National Success With His Native Parish

By John Sexton

The late John O’Sullivan was a native of Ardcoohig, Courtmacsherry. This writer’s first vision of him was as an altar boy to Fr. Burke in Barryroe.

We had the situation of the big altar boy and the small parish priest, but little did we realise all of sixty years ago what those two men had in common. Fr. Burke, then in the autumn of his years, had been the driving force behind some of the greatest progress in Barryroe Parish during the twenty-one years as its pastor.

The young John O’Sullivan, then a schoolboy, would end his days in Skibbereen as the main architect of the town’s panto and theatre.

Having started his life as assistant cheesemaker with Barryroe Co-op he did a course at the Salesian College, Pallaskenery, in 1948 and from there he got a permanent job as cheesemaker with Kantoher Co-op. Joining the local Killeedy Players, his stage career took off.

It was during Christmas of 1957 he suggested to a few of us the possibility of staging a play and entering a few drama festivals. Coincidentally Macra na Feirme had launched a national drama competition.

Having hand-picked a cast himself from the Macra club, he advised us to enter for the Rossmore and Cork drama festivals. The Killeedy Players had had a great run of success the previous year, with The Paddy Pedlar, a play which greatly appealed to John.

And so when Courtmacsherry Macra put on The Pedlar at Rossmore and Cork during February 1958, they not alone won the rural sections, but got top marks at each festival. The Macra competition took Courtmacsherry all over the county, from Dunmanway to Ballinhassig, to Cappoquin and to Nenagh, where we won the All-Ireland.

In all of those productions John won the award for top actor. When Fr. O’Donovan held his first drama festival in Rossmore in 1956, John directed the Barryroe Drama Group to win the full-length section with The Master of the House.

Down in Barryroe and Courtmacsherry he was always known as Seán and we believe that his name was changed to John to accommodate the English judge!