Holding Ourselves Accountable: On-going efforts to address racism in Burns instruction sessions

Last summer we shared some of the internal conversations Burns staff have been having regarding our roles as special collections librarians and archivists in responding to ongoing, systemic racism. Part of this discussion centered around our roles as instructors who mediate collection material steeped in white supremacy. As part of our continuing commitment to accountability to our community and ourselves, we’re using this week’s blog post to share how we changed our approach to classes this past academic year, what we learned, and what we need to improve going forward. This review of our instruction program is part of our ongoing efforts to address Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) issues across all our public services responsibilities.

We believe transparency is an important part of accountability, and want to invite feedback as we try to do the right things while educating ourselves. We know many of our peers are working on the same issues. We’ve benefitted from hearing about their work, and hope sharing what we’re doing can contribute to the on-going conversation about inclusion in special collections.

What We Did:

As we planned classes this year, we pushed each other to actively discuss the scope of our collections more bluntly with students. Most of our special collections are from overwhelmingly colonial points of view that helped create and reinforce ideas of white supremacy. For some classes, this meant acknowledging the racist perspectives the students would be seeing. In others, we challenged the students to acknowledge the racism in the materials by asking guiding questions such as:

  • “What cultures are represented?” (fairy tale illustrations)
  • “What does the illustration on the page tell you about the worldview of the artist? What biases are present? ” (illustrations in non-English Jesuit missionary accounts)
  • “Who speaks in the text? Where does their authority come from? What people and places are included? Left out?” (texts on patient treatment for mental illness)

With more forgiving (a.k.a. longer) class plans, or in classes with a learning objective of becoming more familiar with special collections and archives, we tried to include discussion about the archival silences pointing to what was not collected or made available for research with discussion such as:  

  • Using students’ social media accounts as a framework for discussing what isn’t included in records– which then became who often isn’t included in archival records. (Advanced Research Seminar)
  • How those in power can suppress records of dissent, and the risks to physical documents during violent rebellions and government instability. (Resisting & Rebelling in Modern Latin America). 
  • Class, gender, and racial biases in historical materials and the concept that the closer you are to power, the more likely it is that your written record exists in archives while working with travel accounts of upper class, white British women. (Gender, Sex & Power in the British and Ottoman Empires)

Students responded well to these discussions. They, in turn, challenged us to expand our collections and collect more post-colonial material, a sign that they were reflecting and engaging with discussions about the limits of our collections. We’ve been working with our fellow Burns librarians and archivists on acquiring and describing more diverse material for instructional purposes and will continue to do so in the future.

What We Learned

Throughout the year, we learned that the most effective approach to addressing racism in classes was to be bluntly clear about the colonial and racist undertones (and overtones) of the materials we were working with. Telling it like it is created space for students to confront the racism in the material more easily, without being nervous to be the first student in the class to call the documents racist. Like everything else in instruction, setting the class tone with this directness became easier and more routine for us with practice.

Knowing our perspectives are limited, we wanted to make space for students to bring up concerns and suggestions of their own. This spring, we added this question to the standard assessment form we give to the majority of classes: “Are there any accessibility or equity gaps we should be more aware of for future sessions?” Students are encouraged to leave honest (anonymous) feedback about their class experience.  While many leave it blank, we’ve been reviewing comments left and thinking about changes that need to be made based on their feedback.

Where We Need to Improve

After reflecting on this year, we’ve identified some ways to continue incorporating anti-racist ideas in instruction.  First, we want to strengthen our commitment to include discussion of racism in our classes. For classes where learning objectives don’t align with either exploring how archives and archival research function or with learning about historically oppressed communities, we still need to include a brief introduction addressing why we have the materials they are working with, how they came to be collected, and what constraints and structural racism they represent. This needs to become as routine as our quick discussion about care and handling in every class.

For those classes that are trying to find the voices of oppressed communities in our records, we want to explicitly discuss how they are reading against the grain and, in doing so, are honoring the voices we can find, even in racist materials. Dr. Rachel Ernst, who brought her literature core class in to look at Anansi stories, called this reframing what voices we can lift from our materials, and centering the words and experiences of marginalized communities despite the racist framework around them. 

