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Murtagh Ahern

** community contributed record **

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Murtagh Ahern
Aliases: Murtagh Aherne, Murtagh O'hearne, Murtagh Heron
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: -
Occupation: Farmer
Date of Death: 1852
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: Murder
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: Beyond Sea/ Log Atlas1 complete references. Index.National library of Ireland. State Paper Office.Commitee of Secrecy Third report. Limerick Chronical. HRA. HRNSW. Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825. Census Reports. Family archives.
Source description:

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Community Contributions

Eric Harry Daly on 27th December, 2012 wrote:


The occurrence referred to as the “Night of the Bolands” and the “Burning of the Bolands” took place at Manister at what has since been called “Burn Cross.”  The Boland homestead was situated at the rear of the two semi-detached cottages now (1954) occupied by Timothy Hedderman and Patrick Cregan.  The Bolands were tithe proctors and they were attacked because John Boland had seized a cow or (cows) belonging to Patrick Ahern, a miserably poor man with a large family.  It was only one of many attacks on tithe proctors during those years.  So as a rule the attackers were satisfied with administering a beating and extracting a promise that the proctors would give up their unsavoury work. This case was different.  The Bolands were notorious for the severity with which they pressed the collection of tithes. They had seized the property of many poor men and were in consequence thoroughly hated.  It was not, however, until they seized Patrick Ahern’s cow that they aroused the anger and hatred of a man who determined to have revenge and was able to induce others to support him.

Wednesday 12th March1800.  
“It appears that at a late hour on Friday night a great number of villains, armed with muskets, swords and pikes, attacked the house of Mr. John Boland of Manister and demanded his arms; at he same time a considerable part of the Banditti, on horseback, were placed at a distance to keep watch.
Mr. Boland with his brother James and his sons Mathew and James were in the house in bed (as were Mrs. Boland and her two daughters).On the first alarm the men got up and determined to defend their house and property with that spirit for which as yeomen and loyalists they were most remarkable.
After firing a number of shots among the barbarous assailants (several of whom there is good reason to believe did execution) unfortunately for this brave family the house was thatched, and the wretches set the same on fire which caused them to come out. In consequence of which Mr. John Boland, his brother James and Mathew were butchered in a manner shocking to relate; the latter lived until next morning but died without giving an account of his murderers.  It also appeared to the inquest that Edmond Boland, brother of Mr. John Boland, who lay in the neighbouring house was coming to the assistance of his family and was murdered between the bridge of Manister and the house, which was burned down.To add to this more than hellish outrage poor Mrs. Boland who with her daughters narrowly escaped from the flames, has become quite deranged and the recovery of the daughters still remains doubtful.”

19th April 1800:
Trial of John and William Collins and Murtogh Ahern for the murders.  John Collins confessed his guilt.  The Collins brothers were convicted and were sentenced to be hanged near Croom.

Saturday, 12th  March 1803. Re: The Bolands Murder of 7th March 1800.
The real motive of this gruesome murder by Whiteboys or United Irishmen, or whatever they call themselves has now come to light.  On Wednesday Murtogh Ahern was convicted of the murder of Messrs. Boland (John, James, Matthew Edward and James Junior) on the night of the 7th March 1800.
This man appeared to have been principal in that bloody scene.  The learned judge said in pronouncing sentence that he never felt so little pain in discharging this awful part of his duty; and a sentiment of satisfaction seemed to pervade the court at seeing a principle of that massacre convicted, though at the end of three years.
Upon this trial a very extraordinary circumstance occurred: a man who admitted to have been present at the massacre appeared as a witness for the prisoner at the bar, but as this mans fate is yet undecided we shall have to abstain from all commentary as to this, only to observe that we hear his defence is that he is forced to the massacre by Patrick Ahern who sought revenge against Boland, then a tithe proctor, Boland having sold a cow of Ahern’s under decree for tithes against him obtained in the Civil Bill Court. Whether this man was under coercion or not may appear hereafter; but it is now unquestionably time that the dreadful carnage of the Bolands was occasioned by the circumstances above, stated.
Saturday 19th March 1803: 
 This morning Murtogh Ahern was taken from our County Gaol (under escort of Captain Tuthill and Captain Waller’s troops of yeomanry Cavalry and Captain Marret’s Limerick Garrison Yeomen Infantry to Manister in this county where he was executed for the well-known horrid crime committed on the family of the Bolands.The malefactore corpse was brought back and given to the County Hospital for dissection.

