian era began. Perhaps they served as Irish foot-soldiers called ceithernaigh or kerns. St. Declan, originally from Leinster, became their patron saint. These people came originally from the midlands of Ireland and consequently appear to most closely represent the ethnic group descending from the original hunting, fishing and food-gathering folk who crossed into Ireland from Scandinavia during the Ice Age about 6000 BC, their descendants called Cruithne in Ireland, ethnically similar to the Picts of Alba in Britain, the Lapps in Finland, and possibly also the Guanches of the Canary Islands and the Basques of the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain and France. They may have been absorbed to some extent by the later arrivals who were called Erainn by the Gaels, possibly originally from the Caucasus Mountain region of Iberia or Georgia . These include neolithic farming and pastoral folk, from the Middle East (related to the Aryans) and North Africa (related to the Berbers), arriving about 3000 BC, and the bronze-using precursors of the Celtic peoples arriving from central Europe between 1500 and 800 BC.
Recent antiquarians, including T.F. O’Rahilly, classify the Deisi and the Dal gCais as belonging ethnically to the race of Erainn. At the time of the arrival of the iron-using Celts who settled along the coast beginning before 300 BC, the remnants of the earlier groups remained in the mountainous midlands, much as in the Scottish highlands where traditional culture has been preserved even to modern times.
These successive ethnic migrations are recounted in Irish mythology in An Leabhar Gabhala (The Book of Invasions) naming the settlements of Parthalon, the Nemedians, the Fir Bolg (probably Belgic Erainn), the Tuatha de Danann (who were actually non-material deities), the Fomorians (probably Phoenician or Scandinavian invaders), and finally the Milesians (related to Mil of Spain). This account is somewhat corroborated in the Celtic, Greek and Roman names for Ireland: Eriu, Eire, Iverne, and Hibernia , clearly similar to the name of the Iberian people.
However by the dawn of the Christian era, all of the inhabitants of Ireland spoke a common Celtic language and shared in a common Celtic culture. It is interesting to note that the early Irish monks traced the lineage of all of the Irish as Celts from the Scythians, descending from Magog, son of Japheth, son of Noah, and through the line of Seth from our first parents Adam and Eve as appears in Genesis, Chapter 10.
According to one Irish scholar le Poer, the Deisi acted in relation to their Celtic overlords much as the people in the frontier regions of The Roman Empire called laeti served under Roman military commanders. The Dal gCais were in reality an obscure tributary group called An Deis Tuaisciert (the Deisi of the North), a branch of In Deis Becc (Little Deisi) of Munster who occupied a territory in southeast Limerick called An Deis Bheag about the time of St. Patrick’s mission to Ireland in 431 AD. They crossed the Shannon River from Limerick early in the 5th Century AD to acquire new territory and establish a degree of independence from their Eoganacht overlords.
About this time, some others of the Deisi people in the area of Waterford crossed over into Wales and Cornwall in Britain. Among these are perhaps the tyrant Vortigern mentioned above, and Carredig who was lord of what was to become Cardiganshire.
Cinneidi’s father Lorcan mac Lactna was called king of the Dal gCais and claimed descent from the 7th Century chiefs Bloid and Turlough, related historically to two Irish saints, Munchin and Flannan. Bloid’s descendants styled the Ui Bloid were settled in a region in southeast Thomond just north of the Shannon River called Killaloe, or the Church of St. Molua who was an early 7th Century Irish monk of the Ui Fidhgheinte from County Limerick . St. Munchin is the patron of the city of Limerick. St. Flannan, who was consecrated Bishop of Killaloe by Pope John IV in Rome, is patron of the Flannan Islands in the Hebrides off the coast of northern Scotland where he had gone as a missionary. A tradition is preserved that the Flannan Islands are called the Seven Hunters because of a prophesy that among Turlogh’s descendants the Ui Toirdealbaigh would be seven great kings later to be identified with Brian Boru and several of the later O’Brien rulers. Turlough, who was the father of St. Flannan, also became a monk at Lismore monastery in the south of Ireland.
The Dal Cas territory of Thomond was centered in what is today County Clare, which had been part of the traditional northern half of Ireland called Leth Cuinn ( Conn’s half) under the rule of the powerful Connachta. The Deisi Becc people had managed to wrest control of this territory at a time after the Ui Neill dynasty had established power in the midlands or Meath, partly from lands within the southern half called Leth Mogha (Mug’s half), claimed traditionally by the Eoganachta of Munster and the Laigin of Leinster .
The Ui Bloid branch of the Dal Cas rose from obscurity to power in the south of Ireland during the 10th Century AD, at a time when the once powerful Ui Neill alliance, claiming descent from the northern Connachta kings, and the Eoganachta alliance in the south, were relatively weakened due to Viking encroachments throughout Ireland.
The Dal Cas kingdom was strategically located at the mouth of the Shannon River near the newly established Viking stronghold of Limerick . Because of their strategic location and superior fighting skills, they became the most powerful force in Munster in the mid-10th Century, apparently rising with the tacit approval of the Ui Neill rulers. The Ui Neill Ardri Donnchadh selected for a wife Orlaith, a daughter of Cinneidi. In the year 940 AD, she was put to death for sleeping with Donnchad’s son, Aongus, a penalty that may have been imposed because Cinneidi was then perceived as a threat to the Tanaiste or heir apparent Muircheartach (Murtagh). In the year 950 AD, the high-king Conghalach entered and plundered Dal Chais, and caused to be killed two of Cinneidi’s son’s who had enlisted in the Eoganachta army of Ceallachan. These were Donncuan, Tanaiste of Thomond, who was ancestor of the Lonergans, Gunnings, O’Kennedys, O’Regans, Kellihers, among other families, and Echthighern who was the ancestor of the O’Aherne (O’Hearn, etc.) and MacCraith (McGrath, Magrath, etc.) families of the south of Ireland.
