Fonds 30-001 - Catherine Ahearn fonds

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Catherine Ahearn fonds

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CA ON0034 30-001

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  • 1905-2012 (Creation)
    Ahearn, Catherine

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Dr. Catherine Ahearn (see also Catherine Firestone) was born in 1949 in a prominent Ottawa family. She received a Ph.D. in French Literature from the University of Ottawa in 1979. She is a bilingual author in Canada and abroad, with a wide range of writing accomplishments including poetry, prose, journalistic essays, short films, and ballet productions.

Ahearn’s parents, Otto Jack Firestone (1913-1993) and Isobel Bella Torontow (1913-2002), were enthusiastic art collectors. Their home in Rockcliffe Park, Ottawa (Belmanor) was both a family residence and an art gallery. The family formed bonds with several well-known Canadian artists, including Group of Seven member A.Y. Jackson. The family’s art collection, “Firestone Collection of Canadian Art,” is owned by the City of Ottawa, and is under the custodianship of the Ottawa Art Gallery. Ahearn has three siblings.

She attended Rockcliffe Park Public School (1955-1962), Elmwood Private School (1962-1966), both in Ottawa, as well as McGill University in Montreal between 1966 and 1970, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in French Literature; during this time, she also spent a year studying at the University of Aix-en-Provence in France (1968-1969). Subsequently, Ahearn obtained her Master’s in Arts from the University of Ottawa in French Canadian Literature in 1971, and her doctorate from the University of Ottawa in French Literature in 1979, with her final thesis on French surrealism: “Cahiers de Jacques Baron: Texte et Commentaire”.

Ahearn published two collections of poetry in 1976: "L’Âge de l’aube" appeared to good reviews in Paris while "Daydream Daughter," published by McClelland and Stewart, won the prestigious AJM Smith Poetry Prize from Michigan State University. Ahearn published further collections of poetry, including "Poasis" (1980), "Thus Spoke Superman" (1981), "Luna-Verse" (1984), and "Concha and Rezanov" (1987), which includes a provocative foreword by former Ambassador Ken Taylor. She also published a book of young adult fiction, "Cristobel," featuring an introduction by Governor General Jules Léger and drawings by Methuen’s awarded-winning illustrator, Laszlo Gal.

Her success as a poet led to her appointment by the Mayor of Ottawa as first Poet Laureate, 1982-1984. A story tells that Ahearn approached the mayor of the then-Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, Marion Dewar, to establish the position to “help promote the City of Ottawa as well as enrich the lives of its citizens.” Including Ahearn, Ottawa had three poet laureates with three-year terms each, who were expected to write six poems annually and to attend various events across the community. She self-published the poems written during her tenure in Poet Laureate poems, 1982-1984 (1984). The program was re-established by the city in 2017 by VerseOttawa.

The Ottawa Citizen has said of Ahearn’s work: “Her views are original, sometimes startling, always thought-provoking. (She) gives us a new idiom in Canadian poetry... There is no doubt we shall be hearing a great deal more from her to the considerable enrichment of Canadian literature.”

Ahearn’s first novel, "The Estonian Affair", researched in Estonia, U.S.S.R., and the U.S., and co-written with Marion Daniel Bailey, is an international espionage thriller represented by a Toronto agent. In 1988 she started a second novel, "The Curse of Ebal", an explosive family saga set in the U.S., Europe, and Israel. Ahearn has travel to the Middle East to research her novel, "West of Sodom," and drafted numerous works, both prose and poetry.

Ahearn’s novels are written with an eye to feature film production. Writing for film and television has been an additional venue for Ahearn. Her short film screenplay, "Reaping Our Past," won two Canadian awards. She also wrote a game show in 1972 which was later produced by Twentieth Century Fox, and several other game shows. Her screenplay, “Cloud Nine”, brought to Hollywood in 1977, was later produced with James Garner under the title “The Tank”. Ahearn devoted much of her time to commercial fiction and film/TV development.

Custodial history

Scope and content

This fonds consists of records produced and collected by Catherine Ahearn, the first poet Laureate of the City of Ottawa (1982-1984). A sous-fonds contains originals and copies of documents belonging to Jacques Baron (1905-1986), either purchased, sent or collected by Catherine Ahearn (b.1949). Among her records are drafts of some unpublished and published texts, diaries, correspondence, etc.

Ce fonds est constitué de documents produits et recueillis par Catherine Ahearn, première poète lauréate de la Ville d'Ottawa (1982-1984). Ce fonds contient des originaux et des copies de documents ayant appartenu à Jacques Baron (1905-1986) et à Catherine Ahearn (née en 1949). On y trouve des ébauches de certains textes inédits et publiés, des journaux intimes, de la correspondance, etc.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

The Catherine Ahearn fonds (30-001) was donated in stages to the University of Ottawa Library Network (later directly to Archives and Special Collections, Morisset Library) beginning in 1982, with additions in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1994, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2012. Ahearn's first donations of materials in 1982 and 1991 consisted of important documents relating to the surrealist poet Jacques Baron--some of which were added to and/or compliment materials in the Collection de manuscrits français-Jacques Baron Series (30-005-S4); this material was purchased directly by Ahearn from Jacques Baron prior to this date. Later accruals were made up of Ahearn's own personal literary archives.


Language of material

  • English
  • French

Script of material

Language and script note

The majority of the material in this fonds is in English, though there are substantial French records throughout, and the first series, Jacques Baron [30-001-S1] consists entirely of French records. Descriptions are provided in English except in the instance of this first series, where they are provided only in French.

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

The majority of the fonds is closed; files are restricted for a predetermined period of time and reproduction restrictions apply. Please ask ARCS staff for further information.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Catherine Ahearn retains copyright of her works
Jacques Baron's works are under copyright until 2056, in accordance with current Canadian copyright regulation

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General note

Descriptions and the arrangement of the majority of this collection remains incomplete as of March 2023. However, inventory box-lists based on accrual dates may be made accessible to researchers, at the discretion of staff. As descriptions are completed, further information will be added to this database, including updates to the total physical descriptions, scope and content entries, and dates of series and sub-series, as well as the addition of files. Please contact Archives and Special Collections for further information about accessing the collection in the meantime.

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  • English
  • French

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