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Monday, August 2, 2010


August, my father would say, was the
most eventful month in his life.

He was born August 25, 1904.

His father, my grandfather, Michael J
died August 24, 1908, at age 34, in
Rhyolite, Nevada one of the last gold
rush mining camps located on the edge
of Death Valley.

Mike was a hard rock miner first in Butte
Montana, then Cripple Creek, Colorado
winding up in Tonopah, Goldfield and
Rhyolite, Nevada. Mike was also a
union organizer for the Western Federation
of Miners and a participant in the mine
wars at Cripple Creek, Goldfield and

He was one of many of our ancestors
and relations that went mining in the
American West beginning with the gold
rush of 49, then on to the Washoe District
and Comstock, Virginia City, Nevada in
the 1850's. St Mary's RC Church built
by Berehaven, Irish miners, still stands

From there, the clan went to subsequent
gold camps throughout the Rocky Mountain
West, The Black Hills and later the Yukon.

Some were in the U S Cavalry on the
frontier. Others went cattle ranching in
O'Neill, Nebraska, Montana, The Dakotas
and Nevada. More went sheepherding
around Casper, Wyoming.

Some entered politics and became
Aldermen, Congressmen, U S Senators
and Governors.

In August 1908, his Grandmother, Julia
was near death's door with typhoid fever. 
Dad, his brothers, Rob and George, and
sister Liz were all with scarlet fever.

Grandfather's brother, Black Jim, who
ran a saloon on the Anaconda Road, Butte
Montana, and Grandmother's brother
John Harrington. an Butte miner went
to Rhyolite to lend a hand. There was no
welfare in those days. People took care
of their own.

Black Jim and John brought my family
back to Butte. Mike was buried in
St Patrick's cemetery. Ironically, the
same week as Sean Harrington A Buaile
(Sean of the Field). The field is in
Kilcatherine, Eyeries, ( The Northern
Parish)Beara, where my O Sullivan and
Harrington relations fought a turf war in
Famine times.

Sean's mother was Mary O Sullivan of
Shronebirrane, Tuosist Parish , Kerry.
A very ancient, remote mountainous
place containing standing stones and
ring forts dating back to neolithic times.

Sean was grandmother Julia's father and
my great grandfather. Sean was a miner too.
He died of the miner's con. Quartz crystals
in the dusty mines eventually shredded the
hard rock miner's lungs ending in a hard
death. The mines were a dangerous place.
Many  more died in cave ins, explosions
and other accidents.

The visitor to St Patrick's cemetery, Butte
will see row upon row of young Beara boys
and men, whose lives ended prematurely
in their 20's and 30's. Quite different from
their long lived relations and ancestors in
Beara who lived to the 80's, 90's and some
more than 100.

My great grand uncle Paddy O'Sullivan
Sounish (The Peaceful), of Killaugh in
the Allihies or Western Parish,  uncle of my
grandmother Julia, lived to 96, despite being a
Famine baby.

Grandmother Julia ran a boarding house
for Irish miners on the Anaconda Road in
Dublin Gulch, Butte, a few doors away from
Black Jim's saloon.

In August 1913, grandmother Julia had
enough of Butte. She brought the family
back to Beara. She went to her uncle
Paddy Soonish's farm in Killaugh, with
Rob, George and Liz.

My father went to the home farm of
his father's  aging parents,  Sean Michil Anna
O Sullivan and Johanna O Sullivan Shearhig
Inchinteskin, Eyeries Parish. There 12 children
had scattered, except for Kate, who never

My father and his First Cousin Pat's O Sullivan
Cahou worked the farm for their grandparents.

There are more than 23 branches of the O Sullivan
family in Eyeries Parish. And many more in the
Allihies, Castletown, Adrigole Parishes and
beyond to Kenmare, Kerry and Bantry, Cork.
They had what my cousin Paddy Houlihan, oral

historian of the clan, said were long-tailed
families of 12, 15 or more children. In Beara
they married young and had very large families.

Black Jim came back to Inchinteskin about
the time of WW1 and the troubles. He built
a fine house opposite the old home place,
But, never lived long to enjoy it. Black Jim
died during a Black and Tan raid. 

The Blacks and Tans were released prisioner
military units that the English sent to Beara
to terrorize the people into submission. It
did not work.

My father, Pat's Cohou and many other
young men were with the West Cork IRA
flying columns that beat the Black and Tans.

In August 1925, my father sailed from Cobh
for Boston, never to return.

Relations told me, that his dog kept a  long
vigil for my father at the cross roads waiting in
vain for his return.

One day I asked my father why he never
went back. He said he wanted to remember
Inchinteskin and Beara as they were, for
they were the finest days of his life.

These thoughts came back to me as I
turned the page on The Beara calendar
sent to me my Cousin Cathy Dennehey
Murphy, Church Gate, Castletownbere.

The lovely picture of Garnish appeared.
My father told me of Garnish, Allihies
Parish, where he went fishing for mackeral.

12 men in a long boat, most of whom could
nor swim, rowing out into the Atlantic
and returning in boats laden with fish and
the water lapping at the gunwhales.

Many relations live nearby still today
including Nora O Sullivan Lowney who
at 96 was still walking the 3 miles each
way to Cahermore Church and Mary
O Sullivan, Scrivogue, Garnish.

Here in America, August is often referred
to as the dog days of August. Wonder
what the Grand Ayatollah of Iran  thinks
about that?

                                      Joe Sullivan

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