• reiltinmurphy

Kate Sheehan's Story

Kate Sheehan was my Great Grandmother: this is her story.

Kate Sheehan’s grand-daughter and my beloved Auntie Monica Murphy wrote her memories and says - Kate, when a child, lived with her parents in Newry. Their father was in the waterworks. He was moved to Ballydaheen in Mallow….and then to Cork.


Kate Sheehan’s father was David Sheehan.


One sister, Hester, was supposed to be married to a Mr O’Connor. Hester took a boat instead. Kate was called in from skipping and told to marry Mr O’Connor.


Catherine Sheehan married John O’Connor on June 15th 1862, the witnesses were Michael & Kate Cantillon. Our Kate was aged about 15, John O’Connor was 41.


Mr O’Connor came from USA and was very rich. The story goes that she spent all his money. They had 3 children, Brian, Mary (‘Moll’), and David.


In 1863 on 21st April Bryan O’Connor was baptised in St. Finbarr’s Church, Cork city. Sponsors were John Sheehan and Maryanne Shelton.


In 1864, on August 14th Hannah Mary O’Connor was born; her baptism sponsors were Patrick Thompson & Mary Barrett. Their address was 60 Evergreen Road. The allegedly wealthy John O’Connor was a Night Watchman in a Pipe Water Office so we can assume that he was a work colleague of Kate’s father David Sheehan. ( “The Cork City Waterworks at Lee Road, Cork, were built by Cork Corporation between 1857 and 1860, building work designed and overseen by Sir John Benson. The Corporation had taken over responsibility for the city's water supply from the Cork Pipe Water Company in 1840. The City Engineer and a resident Waterworks Engineer administered the work of the waterworks, and the associated system of reservoirs and pipes.”).


In 1868, on March 19th David O’Connor was born, his baptism sponsors were Michael Cantillon & Mary Anne Attridge. The address is 84 Evergreen Road. John O’Connor is a Night Watchman.


In 1870, on August 13th Esther O’Connor is born, her sponsors are Thomas Sullivan & Hannah Royals. The address is 7 Evergreen Road. John O’Connor is a Watchman.


In 1875, on May 9th John O’Connor is born, his baptism sponsors are John Sheehan & Maria Cogan. The address is 30 Quaker Road. John the father is a Night Watchman.


In 1877, on December 10th Catherine O’Connor is born, her sponsors are Denis Cushin & Elizabeth Cunningham. The address is 30 Quaker Road, John O’Connor is a Night Watchman.


In 1879 on the 14th January John O’Connor Night Watchman died aged 58 at 30 Quaker Road of pleurisy, Catherine, his wife, registered the death.


By her second marriage Kate had three more children. Our beloved Aunt Brigid (Tir), Uncle Jack, and our mother.


In 1879, on September 25th Brigid O’Connor was baptised. Her parents are given as John O’Connor and Catherine Sheehan. The address is 30 Quaker Road. The sponsors are Bryan O’Connor (her brother?) and Brigid Sheehan (presumably Kate’s sister). Note that Brigid O’Connor was born 8 months after John O’Connor’s death but was always known as a Sullivan. I can’t find a birth certificate for Brigid.


I could not find a birth or baptism record for John/Jack Sullivan though I looked under Sheehan, O’Connor, Sullivan and O’Sullivan. He was born in about 1882.


In 1884, on May 29th Margaret Sullivan (my grandmother) was born. The address is 21 Weigh House Lane. John Sullivan is a Fitter. I hoped to find her baptism cert but it is after online records end.


Mr O’Connor … released her by dying…After Mr O’Connor died Kate married John O’Sullivan.


In 1884, on October 5th Catherine O’Connor, widow, of Weigh House Lane marries John Sullivan, widower, of Weigh House Lane. Kate’s father, David Sheehan is dead. John’s father James Sullivan is dead. The witnesses are Michael Griffin and Hannah Mullins (John Sullivan’s sister).


Kate Sheehan’s new husband John Sullivan had been married (I can find no record) to Mary Riordan - assuming Auntie Mon is correct; she also said that they had no children. I may have found three possible children though all three may have died; there is no trace of them in the family story. 1873 - 4th June John Sullivan born to John Sullivan and Mary Riordan in Bridewell Lane. Father is a labourer. Mother registered the birth. 1875 - 19th October Michael Sullivan born to John Sullivan and Mary Riordan in Browne Street. Father is a labourer. Mother registered the birth. 1879 - April 11th Michael Sullivan died aged three and a half at 23 Harpurs Lane of convulsions, his mother, Mary Sullivan, registered the death of this “child of a labourer”. 1879 - 18th April Joseph Sullivan was born to John Sullivan and Mary Riordan in 23 Harpurs Lane. Father is a labourer. Father registered the birth. I can find no conclusive death notice for Mary Riordan.


In the 1901 census the family consisted of John O’Sullivan (56), a fitter, his wife Kate (54), their daughter Bridget (21) a shirtmaker, their son John (19) assistant to a Fitter, and their daughter Margaret (16) a shirtmaker. John and Kate can read but not write, the census form is signed with John’s mark. They live on Evergreen Street in a house with one window in front.


In the 1911 census John O’Sullivan (60) an Engine Fitter at Works, and Kate (59), live on the nearby Windmill Road with Bridget (27) not employed, and John Sheehan (63) Kate’s widowed brother who is a Timekeeper in a Brewery. All can read and write. Kate and John state that they are 29 years married, that they had three children and all three are living. The form is filled in and signed in a sure hand though not that of the enumerator.


Margaret Sullivan’s sister Bridget (c1879-1946), the beloved “Tir”, never married and was known as O’Sullivan all her life.


Jack (John) Sullivan (c1882-1967) married Kit Bermingham.


My grandmother Margaret (Peg) Sullivan 1884-1974, and probably her children also, would have been horrified that she had been born “out of wedlock” albeit in what seems to have been a loving and stable relationship. Part of me is happy that this uncomfortable fact emerged after the generation of my aunts was gone. Is the truth of Auntie Mon’s story really that Kate Sheehan married John Sullivan when his wife released him by dying? Or is it simply that they took years to get around to marriage.


in 1910 Margaret O’Sullivan married Hugh Murphy 1886-1951 and they set up home at 24 Windmill Road according to the 1911 census. The wedding photograph on the Family History page is of Margaret and Hugh. Hugh Francis (24) is an Insurance Agent, Margaret (25), both can read and write and the form is filled with a handwriting remarkably like that of John & Kate O’Sullivan’s! Their house has two windows in front and is only a few doors from the Reparation convent. Hugh and Margaret’s daughter Mary Catherine (May) was born a month after the census was taken. She was followed by Margaret Josephine (Peg) in 1913 when they lived at 96 High Street, Mary Bridget (Breed) in 1915 when they lived at Antonia Cottage, 96 High Street, Mary Monica (Monica) in 1917 at 96 High Street, Patrick 1919-1922 was born at 95 High Street, John 1921-2006 (my father), and Hugh 1923-1924. Photograph shows my lovely aunts.


In 1931, on November 11th Kate O’Sullivan died aged 79. She is more likely to be 84 as aged 79 would make her only 10 on her marriage. Then in 1932, on February 21st John O’Sullivan died aged 81. He was more likely to be 86 though family story has it that he was 90.


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