Working with some of our material can mean painful confrontations with racist imagery and rhetoric, and we know that even short encounters with this material can hurt our students of color. Going forward, we will start classes explicitly extending the same advice to our students that we tell each other — if you find yourself reacting strongly to the material, step out of the room and take care of yourself as needed. Prioritize your own mental health.

For classes with learning objectives that include understanding how archives work and/or introductions to the archival research process, we’re going to work this summer to create an active-learning module on archival silences to complement our other modules on different parts of archival research. We’ll use this module, once developed, to expand on our current discussions of missing voices in archival records when we teach archival skill courses going forward.

We wish to re-emphasize our commitment from last summer and the urgency to continue this work. We invite community feedback to hold ourselves accountable to anti-racist efforts in our instruction program and in all other parts of our library services. We commit to making any necessary changes so that all feel welcome in Burns Library.

–Katherine Fox, Head Librarian, Public Services & Engagement

Kathleen Monahan, Reference, Instruction & Digital Services Librarian

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Streaming Audio: James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings, Reel 112

To wrap up the spring series of Irish music blog posts, we’ve selected a few clips of Owen Frain, Jimmy Kelly, and Paddy Cronin that were privately recorded in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The audio is from reel #112 of James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings; it is one of many tapes in the Smith collection featuring live instrumental music and song from mid-20th century Boston. 

Reel boxes from the Smith collection

County Mayo-born Owen Frain (1896-1979) played flute, pipes, and piano. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he immigrated to New York and then settled in Boston. He appeared on a number of commercial discs recorded in 1927 by Dan Sullivan’s Shamrock Band (Dan J. Sullivan, piano; Michael Hanafin, violin; Martin Mullin, violin; Daniel P. Moroney, whistle; Owen Frain, flute; and Dominic J. Doyle, bagpipes).

Jimmy Kelly (1936-2001), born and raised in Boston, was a flute maker for the Wm. S. Haynes Company. Kelly was a well-known performer on banjo, fiddle, piano, and piano accordion. He had strong ties to Ireland and Cape Breton and performed with many bands across New England, Cape Breton, and Ireland.

Fiddle and flute player Paddy Cronin (1925-2014) was born and raised in County Kerry, where he learned from fiddle master Pádraig O’Keeffe. In 1949 Cronin immigrated to Boston, becoming well known as a music performer and working in variety of occupations. He made many commercial recordings and in 2007 received the TG4 Gradam Saoil lifetime achievement award.  

Like many tapes in the Smith collection, this recording appears to have been made during an informal house session. Owen Frain can be heard on flute; Jimmy Kelly on piano; with Paddy Cronin on fiddle and possibly flute as well.

Smith’s label for reel #112 lists musicians Paddy Cronin, Owen Frain, and Jim Kelly. Further details, including tune titles, have emerged through listening and research. On the original tape, some of the audio is distorted; the seven audio clips in this blog post are drawn from portions of the recording where the audio distortion is minimal.  


Audio clips from Smith collection, reel 112

Reel 112, audio clip 1 (side 1, 17:41 to 20:04)

  • Either Paddy Cronin or Owen Frain, flute, and Jimmy Kelly, piano
    • Scatter the Mud (jig)


Reel 112, audio clip 2 (side 1, 23:46 to 27:30)

  • Jimmy Kelly, piano 
    • The Musical Priest (two-part version); unidentified tune; The Boys of Ballisodare; The Bird in the Bush (reels)


Reel 112, audio clip 3 (side 2, 00:00 to 04:24)

  • Either Paddy Cronin or Owen Frain, flute and Jimmy Kelly, piano 
    • The Bucks of Oranmore (reel)
    • Greig’s Pipes (reel)


Reel 112, audio clip 4 (side 2, 04:24 to 06:47)

  • Owen Frain, flute and Paddy Cronin, fiddle
    • The Woman of the House; The Lady on the Island (reels)

Reel 112, audio clip 5 (side 2, 43:49 to 47:02)

  • Jimmy Kelly, piano
    • The Belles of Clonallan (aka Miss Brown) (hornpipe)


Reel 112, audio clip 6 (side 2, 52:24 to 54:39)

  • Owen Frain, flute, and Paddy Cronin, fiddle
    • Greig’s pipes (reel)


Reel 112, audio clip 7 (side 2, 58:44 to 01:01:00)

  • Either Paddy Cronin or Owen Frain, flute and Jimmy Kelly, piano
    • Miss McGuinness (reel)


About James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings

Each audio clip in this blog post is from audio file 99526 in James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings, IM.M016.1991, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Listeners may notice anomalies that originated on the tape, including abrupt beginnings and endings, variation in sound quality and volume, and tempo/pitch alterations. 

