Maureen O’Sullivan (b. 1930)
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Maureen O’Sullivan (b. 1930)


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Maureen O’Sullivan explains the reason why her father, Marcus O’Sullivan, was brought up in England though he was born in Cork. He was training to become a teacher in London during WWI, but when conscription was introduced in 1917 his father sent him to the USA. There he met John Devoy and other republicans. His father, John Marcus O’Sullivan, had strong republican connections. Maureen O’Sullivan’s mother Molly was born in Annascaul in Co. Kerry. In 1910 she began her nursing training in London but did not continue her studies and became a companion to two elderly ladies in Kensington. She joined the Gaelic League where she learned Irish and where she also met Michael Collins. Molly sang at the Gaelic League concerts where she met Marcus O’Sullivan who played the violin. She travelled to New York in 1916 and again met Marcus there. Liam, their eldest child, was born in February 1918, Séamus a year later and Maureen arrived in 1930. Marcus was working on the Irish newspaper The Gaelic American in New York where his bosses were John Devoy and Diarmuid Lynch. Maureen recalls the Friends of Irish Freedom in New York, an organisation which fundraised for the Irish cause, and Diarmuid Lynch was very much part of this. She discusses Lynch’s return to his home in Minane Bridge in Co. Cork, and de Valera’s refusal to grant him a pension until later years. Molly and Marcus O’Sullivan remained loyal to Michael Collins and Maureen remarks that Molly always travelled to Béal na Bláth for the annual commemoration there. She explains that in 1919 some English butter companies had bypassed the American embargo on the importation of English butter by setting up businesses in Cork. Her grandfather, who was born in Firies, near Killarney worked as a labourer for Lonsdales Butter Factory in Cork. He was invited to work for the company in Liverpool, and through this connection he later set up the Central Packing Company at 3, Church Street in Cork. The company bought country butter from all over Cork and Kerry and packed it for export. His home in Victoria Road, where he lived with his wife Lydia, was a safe house which was raided several times by the Black and Tans. During this time Molly O’Sullivan and her sons stayed in the house while on holiday from the USA, and Maureen describes an incident when the boys were caught in crossfire. Molly O’Sullivan had been a member of Cumann na mBan in New York and her sash and membership card are at the Military Museum in Collins Barracks in Cork. She is buried in the family plot, as is John Marcus O’Sullivan and several others whom Maureen remembers. Maureen’s paternal grandmother Lydia (née Beasley) O’Sullivan had been active in the Irish cause in Liverpool. On leaving the city, she and John Marcus were presented with an illustrated scroll and a cash gift which they gave to the Irish cause. During the War of Independence their sons Joe and John were held in Cork Prison at Sunday’s Well and Lydia brought food to them daily. She was born in Brinny, Upton in Co. Cork. She was a member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann and Maureen used to have her brooch with a letter from Maud Gonne certifying her membership. Lydia died in 1924 and is buried near the Republican plot at St Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork. In 1923 John Marcus O’Sullivan was elected Cumann na nGaedheal/ Fine Gael TD for Kerry North on several occasions and served as Minister for Education from 1926 to 1932. Maureen recalls her parents’ backroom involvement in Fine Gael. It is important to her that the part played by ordinary people is recognised. Her parents always remained loyal in their support of the Treaty though they desired a thirty-two county Ireland. She recalls a photograph of her mother, with her young son Liam, marching under a banner which declared “England, Damn your Concessions. We want our Freedom” on St Patrick’s Day in New York 1920. She returned from America in 1921 and Marcus returned in 1924. Maureen has many of her parents’ letters from this time. The letters written between Marcus O’Sullivan, his father John Marcus and brother Joe are available for viewing at the Collins Barracks Museum. Joe’s son, John Kevin, has a keen interest in family history, Maureen explains. His mother, Kathleen Brown from Newmarket, was also imprisoned for her activities in Britain before her marriage. A stand-up row between Molly O’Sullivan and Mary McSwiney on one occasion is described. Maureen feels that the McSwiney women and others put pressure on de Valera to reject the Treaty, and thus began the Civil War. Liam Mellows was the godfather of Maureen’s brother Liam O’Sullivan. He and Pádraic Colum moved in the same Irish circle as the O’Sullivans in New York. Maureen reflects on the Irish in New York and their activities for the cause, saying that Diarmuid Lynch raised a great amount of money which was sent back to Ireland for the purchase of ammunition. His step-brother Denis and his wife Alice were very friendly with Marcus and Molly O’Sullivan, and Maureen remembers them well as “Uncle Denis and Auntie Alice.” She recalls a story told to her by her father about John Devoy’s return by liner from New York to Cobh and his high emotion on that occasion. Maureen’s parents died in the 1960s. Her two late brothers Liam and Seán were born in New York. Liam worked as a draughtsman in tank design in London during WWII. Towards the end of the war he joined the American Merchant Service and served in Germany before returning to America to work as an engineer. Seán also studied engineering and served in the merchant navy in Northern Ireland and in the USA. He was torpedoed twice during WWII. He served as second engineer on the first liner to come into Cork after the war. Maureen explains that when she was 23 she contracted polio, at a time when she was working in the Health Section of Cork Co. Council. She discusses her diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Her work with the Post Polio Support Group, the COPE Foundation, both voluntarily as a Director and employed as a Hostel Housemother with the Brothers of Charity at Lota and with the Irish Countrywomen’s Association as Director of An Grianán is outlined, as is the development of the diploma course for childcare workers at CIT.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

44.38 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



Marcus A. O’Sullivan (Interviewee’s father), John Marcus O’Sullivan (Interviewee’s grandfather)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore