The History of 8 Families

Rev. Stephen McTernan's Copybook

A Key Link for All McTiernan / McTernan's

There are over 486 individual McTernans / McTiernans identified with many of the families searching for any information on their families in County Leitrim. Rev. Stephen's [born in the townland of Sheskin] copybook when found should provide the key to a wealth of information on all or most of those families. It was found at his death in St. Clare's Hall in Manorhamilton, a classical school.  Rev Stephan is in the T Group in the larger MacTighernan DNA study which in turn is largest one of 20 distinct and separate MacTighernain DNA groups

Another key to the MacTighernain line is the pamphlet written in 1845 by James McTernan, --1856, the first known of the Mount Allen McTernans, Mountallen townland,  Kilronan parish, Barony of Boyle, Co Roscommon, [PO is Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim] to settle at Heapstown, Co Sligo entitled  "An Address to my Fellow Countrymen", where he claimed descent from Tiernan O'Rourke, Prince of Breffni. [Found by John C. McTernan].

Back to Father Stephen: The following is taken from a story by The Breifne some years ago. It concerns the chalice and the Abbey of Cloonaquin.

In 1907, Rev. Charles Comey, curate of Cloonclare, Manorhamilton, found in the former St. Clare's Chapel, then used as a classical school, a quanity of books and papers which remained over from an auction of the effects of Rev. Stephen McTernan, PP, Killasnett, who had died in April 1906, aged 85, having been pastor there since 1888.

Father Stephen was interested in historical matters and in Gaelic literature for which he was made a member of the Royal Irish Academy on January 14, 1884 and signed the registration book on January 24, 1887. Among the items in the unsold collection was a tattered copybook which contained a sort of curriculum vitae of Fr. Stephen himself, in which he mentioned that he was a teenage youth when the Cloonaquin chalice was found in the late 1830's in a pile of stones believed to be the remains of a monastery. The site was in the townland of Cloonaquin, close to a ford on the Bonet River, not too far from Sheskin in the parish of Killargue, where Rev. Stephen McTernan's family resided.

Cloonaquin was in the ancient parish of Cloonlogher, now included in the Catholic parish of Drumlease (also called Drumahaire), Co. Leitrim. The chalice had apparently been in a wall press in the Abbey whose collapse left a pile of stones.

Rev. Stephen McTernan, 1811--4-4-1906. Rev. Stephen died at Cartontemple, parish of Killasnet. The death register was signed by Rev. T. C. Connolly. Rev. Stephen's schooling in theology was at Maynooth, ordained on June 2, 1849, curate at Drumreilly in 1849, Glenade in 1857, Glenfarne in 1859, Cavan in 1865, Castleradan in 1866. Parish Priest of Upper Drumreilly from 1867 to 1878, of Killasnett in 1878. Father Stephen is buried at the rear of the Church of the Annunciation, Mullies. Rev. Oliver McTernan's family is from Mullies.

The April 7, 1906 Anglo-Celt newspaper noted Rev. Stephen's death in the following manner. Died, Very Rev. Stephen McTernan Parish Priest MRIA Killasnett on Monday last; 97 years old, 69 in the ministry. In the election of 1852, worked for Brady and told Cal Clemsils he was a peace breaker not maker. Twenty five years ago he formed classes in his parish aided by Mr. Cox of Sligo, to have the children learn Gaelic. Poor Irish speaking roving men were able to remain for months in Killasnett and to obtain seed oats and potatoes for the poor. . .

Rev. Stephen McTernan had been the parish priest at Killasnet parish since 1878. He was interested in historical and Gaelic matters for which he was made a member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1884. In addition, Rev. Stephen McTernan was a member of the Societe Generale in Paris, France for which he received an annual sum of money.

Reverend Stephen's personal papers were uncovered in 1907, by Rev. Charles Comey, curate of Cloonclare, Manorhamilton. The papers were found in St. Claire's Chapel. Cloonclare was in the ancient parish of Cloonloger, now included in the Catholic parish of Drumlease, Co. Leitrim. Drumlease means the ridge of the huts. His personal papers were called the "copybook". This is the key to unlocking the McTernan family history. Rev. Stephen kept this diary from childhood and it would give a daily record of the McTernan family.

All records and the gravestone behind the Chapel of Killargue in the village of Killargue state that Rev. Stephen McTernan and his family were from the Townland of Sheskin. The name Sheskin simply means "a marsh" or more specifically quagmire. There are two forts located on Sheskin that are very old and noted on early Irish maps.