Some of the MacGrath descendants later became hereditary bards and historians for the O’Brien kings, as will appear later. They also excelled in the ecclesiastical sphere in both Clare and Limerick. According to An Leabhar Muimhneach (Book of Munster), Echtigern was the father of three sons: Floinn who was the father of Raith from whom the MacCraiths descend; Conghal (Conall) from whom the McConnells descend, and possibly also the MacColes (M’Cole), whom Wolfe says are extremely rare; and Cionath (Kenneth) from whom possibly descend the O’Quirks of Munster. However, another pedigree lists the O’Quirks as descending from Anluan, who was possibly a son of Mahon, son of Cinneidi. The family of Quirks were anciently chiefs of Muscraigh Breogain in Muskerry ( Tipperary), which was after the English settlement in the territory of Clanwilliam, a branch of the Norman Burkes. Another family of MacQuirks originates in Ulster.
In A Little Book of Irish Family Names by Ida Grehan, the surname Ahearne is derived from a Gaelic name which became O’Hagerin in English which was later changed to Ahern or Hearn. This was a Dalcassian sept which migrated from east Clare to County Cork. "In the 10th century this was an important sept, whose chieftain was Mathghamain, King of Thomond, an elder brother of the Irish High King Brian Boru. The territory of Thomond at that time covered Co. Clare and parts of Co. Limerick."
This may cause some difficulty since they were all blood siblings and the chief of a clan or sept must have been lineally descended from the ancestor. The difficulty is overcome if one conjectures that Mathghamain (anglicized Mahon) adopted the younger children of Echtigern thereby becoming the chief of the newly formed sept. Moreover, in the Book of Munster, Raith who was the ancestor of the MacRaith sept, is listed as a descendant of both Echtighern and Mahon. The name Raith means Prosperity as listed for the McGrath surname in Ida Grehan’s book.
King Cinneidi was himself killed in 951 AD in battle against the Eoganachta and their Danish supporters. His eldest son Lactna reigned until he was also killed in 954 AD. Mahon, then the oldest son and ancestor of several families including Boland (although Rev. Woulfe says that this sept from a Norse personal name descends from another Mahon, son of Turlough), Spillane, Hanrahan, Sheehan and Toomey, rose to become king of Munster in 954 AD reigning from Cashel of the Kings. He was killed in 976 AD by two supporters of the southern dynasty, Mael Muad (Molloy), and Donovan of the Ui Fidhgheinte, and Ivar the Dane. One other brother Marcan was a monk and abbot of Killaloe, and Bishop of Emly from 990 AD. The scepter thus fell to Brian Boru, who was challenging Ardri Mael Sechnaill (Malachy) II O’Melaghlin of Meath.
King Malachy, while on an excursion south into Leinster in 983 AD, had come into Munster and uprooted the royal tree of Maigh Adhair sacred to the Dal gCais in the inauguration of kings. Brian invaded Ossory in that year and won control of the southern half of Ireland from this this high king Maelsechlainn. Brian rose to the rank of Ardri or high-king in 1002 AD. Brian was killed by the Viking Brodar at the Battle of Clontarf on Good Friday in the year 1014 AD, where a victory was nevertheless decisively won over the Vikings, primarily Danish and Norwegian, and their Irish supporters. This caused the Vikings to give up their plans of conquering Ireland. The descendants of these Vikings who remained in Ireland became thoroughly Irish and were thus absorbed into Irish culture. As recounted in the historic work Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh (The War of the Gaedhils with the Gaill), among those who fought and died at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 were the sons of Echtigern or Ui hEachthighearna as they are called in Irish. King Brian had proven to be a farsighted administrator and courageous military leader, a "hero and patriot". His eldest son Murrough was also killed in the battle, and he was succeeded as king of Thomond by his second oldest son Tadhg, while Malachy II regained the title of Ardri. Tadhg was killed 1023, and his brother Donnchadh became king of Munster and married Driella, the daughter of Godwin, Earl of Kent, and sister of Harold II, the last Saxon king of England.
After Donnchad became a monk on a pilgrimage to Rome, Tadhg’s son Turlough Mor, who was married to Mor, daughter of O’Hyne in County Galway, became king of North Munster in 1058, and later retired to a monastery at Lismore in the south of Ireland. His son Murtagh Mor O’Brien was Ardri from 1086, the year Turlough died, to 1119. Murtagh is known for granting the royal residence of Cashel to the Church, and he was presented with a relic of the true cross of Christ by Pope Paschal II, later kept at Holy Cross Abbey on the river Suir near Thurles in Tipperary. Murtagh’s son Mahon, who died c.1129, is ancestor of the MacMahons of Corcu Baiscinn in West Clare.
From another son Domnhall descend the MacDonnells of Clare. Murtagh Mor retired to the monastery of Lismore in 1116, and was succeeded by his brother Dermod as King of North Munster who reigned from 1116 to 1120. Then Dermod’s sons Turlough and Tadhg reigned.
