American Irish Musical Interpreters,
1850 - 1975
Captain Francis O’Neill, 1848-1936:
Preserving Irish Melodies in Chicago
The famous compiler of O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903) was Chicago police Captain Francis O’Neill from Tralibane, Co. Cork. Francis O’Neill left Ireland at the age of 16 to travel on a British merchant ship, and ended up settling in Chicago. He joined the police force in 1873 and rose quickly in the ranks. A flute player himself, he came to know many other Irish immigrant policemen in Chicago who played traditional Irish dance tunes on fiddle, pipes, and flute. Together with fiddle player James O’Neill (from County Down), Francis O’Neill compiled the music book, O’Neill’s Music of Ireland: Eighteen Hundred and Fifty Melodies, from fellow Chicago musicians and from print sources. O’Neill’s 1903 book, acclaimed by musicians, is still considered the most authoritative collection of traditional Irish melodies ever published in a single volume. O’Neill later published several other music books, as well as two reference books on music.
For more information on Captain Francis O’Neill, see the select bibliography created for this exhibit.