Andrew Tierney

Posted by Sue Leonard on Sunday 5th March 2017

An architectural historian, Andrew has taught in various places, including UCD – where he specialised in The Irish Country House, and Liverpool, where he taught Irish Studies. He works for the Buildings of Ireland charitable trust, supporting their  architectural  guide.

Andrew became interested in the trial of his distant descendent, Ellen Langley, when he came across the case whilst researching something else.

“I realised there had been an attempt to suppress her name and keep her out of family history. Writing the book felt like a pastime.

“I could explore various rich seams of Irish social history; of the rise of the Catholic middle class, as seen in the coroner’s inquest, to the declining Anglo Irish protestant  ascendency with the backdrop of the famine.  We rarely hear about the middle classes but these stories are there to be retrieved”

Who is Andrew Tierney? 

Date of birth: 1976 in Dublin, but moved to Nenagh at five.

Education:   Clongowes  Wood College; University College Dublin: Art History and English. PhD in History and Archaeology  on Irish tower houses.

Home:  Grand Canal Dock, Dublin.

Family: Wife Sarah. “Her background is in architectural history as well. We met in UCD.”  Parents and three siblings. “They all gave me invaluable feedback.”

The Day Job: Freelance Researcher, writer.

Favourite Book: “The Retrospections of Dorothea Herbert. A memoir, written when she was imprisoned in the family attic, it reads like a Jane Austen novel.” He was also influenced by books by, and about, the Bronte’s.

Second Book: The inaugural Pevsner Architectural Guide to the Central Leinster Region, to be published by Yale University Press next year.

Top Tip:  “Be patient. If you didn’t have patience it would be impossible to do this. Writing and publishing a book is such a long, drawn out process. Also, have low expectations.”

The Debut: The Doctor’s Wife is Dead. Penguin Ireland: €17.79  Kindle: €11.85 

It’s 1848 in Nenagh, and the local doctor is charged with the murder of his wife, Ellen Langley, on suspicion of poisoning her. He had treated her appallingly; near starving her and confining her to the attic. Her trial shocked the townspeople. But why did he treat her so badly? 

The Verdict: Riveting. This historic legal drama is meticulously researched, and deftly told. I loved it.

Published in The Irish Examiner on 4th March

© Sue Leonard. 2017 

3 comments so far

  • Mr. Tierney–just wanted to compliment you on your excellent book. Thomas Pound was a cousin to my GG grandfather, Patrick Pound, who was born and raised in Camross, Cty. Laois. So the family connection made the book that much more interesting to me, my siblings and cousins. Its clear that the young Pound men in the 1840s were Whiteboys. Family tradition says that Patrick and his brothers had to get out of Ireland fast, as they were being pursued by the British. Anyway, we wound up in the American southwest and are now simply cowboys. It was very interesting to get a real feel for what life was like in the Tipperary/Laois/Offaly region during those troubled times. Thanks for a great read–John Pound

  • Riveting. That was my word for it too. I could not put it down. Tierney gave meaning to the few lines in our school history books. He brought the townspeople of the Irish midlands back to life. The Ascendancy in descent: they had developed and still controlled the institutions which did not serve the urgent needs of post-famine Ireland; their internecine almost incestuous kinship; the understandable mutual lack of trust between governors and governed; the demand to be heard by the middle-class; the financial difficulties of the gentry and the horrifying conditions of the poor and sick; the vulnerability of all classes to disease. The book shows the powerlessness of women and their courage, it demonstrates why female suffrage was essential. The court case was the thin edge of the wedge for sensationalist reporting. I wonder what those civilized, educated Anglo-Irish gentlemen would think of the scandalous breaches of privacy foisted upon us by journalists today.

  • Dear Sue,
    Thanks to your article I bought a copy of this fascinating tale told by Andrew Tierney. My ancestors were two orphan girls (aged 15 and 16) transported from the Nenagh Workhouse to Australia in 1849, the same year Andrew’s story takes place. Here in Australia the following year they married two brothers from Galbally, convicted in the courthouse at Clonmel in 1840 and sentenced to seven years gaol in Tasmania. The families were later close associates and sometime confederates of Ned Kelly, hanged in 1880.

    I’m keen to contact Andrew Tierney if possible.

Leave a Reply