A native of Boston, James W. Smith (1929-1990) was the eldest child of Maitland Smith of Boston and Mary Monica (McDonagh) Smith of County Galway. They married in 1928 and settled in the Allston area of Boston. In the late 1950s and early 1960s James often hosted and recorded informal gatherings of Irish traditional musicians in the family home on Bayard Street. He occasionally played accordion and piano and his personal friends included flute player Gene Frain of Watertown. Smith’s collection of open-reel tapes was donated to Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives by his sister, Mary Smith Duffy. Boston College Libraries digitized and described the collection as part of a 2018 Recordings at Risk digitization grant project.

As we continue to learn about the Smith collection we are grateful for input received from a number of musicians, including Sally Kelly, Maureen Kelly, Séamus Connolly, and Dan Neely. Further details about the collection can be viewed by downloading the collection’s finding aid and viewing the latest blog posts from the Smith collection. If you have questions, comments, or additional information to share with us, we invite you to contact the Library.

Elizabeth Sweeney, Irish Music Librarian, Burns Library


Sources Consulted

“Frain–of Watertown, May 12.” Obituary. Boston Globe. May 15, 1979, p. 44.

Gedutis, Susan. See You at the Hall. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.

Henrik Norbek’s ABC Tunes.

“James E. Kelly, musician, at 64, of Newtonville.” Obituary. Boston Herald. January 17, 2001, p. 25.

“Kelly Family – Hall of Fame 2000.” CCÉ Northeast Regional Hall of Fame. https://cceboston.org/hall-of-fame/kelly-family-hall-of-fame-2000/. Accessed April 26, 2021.

“Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin interviews Paddy Cronin, 1990 Boston College Irish Fiddle Festival.” Burns Library Irish Music Archives. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUp57olhfAw&t=445s. Accessed May 4, 2021.

“Owen Frain and Gene Frain — Hall of Fame 2005.” CCÉ Northeast Regional Hall of Fame. https://cceboston.org/hall-of-fame/owen-frain-and-gene-frain-hall-of-fame-2005/. Accessed April 26, 2021.

“Paddy Cronin.” The Music of Sliabh Luachra. https://rushymountain.com/2016/05/12/paddy-cronin/. Accessed May 4, 2021.

“Renowned Fiddle Player with a Unique Musical Style: Paddy Cronin: July 6th, 1925 – March 15th, 2014.” Obituary. Irish Times. April 5, 2014.

TG4 Lifetime Achievement Award. https://www.tg4.ie/en/other-brands/gradam-ceoil/previous-winners/lifetime-achievement/. Accessed May 4, 2021.

The Session.


Related Collections

Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings

Muise Family Collection of Cape Breton and Irish Music

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Ex Computātrīs Portābilibus: Boston College Art Students

In February, Prof. Lisa Kessler’s Introduction to Digital Art class once again visited Burns Library – 13 in person, and 2 via Zoom – to prepare for a new assignment that the Burns Instruction Team could really get behind: 

Design a “Bookplate” to mark your computers. The design must be created with symbolism that speaks to a broad sense of who you are, taking into consideration past, present and future visions of who you want to become.

Our goals were to introduce them to the concept, function, and form of bookplates, as well as give them an opportunity to look for, recognize, and investigate symbols within a visual medium. Students would then write a proposal for the broad concept and specific ideas they would incorporate into their ownership marks for their computers. 

After pulling dozens of examples of bookplates – both loose and pasted in books – we reviewed one bookplate design (from Boston area graphic artist and typographer, George F. Trenholm) together as a class.

