When John O’Sullivan passed away in February 1997, it marked the end of an era in West Cork drama. His colleagues in Skibbereen Theatre Society decided to revive his last production with the group, “The Black Stranger” and use this occasion o launch this booklet as a tribute to their late, great mentor.
A more lasting monument to his memory is planned for the Town Hall, in conjunction with Skibbereen U.D.C. at a later date, and Kilmeen Drama Group will also be taking action to perpetuate his memory, so highly was he held in everybody’s esteem.
To try to comprehensively encapsulate the many and varied facets of this extraordinary man in a booklet this size is a daunting task, as there probably is so much more that can be written and said about John. However, what does come through in all the articles here is the warmth of the affection in which his memory is held, thanks to the countless hours of pleasure and enjoyment he brought to so many people.
His contributions to and great success with rural drama groups from his native Courtmacsherry and Barryroe, to Killeedy in West Limerick and, nearer home, Kilmeen and Skibbereen, are now treasured memories. In Skibbereen also, he was closely associated with the pantomime group, revived again in the ’90s and was involved with Comhaltas, becoming famous for his captivating storytelling, as he impressed locals and tourists alike.
A great raconteur, John O’Sullivan was in demand for radio and television appearances. In 1994 he won a West Cork Achievement Award for his lifetime contribution to drama, which included bringing some of the top professional touring groups for shows at Skibbereen Town Hall.
Initially a cheesemaker, John went on to become a Department of Agriculture inspector, his day job which kept him in touch with rural Irish life which he portrayed with such depth of feeling, both as an actor and a director.
He was also a family man at heart and, as Kilmeen’s Paddy Keohane said in his eulogy at the requiem Mass, “All of us that knew him very well always found that there was a special quality in his voice – a special reverential tone – when he spoke of Mary and his family.
May he rest in peace.
– Con Downing, Editor