So after some frustration interacting with the MAX31855 Thermocouple on my BBB, I ended up repackaging the Adafruit Arduino MAX31855 library concepts into a simple python library for the BeagleBone Black. The code and example can be found here -
Note that this requires you to install the Adafruit provided GPIO library - https://github.com/adafruit/adafruit-beaglebone-io-python. Also note that you need to run GPIO code as root to be able to read GPIO pins. I am still working on how to get around this but it is hampered by the GPIO.setup() routine that creates new devices with new permissions at awkward times!
Apologies for the rather simplistic code, but I am curious for any feedback you may have. There is an example file provided in the repository, but the basic gist is this -