In the 11th and early 12th Centuries, Gilcrist Ua hEachthighern was Abbot of Clonmacnois, a school for the sons of the Irish nobility, and also of Ardagh in County Limerick. In 1868 the beautifully decorated Ardagh Chalice was found buried in a potato field near the Carrigkerry road, and it is believed that this priceless treasure was brought from Clonmacnois at the time of the Viking raids, perhaps even at the time Gilcrist, who died in 1104, was abbot. During this time and for almost three centuries the Ua hEchtigern families were dynasts of Hy Cearnaigh (victorious) near the town of Sixmilebridge, at one time the site of a Dominican chapel, just north of the River Shannon and the city of Limerick. Possibly the name originates with the sept of O’Kearney, believed to have originally arrived in North Munster from Connaught perhaps with ecclesiastical ties, before eventually settling near Cashel in Tipperary.
Not long after, in the year 1152 was fought the Battle of Moin Mor near Emly in County Tipperary, between Turlough O’Brien and his supporters in Kerry on the one side, and the high-king Turlough O’Connor, Tadhg O’Brien, and the Desmond forces led by Cormac MacCarthy on the other. As recorded in the Book of Lecan, Murtagh, son of Connor O’Brien, and Lughaidh (Lewy), son of Domnhall O’Brien, were both killed, and among the fighting men who fell in this battle were five chieftains of the Ua hEchtigern sept. O’Connor assumed chief sway over Munster, and Turlough O’Brien was banished for a time. This battle settled the fate of the Dal gCais who were thereafter confined to the area north of the Galtees ruled by the O’Briens, Tadhg and Turlough, whereas the area of South Munster or Desmond remained under the sway of the Eoganachta whose most powerful sept was that of MacCarthy until the Normans arrived. In the Annals of Ireland, there is also mention of Lorcan Ua hEchthighern who was slain by the sons of MacConmara and the Ui Caisin in 1170, the fateful year in which the English arrived.
The Normans were originally Vikings from Scandinavia who settled in Normandy, France around the year 800 AD, coming to England in 1066 AD with William the Conqueror and a contingent of knights from all over Europe. Their arrival in Ireland in 1170, led by the Earl of Pembroke and Strigul, Richard Fitzgilbert de Clare, called Strongbow, was sanctioned by Pope Adrian IV (Nicholas Breakspear) the only English Pope. The Papal Bull Laudabiliter in the year 1156 had authorized Henry II, who was granted "hereditary possession" and himself went to Ireland in 1171, to establish order in Ireland with a view toward safeguarding the Christian faith. The English liturgical usages were also accepted by St. Laurence O’Toole, Archbishop of Dublin, who encouraged cooperation by the Irish chiefs.
The King of Munster Domnall Mor O’Brien (or Donald, son of Turlough and grandson of Dermod) succeeded to the throne about 1167, turned against the Ardri Rory O’Connor in 1170, and was one of the first to pay homage to Henry II. However, he vacillated in support of O’Connor and against Strongbow who was defeated in battle at Thurles, and even going so far as to burn the bridge going into Limerick to prevent the return of the foreigners. His sons were the ancestors of the MacConsidine and MacLysaght families. He built Holy Cross Abbey to house the relic of the true cross mentioned above, and died in 1194. During the 13th Century, the Welsh-Norman presence began to take shape in Munster, including a grant to Thomas Fitzmaurice in 1199, and the settlements of de Braosa (or de Bruce), and others.
At this time the toisch or chief of the Ua hEchtigern sept provided fosterage to the young O’Brien sons who were to succeed to the kingship of North Munster. In those days fosterage was a system of education in which the children could learn the arts of horsemanship, war, and good government while living for several years with the foster parents. The Ua hEchtigerns were thus probably of the class of bo-airigh, lords who owned a large amount of cattle which they provided to others as an early form of capital investment.
Regarding the equestrian element of the name, "Of all beasts, the most noble and most useful to man, either in peace or war." According to Heraldic Artists Ltd., "It signifies readiness for all employments for king and country, and is one of the principal bearings in armory. A white horse was the ensign of the Saxons when they first invaded England ." And also, "We read of the White Horse of Wodin, borne by Hengist when he invaded Britain -- which the shield of Hanover still bears."
There were also English families of Hearne or Hearn who settled in southern Leinster in the 13th Century. Their name is apparently derived from the nautical bird heron, and it is therefore not surprising that the coat of arms and motto for the Ua hEchtigern family, adopted probably sometime around 1150 AD, is apparently patterned after an English version. As listed in Burke’s General Armory for O’Heron of County Kerry; viz., on the shield, "Vert three herons argent," and the crest, "A pelican in her piety proper." Heraldic Artists, Ltd., formerly of Dublin, states that the Heron and the Stork may have been used in place of the extinct Ibis, which was a similar but smaller bird held sacred in ancient Egypt. Guillim states that the Stork is the emblem of filial duty, inasmuch as it renders obedience and nourishment to its parents. The color Argent [white or silver] signifies Peace and Sincerity. The color Vert [green] signifies Hope, Joy, and sometimes Loyalty in Love. "The Pelican feeding her young adorned the altars of many of the temples of the Egyptians, and was emblematical of the duties of a parent. She is represented as either ‘vulning’ or wounding her breast with her beak; or ‘in her Piety,’ when surrounded by her young who are being fed by the parent. This symbol has often been used by the Church as the emblem of devoted and self-sacrificing charity, with the motto ‘Sic Christus dilixit nos.’" (Thus Christ has loved us). The pelican is "proper" indicating the natural color thought to be brown for the birds and the nest. The family motto is Per Ardua Surgo, translated "I rise through difficulties."
