RURAL ROOTS: Kevin Ahearn has written a book about early Irish settlers titled Slab Hut and Split Rail Fence which tells of the Rosevale, Mt Walker and Lower Mt Walker regions’ convict origins.
RURAL ROOTS: Kevin Ahearn has written a book about early Irish settlers titled Slab Hut and Split Rail Fence which tells of the Rosevale, Mt Walker and Lower Mt Walker regions’ convict origins. Rob Williams

Hidden convict origins revealed

LOCAL historian Kevin Ahearn spares no detail in his book, Slab Hut and Split Rail Fence, where he showcases what he calls Ipswich’s “true history”.

The convict origins of Rosevale, Mt Walker and Lower Mt Walker’s Irish settlers play a key role in his 248-page book which profiles the successes and struggles experienced by the area’s first families from 1830 to 1900.

“I’ve always been interested in stories of family history,” Mr Ahearn said.

“What people hear is the official version of history. I’ve gone to primary sources, old diaries, letters and newspapers to get the real version.

“I profile the first and second generations that came over from Ireland, the convicts and those fleeing persecution. Everyone’s got an interesting story if you dig deep enough.”

Mr Ahearn said many of the people who came from Ireland to Australia in the 1800s were convicts who had been jailed for both minor and more serious crimes.

“There are two convicts in (the book) who are related to me by marriage. One of them, Patrick Canon, was sent out for rebellion.

“Patty came out in 1832 as a rebel and finished up at a Coochin Coochin station near Boonah. He was a jockey and died in 1859 racing from Ipswich to Boonah.

“Another convict couple, Sally and Samuel Owens, started the first illegeal distillery in Queensland at The Old Man’s Waterhold at Calvert near Rosewood. A lot of things went on there.”

The retiree said the book took three full years to research and he now felt like he knew each person it featured better than those around him.

“I felt a real connection to all of them by the end,” he said.

“A lot of Irish were fleeing famine, starvation and persecution by their English landlords. A lot of people don’t realise that, at the time, you could shoot an Irishman or take their children and not be charged.

“They were just people fleeing persecution wanting a better life in Australia, no different to those coming to the country now.”

The 65-year-old said his book featured images and stories of hundreds of individuals who made Ipswich the area it is today.

“It’s a good read full of basic history which tells the stories of people, not councillors, not politicians or government officials, but real people,” he said.

“The Irish worked in every industry and they worked hard. Just like people who come to Australia today they saw the opportunity for an education. They saw Australia as a fresh slate where they could write their own story. But every family started out with a slab hut.”

Slab Hut and Split Rail Fence is available for purchase from the author for $30 by phoning 3201 7160.