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Audio Recording Father Sarsfield O'Sullivan, Irish American priest in Butte, Montana, first interview, part 2

Father Sarsfield O'Sullivan, Irish priest

About this Item


  • Father Sarsfield O'Sullivan, Irish American priest in Butte, Montana, first interview, part 2


  • Stanton, Gary Ward, 1946- (Collector)
  • Johnson, Paula J., 1954- (Collector)
  • Toelken, Barre, 1935- (Collector)
  • O' Sullivan, Sarsfield (Interviewee)

Created / Published

  • Butte, Montana, August 26, 1979


  • -  Poetry
  • -  Irish Americans
  • -  Folklore
  • -  Folk songs, Irish
  • -  Ethnography
  • -  Field recordings
  • -  Interviews
  • -  Sound recordings
  • -  United States -- Montana -- Butte


  • Ethnography
  • Field recordings
  • Interviews
  • Sound recordings


  • -  Index data: Part 2 of a 5-part recording session with Father Sarsfield O'Sullivan at the St. Lawrence O'Toole Roman Catholic Church rectory in Butte MT: continuation of song, "The County of Mayo," about how girls have changed; categories of songs his father knew, such as "murder and seduction"; brother Eamon (sometimes spelled Eamonn) O'Sullivan would ask father to remember songs in a given category; if Sean forgot part of a couplet, Eamonn would make something up; about different variations of songs; O'Sullivan sings fragment of "My young love said to me, My mother won't mind, And my father won't slight you, For your lack of kine (cattle)"; "Little Brother of my Heart," popular during the Crimean War, little brother usually meant a girl's sweetheart and the song is about a girl lamenting the death of her sweetheart; O'Sullivan remembers one man having his own version because he couldn't imagine England and France on the same side of a conflict, the man's version started, "He went to the wars when proud England contended with France," and later, O'Sullivan saw "He went to the war when proud England united with France"; anti-recruiting songs, O'Sullivan sings: "When I was young I used to be the boldest lad you'd ever see"; and "O Captain dear where have you been? Or have you been sailing on the Mediterranean?" and later verse, "No, I wasn't drunk and I wasn't blind, That I left my two fine legs behind, But a big cannonball on the 5th of May, Took me two fine legs from the knees away."; sings "Arthur McBride" anti-recruiting song, and "The Glen of Irelow," "My name is Patrick Sheehan and my years are 34, Tipperary is my native land"; one of his father's favorite fragments, "When Bacchus frequented his frolics, And Venus attended and Mars"; Eamonn would complete this fragment; O'Sullivan about friend Seamus Moriarty, who wrote poems in Irish Gaelic, went to San Francisco and had 2 sons who became priests (like Sean); Sarsfield's friend, Cuchullain [Cuchilain] Moriarty, knows many of the same Irish songs; about the ballad that came out of the 1798 rebellion that failed, called "Father Murphy of Boolavogue," describes the gory detail of rebellion, cutting out Murphy's heart, polishing boots with it; Cuchullain [Cuchilain] Moriarty story from World War II, a maiden lady named Miss Murphy rented space from Mrs. Moriarty, asks "Do you think they're going to win?" Cuchullain says "Who do you mean?" "The English" Cuchullain,"well they better, we're on their side!" After a long silence Miss Murphy says, "After what they did to Father Murphy?"; this anecdote shows the power of a song; O'Sullivan discusses two versions of the Father Murphy ballad, and folk traditions in Butte, and recalls an anecdote about Paddy Gannon, who pushed the sheriff into the river and left Ireland before waiting to see if the sheriff drowned; Paddy fathered 4 sons, 3 of whom became priests: "Ideal type of Irishman in my book," O'Sullivan says; Paddy would become moved at times, especially at times like the christening of his first grandson, where he would toast in Gaelic, "O Ireland, bright love of my heart!" at which point Johnny McCan from the north (who didn't understand Gaelic) tried to rhyme English with Gaelic and said, "Neared my God to thee," whereupon Paddy became enraged; sings "Father Murphy"; about when Sean O'Sullivan came to Butte in 1905, asked to sing at Hibernian Hall and gave the names of 3 songs in Gaelic. Those in charge of program wanted Irish songs in English, O'Sullivan suspects that that notion about being American and not Gaelic was stronger among Irish than any other group, except for blacks; in Butte, folk traditions died out because men died so young, when the father of a family died, most of those traditions died out, at parties most singing was by men, but not so in family situations; in his experience, fragments of songs, poems, were heard from women, his mother's mother (came to America at the age of 14), nothing distinctly Irish, she recited Thornton Wilder; non-Gaelic people would use Gaelic to swear, words that Gaelic speakers would never use, Gaelic speakers resented this misuse of language; about when people became brutalized, child labor, O'Sullivan could sense differences between people from different parts, some rough, some genteel.


  • 7-inch reel

Call Number/Physical Location

  • Call number: AFC 1981/005: AFS 20437
  • MBRS shelflist: RXA 0923
  • Field project identifier: MT9-GS-R52

Source Collection

  • Montana Folklife Survey collection (AFC 1981/005)


  • American Folklife Center

Digital Id

Online Format

  • audio

Rights & Access

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Credit line: Montana Folklife Survey collection (AFC 1981/005), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Stanton, Gary Ward, Paula J Johnson, Barre Toelken, and Sarsfield O' Sullivan. Father Sarsfield O'Sullivan, Irish American priest in Butte, Montana, first interview, part 2. Butte, Montana, 1979. Audio.

APA citation style:

Stanton, G. W., Johnson, P. J., Toelken, B. & O' Sullivan, S. (1979) Father Sarsfield O'Sullivan, Irish American priest in Butte, Montana, first interview, part 2. Butte, Montana. [Audio] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Stanton, Gary Ward, et al. Father Sarsfield O'Sullivan, Irish American priest in Butte, Montana, first interview, part 2. Butte, Montana, 1979. Audio. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.