Toward the end of the 13th Century, a dispute began to grow between two rival factions of the O’Brien sept, descendants of Domnall Mor O’Brien, each claiming the right to succeed as chief. These battles are commemorated by John MacRory Magrath in Caithreim Thoirdealbaigh (The Wars of Turlough). Brian Ruad (or Roe), the brother of Tadhg O’Brien who was the last reigning chief of the Dalcassians in Thomond, became chief and opposed Tadhg’s eldest son Turlough, who, though still in minority, was also claiming right to succession. To strengthen his hand, Brian Ruad enlisted the support of Thomas de Clare of Cork who had been granted a claim to land north of the Shannon by King Edward I of England in 1277. He was a distant relative of Richard FitzGilbert de Clare, after whom the County Clare is named, Strongbow who had led the Norman invasion of Ireland back in 1170.
Thomas de Clare immediately built Bunratty Castle, later to become the stronghold of the powerful MacNamaras, just north of the Shannon River. At first Brian Ruad’s forces were utterly routed, and he fled across the Shannon River to Ara in Tipperary, where his descendants came to be known as O’Brien Arra. Thomas de Clare had Brian Ruad killed in 1277 because of a military defeat at Moygressan, and at the instigation of his wife, whose brother Patrick Fitzmaurice of Kerry was killed in battle. Brian’s sons however remained loyal to de Clare.
The Ua Echtigerns (O’Ahiarns in the translation) and other Irish families entered the conflict on the side of de Clare and the faction of Brian Ruad, as did the Norman Geraldines and Butlers. On Turlogh’s side the Normans were led by de Burgo, ancestor of the Burkes of Ireland. The MacNamaras and O’Deas were the chief Irish supporters of Turlogh’s faction, along with the O’Connors of Corcomrua in North Clare, and the O’Kellys and O’Maddens from Connaught. O’Dea also provided fosterage for Turlogh O’Brien’s children. During this time, Edward , brother of Robert, Bruce, King of Scotland, was crowned King of Ireland, and although resisting English rule, brought his forces to bear on the side of de Clare and the faction of Brian Ruad. However, the victory was won by Turlogh’s son Murtagh O’Brien at the Battle of Dysart O’Dea on 10 May, 1318, wherein Thomas de Clare was slain along with his son and chief knights. His wife had the castle burned to the ground before fleeing. The usurper Edward Bruce was later killed at the Battle of Faughart in 1318. As a result, the MacNamaras, who supported Turlogh’s faction, acquired new territory and took over Bunratty which was to become their ancestral stronghold.
The Ua hEchtigerns, after the death of their chief William, and other families, were displaced and began to be dispersed throughout Munster. Murtagh O’Brien became undisputed chief, and his descendants ruled without English interference until the year 1543, when Murrogh O’Brien submitted to Henry VIII and obtained the English title Earl of Thomond. After the Battle of Dysart O’Dea in 1318, the Ua hEchtigern sept next appears in history in the person of Ailin o hEichthighirn, or in English Alan O’Hathern alias O’Hachierane, Bishop of the Diocese of Ardfert which included Kerry and West Munster. He was bishop from 1336 until his death on 2 December, 1347.
In the late 14th Century, Denis Eachaerna alias Ahern, was a canon appointed to the parish of Ardcanny in the Diocese of Limerick, and was transferred to to Kyllfintynagh in the year 1400 after he was found to be practicing medicine for pay. Another clergyman, Maurice Echiernay, was vicar of the parochial church of Ballingaddy, who bound himself to the Apostolic Chamber for the first fruits of the canonry and prebend of Dysert, also in the diocese of Limerick, in the year 1428. In the year 1500, Dionysus O Chachern another clergyman in the Order of St. Augustine, was a canon of Limerick who bound himself to the Apostolic Chamber for the first fruits of the priorship of B.V. Ragille (now Rathkeale, Limerick County).
In the 17th Century, another clergyman from the Diocese of Limerick, Rev. T. O’Hearn, was removed or transported apparently to America in the year 1652, with other priests including one named Owen MacNamara, perhaps to the island of Barbados in the Caribbean Sea, during the Puritan government administration of Oliver Cromwell in England. In the year 1679, John Haghieren is listed among passengers aboard the ship Encrease arriving in Maryland from Youghal, County Cork, and who apparently became indentured servants in Maryland by warrant of Lord Baltimore. During this time, Murrough O’Brien known as "Murrough of the Conflagrations", the 1st Earl of Inchiquin, was a member of the Privy Council of Charles II in exile in France. Also at about this time, the Bishop of Limerick was Dr. Edmund O’Dwyer, who died in Brussels in 1654. Another member of the O’Dwyer sept, originally from Leinster and then settled in central Tipperary near Limerick, has yet to appear in the next Chapter.
