Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Some unsung Cork heroes of Irish Independence

Most Irish family researchers and historians are aware of General Michael Collins and his predecessor, Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa. Considerable chatter has been devoted to these two towering figures of history on forums pertaining to Ireland.

Today I thought I'd post about two individuals geographically closer to my mother's ancestral origins, and therefore somewhat dearer to me as I practically consider them neighbors.

Sean Hurley

Since I have two Hurley lines and know absolutely nothing about one and only a little about the other, Sean Hurley sparked my curiosity. According to the Southern Star, Sean Hurley, born July 3, 1887, in Maulagow, Leap, was the only Corkman who died in or was executed for his participation in the 1916 Easter Rising. In literature about Michael Collins you'll see Sean's name. Sean's sister Kate was Michael's sister-in-law; she was the first wife of Michael's oldest brother Johnny Collins. However, Sean and Michael were friends before that.

Some literature says that Sean Hurley was Michael's cousin. Other than this well-documented relationship by marriage I have not seen anything specifying this blood relationship.

Sean's father was John Daniel Hurley, whom the Southern Star says was "of Ballinacarriga stock." Well, that doesn't really tell me much because Hurleys in southwest Cork pretty much all originated from Ballinacarriga, the Hurley seat. From my still meager understanding of Hurley history, apparently there was territory divided up between Hurleys and McCarthys in the Drinagh area way back when.

Working backwards, I found the family in the censuses. Maulagow is in the Drinagh District Electoral Division. In the 1911 census I found 69 year old John, 63 year old Kate, and 32 year old son Patrick. John and Kate were married 40 years.

The 1901 census lists John at 50, Kate at 45, Pat 21, John (that would be Sean) 14, Kattie 18, and Mollie 16.

I then looked for the marriage. John Daniel Hurley married Catherine Walsh of Maulatrahane 13-Feb-1872, in the R.C. Parish of Kilmacabea. However, as far as I can tell, the children were baptized in Drimoleague & Drinagh R.C. Parish:

Daniel 1872, William 1874, Ellen 1875, Patrick 1878, and Catherine 1881 were the only siblings of Sean that I could find.

Unfortunately, the ages listed in the census for Sean Hurley's parents slide around. Hurley is all over the place, but Walsh is not quite as common, so I thought I'd try looking for Kate Walsh's family records. Her parents may have been William Walsh and Kate Donovan of Maulatrahane. The children I found were John 1835, Patrick 1837, William 1838, Mary 1839, Thomas 1841, Garrett 1844 (I have seen this name in conjunction with Walsh frequently), James 1846, Catherine 1848, and Ellen 1851.

(Note: I have NOT examined all these records.)
Some day when there is ample time I may take a crack at looking for John Hurley.

Gearóid O'Sullivan

The other unsung Cork hero whom I yearn to know more was born as Jeremiah, in Coolnagarrane on January 28, 1891 (which I haven't verified), to Michael O'Sullivan and Margaret McCarthy. Gearóid O'Sullivan hoisted the tri-color flag during the Easter Rising and was the Quarter-Master General of the Free State.

I have the marriage record of the parents. Michael and Margaret were married January 6, 1883 in Skibbereen. Michael O'Sullivan was from Lough Hyne; his father Daniel was deceased. Margaret was from Coolnagarrane, and her father Owen McCarthy was also deceased.

According to online sources Margaret was born in Coolnagarrane. I don't know if that is factually correct; the marriage record stating a residence is not proof that one was born in the same place. Michael went to Coolnagarrane to the McCarthy holding. My Hurley ancestors were from Coolnagarrane, and they may have had McCarthy ancestors, which is why this O'Sullivan family is dear to my heart.

I took a look at the census records. The O'Sullivans were indeed ardent nationalists; their 1911 census return is filled out in Irish. Notice that Gearóid is not listed; he was likely away occupied with his studies. The record says Margaret was 54, which would place her birth year at about 1857.

The 1901 census lists Margaret as 40. That would put her year of birth around 1861.

I have been unable to verify I have identified the correct Margaret McCarthy. After trawling through the online church records, looking for Margarets with fathers named Owen (or Eugene, an alternate name), I came up with at least two families, maybe more.

The family of a Eugene McCarthy and Mary Walsh as far as I can tell lived in Skibbereen. Some of the records for the children list Mill Road, which doesn't particularly bother me, as that is of close proximity to Coolnagarrane. The marriage, if I managed to grab the correct one, was in Skibbereen & Rath, January 28, 1845, and included a Richard Walsh as witness. The children were Catherine 1845, Honora 1847 (Norry McCarthy as sponsor), Helena 1849 (Pat Hurley and Mary Walsh as sponsors), Eugene 1851 (Thomas Walsh sponsor), Timothy 1855 (Mary Hurley sponsor), Mary of Mill Road 1857(Richard Walsh sponsor), Bridget Ann of Mill Street 1860 (Mary Walsh sponsor), Margaret 1862 (Mary Hurley sponsor), and James (Honora Walsh sponsor).

The other Margaret I found was baptized September 4, 1857, the daughter of Eugene McCarthy and Mary Carthy. The residence listed is Russagh, well on the south side of Skibbereen. Jerry Carthy was a sponsor. There are records for an Owen (Mc)Carthy and a Mary (Mc)Carthy going back to 1838, and I am uncertain if they are for the same or for different families. Joanna 1838, Eugene 1842, Timothy 1844, John 1848, Owen 1850, John of North Street 1853, Margaret of Russagh (south of Skibbereen) 1857.

(Note: I have NOT examined all these records.)

So I am a bit stuck there. I have no further information other than a funeral notice for Margaret McCarthy O'Sullivan from the Southern Star, 20-May-1944.

I am fairly certain one of the descendants of Margaret McCarthy and Michael O'Sullivan, another Michael O'Sullivan, was my Grandmother's doctor.

A lady by the name of Joni Scanlon is a descendant, and has been writing a much-needed book on Gearóid O'Sullivan. I am impatiently waiting for it.

Update:  For information on General Michael Collins please do not post a question or email me since I have no information other than what is publicly known. Use Google and/or search the Cork genealogy forums.  


Hypocoristic said...

I'm a relative of Michael Collins, sharing O'Brien ancestry with his mother. You mentioned about Michael Collins and O'Donovan Rossa--I wonder if you've seen an article the latter wrote for the Brooklyn Eagle about the Fenian movement that recounts a conversation he had with Fr. John O'Brien, then at Ardfield. O'Donovan Rossa tells the same story in his memoirs, but in the Brooklyn Eagle version, mentions that "our families were related or connected with each other someway". This Fr. John O'Brien was a great-uncle of Mary Anne O'Brien Collins. If there was indeed some kind of 'relation or connection', then Collins and O'Donovan Rossa would've been related.

sb10 said...

I don't really "do" General Michael Collins and this posting is not about him.

Check on public message boards for info about his family.

lilypad4594 said...

I'm actually wondering if there is any posts about Daniel Collins who died around 1908 at a young age and had one son, who is my grandfather. He is related to Michael Collins.

Bernard Connery said...

I believe that John (Sean) Hurley is my grandmother Mollies brother.... I have some info on the family tree if interested. Bernard

sb10 said...

Bernard, I'd be delighted to see your family data. As I am actively publishing Skibbereen area family trees on Family Search, would you be willing to let me publish data there, and/or collaborate with me on publishing it there ? is a free resource, only requiring a login. It is the website of the Mormon Family History Library from which catalog I can drop useful citations into the family trees, making them all the more valuable. Just let me know.

Conchubhar Cinnfhaolaidh said...

Hi, Dr Michael O'Sullivan was a nephew of Gearoid O'Sullivan. Gearoid's brother, Donal, married my great grand aunt, Anne (Nancy) Hourihane. I recall Michael visting my grandmother (his 1st cousin) when she was ill.

Liam Young said...


Your relative Seán Hurley was from Maulagow, Drinagh, not Leap. There will be a significant commemoration for him in Drinagh on May 1st, 2016. Follow this link for a website dedicated to Seán Hurley: or contact the Seán Ó Muirthile Historical Society, Drinagh, at Finally, on Sunday December 20th next, Seán's story will feature on an RTE documentary series, "Ireland's Rising" @ 8.30pm

sb10 said...

Hi Liam,

Thanks, Sean Hurley is not my relative as far as I know.

Brian Flaherty said...

Thanks so much for your blog.

I have been researching Sean Hurley for sometime as my maternal grandmother, Mary Hurley, was also from Maulagow. I am trying to connect the dots to my family as I am sure Sean was related to my grandmother. Do you have any additional information on Sean's father?

Thanks so much,

Brian Flaherty

sb10 said...

Hi Brian,

Try the contact info on this page:

And if you don't get a response contact Margaret Murphy at Skibbereen Heritage Centre.

Good luck!