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T. Jeffrey Sullivan collection of Tommy Sullivan and Joe Derrane

Collection IM-M176-2009: T. Jeffrey Sullivan collection of Tommy Sullivan and Joe Derrane


  • Creation: circa 1900-1995

Scope and Contents

Papers containing audio recordings, sheet music, photographs, and news clippings documenting the musical interests and performances of Tommy Sullivan. Unpublished audio recordings feature Tommy Sullivan playing with local musicians; a highlight of these is a testimonial dance held in Sullivan's honor. The sheet music includes several sets of hand-written music in press/draw tablature form by Sullivan family members and Joe Derrane. News clippings cover Sullivan's US Army service, Irish music performances, the testimonial dance, his death, and Joe Derrane's 1990s return to performing traditional Irish music. Photographs show Tommy Sullivan in performance with other musicians such as Chick Borelli, Johnny Kane, Jack Martin, and Joe Derrane.


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research. Audio recordings have been digitally copied; all original media were retained, but may not be played due to format. Digital use copies can only be accessed in the Burns Library Reading Room.

Restrictions on Use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical Note

Thomas Francis “Tommy” Sullivan (1916-1958) was born on July 24, 1916, to Patrick and Bridget (Kelly) Sullivan and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts. He attended Cathedral High School, served in the U.S. Army in North Africa during World War II, and then worked for the U.S. Postal Service as a mail carrier in Springfield for eleven years. He married Alyce Houlihan and they had three children: Thomas Jeffrey (Jeff), Martin, and Sheila.

Sullivan played accordion and specialized in traditional Irish music. His band included Chick Borelli (banjo) and Johnny Kane (fiddle), and he was a close friend of accordionist Joe Derrane. His son Jeff also became an accordion player, and played at the age of ten in a fundraiser for his father, who was suffering from colon cancer. The Testimonial Dance in Sullivan’s honor was held on June 20, 1958 at the American Legion Post 430 in Springfield, where he was a member. It featured the Irish music bands of Dave Keough, Chris Tabb, Jack Fitzgerald, and Johnny Kane, as well as accordionists Joe Derrane, Jerry O’Brien, and Johnny Powell.

Sullivan died at the age of 42 on October 8, 1958 in Springfield.


"Alyce H. Houlihan Sullivan", Find A Grave Memorial. Accessed April 12, 2018.

Newspaper clippings, Shared box 1672, Folder 1, Tommy Sullivan papers, IM.M176.2009, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Draft Registration Cards For Massachusetts, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 942, National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri.

Springfield Union obituary, October 9, 1958.

U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963.

Tommy Sullivan discography

Tommy Sullivan published several recordings in his lifetime, including:

-First figure Irish dance set: Sullivan's fancy; Irishman's heart to the ladies - jig. (Irish Records I-3002 A)

-Second figure Irish dance set: Father Hanley's favorite; Rose in the heather - jig. (Irish Records I-3002 B)

-The blackbird; Verse of Vienna. (Irish Records I-3005)


4 Linear Feet (6 containers)

10.98 Gigabytes (139 files with approximately 8.75 hours of audio)

Language of Materials



Papers containing audio recordings, news clippings, photographs, and sheet music that document the music of Tommy Sullivan, an Irish traditional musician from Springfield, Massachusetts. It also includes some sheet music, news clippings, and two recordings of accordionist Joe Derrane, who was a friend of the Sullivan family.


The collection is arranged in four series: I. Audio recordings; II. Newspaper clippings; III. Photographs; and IV. Sheet music.

Custodial History

Tommy Sullivan’s son Jeff had most of the reel-to-reel tapes and phonograph discs in this collection digitized by Irish music specialist Ted McGraw before donating the collection to Burns Library, and McGraw's digital copies are included.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of T. Jeffrey Sullivan, 2009. He inherited some of the materials from his father Tommy Sullivan, and collected the later materials about Joe Derrane.

Related Materials

William F. and Michael C. Hanafin Family Papers, IM.M143.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann North America collection of Irish music materials, IM.M104.2001, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

Processing Information

Most of the original audio recordings in this collection were migrated from original media by Burns Library in order to obtain the highest-quality and most-complete possible capture, even though selected digitizations were included in the donation. The donated digitizations were used for audio reels, which cannot be reformatted by the library at this time.

The sheet music described as written by Patrick Sullivan for his children was reported to be such by Patrick's grandson Jeff Sullivan, the donor of the papers; however, some of this sheet music has the name James Sullivan written at the bottom. James was one of Patrick's sons, Jeff's uncle. It is possible that both James and Patrick wrote music in these notebooks, or that the name was intended to indicate that the music was for James, not written by him. We are leaving the materials as described by the donor.

T. Jeffrey Sullivan collection of Tommy Sullivan and Joe Derrane
circa 1900-1995 (bulk 1940s-1950s)
John Kearney, April 2018; updated by Lynn Moulton
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2024 May: Published materials removed and transferred within Burns Library. All audio recordings on phonograph disc migrated and described.

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States