According to O’Hart, the O’Aherns were a prominent family in County Cork to the end of the 16th Centuries. At this time they were a medical family of physicians and surgeons on good terms with the Norman Lords Fitzgerald, Earls of Desmond, and Lords Roche. In southeast Cork the town of Aghern may commemorate the territory in which the family settled, as this is also a common spelling of the patronymic name. The town was later occupied by the Fitzgerald Earls of Desmond in the 18th Century. The O’Ahern’s apparently settled in southeast Cork and crossed over into Waterford where they took the English sounding name Hearne or Hearn, as Waterford had been occupied by the English for centuries after the Normans arrived, and families of English settlers with these names, although never very numerous, were in southern Leinster from the 13th century, as mentioned in the last Chapter.
Other Irish family names also became anglicised as Hearne, Hearn, Heron, etc. Among these were the sept of O’ hUidhrin of Offaly, although MacLysaght indicates that O’Heffron, Heffron, and Haveran are more common in English. Among these is Giollananaomh O’ hUidhrin (d. 1420), called O’Heerin in English, who completed O’Dugan’s "Topographical Poem." Another sept is O’ hEearain of the Oirgialla in the North. Perhaps the Anglo-Irish sept, from one of these septs, derives the coat of arms described by Burke in The General Amory for Hearne, or Hearn, as follows: "Per fesse argent [white or silver] and azure [blue] three chaplets [wreaths] counterchanged. Crest -- On a mount vert [green] a horse [white] at full speed, saddled and bridled proper."
In southeast Cork and Waterford, the Ua hEchtigern or Hearne families were apparently living in close proximity with some of the related families, including the McGraths of Cork and Waterford, the O’Briens of Waterford, the O’Regans of Tipperary, and the O’Kennedys of Wexford. As stated for the surname McGrath is Ida Grehan’s book mentioned in the first chapter: "There are various links with the McGrath name around Dungarvan, County Waterford. In the town itself, what is known as Abbeyside, or McGrath’s Castle, dates from the 12th or 13th century. Only the west wall remains.
In the nearby ruins of the 13th century Augustinian priory is a tomb with the inscription "Donald Mcgrath, 1490." He was one of the County Waterford sept, which had migrated there from Clare and Limerick." However, the infamous Bishop of Cashel named Miler MacGrath, born in the year 1523 in County Fermanagh, who was a Franciscan friar and became a Protestant, was of a different MacGrath family originating in the northwest of Ireland, at Termon Magrath on the shores of Lough Erne in the neighborhood of Pettigoe. He reportedly became reconciled to the Catholic Church before his death in 1622. In Ormond or the County Tipperary, O’Hart lists O’Hern (Hearne, Heron, Ahearne, Ahern), chiefs of Hy-Cearnaidh, as among the chiefs and clans of note, along with the other Dalcassian septs of O’Kennedy, O’Hurley and O’Shanahan. An example of the wide dispersion mentioned in Chapter II appears in the Hearth Money Rolls for the year 1665. In the parish of Killavinogue is listed Donnogh Aghiron of Aghanoy, and Teige Agheron. The parish of Templeroe lists William McGrath. As late as 1850, according to Richard Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland, Margaret Ahern is listed as a tenant in a house in Ballysorrel Big, in the parish of Killavinogue.
During the time after the Restoration of the Stuart dynasty in England, many Irishmen served in European armed forces on the Continent. Among these, in 1662 is found Capitaine O’Ahern in the Irish Brigade in the Service of France, Regiment of Muskerry, becoming a Lieutenant. His death is recorded in the year 1675, while fighting against the "Gendarmes Anglais" in France. There is also mention of a Capitaine Edward O’Ahern of the 1st Battalion Irlandais in 1805.
Finally, Major Symon o’Hougherne (?o’Aherne), is listed along with the commanding officer Patrick Sarsfield in the "Retinue of James II in Ireland in 1690". Another valiant fighter in the army of King James was Teige O’Regan who held out against all odds to stop the advance of William’s men. As will become clear in the next Chapter, the flight of King James II to France after the Battle of the Boyne, and the rise of King William of Orange and Queen Mary in England, marked a turning point in Irish history in which the fate of many of the Ua hEchtigerns and other Irish families would lead them to military service in the nations of Europe, or the British colonies.
At the outset of the 18th Century, the historical focus of the Ua hEchtigern sept shifts from France to Spain. In the year 1715, Don Patricio Aghearne is listed as a Sub-Lieutenant in the Spanish Army, in the Regimento de Hibernia. In the year 1759, Don Bernardo Hearne was a Cadet in the Spanish Army, in the Regimento de Ultonia. Many Irish families served in the French, Spanish, and other European military forces, and were known as "Wild Geese", having left Ireland after the Protestant ascendancy in Great Britain. One distinguished Irishman serving the Spanish Crown was Juan O’Donoju, the last Spanish governor of New Spain in the Americas, and a descendant of the O’Donohue family of Cork and Kerry. This family is closely related to the O’Mahoney family of Cork descending from Mathgabhuin (Mahon), who was the son of Cian, son of Molloy of the Eoganachta of County Cork, and Sabh, a daughter of Brian Boru and niece of Echtigern.
Back in Ireland, John Aheron was the author of the first book on architecture printed in Ireland in 1754. Burke’s General Armory states that Simon O’Haugherne, son of William O’Haugherne, Esq. of Carrigarry, was allowed a coat of arms by Hawkins in the year 1775. The shield and crest are the same as the O’Herons of Kerry mentioned in Chapter II, except that the three herons on the shield and the pelican on the crest are the color of or (gold), while the nest remains "proper". The motto also remains the same: Per Ardua Surgo. As this coat of arms clearly indicates a distinguished family, it may not be presumptuous to speculate that this Simon O’Haugherne was a descendant, perhaps a grandson, of Symon O’Hougherne who served under King James II in 1690, as appears in the last Chapter.
