Departures, Homecomings – and a Mass Rock

Image 5

Maybe they left at the crack of dawn.  Hungry? Maybe they had a meal in front of the fire, here in Killough, before they packed up their few belongings to go to the emigrant ship. Maybe they felt excited. Maybe utterly terrified and lonely at leaving their home, never to return.

What we know with certainty is that some time in late 1849 or early 1850 my great-great-great-grand-uncle James Maher and his second wife, Catherine (Fanning), packed their bags and left here, our home in Killough, with seven children, two from James’s first marriage, to board the ship “Erin’s Queen” to set sail for America.

The seven children of James Maher who are named in the ship register were: Johanna (aged 12) and Martin (aged 9), who were the children of James’s first wife. Martin later fought in the Civil War in America on the Northern (US) side.

Also listed were James Jr (aged 7); Patrick (aged 5); Dennis (aged 4);  Mary (aged 3); and Thomas (infant).

I often think of them and that journey – especially when we sit around the fire place.

On arrival in the States, to New Orleans, they took a boat up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, where they settled in Darke County  Ohio, in a place called ‘Greenville’. We understand some of the children died on the journey. As readers may guess, we called our home ‘Greenville’, after we renovated it, in acknowledgement of their departure from here.

James and Catherine went on to have more children and, though Catherine lost her husband when he was still a young man in his 50s, her family all managed to do relatively well for themselves. The local papers in Greenville, Ohio, reported that James tragically lost his life, trying to break up a row in a pub. The image below is of the male surviving members of James’s and Catherine’s family – some of whom were among those to leave here in the mid 1800s as children.

MaherBrothers copy



So how does this link in to today?

In 2013, a group of us got together locally with the view to setting up a committee to celebrate the name Maher/Meagher and the origin of the clan in this area – the ancient Barony of Ikerrin.

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The organising committee for the 2014 celebration of the O’Meachair clan

The committee organised a weekend celebration, which took place in August 2014, of the O’Meachairs (Irish spelling of the name).

This included an art exhibition on the theme of the Devil’s Bit Mountain, on the Friday night in Killea, which was opened by the artist Alice Maher. The title we gave the exhibition was ‘Marvellous Motif’ because, in a letter I received from the late and great Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney, whom I originally asked to open the event,  he described the idea of celebrating our local mountain, writing that it was a  ‘Marvellous Motif’ for an art exhibition.  He was unwell at the time and had to decline the invitation. We were delighted Alice was free to attend.

Alice Maher Pic

L-R: Christine Timoney; Rev. Fr Laurence Walsh; Alice Maher; Professor William Smyth; John Costigan; and Keith Fahey from Tipp FM, who interviewed the participants.

Also part of the weekend event was an academic conference and a genealogy workshop in Damer House , Roscrea and a wonderful family-friendly celebration, with music, food, drama and pageantry in Clonakenny, acknowledging the importance of  the name Maher/Meagher to this village in particular,  and to Ikerrin and beyond. (Click on the images below for more information about participants).

Photographs from the genealogy workshop in Roscrea (top) and the family-friendly celebration in Clonakenny (bottom left and right)


That same year, only earlier in May, my husband and I welcomed back to Killough some members of the family of Thomas Francis Maher (1926-2012). His children were one of the two sponsors of our new Mass Rock, pictured below.

Thomas Francis Maher’s grandfather was Alexander Francis (Frank) Maher, pictured in the old photograph above, and the youngest son of James and Catherine. His father was Thomas Alexander Maher, grandfather to the some of the members of the family who returned to Killough in 2014, to sit at that same fireplace which James and Catherine left behind them, all those years ago.

A wonderful afternoon was spent, and we were joined by my late mother, Mary, and my sister Anna, brother-in-law Mick and niece Tara.

Image 5Members of the children of Thomas Francis Maher present in this image are Mike, Pat, Kathy, Kellie and Shawn. Shannon, another sibling, is not present and a brother of theirs, Danny, had died some years earlier.

