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Chief O’Neill’s Favourite (D)

Chief O’Neill, the eponym of this tune, “Chief O’Neill’s Favourite,” was Francis O’Neill (1848-1936), born in county Cork. He was a cabin-boy on an English merchant ship in the 1860s, eventually immigrating to the States. He moved to Chicago with his wife and joined the police force at the age of 25. He became the chief of the Chicago police force from 1901 to 1905, and was known as “Chief O’Neill” for the rest of his life. He and his friend James O’Neill (no relation) were avid collectors of Irish tunes, and Francis was also a collector of Irish musicians, often finding work for them on the Chicago police force. He is sometimes said to have started the first American revival of traditional music, yanking it back from the “stage Irish” of vaudevillians — some even say that he’s “The Police Chief who saved Irish music“!  My notes often include references to his works, including “O’Neill’s 1850” Music of Ireland (1903), “O’Neill’s 1001” The Dance Music of Ireland (1907), and “O’Neill’s 365” Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody (1922).  He also wrote two books worth reading: Irish Folk Music: A Fascinating Hobby (1910), and Irish Minstrels and Musicians (1913). His biography written by Nicolas Carolan, entitled A Harvest Saved: Francis O’Neill and Irish Music in Chicago, was published in 1997.

Curiously enough, I recently discovered that Captain O’Neill once lived in Missouri, serving as a schoolteacher in Edina, Missouri, and that in Irish Folk Music: A Fascinating Hobby he provides a detailed descriptions of traditional music in Missouri at that time – and so it’s possible, just possible, that some old Missouri music might be in his publications.



Chief O’Neill’s Favourite,


Chief O’Neill’s Favourite,


Chief O'Neill's Favorite

Chief O’Neill’s Favorite

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