Those of King James’ men who submitted to King William were allowed to keep their land holdings in Ireland. Toward the beginning of the 19th Century, the most notable of the Ua hEchtigern sept in Ireland was a physician named John Aherne of County Cork who was born c.1769, became a captain in Napoleon’s Irish Legion in 1803, and was killed at Metz in 1806. He also became a United Irishman and friend of Theobald Wolfe Tone, and was therefore instrumental in the Irish uprising of 1798 in which the French supplied a military contingent.
As stated in the aforementioned book by Ida Grehan regarding the surname Ahearne: "Today there is no clan chief and no family seat. However, one place that has the family name and has many historical resonances is Hearn’s hotel in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. Ireland’s first ever public transport system, started here in 1815, the Bianconi mail coach services." In Cashel, County Tipperary, Venerable Daniel Hearn, M.A., was Archdeacon, apparently of the Anglican Church of Ireland, from 1726 to 1766. His grandson Daniel James Hearn, Esq., of Correa, County Westmeath, served as a lieutenant in the 43rd Regiment of the British Army. His son Robert Thomas Hearn, Esq., was a Major in the 76th Regiment. According to Burke’s General Armory (Supplement, 1884), the family coat of arms was confirmed to his two sons, Rev. Daniel James Hearn, Rector, (apparently Roman Catholic), of Kilmurry, County Cork; and Charles Richard Mont Orgueuil Hearn of Dublin, and of Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, in the North. This Irish Hearn family appears to be of Norman-English origin, as the shield and crest of the coat of arms and motto Ardua petit ardea, translated "The heron seeks high places", is similar to or identical with the coats of arms of several families named Heron, etc., apparently from Northumberland, England.
As one of these English coats of arms for a family called Heron (extinct 1801) contains on the shield the bearing of a heron holding in its mouth a banner with the word Hastings, apparently commerating the battle of that name in which William the Conqueror was victor in the year 1066, the progenitor of this family may originally have been from France, and of Norman stock. They may also be related to the families of Hearne and Hearn who settled in southern Lienster in the 13th century, as mentioned in Chapter II. Be this as it may, the Hearns of Northumberland and West Somersetshire in England were also thought to be of Gypsie origin, although the Gypsies, originally from northern India, did not arrive in Western Europe until the 15th century. Among these families is probably the Protestant Hearn family of Dublin, from which came the famous author of Irish and Greek descent Lafcadio Hearn, who, after traveling to the United States, was sent to Japan where he married a Japanese woman and died there in 1893.
Also from County Cork, Thomas McGrath of Ardagh, near Youghal, who was of the northern McGraths known as Clanaboy, married Ellen from a family of Aherns of Shanakill, County Waterford. Their two sons were Parson Denis M’Grath and Thomas McGrath of Kilcalf, County Waterford. Parson Denis married a daughter of General O’Neill. Two sons from this marriage became active in the British East India Company. One son Thomas McGrath married the daughter of Judge Lefroy. The other son James McGrath acquired a large estate near Liverpool, England where he was living in 1836.
Daniel McGrath of Lismore, County Waterford, who was of the southern McGraths known as Clanabawn, married Ellen, a daughter of the afore-mentioned Thomas and Ellen McGrath. Two of their sons traveled to America where their descendants lived in Montreal, Quebec, and New York State. The Clanabawn McGraths of Munster claimed through a pedigree to have been descended from the Eoganachta and to be related to the Vera-O’Sullivans, who had occupied in ancient times a territory in County Tipperary but were forced to migrate into West Kerry as the MacCarthy’s became more powerful in Desmond or South Munster.
Another family of MacGraths were of Ballynagilty, County Waterford, and of this line Philip was Chief of the Clan of Sleveguor down to the 17th Century, of whom a daughter married into the Butler family. In one of the O’Rourke pedigrees, mention is made of the town of Innismagrath in County Leitrim in southeast Connaught. The McGrath’s of Oxnard, in Ventura County, California, of whom is Judge Charles McGrath, descend from Dominick McGrath who left County Longford in northwest Leinster and arrived in America around the year 1848, and came to San Francisco around 1849.
In County Waterford (Port Lairge), Father Francis Hearne (1747-1801) was an Irish priest who went to Louvian, Belgium where he was a learned professor who spoke the Flemish language, as well as English, French, Italian, Irish, Spanish, German, Arabic and Russian. He returned to Waterford in 1799, during the French Revolution, and was a teacher of Daniel O’Connell. He was appointed by Bishop Thomas Hussey to be parish priest of St. Patrick’s Church, Waterford. Dr. Hussy also encouraged and aided Edmund Ignatius Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers, whose cause for canonization is now in progress. Also in 1799, Edmund Power and another Francis Hearne were both condemned to death for being organizers of the rebels, according to Canon P. Power scrap-book preserved in City Library. In 1809, James Hearn of Knockboy was shot and killed, apparently for informing against a gang called the Caravats opposed to the Act of Union. In 1810, Nicholas and William Hearn of Tower (Towergate), Butlerstown, were robbed of their pistols and swords near Waterford City, apparently by the Caravats.
