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Sarah O’Brien was born Sarah Coffey in Desert (sometimes called Desertserges) near Ballineen, west of Bandon, on 20th May 1875. Her father was James Coffey, a farmer and master shoemaker, and her mother was Lucy Regan, a farmer’s daughter, born in Desertserges on 11th May 1852. According to Tom Donlon’s family history,1 James and Lucy Coffey had nine children – five sons and four daughters. However, more recent research, carried out by Ray O’Connell, who married a descendant of James and Lucy Coffey, indicates that there were 14 children in the Coffey family. According to his information, drawn from the records of the parish of Desertserges and from the 1901 and 1911 censuses, the 14 children were James (b. 1871); Ellen Mary (b. 1872); Denis (b. 1873); Sarah (b. 1875); Kate Jane (b. 1877); John (b. 1878); Lucy (b. 1880); Joseph (b. 1883); Maurice (b. 1885); Patrick (b. 1886); Daniel (b. 1890); Edward (b. 1891); Margaret (b. 1893) and Lily (probably b. 1894). The family lived on or near the farm of James’s father who was probably also a master shoemaker, and their workshop was on the roadside near the farm. James’s main business was making boots and shoes to measure for the farmers and other well-off people of the area. His business seems to have prospered, because he usually employed several journeyman shoemakers. In the mid 1880s, the family left Desertserges and moved into Bandon where James continued to work at his trade as a master shoemaker. This move seems to have taken place because of some dispute as to the ownership of the farm in Desert, possibly after the death of James’s father, but a contributory factor was probably the decline in demand for hand-made boots and shoes caused by growth in the supply of factory-made goods, increasingly being sold by shops in towns and cities in the area. James probably hoped there would be more demand for his services in a town like Bandon than in a country district like Desert. That his business prospered reasonably well in Bandon is shown by the fact that two of his sons followed in their father’s footsteps and carried on as shoemakers, after their father’s death in May 1908. He was buried in Desertserges. In the 1901 census, the family is shown as living on Bridge Lane, Bandon. In the 1911 census ten years later, Lucy Coffey is described as a widow, and she and her younger children are shown as living in No. 26 Greenmount Buildings, Cork City. At that stage, her granddaughter, Lucy (daughter of Sarah), then aged 11 years, was living with her grandmother in Cork city. At some stage in the following decade, Lucy Coffey lived for some time with her daughter Sarah (then a widow) in the house on St. Patrick’s Hill, Bandon. She later went to live with another daughter, Katie, in No. 13 Cook St., Cork city and she died there on 28th April 1927. She is buried in St. Patrick’s Graveyard in Bandon.

1. Tomás Ó Domhnalláin, Clann Ui Dhomhnalláin; The Story of a Family (printed 1988).

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O'Briens of Bandon - 1875 to 2013  

This is the story of the family of John and Sarah O’Brien of Bandon, Co. Cork, Ireland, and their descendants. They had eleven children and...

O'Briens of Bandon - 1875 to 2013  

This is the story of the family of John and Sarah O’Brien of Bandon, Co. Cork, Ireland, and their descendants. They had eleven children and...