NOTE: although it is reported Murtagh was executed it was not carried out.
Four Ahern brothers were convicted and sentenced to death but were reprieved at the last moment and transported to NSW.  Mathias died on the way there.  The other two, John and Michael survived the journey and their descendents now live in the Sydney area.

From the “Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825” @records.nsw.gov.au

#AHERNE, Murtagh#. Per “Atlas”, Jul 1802
1810 Oct 10 Of the Derwent. Received a free pardon (Reel 6003; 4/3490A p.120)
1819 Apr 21 Constable. Appointed poundkeeper at Holsworthy; listed as O’Hearne (Reel 60328; SZ1044 p.80)
1820 Aug 15 Countersigned printed copy of Proclamation on the accession of King George IV; at Liverpool on 7 Aug (Reel 6049; 4/1745 p.167)
1820 Nov 4-1821 May 12 Store receipts paid for fresh meat & pork, paid at Liverpool (Reel 6051; 4/1748 pp.147, 183)
1824 Oct 20 Resigned as constable in the District of Holdsworthy (Reel 6039; 4/424 p.279)
1825 Mar 9 On list of persons applying for Government servants; listed as Heron (Reel 6063; 4/1785 p.144a)

Murtagh Ahern married Mary Abbey, another convict with a life sentence transported for breaking and entry and stealing. They married in 1815.
For information on Mary Abbey see “Indefatigable and Minstrel” 9 May 1812 available on this site. Murtagh Ahern died in 1832 in Liverpool NSW.

Catherine Johnston on 6th December, 2014 wrote:

It was Murtagh Ahern’s FATHER, also named Mortogh Ahern, who was executed for the Boland Murders.

Donna Bowen on 15th February, 2015 wrote:

Brian Ahearn researched Murtagh and his family for over 10 years and has recently (2013) published 2 volumes about his life. “Beyond The Sea ( life and times of Murtagh Ahearn) is available on line. I am also a descendent of Murtagh and have purchased volumes I. &. II.  Very interesting read. Brian has researched as far back as 950 AD.

Brian Ahearn on 1st December, 2016 wrote:

Murtagh Ahern update

Some information to be noted from previous correspondence:

Murtagh Ahern was NOT a ‘political prisoner’.
He was convicted of Murder and Rebellious Acts, he being a sworn United Irishman (Rebel).

Limerick Chronical March 12, 1803. NOTE: although it is reported Murtagh was executed it was not carried out.

Murtagh was in New South Wales a year earlier. It was his father Murtogh, who was executed.

Four Ahern brothers were convicted and sentenced to death but were reprieved at the last
moment and transported to NSW.  Mathias died on the way there.

Mathias Ahern never left Ireland, he was found not guilty. John Ahern died on board.

The other two, John and Michael survived the journey and their descendents now live in the
Sydney area.

It was Murtagh and Michael Ahern who arrived. Murtagh’s descendants from his 17 children live throughout Australia. Many in NSW and Queensland. Michael had no issue.

Murtagh Ahern married Mary Abbey in 1815 as Protestants. They married a second time as Catholics in 1821.

Murtagh Ahern died in 1832 in Liverpool NSW.

Murtagh Ahern died in 1852 in Liverpool.

The transport ship Atlas, the first of four by that name, arrived at 2pm on July 6, 1802 (log-ship’s time) this confirmed in the log and Captain Richard Brooks correspondence (July 6, 1802).

A response to notes from Eric Harry Daly - December 26, 2012.
Details of the Boland murder are for a later entry.