In 1849, John D.C. Hearn of Shanakill, Rathgormack, wrote a letter to the lord lieutenant on the anniversary of a barrack-attack in Portlaw in which Thomas Francis Meagher took part. Another William Hearn was detained in 1868 on suspicion of being connected with Fenianism, and was eventually discharged. In more recent times, the proprietorship of John Hearn, Ironmonger, has been a distributor of agricultural equipment in Waterford City and Carrick-on-Suir (Carraig na Siuire), County Waterford, just across the river from County Kilkenny in Leinster. The author purchased a traveling bag there in 1984.
In the Irish Land Records for the year 1876, there is mention of a landowner named Michael Hearn in the town of Callan, County Kilkenny. There are also listed landowners by the names of Ahern, Ahearn, Hearne, Hearn, Heron, etc. for the Counties of Limerick, Kerry, Cork, and Waterford. R.E. Matheson published the Special Report on Surnames in Ireland, in which he included from the Office of the Registrar-General’s birth indexes for 1890, households of family surnames with five or more entries for that year. Of these there were Ahern (92), Aherne (15), and Ahearn (9) for a total of 122 in Ireland distributed by province as follows: 4 in Leinster, 117 in Munster, 1 in Ulster, and none in Connaught. Of these nearly all were in Cork and Limerick Counties. There were also households named Hearne (6) and Hearn (5) for a total of 11 in Ireland, distributed by province as follows: 2 in Leinster, 8 in Munster, 1 in Ulster and none in Connaught. Of these, 8 were in Waterford County.
Also during this period many among the Irish found employment serving the British Crown. Some of these found their way to the American colonies, as did Maurice O’Hearn who is listed in an article by Terrence Punch as one of the Irish who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the year 1750. In colonial America at about this time, Morris O’Hearn who was married to Phibbe _________, petitioned the Council of Orangeburgh, South Carolina in 1749 for 250 acres of agricultural land. He had come to South Carolina from Virginia with his wife and three children. Another child John O’Hearn was born on March 17, 1752. This information is from the Orangeburgh German-Swiss Genealogial Society records.
The American historian O’Brien lists Timothy Ahern as an Irishman who was recruited with a certain McCarthy from Cork to serve in the Colonial Army under George Washington after 1776. McCarthy was killed during the Revolutionary War, and Ahern was captured by the British and held in Montreal until the end of the conflict. He then lived as a free man in the state of Connecticut. Thus the descendants of the Ua hEchtigern sept appear in history both on the side of the Hanoverian dynasty in Canada, and on the opposite side of the patriots in America.
Immigration to the United States of America and Canada began to grow early in the 19th Century. In 1812, John O’Hearn arrived in Allegany County, Pennsylvania. In the U.S. census of 1830 for South Carolina, Elias is listed as a resident of Orangeburgh. Perhaps he was a direct descendant of Morris and Phibbe O’Hearn of Orangeburgh. Subsequently, Cath O’Hearn arived in New Brunswick, Canada in 1843. Several O’Hearns including another named John are listed on passenger lists bound from British or Irish Ports and arriving in New York Harbor in the years 1848 and 1849, during the Irish Potato Famine. Daniel O’Hearn of Kilkenny, his wife Johanna and their children arrived and settled in Erin Township, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada circa 1850. In Erie County, Pennsylvania, Michael O’Hearn arrived in 1852, John O’Hearn arrived in 1855, and James O’Hearn arrived in 1864. The County records in the State of Wisconsin indicate that several families of O’Hearn arrived in the mid-19th Century, mostly from Canada. John O’Hearn of Maple Grove, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin apparently arrived around 1850 and was originally from County Kilkenny, Ireland, the son of Daniel O’Hearn. He and James O’Hearn, perhaps a brother, acquired eighty acres of farmland by grant deed from the U.S. government in 1852, in which deed they are listed as James O. Haran and John O. Haran.
During the American Civil War, at least two soldiers named O’Hearn served in Wisconsin Regiments of the Union Army. The most celebrated of the name may have been Captain John D. Hearn who served in one of the Regiments of Corcoran’s Irish Legion from the State of New York, and was discharged in 1863. Thomas Francis Meagher mentioned above, who had been tried and convicted of treason with eight other Irishmen who were all pardoned by Queen Victoria, also served as Brigadier General of the U.S. Army, became Governor of Montana, and was a well-known author and lawyer. Also, Maurice O’Hearn arrived in Colorado in 1881. At the turn of the century, Edward L. Hearn of Boston was Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. John Ambrose O’Hearn, born in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1886, was a newspaper reporter and editor of the Lawrence Evening Tribune beginning in 1919.
In more recent times, the well-known movie actor Brian Aherne was of Irish descent, originally from England, and lived in California. In Canada, during the 19th and 20th Centuries several individuals of the O’Hearns have been outstanding in the fields of publishing, education, law and government. At the present time, the most populous state for O’Hearn familes is Massachusetts, indicating probable heavy immigration. In Canada, the most populous province for O’Hearn families is Ontario.
