Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare

Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare

I get a lot of email queries asking about different branches of the O’Sullivan (Sullivan) families in Kerry.  See an earlier blog with an overall summary. Today I have a first-hand account of a number of the O’Sullivan branch names from the Kilgarvan area and their home locations from Sean O’Sullivan of Tuosist. The O’Sullivan-Glanny family were a branch of the O’Sullivan-Beare Clan who settled in the mountain border area between Kilgarvan County Kerry and the Borlin Valley area in County Cork.

One such branch of these O’Sullivans lived in the townland of Gortnaskeagh at the foot of Bunanein or Bird mountain high above the Slaheny valley in the parish of Kilgarvan.  This family were said to have four sons each of which had a nickname, Caol, Boolah, Pound and Glannie respectively.

These O’Sullivans were remnants from O’Sullivan-Beares forces who took refuge amongst this mountainous terrain after defeat at the hands of the invading English armies. Many more of their kinsmen were exiled to the continent where they joined the armies of the Catholic Monarchies across Europe. This enabled them to continue the fight against the hated English. Others at home were captured by the English and sent into slavery in the Caribbean. Those O’Sullivans who made this mountain border area their home continued to harass the new English settlers. These highwaymen were given the name ‘Tories’ and it was said at the time that this bandit country was extremely dangerous for any English gentlemen to pass through and risked their very lives in doing so.

The Sullivan-Caols became well known locally for their poetry and quite a few of this family became teachers in the local area, a tradition which has continued till the present time.

The Sullivan-Boolahs were well known for their great physical strength and had many family connections through marriage in the parish. A branch of this family still lives close to Bunanein to present day.

There was still up until the 1960s a branch of the Sullivan-Glannies living in the townland of Dromnycolman townland which is not too far to the south of Kilgarvan village. The origin of the name of course coming from the Gaelic word for a glen which is ‘an Gleann’.

Sadly the family nicknames of Glanny, Caol and Pound have all disappeared with only Boolah still remaining in the Kilgarvan region.

Regrettably too, mainly due to rural depopulation most of the communities who once lived in these upland areas for centuries now no longer exist either. One only has to look back at the census returns for 1901 and 1911 to see the vibrant populations that once called these mountain valley areas their home.

1911 Census of Ireland

Mass emigration mainly to England during the economic depression of the 1940s and ’50s had a detrimental effect on this population. Then came the closure of the local primary schools in the 1960s and early ’70s which had a further devastating effect.

There were still a number of families living in these areas right up until the 1980s and early 1990s however with the introduction of universal third level education along with the arrival of the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’ has helped to lure most of the remaining youth to the larger towns and cities and with no return. Year by year one cannot help but notice more and more houses in these rural areas becoming abandoned with the odd one perhaps being purchased by some non-national to turn into his or her ideal country getaway from the crazy hustle and bustle of city life. Quite ironic indeed !!

Perhaps we may not realise it at the moment, but I don’t think we quite understand just how much of our culture and identity we have lost with the disappearance of these once vibrant rural communities.  One may possibly see the likely situation in the near future where an overseas visitor is attempting to research their family roots and sadly there is no one left living in such areas to help them in their research.

Not too far fetched I’d say !!

This is why it is so important to gather as much information while we still can.

Sean O’ Sullivan