1. Bryan McTernan, 1783--6-18-1845, one of Hugh McTernan III and Mary Dolan's three children. Bryan was most likely, born in Sheskin and died on Wednesday, June 18, 1845. Bryan married Alice McTernan, nee O'Connor, 1780--3-30-1860, sometime before 1811. Bryan is listed in the Tithe Books.

Bryan McTernan and his family are buried in the old grave yard directly behind the Chapel of Killargue in the village of the same name in Leitrim. The information on the flat grave stone states that Bryan McTernan's family was from the Townland of Sheskin, the ancestral home of the McTernan's, which is about a mile from the Chapel of Killargue.

The grave stone for Bryan McTernan's family, put there by their son, Rev. Stephen McTernan, 1811--1906, states that Bryan's daughter, Sibby McTernan, 1826--8-18-1852, and her brother, John McTernan, 1828--5-2-1854, died at the age of 26.

As in most Irish families the only goal a mother has is having at least one of her sons given to God. Rev. Stephen's nephew was Rev. Michael McTernan, 5-7-1866--12-19-1926, born in Sheskin and was ordained to the priesthood in Maynooth on 6-24-1890. After serving as a curate for a number of years in the diocese of Kilmore he was appointed Parish Priest of Glenade on 9-17-1915 and retired in May 1925. He was a curate at the Parish of Drumlease between 1891 and 1895.

In 1906, he was the curate of the Catholic Church in Swanlinbar, Kinawley parish, Co. Cavan. Like his uncle, Rev. Stephen, he took a keen interest in the co-operative movement and acted as Secretary of the Newtownmanor Co-Operative Society for a time. He is said to have cycled to the Dublin Show in the Spring of 1895 and during his visit called at the office of the Irish Agricultural Society to discuss the latest trends in the co-operative movement. He died in December, 1926, in Ballinaglera Catholic parish in Co. Leitrim. Rev. Michael was the curate for Ballinaglera Parish from 1895 to 1897. In 1856 there were 8 individuals named McTiernan living in Ballinaglera Catholic Parish (Drumreilly civil parish), in 1975 there were 3. (taken from a paper written by John C. McTernan, Chief Librarian of Sligo Co. library)

John C. McTernan's family is from the townland of Corratawy, Drumahaire, Killargue Catholic parish which is on the southern border of Sheskin. and may be related to the Sheskin McTernan line. John's father worked for 1.4.6. Bernard McTiernan at the newspaper.

The following paper was written in the late 1980's by John C. McTernan. John is the Chief Librarian at the County Sligo Library in Sligo City. His family is from Killargue Catholic parish and the link to the McTernan family from Sheskin is based on what was written in his book "In Sligo Long Ago" on page 612 where it is stated that in 1915 John's dad, Matt McTernan born in Killargue parish worked for the Sligo Champion newspaper which circulated in Leitrim. John referred to Bernard McTernan [ photo at left ] the sub editor of the Sligo Champion as a kinsman and neighbor of his dad. Bernard McTernan was my 2nd cousin two generations removed born on Sheskin, the townland where my family is from.

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. As per the 1999 "Leitrim Guardian", Father Stephen and the Protestant landlord, Sir Jocelyn Gore-Booth both put through a great effort to get the Killasnett CO-OP up and running in 1899. Sir Jocelyn would get up from the presidents chair when Fr. Stephen arrived at the monthly meeting a bit late as Fr. Stephen was president of the CO-OP. It is a tribute to both men, one a priest and one a Protestant that they put the differences behind them and worked for the success of the CO-OP.

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 in Mullies. Mullies is in the civil parish of Killasnet, Barony of Rosclogher, PLU of Manorhamilton and District of Lurganboy. His mortal remains rest at the rear of the Church of the Annunciation, Mullies 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, Co Leitrim.

Father Stephen was also aparently very active with the youth of the parish. In Daniel Gallogly's book, "The Diocese of Kilmore, 1800--1950" , he states that Father Stephen got into a fist fight over the Kitchen dances that were going on in the parish. The Kitchen dances were the major moral threat to the young at that time. "The priest didn't always get his own way whenever he tried to break up Kitchen Dances. Fr. James Brady recorded in his diary on October 31, 1877: I have heard that Fr. Stephen McTiernan a few nights ago went into a house and began to disperse a dance and in turn was violently attacked. Hart told me that his father and the PP struck each other in this house in Aghavilla [Drumreilly Upper]."

Michael McTiernan

N40 03' 09.4"
W75 24' 14.1"


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