In the ecclesiastical realm, several of the sept were of note in the United States. John Francis O’Hern (1874-1933), born in Olean, New York, was ordained in 1901 and was appointed bishop of Rochester in 1929. Charles Aloysius O’Hern (1881-1925), born in Lawrence, Kansas, was ordained in 1906, was appointed vice-rector of the North American College in Rome in 1907, became rector in 1917, and retained that position until his death. Rev. Woulfe indicates that the surname O’Hern was also an anglicization of the Irish sept of of Ua hEearain originating in Armagh. O’Hart lists the name as among the familes of Irish landed gentry in County Tipperary, in the territory in which the Ua hEchtigern sept had migrated in the 14th Century. Michael Joseph Ahern (1877-1951), born in New York City, joined the Jesuits in 1896, was a lay brother who taught chemistry, and was director of and commentator on the "Catholic Truth Period" radio program from 1929 to 1950.
In Australia, Elizabeth Ahern was born in 1877 at Ballarat, Victoria, the daughter of Edward Ahern, a miner, and his wife Eliza (nee Kiely). Known as Lizzy, she became a socialist propagandist and married a man named Wallace of similar political views. She died in 1969. Thomas Ahern was born in 1884 at Ballymacoda, County Cork, the son of Patrick Ahern and his wife Mary (nee McGrath). He came to Australia in 1910 with his fiancee Nora McGrath whom he married. He was successful in acquiring an interest in a furniture and drapery business with the Quinlans who entered into the partnership on the advice of Archbishop Patrick Joseph Clune of Perth. The business became known as Ahern, Ltd., and Thomas soon bought out the Quinlans’ interest, acquiring full ownership. Thomas Ahern died in Perth, Australia in 1970. More recently, Michael John Ahern, MLA, was Primier of Queensland province, Australia, from 1987 to 1989.
During the time of the Irish struggle for independence, Archbishop Clune of Perth, himself originally from County Clare, helped to negotiate on behalf of the Irish with Prime Minister Lloyd George and Sir Winston Churchill, MP, and was very sympathetic to the Irish patriots of Sinn Fein during the early decades of the 20th Century. Also supportive of Sinn Fein was Bishop Edward O’Dwyer of Limerick. Bishop O’Dwyer was descended from the same sept that had settled in central Tipperary from Leinster, as mentioned in Chapter III. Several priests from his diocese became priests in the United States and Canada in the early 1900’s, including two brothers, Thomas O’Regan and William O’Regan, who were assigned to minister at St. Philip's Church in Pasadena, California, in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. At the present time, the Most Rev. John J. Ahern, now retired, has been Bishop of Cloyne in southeast Cork from 1957 to 1987, being succeeded by Bishop John McGee. From the beginnings of Sinn Fein and the Easter Rebellion of 1916, emerged the Irish Free State in the post-World War era which did not include six counties in Ulster, precipitating the Irish Civil War from 1921 to 1923. Full independence was accorded the Irish Republic in 1949 after the Second World War. The Honorable John Joseph Hearne, S.C., of Waterford, who received his secondary education from the Christian brothers at Waterpark College, was appointed assistant Attorney General of the Irish Free State (Saorstat) in 1925, and took his seat in the Assembly of the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland in 1926. He took part in the composition of the Constitution of the Republic of Eire from 1935 to 1937 as legal adviser to the Irish Department of External Affairs under President de Valera. Of this he said that it included what he called "the most comprehensive code of Christian democratic principles ever enacted in a national constitution." To Mark Hatch of the Boston Post (March 19, 1950): "I shall always be proud, sir, that I had some little part in the formation of that unique instrument." In 1957, His Holiness Pius XII paid tribute to the Constitution, having received de Valera on the occasion of the centenary celebrations for Luke Wadding, O.F.M. He later became Ireland’s High Commissioner in Canada for ten years, and became the first Irish Ambassador to the United States in 1950. He was married in 1930 to the former Monica Mary Martin, the daughter of a sea captain. The Hearnes had four children: Maurice Isidore, John Justin, David Anselm and Mary Elizabeth. Today, the most noteworthy of the Ua hEchtigern sept in Ireland is Bertie Ahern (b. 1952), the former Lord Mayor of Dublin (1986-1987), Minister of Labor, and Minister of Finance in the government of Prime Minister Albert Reynolds, and recently himself elected Taoiseach as leader of Fianna Fail (Party of Destiny), the Irish political party which began with President Eamon de Valera and the Irish patriots of 1916. As we approach the beginning of the new millennium, several of the Ua hEchtigern sept are of note.
In Great Britain, Stephen James Ahearne has been chief financial officer since 1990, and managing director since 1992, of the British Petroleum Company. In the United States, John Joseph O’Hearne, M.D. is a noted psychiatrist livng in St. Louis, Missouri who coauthored a book on transactional analysis for management professionals. Michael Patrick Hearn, " America’s foremost man of letters specializing in children’s literature and its illustration", teaches at Columbia University and has edited The Victorian Fairy Tale Book and an edition of Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz. Patrick O’Hearn is a well known musician and recording artist. In the field of television journalism, Catherine O’Hearn has been outstanding, most recently as executive producer of ABC World News.
James Francis O’Hearn of Fall River, Massachusetts is a leading chemical company executive now residing in Taipei, Taiwan. There are also several Roman Catholic priests in the U.S. with the surname of O’Hearn, including a Jesuit father, James O’Hearn S.J., currently stationed at the Provincial House near Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Thus it is evident that the Irish sept of Ua hEchtigern from which the O’Hearns descend has included a great many noble individuals, confirming the truth of the family motto Per Ardua Surgo.