Murtagh Ahern and his brothers Mathias, John and Michael were charged at a court-martial held at the Limerick Court House on June 8,1801 with the murder of John Boland, his sons Mathew and James and his brothers Edmond &?James. (Edmond was not at the scene of the murders, but was murdered coming to their aid from his house nearby). In addition they were charged with
Rebellious Acts committed on the same night (March 7, 1800) especially against Tithe Proctor James Mulcahy in furtherance of rebellion. A fifth Ahern brother, James was bailed on grounds of ill health. Other brothers Patrick and Mathias Jnr. did not attend.
  On the 10th day of June, 1800 Murtagh, Michael and John were found guilty and the court
‘therefore sentence them to suffer Death in such a manner time, and place, as His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant may think proper’. Mathias Ahern was found ‘Not Guilty and it was noted ‘they do therefore acquit Him, an he is herby acquitted accordingly’
  The three guilty brothers, were, through the intervention of Major-General Sir James Duff with the Lord Lieutenant Lord Hardwicke (Philip Yorke) had their sentences ‘changed to the punishment of transportation for Life’.
  They left Cork on the transport Atlas, on November 28, 1801. It was the first Atlas ship of four by that name to come to NSW. On Tuesday March 16, 1802 John Ahern was flogged on a trumped up charge by informers seeking indulgences from the Captain. The infamous Captain, Richard Brooks noted, ‘this Ahern would have navigated her (Atlas) to America. John succumbed to his injuries on Thursday April 8 and met his maker beneath the waves.
  The Atlas dropped anchor in Sydney Cove at 2pm on Tuesday July 6, 1802 (Ship’s time).

  Murtagh’s father Murtogh Ahern after a long period of detention was tried as a principal at the Boland murders on Wednesday March 12, 1803.  He was sentenced to suffer Death. A man who witnessed the murders appeared at the trial on his behalf. The Limerick Chronical of March 19, 1803 reported that Captain Tuthill and Captain Waller’s Troops of Yeoman Cavalry escorted
Mortogh Ahern to the place of execution at Manister. Magistrate Boland Waller in his letter of March 20 to a Mr. D Marsden wrote in part: Mortogh Ahern addressed the crown in Irish, exhorted ‘them to be peacible and avoid his Fate’ confessed he was at the Bolands but had ‘not actually committed it’ and added ‘something as to the unfairness of his trial’.
  After the execution on Saturday March 19, 1803 Mortogh Ahern’s body was brought back and given to the County Hospital for dissection.

  Murtagh Ahern married English convict Mary Abbey twice, once in 1815 as a Protestant by Rev. Samuel Marsden and in 1821 as a Catholic by Father Therry. Murtagh worked for Lieutenant
Edward Lord and under Lieutenant-Governor David Collins in Van Diemen’s land. Collins
recommended he be given a pardon. This was given on October 8, 1810 and personally received from Captain Murray the settlement’s Commandant (after the death of Collins), on October 10, 1810.
Murtagh and Mary became one of the pioneers of Liverpool in Sydney and produced 17 native Australians. Murtagh died on August 27, 1852 at Liverpool. He was 85. Michael Ahern died on
February 25, 1858 also at Liverpool, but without issue. He was 96 years of age. Their familys’ in Bruff Ireland were never to know the history or the fate of their three beloved sons. 
Note: Detailed References and documents covering the above are to be found in my two 1200 page volumes on the life and times of Murtagh Ahern and a history of the colony of New South Wales. It is titled ‘Beyond the Sea’  ISBN 978-0-9875160-0-8 and ISBN 978-0-9875160-1-5.
The log of the atlas has also been reproduced. They were launched in Ireland and at the City of Liverpool Library on Wednesday November 27, 2013.

Brian Ahearn Sydney. email: beyondsea@bigpond.com

Convict Changes History

Eric Harry Daly on 26th December, 2012 made the following changes:

convicted at, term 99 years, voyage, source, firstname, surname, alias1, alias2, alias3, alias4, date of birth 0000, date of death 0000, gender, occupation, crime

Eric Harry Daly on 27th December, 2012 made the following changes:

source, alias1, alias2, alias3, date of death 1852

Brian Ahearn on 1st December, 2016 made the following changes:

source: Beyond Sea/ Log Atlas1 complete references. Index.National library of Ireland. State Paper Office.Commitee of Secrecy Third report. Limerick Chronical. HRA. HRNSW. Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825. Census Reports. Family archives. (prev. http:/

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