By Denis Hurley
POPULAR Cork businessman James O’Sullivan, who died on Tuesday at the age of 58, enjoyed regular trips to his holiday-home in Baltimore, while the firm of which he was director, M&P O’Sullivan Ltd, operated in Dunmanway for many years.
James had been diagnosed with cancer last March and as recently as December – when he was honoured as Corkonian of The Year by Cork Civic Trust – he had spoken of his belief that he would ‘get the better of’ the disease, which had spread from his colon to his liver and lungs.
A keen sailor, James was Rear Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven and at the time of his death he was chairman of Crosshaven RNLI lifeboat management group. His yacht, Happy Hours, was a source of pride and joy, and he put it to use both at home and in West Cork.
Born in Douglas, James later set up home in Carrigaline, where he became an integral part of the local Lions Club, eventually progressing to become district governor for the island of Ireland in 2009. A recipient of the Melvin Jones Fellowship — one of the highest honours which can be bestowed on a serving Lion – he served on the audit committee of Cork City Council and as chairman of the Irish Grocers’ Benevolent Fund.
For more than 30 years, he was also heavily involved in the Cork Business Association (CBA) and was the driving force behind the establishment of an annual awards scheme. The family firm of M&P O’Sullivan had been established by James’s grandfather Patrick in 1905, initially focusing on tobacco products (it was the last tobacco shop in Cork) and then the cash-and-carry trade.
Gala and White Hat are the company’s primary brands. M&P O’Sullivan’s Dunmanway branch closed in the mid-2000s, but the firm retains a strong presence in West Cork.
Tributes to James O’Sullivan were widespread. Lawrence Owens, the chief executive of the CBA, had been his friend with 30 years and described him as ‘a pillar of the CBA, and an absolute gentleman, who was warm, caring, loyal, and good’, while also noting the large volume of ‘under the radar’ charity work.
Micheál Martin TD, the leader of Fianna Fáil, appointed James as the first chairman of the Small Business Forum when he was Minister for Enterprise.
‘James has been at the heart of Cork business, social, and charity life for decades,’ Mr Martin said, ‘and his work in the community and voluntary sector has made a huge difference to the lives of thousands of people.’
Cllr Des Cahill, Lord Mayor of Cork, said, ‘James fought a very positive battle with his illness. In recent times I had the pleasure of attending many functions with James and he certainly had a great attitude to live for the day.’
James O’Sullivan is survived by his wife Cathy (née Domoney, from Arklow, Co. Wicklow) and their children, Emma and Eoin, who works for M&P O’Sullivan.