Curly and Mary Sullivan

The Sullivan Family
John Finbarr O'Sullivan
Curly Sullivan
John Finbarr O'Sullivan
Anna Sullivan
John Finbarr O'Sullivan
Frank Sullivan
Frank Sullivan

Curly Sullivan

Cornelius Arthur (Curly) Sullivan (Barrule) born in Ballinakilla, Bere Island, Co Cork in January 1855 was the fifth child of Michael Sullivan (Mickie Barrule of Gortamora Old Post Office) and Mary Kelly (Foildarrig, Eyeries Parish). He was educated at Ballinakilla National School (now the Heritage Centre) and emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts in 1873 at the age of 18.

His brother John H who had emigrated to Boston himself 7 years previously was already married with two children when Curly arrived in Boston. Curly’s older sister Kate had emmigrated to Boston before him but died shortly after her arrival there. However very little is known about her. His younger brother James skipped Boston and went straight to Butte, Montana when he followed in their footsteps 10 years later. Curly like his brother before him began work as a Longshoreman in East Boston. He also went to night school and became educated in business affairs.

Mary Harrington

Shortly after Curly arrived in Boston in 1873, another Bere Island emigrant arrived. She was Mary A Harrington (Caobach), a daughter of Timothy Harrington (Caobach) and Mary Sullivan, The Cross, Derrycreeveen, Bere Island and thus a sister of Mike Caobach. Many years later, Curly and Mary married in Fall River, Bristol, in Massachusetts on 2nd August 1881. He was 26 and she was only 23. In the time before she married she found Boston a very lonely place and really missed Bere Island. She even wrote a poem about it, which survives to this day. It was a fortunate union in that they had a lot in common, coming from the same place and it was nice that at least Curly had family in the city.

Their first child, a son was born in July of 1882 and they named him after Curly’s brother John H. They went on to have eight other children so had 5 boys and 4 girls in total. Two of their children died before them namely James Francis (Frank) who died aged 25 and Mary Agnes who was only 11. Their deaths broke Mary’s heart and she wrote poetry again to express her feelings, this time about the loss of her beloved son Frank who was known to all as quite a charmer. She had great faith and it sustained her throughout her life.

Life in Boston

Curly’s brother John H had invested in property and went on to become a notable politician in Boston and Curly began working for him in the Real Estate Business.
Both Curly and Mary kept up contact with Bere Island and it was at their house that the relatives coming to Boston would stay. Also, as Mary never forgot how lonely she found life in Boston as a girl on her own after she first arrived, she always made arrangements for single girls coming from Bere Island to come to stay with them until they were settled.

Curly himself never returned to his native land and died aged 58 on 2nd April 1912, the last of the Sullivan Sibling Emigrants, being predeceased by Kate, John H and James. None of the four Sullivan Siblings who left home so very young ever saw Ballinakilla again. Curly’s wife Mary did return on one occasion to her native Derrycreeveen with her daughter Grace. It was this Grace, daughter of Curly and Mary that went on to become the first Female Inland Revenue Agent in the United States of America.

Mary took on Curly’s job as a Real Estate Agent following his death. She died on 2nd  October 1930 aged 72 and was buried with her husband and children in Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden, Massachusetts.


The last of Curly and Mary’s 9 children, Anna died in 1987 at the fine age of 94. Mary and Curly had 7 Grandchildren, two of whom (Mary Louise Strain and Fr. Francis Sullivan S.J. who both still live in the Boston area) have been regular visitors to Bere Island over the years. There are 22 great-grandchildren and five of them have been to see their ancestral home along with two of the 31 great-great-grandchildren.
So, though many years have passed since Curly and Mary left their respective town-lands of Ballinakilla and Derrycreeveen, the call of the Islands shores lives on in the DNA of their many descendants all so proud to have Irish and more importantly, Island blood.

Submitted by: Curly’s Grandnephew John Finbarr O’Sullivan, April 2012.

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