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John Ahern

** community contributed record **

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: John Ahern
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: -
Occupation: -
Date of Death: -
Age: -

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 57 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to Life

Crime: Irish rebel
Convicted at: Ireland, Limerick
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Atlas
Departure date: 29th November, 1801
Arrival date: 7th July, 1802
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 199 other convicts


Primary source: Freemans Journal, Sunday, June 6, 1801; Page: 3 Freemans Journal, Tuesday, June 23, 1801; Page: 4
Source description:

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Community Contributions

Robin Sharkey on 29th November, 2016 wrote:

John Ahern and his three brothers were tried in June 1801 for rebellious practices.  They had first been removed (presumably from Limerick) to Dublin by writ of Habeas Corpus. Then they were returned to Limerick on Wednesday 2nd June 1800, by a military escort and lodged in the provost prison there, in order to their being tied by a General Court Martial, for rebellious practices.  (Court Martials had been introduced to try people engaged in rebellious activities in the aftermath of the 1798 rebellion).

The Ahern brothers were John, Mathias, Michael (who was aged around 24 yrs) and Mortagh who was only around 18 years. Also with them were John Byrne, James Byrne and James Carvey.  (Freemans Journal 1763-1924, Sunday, June 6, 1801; Page: 3).

the only ones of these men recorded as being transported to Australia were:

John, Michael and Murtagh Ahern. 
Brother Mathias is not recorded as having been boarded with them. Nor is he recorded in newspaper as having been sent to Cork with them to sail. He may have been found not guilty (unlikely), or to have been drafted into the army or navy instead.

Freemans Journal 1763-1924, Tuesday, June 23, 1801; Page: 4
“LIMERICK, June 20th
Thursday last, John Ahern, Much. Ahern and Mort. Ahern, and Thomas Browne were sent to Cork to be transported pursuant to the sentence of the Court-martial.”

Robin Sharkey on 1st December, 2016 wrote:

Four Ahern brothers were tried by Court Martial at Limerick for the murder of five men in the family of Boland. John Boland was the tithe Proctor over several parishes in Limerick and was very exacting of the local people in wringing their tithes out of them; he was not well liked.  Several hundred people - White Boys and united irishmen - gathered one night to attack the house and murder Boland and the men in his house - his brother James and his two sons James jnr and Matthew. Ttey set the thatched roof alight and the men died as the house burned. Another brother Edward Boland, also was killed as he came to their aid.

A man named Patrick Ahern turned approver at trials of others, but he was believed by some to have been an instigater and leader of the attack - from evidence he gave in trials.  (See evidence of Thomas Grady Esq, Barrister, in Proceedings of a Court Martial at Limerick on 30/10/1800 on Heliby, O’Donne and McMahon for murder of Sheedys; reported in Journals of the House of Lords, Volume 3, 1801 at page 277).

Supposedly, at the trial of the Ahern mens’ father Murtagh Senior three years later in March 1803, evidence was given that Patrick Ahern (his brother? his son?) had organised the huge gathering of agrarian agitators to gather and kill John Boland, after Boland had sold his cow to pay the tithes.  Because Patrick Ahern had turned approver, he was never charged for involvement in the crime.


According to the secondary source “The History and Topography and Antiquities of the County and City of Limerick”, by Rev Patrick Fitzgerald page at Appendix xxxvii, published 1824
“General Sir James Duff, who commanded in Limerick, ardently co-operated with the magistrates in searching out the perpetrators, and these efforts proved so successful that eleven of the murderers were executed and an equal number transported.”

Sir James Duff also established a court martial to try all the accused, instead of having them dealt with through the ordinary Assize courts.

In June 1801, John Ahern and all his brothers were tried at Limerick for the murder on 7 March 1800 of the Bolands, and also for rebellious activities on the same night including against another Tithe Proctor named James Mulcahy. On the 10th June 1801 Mathias Ahern was judged not guilty. howeverJohn, Murtogh and Michael were found guilty and sentenced to death. Their sentences were commuted to transportation for life on the intervention of Maj-Gen Sir James Duff.  [ All from FROM “Journey into Hell” Chapter 11 “Beyond the Sea’ by Brian Ahern]

Some of the men executed for the murders were brothers John and William Collins (a few weeks after the murders, in April 1800); Henry Stokes & Patrick Sheehan (in April 1800), and Murtagh Ahern (March 1803). This Murtagh Ahern was the father of the three Aherns transported to NSW for the crime, before their father was ever found guilty.

Some of the men also transported to NSW for the crime were:
On Atlas 1 - Thomas Brown (7 yrs), and brothers Murtagh Ahern and Michael Ahern with John Ahern (all LIFE)
On Atlas II -  Paul Slattery (LIFE)



The ‘Atlas I’ had been overcrowded with merchandise bought by the Captain Richard Brooks for sale by him at a profit in NSW.  This meant there was not enough room for the convicts’ rations, or to be able to properly air the hold where they were chained, or to let them out very often. As well, the Captain allowed short weights to be used to dole out the food. In these conditions there was great discontent, and great fear by Brooks of insurrection by the convicts.  The ship they were travelling with, Hercules, itself did have an attempted mutiny on board.
The following information is from FROM “Journey into Hell” Chapter 11 “Beyond the Sea’ by Brian Ahern (extracted Jen Willett with permission on her web site).

After leaving Rio on 25 Feb 1801, any noise, disturbance etc from the convicts had Brooks on edge. Rumours abounded; the convicts were searched, and kept chained up. Information from informers was well received by Capt Brooks, thereby encouraging them.  On 13 March a convict (Patrick Coleman) informed Brooks of a proposed mutiny (untrue) and three other convicts also came forward. There was nothing of substance and Brooks had each of them flogged (except one) to extract confession.  Nineteen were flogged in all.

On 15 March one of the first three convicts who first informed - Patrick McDermott, from Meath - informed again that poison had been smuggled on board to poison the soldiers. He named as the culprits Michael Byrne, William Houlahan and Patrick Gannon, who all happened to be from Meath.  Perhaps he had a score to settle with them from back in Meath. There was no truth in it.

McDermott also named others as those who would take over the ship, including one of the Aherns. He had been nominated as the person who would have navigated the ship to America if the mutiny had been successful.

John Ahern was flogged on March 16th 1801 on the deck of the “Atlas’. The number of lashes received would have been many more than 100 because of etc nature of the alleged crime relating to mutiny.

He did not survive the flogging and died a couple of weeks later his body being ‘buried’ overboard.

Convict Changes History

Robin Sharkey on 29th November, 2016 made the following changes:

convicted at, term: 99 years, voyage, source: Freemans Journal, Sunday, June 6, 1801; Page: 3 Freemans Journal, Tuesday, June 23, 1801; Page: 4 (prev. ), firstname: John, surname: Ahern, alias1: , alias2: , alias3: , alias4: , date of birth: 0000, date of

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