The History of 8 Families

The McTernan's from Killargue

The following paper was written in the late 1980's by John C. McTernan, RIP. John is the Chief Librarian at the County Sligo Library in Sligo City. John C. McTernan's grandfather, Matt McTernan worked with Bernard McTernan as a newspaper man in his early years. John C. McTernan's family is from the townland of Corratawy, Drumahaire, Killargue Catholic parish which is on the southern border of Sheskin. Based on John's book, "In Sligo Long Ago" on page 612 he refers to 1.4.6. Bernard McTiernan from Sheskin as a kinsman which implies that John C. McTernan and I are 3rd cousins, one generation removed. However, the results of the DNA test done by 71 McTernans state that John and I are in two different genetic groups.

The McTernans of Killargue

In many respects the most distinguished of the Killargue branch of the McTernan family was the Rev. Stephen McTernan, P.P., M.R.I.A., one of the most prominent Nationalist of his day. He was born in 1810 [in the Townland of Sheskin] and studied classics in Sligo before completing his studies at Maynooth. After his ordination in 1848 he was appointed curate in Glenfarne and quickly became the inspiration and leader of his flock. He championed the cause of his oppressed countrymen, and his unquenchable spirit exemplified in stirring appeals from both the church pulpit and the election platform, played no insignificant part in the Nationalist success in the famous Leitrim election of 1852.

Speaking as one of the Leitrim Delegates to the great Nationalist Convention in Dublin in September, 1881, he declared: "We care not whether the Land Bill be a success or not, we are determined to have justice for Ireland...We must never lose sight of the great goal of patriotic Irishmen, namely self-government..."

Stephen McTernan was in the fore-front of every movement, religious, political and industrial, that promised to improve the lot of the ordinary people. He was one of the first in the West of Ireland to recognize the value of co-operation. In the words of the "Irish Homestead", he was "one of the pillars of the co-operative movement in Leitrim, a sturdy pioneer of every movement for the betterment of the masses for well over half a century". Shortly after his appointment as Parish Priest of Killasnett in 1877, he founded the Killasnett Co-Operative Society; and one of the great joys of his old age was the success attained by this venture during his lifetime.

One of his greatest ambitions was the restoration of the Irish language as the spoken tongue of the people. For over 50 years he was in the forefront of the Gaelic revival and that at a time when it was neither fashionable or profitable to do so. He was an active member of the Gaelic League from its infancy and he demonstrated his enthusiasm in a most practical manner by donating 100 Irish Pounds to the Council for the Preservation of the Irish Language for the writing and publication of the two essays in Irish dealing with the entire field of Irish Literature. The "McTernan Prize Essays", one on prose by Rev. Patrick Dineen, and the other on poetry by Dr. Douglas Hyde, were published in 1902. As a token reward for his unflagging devotion and support, he was elected Vice-President of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language some years before his death.

In 1884 he was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy. Reporting on the event the "Sligo Champion" commented as follows:

"This institution which has on its roll of membership the names of so many distinguished men of letters has not failed to recognize the unquestionable merit of our highly-cultured reverend friend ....We think we are safe in assuming that he will be found possessed of ample capabilities to contribute much that will be found of surpassing interest from the abounding lore of North Leitrim..."

Stephen McTernan, the patriotic and scholarly pastor of Killasnett, died there in April, 1908, at the ripe old age of 98 years. His mortal remains rest at the rear of the Church of the Annunciation Mullies (District of Lurganboy, Union of Manorhamilton) where a large memorial, in the form of a Celtic cross, erected to his memory by the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, is thus inscribed:

"Stephen McTernan / M.R.I.A. / Member of the Council of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language / died April, 1908, age 98 years / 60 years in the Priesthood / Pray for his soul."

Father Stephen was also very active in the Land League. He was a major speaker at the 1885 meeting held just outside the village of Kinlough.

Michael McTiernan

N40 03' 09.4"
W75 24' 14.1"


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