Francis O’Neill’s Visual Illustrations (1), 1903–1910


Captain Francis O’Neill (1848–1936), a traditional musician from Tralibane in west Co Cork, was also chief of police in Chicago from 1901 to 1905. He made and published there, in collaboration with various associates, large and highly influential collections of Irish traditional music, from 1903 to 1924. O’Neill was also a pioneer in the sound-recording of Irish traditional music and a number of his cylinders have recently come to light (see here).

In addition Francis O’Neill wrote and published in Chicago two ground-breaking studies of Irish traditional music: Irish Folk Music: A Fascinating Hobby in 1910 and Irish Minstrels and Musicians in 1913. In the course of his researches for these and other volumes, he painstakingly undertook the collection of existing visual images of Irish traditional musicians and music performance, and the creation of others.

O'Neill's various books contain therefore the largest pictorial collection illustrating Irish music made until his day; many of the images would not exist if he had not commissioned them. The introductory illustrations from his O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903), different editions of his The Dance Music of Ireland (from 1907), O'Neill's Irish Music. 250 Choice Selections (1908), and the larger collection of illustrations from his first volume Irish Folk Music: A Fascinating Hobby (excluding music notations) are reproduced here from the collections of the Irish Traditional Music Archive.

NC & TH, 1 December 2010

Francis O’Neill’s Visual Illustrations (1), 1903–1910