In Memoriam: John Curran, A Sound Man of Erin
John Curran (1938-2012), an Irishman with a generous heart and a golden voice, died on Wednesday, June 21, 2012 after battling heart disease for many years. He was 73.
He is survived by his wife Kitty, their four children, Sean, Tricia, Deirdre and Maura, seven grandchildren, and extended family in Ireland, including siblings, Donal, Maureen and Marion.
Born in Waterville, Kerry and raised in Crosshaven, Cork, Curran emigrated to Boston in 1955 at age 16. Shortly after he met his future wife Kitty Ryan, from Ballinagare, Roscommon, on a bus in Cambridge, where John attended Rindge Tech and Kitty was a student at Cambridge Latin. They married in 1960. He had a successful career as a food broker, working with larger supermarkets and food suppliers.
John frequently described Kitty as the love of his life, as he testified at the Charitable Irish Society gathering in 2009, where he received the prestigious Silver Key Award. He also exuded pride in the success of his four children and joy in spending time with his grandchildren.
His role as a leader of Boston’s Irish community extended half a century. He was ubiquitous, serving as master of ceremonies for countless events, organizing fundraisers, volunteering at festivals, and helping to create local Irish groups such as the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton and the Boston branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann.
“John was a great force in the Irish community, always willing to help anyone,” says his good friend Larry Reynolds, who came to Boston in 1953.
Curran and Reynolds, along with Billy Caples and Pat Berry, formed the Boston chapter of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann in 1975. The branch was innovative, initiating a Comhaltas hour on WNTN that ran for 25 years, hosting regular sessions and set dancing classes, and forming a flourishing Music School. With over 500 members, Boston has one of the largest Comhaltas branches in the world today.
John was well known as the golden voice of A Sound of Erin radio program, formed by Henry Varian and Bernie McCarthy at WUNR in 1973. John started out reading the news and selling advertising, and later kept the program going on WNTN until 2008, by which time the program was streaming online.
In winter 2011 he made his debut as a television personality, along with his friend Tommy Sheridan, hosting A Sound of Erin at Belmont Media Center’s community television station.
“The television show gave John a new lease on life,” says Sheridan. “He just loved it so much, being on air. He’d be in the studio, and he’d be telling jokes, telling stories, playing music.”
After watching a recorded episode and noticing they both had bald spots on their heads, Curran turned up the next week with Greek fishing caps, which they wore in good humor for several more episodes.
This week the station is replaying past episodes of the show in John’s honor, according to Jeff Hansell of the Media Center.
Curran’s longtime friend Richard Archer knew John when they were both teenagers in Crosshaven, working at the same butcher shop.
“John was my friend since we were both about 14 years of age,” Archer says. “He came to the United States two to three years before I did and was a great help to me when I first arrived. He helped me learn to drive.”
Archer, who worked with Curran at the Sound of Erin, said, “John was my partner at Round Tower Travel for nine years… and helped many individuals and clubs out through the Radio Program.”
John helped form the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton in 1989, serving in the early years as the public relations spokesman for the group. And more recently he organized the annual Reagle Players production of A Bit of Ireland, performed every St. Patrick’s Day season in Waltham.
John was a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 14, Watertown, and willingly did a live broadcast when the AOH National Convention came to Boston, says Dick MacDonald, former president of Division 14.
In 2006 Curran was inducted into the Comhaltas Hall of Fame for his contribution to Irish traditional music. He was National Public Relations Director of the North America Province of Comhaltas, and played an active role in the Boston branch throughout his life.
- by Michael Quinlin
Visiting hours Monday, June 25, from 4:00 - 8:00 p.m. at the Brown & Hickey Funeral Home, 36 Trapelo Road, Belmont on Tuesday. Funeral mass at St Josephs Church, 128 Common Street, Belmont at 9:00 a.m.. Relatives and friends invited. Interment private. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, 101A First Ave, Waltham, MA, 02454 or the American Heart Association, 20 Speen Street, Framingham, MA, 01701.