Bookplate. Box 20, Folder 2, Boston College Collection of George F. Trenholm, MS.1994.038, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.
  • What symbol(s) do you see? An open book, an hourglass, closed books, a dolphin/anchor, a writing implement (quill), a scribe, a lectern
  • What concepts are being conveyed?  Printing history, the book arts, and writing
  • What do you think it means/stands for?  Does the open book mean a personal story or history? Is the hourglass a symbol of time? Does the dolphin/anchor mean water? 
  • What decorative motifs or patterns are included? Corinthian columns with leaves, swags, a motto Ars longa vita brevis (art is long, life is short)

Students then moved through multiple stations of bookplates, both in person and online, to review bookplates independently with those same guiding questions. Assessments indicated that learning objectives were met (“I learned about symbolism in bookplates and that symbols have different meanings in different places/cultures”) and students enjoyed the experience (“I thought this was a great and informative session, and it was nice to have an interactive session, even during a pandemic. Also it was really cool to look at books/bookplates from the 1700s!”)

Below, find the first of what we hope to be many rounds of digital art bookplates (or should we say laptop plates?), as well as the student artist statements about them. 

–Katherine Fox, Head of Public Services and Engagement, Burns Library

  1. Lindsey Belgrad ‘24

My bookplate is meant to represent me, while also being a peaceful reminder of who I am. The flower pattern I drew is meant to be a Lily. Lily is my Hebrew name, so the flowers represent a unique part of my culture that will always be with me (past, present, and future). I also saw a similar flower pattern while we were studying the bookplates in Burns library so I thought it was fitting. In the background of my image, I included Camelback mountain, the mountain in Scottsdale that is visible from my window at home and always reminds me of my roots and elements of my past when I lived in AZ. In one of the books from the library I read that mountains are a symbol of power within a landscape. Additionally, I included butterflies because they are universally a symbol of growth and change (future), as well as a personal symbol of good luck. I used a vibrant, yet somewhat limited color scheme in order to represent my expressiveness. 

  1. James Carelli ‘21

For my bookplate, I wanted to incorporate five elemental sources of mana with the five symbols representing them stemming from the central figure. All originate from the center representing how the five elemental components make up the greater whole. Mana is the life energy that flows through all aspects of life and can be attributed to magical forces from which they stem. The sources of mana are thought of as greatly Planes (White), Water/Island (Blue), Swamp (Black), Mountain (Red), and Forest (Green). They represent light and justice, water/mind/aether, death/decay, fire/power, life/strength respectively. The symbol for plains is a sun – this shows the idea of justice, light, and purity. Island is represented by water droplets. Aether, knowledge, and water are ever-flowing, providing wisdom and cunning. Swamp is represented by a skull. Death, witchcraft, decay – recycling of natural materials. Mountain is represented by a fireball. The mountain is fire, dry and powerful, bloodlust and fighting. Forest is represented by a tree. The forest is life-giving, brute strength, primal in nature. Each of these has their own source of magic that goes with and the nature of which implies the core aspects of the source. Inside the regions, I have incorporated symbols that represent some of the aspects of the element as well as myself. These components come together to make a greater whole and represent the full aspects of myself. 

  1. Hannah Chapdelaine ‘21

In my bookplate I wanted to use the concept of a family shield/crest that we had seen in several BookPlates in the Burns library as the main shape for my piece. This bookplate shows a series of mountains which give the feeling of a journey and adventure. I decided to incorporate the north star shape because it is an important symbol in my family, representing guidance and direction. I decided to stick with a blue-green color palette to represent water and have a clear and concise bookplate, with a modern and clean feel.  

  1. Amaka Chukwujekwu ‘21

For my bookplate I wanted to have a strong use of symbolism throughout and it was important to me to have a strong representation of my Nigerian heritage, which is something I value a lot in my life. In Nigeria, two horses are representative of peace and unity but the horses also represent my parents. The symbol in middle represents air, which has the meaning of life and represents my own life. The band circling the horse represents continuity and how it important for me keep moving forward but also recognize my past and where I have been because all of it is connected. I used the colors green and white to represent the Nigerian flag and the horses also look like the flag.  The olive branch represents peace which I hope to find in my life. Lastly, the phrase Ife di mma amaka means “what is good is beautiful”. It is a phrase from a song my parent would sing to me as a kid. 

  1. Estevan Feliz ‘23

I hope that my bookplate is able to convey the plethora of personal values, interests, and traits that are important and have been a part of my entire life, as I know it. Personally, I tend to like a “flatter” or pastel-based color palette for a lot of my other design work so I wanted to make that a part of my theme. Each of the items in the room/scene indicate particular interests of mine but the computer serves a double purpose. First, it represents that I love technology and electronics, but secondly, I decided to use the “looking into a window” effect I noticed with several bookplates we viewed in the Burns Library. Looking at the computer screen is like looking into a whole other world of mine, the digital realm, where I love to code, design, make videos, etc. I hope that my ideas for this project came across properly through the various elements of design used.

P.S. the poster shows my interest in sci-fi and superheroes (along with their willingness to help others) while the instrument hung up is a Ukulele that I occasionally play (or indicates that I love listening to acoustic covers of songs).

  1. Laura J Ferraris ‘22

For my bookplate project I incorporated elements representing my past, present and future. I drew some inspiration from some of my favorite childhood books written by Dr. Suess. As a child, his books always inspired me to dream big and that there is no limit on the success I can achieve when I put the effort into it. I included sailboats to represent my love for sailing and the freedom I feel when I am out on the water. I also included the symbol of the Buddhist Endless Knot. This serves as a symbol of endless wisdom, compassion and eternal harmony. Specifically, in the Buddhist culture, it is a sign of rebirth. This reminds me that there is always a place for new beginnings. As a whole, I chose to present my book plate as if the viewer is looking through a window. Opposed to creating an actual window, I put curtains in to create this effect.

  1. Bridget Foley ‘21

In creating my Bookplate I wanted to capture how nature makes me feel at peace and alive at the same time. To portray the feeling of calmness, I set the background as a looking out a set of windows to a beach sunset with smooth water, cotton candy clouds, and slow-moving palm trees. From there, I incorporated the silhouette of a woman with her arms majestically extended towards the silhouette of a lion, with both of their hair blowing in the wind to create a sense of movement and freedom. I envision the woman as myself, or someone like me, and the lion as a reflection of the woman’s fearlessness when immersed in nature. Finally, I positioned tiger lily’s that match the sunset’s orange tones along the edges of my Bookplate; these are my mom’s favorite flower and are intended to represent my connection to my family. 

  1. Ellie Formisano ‘21

This bookplate represents my home in Chatham, Massachusetts. I decided to model it after this place because it holds a special place in my heart as I grew up there and have made a community of friends there over the years. I tried to include a beachscape using different layering and brush tools, as well as center the main colors around beach tones. As a finishing touch I added the quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald because not only do I love it, but it connects directly to the imagery I utilized in the piece. Furthermore, it represents that despite any difficulties in life I will always have Chatham to go back to.

  1. Zhihao Guo ‘21

My bookplate intends to convey the human interaction with nature. The window sill is taken from a cityscape photo, while the ocean background is taken from “nature”… I hope this contrast will provide some thoughts for minimizing carbon footprints and preserving our only habitat. Finally, the black & white filter gives this bookplate a nostalgic feel, paying homage to the old and traditional bookplates I saw in the Burns Library. 

  1. Sarah Konopaske ‘24

In my bookplate the image of the ocean with the tree in the center serves as a symbol of my life back home, seeing that I lived very close to the ocean. The desk with the typewriter is a symbol of my life at BC. The roots emerging from the tree onto the desk symbolize how I am putting down “roots” here, so to speak. The decorative roses along the border pay homage to my middle name which was passed down from my Grandmother Rose.

  1. Jack Moore ‘23

Blue is my favorite color and I wanted my bookplate to show that in every way. My bookplate encompasses different parts of my past, present, and future. The flag in the background coupled with the arching bluebonnets, our state flower, is meant to reference my Texas roots. In the upper right corner of the shield, I placed a bible to show that I am currently a follower of God; while in the lower-left corner of the shield, I decided to draw a scribe pen/brush to show how I am also a student at the same time. In the upper left and lower right corners of the shield, I put the symbols of longevity to show my hopefulness for the future and the many days ahead in my life. I placed an eagle on top of the shield to show that above all things I am a Boston College Eagle; a proud student that represents our school and the reputation that comes along with it. 

  1. Caitlyn S. Neville ‘22

My bookplate attempts to bridge three worlds: the astrological, the natural, and the virtual. The glow of each realm culminates at the center of the page, demonstrating how each comes together to bring light into my life. The bookplate is essentially personal as it outlines in vector shapes my actual living room; these are also the most bookplate-like elements, as the filter is intended to be reminiscent of a block-printed look. Photographs juxtapose these homey, traditional elements by bringing in forces from the other worlds. Symbols such as the globe, window, books, constellation, and fire in my piece add to this sense of adventure or spark, while the dog represents guardianship and loyalty in order to bring me back to the sense of home I’ve created with my living room. My bookplate is full of competing elements, from adventure vs. home to dull vs. bright colors. I hope through my composition one may see how many elements explode off the page to form one person: me.

