CHIEF FRANCIS O’NEILL
3RD Annual Irish Music Festival
Tiburon, California – February 23 – 25, 2017
Francis O’Neill, 1848 – 1936, is considered by Irish scholars, Irish musicians and by the Irish government as “The Man Who Saved Irish Music”. He is widely recognized by all who play Irish traditional music as the authentic source for Irish music through his collecting, preserving and publishing books of the largest
selection of Irish music still in use today.
Growing up during the Potato Famine in a small hamlet called Tralibane, near Bantry in Southwest Ireland, Francis excelled in school and by age 16 passed the Irish national standards test to become a school teacher. Disenchanted that, while qualified and certified to teach, he was too young to actually get a teaching job in Ireland he decided on a different course of action. Due to some unpleasant circumstances at home, he left Ireland at age 16 in 1864 and embarked on a remarkable life of adventure, accomplishment and international fame.
- Circumnavigated the world twice before he was 18.
- Survived a compound fracture of his skull in a ship collision.
- Was shipwrecked and survived 2 weeks on a South Pacific tropical island.
- Was rescued by a passing ship and landed in San Francisco in 1868.
- Herded 3000 sheep for a year in the Sierra.
- Was one of the very few people who left California to go back East by ship. Only about 1% of the people who abandoned their California dream went back by sea. The rest went by land.
- Worked as a stevedore in Philadelphia
- Travelled overland to St. Louis to become a school teacher.
- Within a year, still under 21, he became the Superintendent of several schools.
- Travelled to Chicago in pursuit of a lovely Irish lass he had met in the East and married Ann Rogers in 1870. They would eventually have a family of 10 children.
- Got a job as a Chicago Policeman in 1873 at 25 years of age.
- In his first month on patrol he confronted, was shot by and arrested an armed criminal. He carried the bullet lodged next to his spine for the rest of his life.
- Became a Chicago folk hero.
- Between 1871 and 1885 Ann and Francis lost 5 of their children, with 3 boys dying within 24 hours from diphtheria.
- Rose in the police ranks, with no political connections, to become a Lieutenant by 1890 and Captain in 1894, passing the Civil Service Exam with a score of 99.8%; the highest ever scored.
- Spent 8 years as the assistant Superintendent of Police.
- Was named Superintendent in 1901 and served in that job for 4 years over the terms of two different political mayors, when the average Superintendent tenure was one year and three months.
- Presided over the infamous Chicago Labor Riots.
- Cleaned up corruption in the police department.
- Helped to institute the Civil Service System and testing for promotion that replaced the corrupt system of patronage.
- His beloved last son, Roger, died in 1904 at the age of 18. Roger was a very accomplished musician and the last male in Francis’ family line to carry on the O’Neill name. (My grandson is now the last male to carry the name down this family line)
- Retired from the police force in 1905, a broken man.
- Devoted himself to his collection of Irish music and published the first of 8 books in 1910.
- He died in 1936.
- He left his entire extensive book collection of Irish history and Irish music to the University of Notre Dame where it is still today the ultimate source for scholars studying Irish culture and music.
- In 2000 the Irish government dedicated a memorial wall and bronze statue of Francis in Tralibane, Ireland.
- In 2013 the 1st Annual Chief Francis O’Neill Traditional Irish Music Festival took place in Bantry and Tralibane, Ireland. See http://chiefoneillfestival.com/
- In 2015 the 1st Annual Chief Francis O’Neill Irish Music Festival took place in Tiburon, California; organized by the great nephew of the Chief’s, Thomas O’Neill of Tiburon in conjunction with his friend, Eric Schoenberg – maker of classical string instruments.
- Because of the number of girls, whose names changed with marriage and the terrible mortality rate of boys, my grandson is the last male in the chain of this particular O’Neill line.
- The 2017 Festival will take place February 23rd and 25th.
AND WHILE DOING ALL THAT, IN HIS SPARE TIME HE BECAME
“THE MAN WHO SAVED IRISH MUSIC”
FOR THE REST OF THIS STORY YOU NEED TO COME TO THE PRESENTATION AT
SAM’S ANCHOR CAFE ON FEBRUARY 23RD
AND TO THE
THE LODGE AT TIBURON
FEBRUARY 24th AND 25TH, 2017.
To stage a music festival that celebrates traditional Irish music by providing a venue for musicians to play, learn and share their music; and for the public to experience and enjoy traditional Irish music.