An exhibit of material from the collection of Lewis Becker, Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law. March 13, 2006 – April 28, 2006 Falvey Memorial Library Villanova University
Captain O’Neill and his Importance (Exhibit Case 11)
One of the most important figures in preserving Irish traditional tunes in America was Captain Francis O’Neill (1848-1936). O’Neill, the Chief of Police in Chicago from 1901-1905, was an avid bagpiper and collected many tunes. He also saw to it that pipers could obtain gainful employment in the Chicago police department.
This letter from O’Neill (Enthusiasm and Irish Folk Song) demonstrates the constant connection between the United States and Ireland. In the letter, O’Neill criticizes the lack of support in Ireland for traditional musicians and the fact that traditional musicians have to “parade the streets and highways, picking up a precarious livelihood.” He contrasts this with the situation in America: “No Irish street musicians are to be seen in Chicago. Many are municipal employees, all are prosperous, most of them are property owners, and not a few are wealthy.”