  1. Ben Thomas ‘21

For my bookplate I chose to recreate the cover of Where the Wild Things Are (one of my favorite books growing up) while aiming to maintain the format of a bookplate. I used black and white colors only, and included a bookshelf because I noticed those were pretty consistent themes/symbols across most bookplates I observed in Burns Library. Furthermore, the border I chose is a layering of Sailor’s knots — the knots specifically symbolizing strength and adventure. I’d like to think of my interest in reading as “strengthening” my sense of creativity and adventure, so this symbolism was perfect to use.

  1. Nicole Vagra ‘24

In my bookplate I am trying to convey a sense of serenity and give clues to what kind of person I am. This scene comes from my family vacation spot where I used an image that I had taken as inspiration for the setting. I incorporated the lighthouse as a symbol of hope. The birds convey a sense of freedom and represent the five members of my family; I also added a photographer in the foreground to portray me because photography is one of my passions. I also used hydrangeas as a border because they represent gratitude and family and, finally, a sailboat to symbolize my life’s journey. Additionally, I decided to have this specific color palette because the monochromatic tones give the viewer a sense of calm and serenity while cleanly incorporating all my symbols and ideas. 

  1. Maggie Yueliang Yao ‘21

The theme of my bookplate project revolves around the moon, a personal symbol of myself (I was born on the Moon Festival and my name means moon in Chinese). I incorporated my grandmother’s drawing of Chang’e, the Chinese goddess of the Moon, as the main element of the bookplate. While Chang’e is traveling through space with the moon, the cats, symbolizing independence and my support system, are sending off Chang’e to the starry sky, which represents the new chapter of her life with endless possibilities.

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Streaming Audio: Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings, Reel 2 Side 1

For all our readers and researchers eager to learn of new resources in Irish music, we continue a series of blog posts featuring audio from the Joe Lamont collection. The open-reel audiotapes in Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings are a mix of live instrumental music—much of it from New York City’s Irish music clubs of the 1950s and 1960s—along with dubs of both published and unpublished 78-rpm discs. Compiled by fiddle player Joe Lamont (1905-1974), the collection is now digitized and is part of Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives.

Photo of reel-to-reel tape recorder

In nine audio clips, this blog post presents music digitized from reel 2, side 1. The corresponding portion of Lamont’s typed tracklist appears below each clip.

reel 2 side 1 tracklist

Lamont’s tracklist for reel 2 side 1, Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings, IM.M145.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College


Reel 2, side 1, audio clip 1 (00:00 to 10:05)

  • Hugh Gillespie, fiddle
    • My love is in America (aka My Love is on the Ocean) ; Kitty in the Lane (reels)
    • Pretty Peg (aka Bill Clancy’s Delight) (reel)
    • The Flogging (aka The Flagon) (reel)
    • The Foxhunter’s (slip jig)
    • The Traveller (reel) 

Lamont tracklist: reel 2 side 1 track 1


Reel 2, side 1, audio clip 2 (10:05 to 13:01)

  • Probably Patrick Cawley, fiddle
    • The Laird of Drumblair (composed by James Scott Skinner) ; The Miller o’ Hirn (composed by James Scott Skinner) (strathspeys)

reel2-side1-track2


Reel 2, side 1, audio clip 3 (13:01 to 15:38)

  • Michael Coleman, fiddle; Michael Walsh, flute; Arthur P. Kenna, piano
    • The Beauty Spot (aka The Tempting Spot); The Sunny Banks (aka The Flowers of Ballymote) (reels) (New Republic 2333 at reduced pitch and speed) 

reel2-side1-track3

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The Inklings

Whether the Transcendental Club of the 1830s boasting members such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau or the Bloomsbury Group of early 20th century London composed of Virginia Woolf and John Maynard Keynes, literary circles have left their marks on the cultural landscape for centuries. Another such group was the Inklings. Formed in the 1930s, the Inklings were an informal literary group that included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis – two giants of 20th century literature. They met for almost twenty years in C.S. Lewis’s rooms at Magdalen College as well as a local pub in Oxford. They discussed their writings and read aloud their unfinished works. Members of the Inklings were some of the first to learn the fate of Frodo Baggins and the ring of power. While Burns Library has many holdings by Tolkien and Lewis (including a first edition of The Lord of the Rings) the purpose of this blog post is to explore some of the lesser known members of the Inklings and their accomplishments. These members include: Charles Williams, David Cecil, Nevill Coghill, Owen Barfield, and Roger Lancelyn Green. 

