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Audio Recording Father Sarsfield O'Sullivan, Irish American priest in Butte, Montana, first interview, part 4

Father Sarsfield O'Sullivan, Irish priest

About this Item


  • Father Sarsfield O'Sullivan, Irish American priest in Butte, Montana, first interview, part 4


  • 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
  • -  Manners and customs
  • -  Ethnography
  • -  Field recordings
  • -  Interviews
  • -  Sound recordings
  • -  United States -- Montana -- Butte


  • Ethnography
  • Field recordings
  • Interviews
  • Sound recordings


  • -  Index data: Part 4 of a 5-part recording session with Father Sarsfield O'Sullivan at the St. Lawrence O'Toole Roman Catholic Church rectory in Butte MT: about a verse written by school master, L. Dwyer, praising Sean's grandfather (Sarsfield's great-grandfather), an example of praising a man for one thing but loving him for something else; O'Sullivan's great-grandfather kept a lot of people alive during famine, but the song was about being a great oarsman, one line of that song, Sarsfield put on the back of his own father's headstone, speaks the phrase in Irish Gaelic; Sean's favorite verse to that song refers to the fact that grandfather was not a lackey to the parish priest, but was still a good Catholic; lines include "Not a Turk, nor of Luther was Michael, Nor a man to be scoffed at by priest or by brother"; abpout a painting of Donald O'Sullivan, the family hero, "cross-eyed bastard"; consciousness of family lines and folk traditions lost but some interest in those things from 3rd and 4th generation Irish, this is genuine and not "stage Irish" stuff; about St. Patrick's Day in Butte, celebrations when he was a boy, a "clay pipe thing," two Irish dances, one with authentic music, on with stage music, put on to raise money, during and after the "troubles" the function of a dance was to raise money for ammunition, not to preserve Irish culture; the more patriotic Irish in Butte would put on dances with American music as fundraisers; about pipers in Butte, Father O'Sullivan does not remember any in his lifetime, his father Sean O'Sullivan, however, had regarded hearing pipes as a treat, he heard pipes at a fair, "stood until his legs ached, it was so beautiful"; Father O'Sullivan recalls that when his father came to America he brought two printed things: his passport, which proclaimed he was a British subject, and a book of love songs by an Irish poet, from genuine Irish tradition; about growing up in neighborhood of widows, it was the exception, rather than the rule, to have a father living; about harp players in Butte, Father O'Sullivan talks about his father's story of a harp player in San Francisco, an old man who told Sean about a certain tune, once you've learned to play it, you can only play it three times, after you learned the tune well, you could only play it three times, and after playing it the third time, the harp player would die; about people who played fiddle in his father's time, a fellow named Cashun (?) [Caisin ?], who knew very old melodies from County Cork; most of the old-time fiddlers, like barkeeps in Butte, came from the north, Donegal, despite "Corkonian" makeup of the rest of the community; e.g., Paddy Burns, Ownee [Oney?] McDivett; about fiddlers and dance styles. The "far-down" dances (from the north) had callers, while dances from Cork did not; Father O'Sullivan remembers that his mother liked the Cork dances best and said, "If I couldn't dance, I wouldn't want to live"; explanation of "far-downers" [Irish laborers in America]; about people from Sligo, fiddler tradition, O'Sullivan says there are some Sligo families in Butte, but he is not aware of Sligo fiddlers; about the sone "The Spanish Lady," he heard it from Mike Hughes, Sean O'Sullivan's version had different tune and words; sings fragments of songs, "last night I was a married" (song mentions lowlands), "My love she was born in the north country," "'Tis pretty to be in Balinderry," "The Lowlands Low, sailing for the lowlands low," "Sean Powers the Skipper," "These twenty wild geese gave Queen Anne the slip," and recalls a religious verse to that song, "As full as 'twill hold of gold my harvest," lines from "The Red-haired man's wife"; about when he was in Ireland, he sang a song his brother Eamon (sometimes spelled Eamonn) made up. to a Gaelic tune, the song began "Down at the house of the wedding I met my love" and ends with a line about the wife of the red-haired man, when he finished the song, an old man said "God, it's a long time since I heard that"; about trying to remember other songs; Eamon wrote some hymns for mass set to traditional airs, Eamon and Sarsfield decided. to use tunes from the island, Inish Farnard; song traditions among Gaelic poets, usage of words, words with beautiful sounds, talks about how one line can make the whole poem worthwhile, starts to give an example, tape runs out.


  • 7-inch reel

Call Number/Physical Location

  • Call number: AFC 1981/005: AFS 20439
  • MBRS shelflist: RXA 0925
  • Field project identifier: MT9-GS-R54

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 4. 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 4. 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 4. Butte, Montana, 1979. Audio. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.