The Avondhu - By The Fireside



In 1976, state broadcaste­r RTE visited the legendary Beverly Hills Wonderland (The Disneyland of Ireland) outside Mitchelsto­wn, a concrete wonderland built by hand by owner Jimmy O’Sullivan, primarily for the entertainm­ent of children.

Many locally – of a certain vintage – may well recall the park, located a short distance outside the town, which drew visitors from near and far into another world and made for a unique and entertaini­ng visit.

The well-travelled bachelor, who, aged 62 during this initial visit, hadn’t given up hope of finding a wife – she’d need to have liked animals though!


RTE’s visit on June 13th, 1976, saw the glory of the ‘tourist spot’ highlighte­d to reporter Peter McNiff for ‘Newsround’. The national broadcaste­r described their visit as follows:

‘Jim O’Sullivan spent 34 years living and working abroad. He travelled the world as a steward on a passenger liner. Known locally as ‘the returned Yank’, Jim O’Sullivan was born near Mitchelsto­wn. Having returned home, he set up a theme park which reflects his travels which took him around the world 17 times.

‘Before retiring, Jim O’Sullivan became a naturalise­d American and received two good pensions from the Mercantile Marine, the American Merchant Navy. With money in his pocket and time on his hands, he set about building his very own concrete jungle called ‘Beverly Hills’.

‘It features animals from across the globe sculpted in cement and includes a horse, a kangaroo, a rhinoceros, a crocodile, an elephant and a giraffe.

‘The park is largely designed for children as a place that allows the imaginatio­n to run riot. In 1975, Jim estimates that 18,500 people came through the gates of ‘Beverly Hills’.

‘Now 62 years of age Jim O’Sullivan has never married.

He says his bachelor life is a result of his carefree life at sea where he had a woman in every port and never had time to settle down. He has not given up hope of finding a wife.’



And so, some 7 years later, with the park having grown due to Jimmy’s labour of love, one of the great TV and radio presenters of our time, Mike Murphy, paid a visit

The Dubliner is perhaps best known for his candid camera sketches on the programme ‘The Live Mike’ (first broadcast on RTE1 in November 1979, ending in April, 1982) - who could forget his prank on Late Late Show presenter, the late Gay Byrne, where he posed as a rather irritating, yet cheery, French rugby fan who continuous­ly interrupte­d Gay in the background, while he was filming at Trinity College in Dublin.

His light-hearted approach to interviewi­ng brought the best – and sometimes the worst – out of his subjects, but in 1983 when he visited the now legendary Beverly Hills, owner Jimmy O’Sullivan was well able to handle his questions, and humour.

The local bachelor guided Mike around his concrete theme park, a wonder to one and all who had the pleasure of visiting in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Opening his piece, Mike described what visitors to the ‘stone creation’ could expect.

“Beverly Hills and Disneyland. Why is it people think that these are the sole properties of the United States, no, no, no, no! The only Beverly Hills in Disneyland that really counts are here in Ireland. Go through Mitchelsto­wn on the way to Cork, take the first turn on the left on the Fermoy road, and here it is. It’s the stone creation of Jimmy O’Sullivan.”

Jimmy had a warm welcome for the famed presenter and described his ‘playground’.

“I’ve been traveling for 35 years and been in 50 different countries around the world. I came back here in 1969, I retired from the ships then, and built up this little creation of my own of all the things that I’ve seen in my travels. And I thought that it would be a nice little playground for children to enjoy themselves in.”

The guided tour brought some unexpected surprises for Mike Murphy, with Jimmy well able to account for how much cement went into his wonderous creations.

Mike M: ‘Now Jimmy, what’s this now?’

Jimmy: ‘This is the rhinoceros, now, you’ll find him down in the coast of Africa.’

Mike M: ‘You will yeah.. I’d say there’s a lot of cement in that there!’

Jimmy: ‘Oh, there’s about 8 bags of cement in him now.

The foundation has got to be made very solid.’

Mike M: ‘He’s got a grand big rump there...’

Jimmy: ‘A grand big rump, yeah’

Mike M: ‘Now this, this here is what?’

Jimmy: ‘That’s the alligator now, you’ll find them down in the coast of Florida. There’s 14 bags of cement in this. That is the average size, 17 foot, that’s about the average size. It’s not the biggest alligator in the world, but it’s a full grown one.’


But perhaps to Mike’s biggest surprise, Jimmy introduced him to the ‘Japanese labourer’, whose job was, while essential, also undesirabl­e!

Mike M: ‘What about yer man here, who’s this little fella standing?’

Jimmy: ‘Well, he’s known now as the Japanese labourer, and he goes down the alleyway, to the people’s homes. Outside every native’s home there, they have the, the Honeywell. It’s the sewer from the house coming out into the street.’

Mike M: ‘The Honeywell..’ Jimmy: ‘The Honeywell... and they take the cover off, and there’s one guy with a big dipper and he dips out the, the human ...... You know what I mean... and into the bucket! And he runs away and dumps it into the cart and when the cart is loaded it, they take it on out into the farm and throw it outside in the farm.

‘You see, in the cabbages and the onions and so forth like that. I had a memory from Korea, there, and I fell down one of them holes myself and got a fair dose of it, so... that gave me the idea to put in one of them up there!’


Continuing the tour, ‘Victor the Great’ received plenty of attention. A beast of an animal, built with 11 bags of cement, 200 pounds of steel and taking three weeks to construct, the giant giraffe was a star draw at the park.

His ‘interior’ consisted of, according to Jimmy, ‘ould bottles and cans and everything that I have to demolish’, which is then plastered over. Perhaps not a recommende­d approach in today’s world, but in the ‘70s no doubt a ‘smart’ way to conceal/get rid of rubbish.

Mike M: ‘This is a…. this must have been difficult to build now Jimmy..’

Jimmy: ‘Oh yes, very difficult. He’s 17 foot high now and that’s the natural size of a full grown giraffe also... and this is known as Victor The Great. He got the splits in London in the zoo. Doctors and nurses from all over the world tried to bring him back on his feet again, you see, and they all failed, so he died in the end. I tell you, with all the nurses and doctors, that were treating him, they couldn’t bring him back on his feet, so I’m the only one alive that got Victor back to his feet again!’

 ?? (Pic: RTE Archive) ?? ‘THE LIVE MIKE’ - Jimmy’s replica of Mike Murphy, television in hand.
(Pic: RTE Archive) ‘THE LIVE MIKE’ - Jimmy’s replica of Mike Murphy, television in hand.
 ?? ?? ON A MERRY DANCE - Jimmy O’Sullivan catering for another bus load of youngsters visiting his concrete wonderland in the 1970s.
ON A MERRY DANCE - Jimmy O’Sullivan catering for another bus load of youngsters visiting his concrete wonderland in the 1970s.
 ?? ?? RTE presenter Mike Murphy, introducin­g viewers during his visit to
Beverly Hills in 1983.
RTE presenter Mike Murphy, introducin­g viewers during his visit to Beverly Hills in 1983.

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