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Project Overview:

With the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) in Dublin and the Ward Irish Music Archives in Milwaukee, this initiative will build an online display of signed dedication pages of books by Capt. Francis O'Neill, gifted to others by the author. Each entry will have a biography of the recipient, and (if possible) a story of provenance for each book. This project will be researched and assembled by the students in Scott Spencer's (University of Southern California) "Irish Music" Spring 2021 graduate course, and curated by by Drs. Aileen Dillane (University of Limerick), Michael O'Malley (George Mason University), Daniel T. Neely (New York University and Irish Echo), and Scott Spencer (USC) with the Ward Irish Music Archive and ITMA.

The goal of this display is to contextualize O'Neill's projects and publications on Irish traditional music in the larger Irish experience. This includes placing O'Neill, through his gifts of books and florid dedication pages, at the heart of the Irish Diaspora and its associated political and social movements at the turn of the century; before the 1916 Uprising; and through the 1921 creation of the Free State.

O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903)
The Dance Music of Ireland (1907)
Irish Folk Music: A Fascinating Hobby (1910)
Irish Minstrels and Musicians (1913)
O’Neill’s Music of Ireland: 400 Choice Selections Arranged for Piano and Violin (1915)
Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody (1922)

Do you have a signed O'Neill book? If so, we would love to include a scan of the dedication page, as well as your story. You can participate by uploading information and images through this online form, or by sending an email to [email protected] for information and instructions, and also by spreading the word.

We will launch the online display on 23 June 2021, as part of an international conference organized in Paris by the Universities of Chicago, Caen Normandy and Paris. The theme of the conference is Chicago as an Irish-American Metropolis.


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To Seumas MacManus
Distinguished Literateur
As a Slight Token of Appreciation
from the Author
Francis O'Neill


Seumas MacManus (1867-1960) was an author and poet from Co. Donegal, Ireland. MacManus was considered by many to be the last great seanchaí, or traditional storyteller. Over the course of his life, he transcribed thousands of tales to paper, and published easily 25 volumes of these stories.

"These tales were made not for reading, but for telling. They were made and told for the passing of long nights, for the shortening of weary journeys, for entertaining of traveler-guests, for brightening of cabin hearths. Be not content with reading them ... And grateful be to the shanachies who passed these tales to me, for you – Sean O'Hegarty, Mairghid Burns, Eoghain O'Cuinn, and the Bacach Ruadh. May God grant their souls rest."

At the time that O'Neill signed this particular gift copy of his book O'Neill's Irish Music: 400 Choice Selections (1915), MacManus had already published 11 books of folklore, and was known to the Irish and Irish-American community as a window into a rapidly-disappearing oral tradition. O'Neill signed this book as the Irish Convention was underway in Dublin, dealing with "The Irish Question" and trying to determine the future of the nation; and within a year of the Easter Rising (Éirí Amach na Cásca) in 1916. The MacManus archives are in the holdings of the University of Notre Dame.

This copy of O'Neill's Irish Music: 400 Choice Selections (1915) was purchased at New York City's 12th Street Books in Manhattan for the amazing price of $4 by Daniel T. Neely in 2000, and gifted to Scott Spencer. Neely and Spencer were at the time in gradate school at NYU, studying under Gage Averill and Mick Moloney, and were playing in Moloney's community group, The Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra.