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Tommy Sullivan papers

Collection IM-M176-2009: Tommy Sullivan papers


  • circa 1900-1995

Scope and Contents

These papers contain audio recordings, sheet music, photographs, and news clippings documenting the musical interests and performances of Tommy Sullivan. Unpublished audio recordings document Tommy Sullivan playing with local musicians; a highlight of these is a testimonial dance held in Sullivan's honor. The sheet music features 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. Irish accordion musicians are featured on the commercial 78-rpm phonongraph discs and published books of sheet music, which were likely part of the Sullivan family's music library.


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research. 78-rpm recordings and reel-to-reel audio tapes are restricted and may not be used for playback purposes; request digital use copies instead. Digital use copies for some items may not be immediately available.

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 F. “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, Box 4, Folder 1, Tommy Sullivan papers, IM.M176.2009, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

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


3.5 Linear Feet (6 containers)

Language of Materials



These papers contain sheet music, photographs, audio recordings, and news clippings documenting the music of Tommy Sullivan, an Irish traditional musician from Springfield, Massachusetts.


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 his digital copies are included.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of T. Jeffrey Sullivan, 2009.

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.

Tommy Sullivan Papers
circa 1900-1995 (bulk 1940s-1950s)
John Kearney
April 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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
617-552-2465 (Fax)