Chief Francis O’Neill in Missouri

Chief Francis O’Neill in Missouri

Francis O’Neill

Chicago Chief of Police Francis O’Neill, compiler and editor of O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, served for a time as a schoolteacher in Edina, Knox County, Missouri. In his book Irish Folk Music (Chicago, 1910) he provides one of the best descriptions of traditional music in 19th Century Missouri:
…Not a week passed during the winter months without a dance or two being held among the farmers. Such a motley crowd — fiddlers galore, and each with his instrument. Irish, Germans, French…and the gigantic Kentuckians, whose heads were endangered by the low ceilings, crowded in, and never a misunderstanding or display of ill-nature marred those gatherings. Seated behind the fiddler, intent on picking up the tunes, was my accustomed post, but how much was memorized on those occasions cannot now be definitely stated. Three tunes, however, distinctly obtrude on my memory, viz.: A reel played by Ike Forrester, the “Village Blacksmith,” which was named after him; “My Love is Fair and Handsome”… and a quickstep, which I named “Nolan, the Soldier.” Nolan had been a fifer in the Confederate army during the Civil War. His son was an excellent drummer, and both gave free exhibitions of their skill on the public square at Edina to enliven the evenings when the weather was fine.

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