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Friday, September 2, 2011


August has come and gone again. Labor Day
is upon us.

My thoughts go back to my grandfather
Michael Joseph (O) Sullivan of Inchinteskin
Townland, Eyeries Parish, Beara  West Cork
grandmother Julia Harrington of the Allihies
Parish, her father, my great grandfather Sean
Harrington A Buiale  (Sean of the Field) in
Kilcatherine, and the thousands of other
relations from  Beara, who made the great
journey across the Atlantic to the miner's
frontier of the American West, to California
in 49, the Washoe and Virginia City  in 50
after that to the mining camps of the Montana
Idaho, Utah, the Yukon and the Southwest.

Grandfather Mike was a very tall man. A
hammer and drill miner in Butte, Montana
Cripple Creek, Colorado and the Nevada gold
rush camps of Goldfield, Tonopah and Rhyolite
where he met his untimely end at age 34 years
Mike was a union organizer for the Western
Federation of Miners and in the thick of the
labor wars in Cripple Creek and later Nevada.
I have his mine union ribbon,
WFof M 235 Rhyolite, Nevada.

Earlier generations from Beara had gone to
mine coal in Wales, then the Upper Peninisula
Michigan to mine copper, to Galena, Illinois
to mine lead and to mine coal in Pennsylvania.

When I hear the song -  Ghosts of the Molly
Maguires,-  I think of all my ancestors who
went down in the mines. Hardy men, they were.

I have found their graves  in Butte and other
Western mining camps and on still nights, in
the clear, quiet mountain air, heard the whispers
of the men below.

I will lift a pint or two in their memory.

They came to America to make a better life
for themselves, their families and us all. Not
to destroy America, as many contemporary
arrivals, illegal and legal, seek to do.

More often than not, they endured hard labor
severe hardships and met early deaths. Despite
this, they found fleeting moments of happiness.

My father told me about the funeral races
to St Patrick's Cemetery, Butte. One day he
was riding with Black Jim, his uncle and
brother to my grandfather Mike. Black Jim
ran a saloon on the Anaconda Road, Dublin
Gulch. Grandmother Julia, then a widow, ran
a boarding house for Irish miners a few doors

Black Jim , and others were in a mad dash
to the graveyard. His horse threw a shoe
which nearly hit my father in the head.

The wagon careened out of control, the
coffin tossed out , the departed ejected

Not to worry. They were at our relations
place- the Five Mile Saloon.

They dusted off the departed, put him back
in the box, stood it agae the wall, and went
in for a some music, song and a few pints
and shots.

What else could men do, who, daily,  faced the
prospect of an early death and the fire below?

Grandmother Julia brought the family back
to Beara in 1913, because she felt that Butte
was no place to raise her surviving 3 sons and
a daughter.

My father was sent to the old place in
Inchinteskin, to, along with Pats Cohu, work
the farm for their grandparents Sean O Sullivan
Mihicl Anna and Johanna O'Sullivan Shearhig
from Coulagh Ard (The High Field above).

My father said that though the work was hard
those were the best days of his life, growing up
in where the clean mountain air of Beara mingles
with the  Westerly winds, mists and gales blowing
in off the Atlantic.

Another summer is on the wane. The days grow
shorter and the cold winds of winter will soon

                                                          Joe Sullivan