Thursday, February 14, 2002

Aidan Tierney

Aidan Tierney visited Athy last August on a quick trip from his home in New Zealand where he has lived for over 25 years. Aidan’s parents Patrick and Edith Tierney lived at Salisbury House just outside Athy on the Monasterevin side of the town from the late 1920’s. It was from there that Aidan attended the Christian Brother’s School in St. John’s lane where he was a pupil with the likes of Jimmy Bradbury, Leopold Kelly, Jimmy Bolger, Michael May, Mickey Quinn, John Dunphy, Tom Pender, Ger Byrne and John Behan of Rathstewart. When he left school, Aidan worked on the family farm and was soon involved with the local branch of Macra Na Feirme organisation. In 1963 he was appointed Honorary Secretary of Macra, a position which he was to hold for the following three years. During the early 1960’s he was also a member of the original co-operative buying group which under the late Fred Henderson of Ardmore subsequently developed into the Farmers Co-op now restyled Liffey Mills and which still operates out of premises on the Kildare Road.

During his time in Ireland, Aidan was a member of the National Farming Association and amongst the members then he recalls Frank Jackson, Ivan Bergin, Bill Diamond, Dermot Mullan, Bill Hendy, Tim Fennin, Charlie Chambers, Dermot Doyle and Jack Kingston.

In 1966 Aidan was sent as part of a herd testing team from Ireland to help out the New Zealand Dairy Board on a two year contract. He did not return to Athy at the end of his two year contract as in the meantime he met his future wife, Roselia Potroz a lady of Polish extraction whom he married in New Zealand in 1969. Following the birth of their first son Kevin, Aidan and his wife Roselia came to Ireland in 1971. While living in Athy from November 1972, Aidan was involved with the Mullinahown Cooperative Society in setting up in Ireland a cattle tagging agency. The Allflex Cattle Ear Tag System which he had first encountered in New Zealand after his arrival in 1966 is now a multi-million pound business employing over 50 people and supplying the entire Irish farming industry.

Aidan and Roselia with their young son Colm who was born in St. Vincent’s Hospital, Athy and his New Zealand born sibling Kevin, finally left Athy and South Kildare towards the end of 1975 to return to New Zealand. Aidan purchased a Dairy Farm with 160 acres at Taranaki on the western side of the North Island of New Zealand. Unlike the dairy farms of England and Ireland, the warm climate of the Southern Hemisphere allows the animals to remain on grass all year round ruling out the need for sheds, slurry disposal and many of the hundred and one jobs involved in maintaining winter stock in Ireland. Aidan continued to farm at Taranaki until 1990 when he bought a farm of about 320 acres further north on the Island which allowed him to increase his stock levels to 250 cows. At the same time he had a 20 acre kiwi fruit farm and harvested a fruit delicacy which first made its appearance on Irish supermarket shelves over 20 years. In the meantime the Tierney family had expanded with the arrival of Allana, Paul, Liam and Stephanie. Aidan retired from full time farming in 1997 having combined his agricultural responsibilities for nineteen and a half years as a Marketing Consultant for a local newspaper, The Farming Independent. He is now part of a partnership which operates a 50 acre Kiwi Fruit Farm in his adopted country, New Zealand.

When Aidan and his wife returned to Athy last August, they did so as part of a round the world trip which saw them journeying to Youghal in Co. Cork for the wedding of their Athy born son Colm to an Irish girl. For the man born at Salisbury, Athy, Co. Kildare over sixty years ago, New Zealand has been a pleasant and a happy land. While the Islands of New Zealand are wetter than Australia, they nevertheless provide a pleasant temperate climate where the cost of agricultural production is far less than that in Ireland. There is little meal fed to cattle and no shed work in New Zealand unlike Ireland where costs are substantially higher. One of the many contrasts between Irish and New Zealand farming is that provided by the free market economy of the latter as contrasted with the subsidy based agricultural life of Ireland. The New Zealand farmer operates without the benefit of any subsidies but is also free of the restrictive quotas such as that relating to milk production in Ireland.

There is no surprise to find that one and half million of those living in New Zealand are of Irish extraction. Taranaki has its Irish Social Club with up to three hundred members of second and third generation Irish and in New Zealand as elsewhere, Irish pubs are springing up everywhere. Amongst Aidan Tierney’s near neighbours are Athy folk John Alcock and his sister Sheila who is married to a Galway man. John is now retired and living in the beach area of the Bay of Plenty. Recent visitors to that part of the world included John Doyle formerly of the Heath and Anna May McHugh who with Breda Ovington met Aidan in New Zealand while on a recent visit. P.J. Kirwan of K. Gardens was another one who renewed acquaintances with Aidan while visiting his brother Noel who is also living in New Zealand.

The Tierney farm at Salisbury is now farmed by Aidan’s brother Philip, but for Aidan the Christian Brother educated man from Athy, New Zealand is now his home. He is part of the Irish diaspora which over the centuries has helped to create an overseas Irish world, which we who remain on the island of Ireland, can be immeasurably proud.

The History and Family Research Centre based in Newbridge is hosting a Local History Seminar on Thursday, 28th February at 8.00pm in the Newbridge Arts Centre. The purpose of the Seminar is to acquaint people with the current state of the Local Studies Collection and to address concerns over access to that material and research facilities. It is also intended to outline the plans for the development of the History and Family Research Centre which incorporates Local Studies, Archives and the Kildare Heritage and Genealogy Project. Anyone with an interest in local history or in genealogy will find the Seminar of interest.

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