Worden Thane Irish Heritage Spotlight: Ron Bender

My grandfather Patrick, a Sullivan of the O’Sullivan Beare clan emigrated from Allihies Beara county Cork Ireland, 7.4 miles from Eyeries where Willie McCarthy’s ancestors came from.

Allihies was a copper mining district in Beara and when the mines closed in the late 1880’s Tim Sullivan the oldest in the family emigrated to Eureka, Utah, operated a mine, and brought his nine other brothers and sisters over to Utah.  When Tim died, the Sullivans lost the mine to his spouse ( a Hannifan) and Pat Sullivan moved to Butte to work in the Butte copper mines.  Butte has a close connection to Allihies.  Over 85 Sullivan families in Allihies had members working in the Butte mines.  As noted in the Allihies Copper Museum, when an Allihies miner died in the Butte mines a mass was said in Allihies.  In the 1900-1910 Butte city directory there were over 50 Pat Sullivans listed in Butte.

Allihies Copper Mine in Castletownbere, Ireland

On July 15, 1907 my grandmother and my 18 month old aunt were waiting at the top of Montana Street in Butte to catch the trolley to meet my grandfather at the Columbia Gardens.  As the trolley rumbled up, an abandoned mine shaft opened up and my aunt fell 200 feet to her death.  My grandparents survived this tragedy to subsequently raise a family of my mother and her sisters. When the Flathead Reservation opened for homesteading in 1910 my grandparents homesteaded on Race Horse Creek near Perma, but rushed back to Butte for the birth of mother which occurred in the back of her uncle’s bar, Sullivan’s Saloon in Dublin Gulch where the Kelly mine now stands.  My grandfather went on to be the alderman of the 2nd ward in Butte and lived on West Copper Street.  As an alderman he marched in the front of the Butte St. Paddy’s day parade.

Growing up in Butte I remember my mother and sisters Irish step dancing, and music was always a part of the family.  My mother played the piano and accordion and my siblings played other instruments.  I always remember the rousing renditions of McNamara’s Band, Danny Boy, and Whiskey in the Jar.

Jane and Ron Bender outside of O’Sullivan’s Bar in Castletownbere, Ireland

Growing up we always had corned beef, pot roast, potatoes, and homemade pasties (even though they are Cornish),  On St. Paddy’s day we always had corn beef and cabbage.

My aunt married a McCarthy and I remember fondly the constant debating, arguing, and discussions with my McCarthy cousins as to who was the true high King of Munster at the Rock of Cashel-  a McCarthy or an O’Sullivan.  About 1600 BC, a Celtic tribe led by a man named Owen landed on the Beara Peninsula in the southwestern part of Ireland. They call themselves the “Children of Owen” or the Eoganacht.  By 900 AD they split into two families, the Ó Súilleabháin sept and Mac Cárthaigh sept.  Ó Súilleabháin (“hawk eye’) eventually became O’Sullivan Mor and O’Sullivan Beare with the Beare sept inhabiting the Beara Peninsula. The last king was an O’Sullivan.  My McCarthy cousins, because of their loquacity and blarney, were the most outspoken.  One of my cousins has traced the McCarthy kings back to the 10th century (still in dispute).  However the last eoganacht was from the O’Sullivan sept.

In 1602 the seven septs of O’Sullivan were defeated by the English at the battles of Dunboy Castle and Dursey Island.  In 1603 Donal O’Sullivan and 1000 O’Sullivans fled Beara to the North being attacked by the English and Irish favorable to the English.  In what is known as O’Sullivan’s March, thirty-five (35) people finished the journey.

I also remember the night that my grandmother died and my aunts remarked that they heard the cry of banshee who heralded her death.

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