Mike Maher (pictured in the middle at the back) had visited Killough earlier in the 1990s and he kindly forwarded me images of that original visit, including a photograph of the fireplace, before we restored the house, and of Mother outside our home, helping to fill in some of the gaps in the genealogy exercise.

Martin, who remained here in Ireland and resided in the cottage part of our home, is my great-great-great-grandfather and ancestor of my late mother, Mary Meagher, who we lost so recently last year.


Mike on his visit to Killough in the 1990s


My mother, Mary, showing Mike his ancestor’s house – now our family home – during that visit in the 1990s

Sunday February 25th Killea and Mass Rock Dedication

So all this links to Sunday last, February 25th, in Killea, when myself, Seosamh and the boys, along with members from the O Meachair & the Barony of Ikerrin Committee, Killea Graveyard Committee and Killea Cultural Group, came together with the broader community, to bless the dedication on the new Mass Rock – a  lasting monument of our 2014 event and also in recognition of the two families who sponsored it.

The other family involved were the Schulers. Margaret Schuler’s Grandfather was Patrick Maher, originally from Shanakill who left, as a young boy with his family and they settled eventually in New Zealand . They have kept, over the years, huge connections to the area and in particular to their relatives and friends in Shanakill.

Some of our committee are pictured below. From left to right Clare Bohan, Tim Lee, Tim Maher, Teresa O Sullivan, William Maher and myself.


Rev Fr. Dominic Meehan blessed the Rock and the dedication reads, as you will see from the photographs:

‘Dedicated to the memory of all buried here, and in remembrance of all Mahers/Meaghers who originate from this ancient place. Erected by the O’Meachairs & the Barony of Ikerrin Committee and sponsored by the children of Thomas Francis Maher (1926-2012), Lafayette, La., USA; and Herb & Margaret Schuler, Te Aroha, New Zealand’.

Food was provided in the Killea Heritage & Community Center by Catherine Maher (below), sister to Tim, after the blessing, and Tom Doherty took images, some of which are here in this blog.



From left to Right: William Maher; Teresa O Sullivan; myself; Margaret Maher (Orchard); Catherine Maher (who provided the wonderful food); Tim Lee; and Tim Maher (Orchard).


It was a memorable morning – with moments of pride that this monument has finally been secured for the area – but also, in light of the recent passing of Liam D. Maher Clonakenny, father to William our Chairman; James Maher, The Orchard, father to Tim Maher, our Treasurer; and, last September, Mary Meagher, Killough, my mother, there were also moments of sadness, that they had not lived long enough to see this day.


In Remembrance of :

LDM Photo (002)

Liam D Maher, Clonakenny (1940 – 2016)


James Maher, The Orchard (1937- 2017)


Mary Meagher, Killough (1923- 2017)

The O’Meachair & the Barony of Ikerrin organising committee are William Maher (Chairman), Denise Meagher (Secretary), Tim Maher (Treasurer), Clare Bohan, Susan Chadwick, Teresa O’Sullivan, Tim Lee and Christine Timoney.

The Committee would like to sincerely thank Killea Graveyard Committee and their friends for the assistance with sourcing a suitable rock; Aidan Fogarty for doing the inscription and Killea Cultural Group for their support. Also Noel Coonan former TD who facilitated people coming together, at an earlier stage, which lead to the formation of the committee. 

One thought on “Departures, Homecomings – and a Mass Rock

  1. Thank you Denise for your work and for helping me fill some gaps and feel connected to the old country. I am Sean Mark Maher, son of John Edward Maher who was a younger brother of Thomas Francis (Mike and the rest are my cousins). He has been good to give us his pictures and experiences from visiting you and I am so grateful to him. I have read the Barony of Ikerrin website as well as your site with the rental info. I am very happy that the house is repaired and lived in again. I was very excited when you had the clan gathering but was just not able to find time or money to attend right at that moment. I would love to visit you someday. I have two girls in college right now (Colleen and Maggie) and two children still in high school (Kate and Mark). Dad and Mom came there with a couple of my sisters several years ago, I think they met Mary. I hope to follow in the next few years as time and funds are a bit more free. Thanks again for sharing.

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