Image of cover of Charles Williams novel War in Heaven
War in Heaven 03-54709 KINGSLAND

Charles Williams (1886-1945) joined the inklings when he was forced to move from London to Oxford at the outbreak of World War II. He was the managing editor of the Oxford University Press at the time. It allowed him to share his final novel, All Hallows’ Eve, with the group. Williams and Lewis shared a great admiration after reading each other’s novels in 1936. Burns library has several books by Williams, including a proof copy of War in Heaven, a fantasy novel which takes place in modern times revolving around the reappearance of the Holy Grail. Our copy is part of the King’s Land collection, the personal library of Hillaire Belloc. Belloc was a novelist himself, and could have received an early copy of the book in order to write a review.

Lord David Cecil (1902-1986) was married to Mary MacCarthy, the daughter of Desmond MacCarthy – one of the original members of the Bloomsbury group. Virginia Woolf even attended David and Mary’s wedding and wrote about it in her diary. In 1939 Cecil began teaching at New College in Oxford and remained there until his retirement in 1969. It was during this time that Cecil was a member of the Inklings. One of his most famous works was a two-part biography of Lord Melbourne published in 1939 and 1954. Melbourne was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1835-1841. He also wrote biographies of William Cowper, Jane Austen and Charles Lamb. The Burns Library copy of Melbourne was published in 1965 and compiles both parts of the biography: The Young Melbourne and Lord M creating a complete story of Melbourne’s life. Our copy was owned by Flann O’Brien, the Irish novelist famous for his modernist works such as At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman.

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The Allure of Sea Shanties

Everyone is suddenly talking about sea shanties. With COVID-19, work from home has become the reality for many people; isolation and disconnection from the outside world resulting.  Perhaps that is why sea shanties, songs meant to be sung in groups while working, have taken over the internet. On TikTok, a video sharing social media platform, users can “duet” and add their own video on top of another user’s, creating long chains of users singing in unison.   “The Wellerman,” a nineteenth century New Zealand whaling song, has been especially popular I even find myself humming songs like, “Blow the Man Down” while I am pulling objects from the stacks. There is a reason for this. Though often confused, what differentiates “sea shanties” or “chanties” from “sea songs” is the context in which they were sung. There are three types of shanties: short haul shanties, which are to the tune of quick, rhythmic pulling; halyard shanties for harder, more time intensive pulling with breaks; and capstan shanties for sustained tasks that do not involve work on the lines (Draskoy 2009). 

The timing of sea shanties makes the repetitive tasks of pushing, pulling, and heaving together easier. Some sea shanty experts argue that sea shanties lose their meaning when not sung while doing manual labor, but I have to argue that what we need now more than ever, is something to take our mind off our work and troubles and come together in camaraderie. What worked for the 19th century whalers, just might work for us.

Album cover of Lou Killen's Sea Chanteys
Lou Killen’s Sea Chanteys (1973). M074/2000-1 LD0722  

If you, like my roommates, are tired of hearing “The Wellerman,” luckily enough the Irish Music Archives at Burns Library has plenty of other sea shanties and ballads that sailors would have also sung. Though most of us have not travelled in almost a year, the songs of the sea are uniquely relatable, as we, like so many whalers and sailors, are alone, in small crews, longing for connection with each other through a shared history.  

“Row, Bullies, Row” is a capstan sea shanty that tells the story of a man who goes on a drinking binge and is “shanghai-ed”, a fairly common former practice in maritime cities that involved incapacitating a man, kidnapping him, and sailing away with him, forcing him to be a (typically not well paid) crew member. The jaunty song tells of all the places the man sees in his forced labor “from Liverpool to ‘Frisco” in the tow of the “Liverpool judies.” Judies was originally Liverpool slang for girls, but came to be used on ships to refer to pleasant winds. Lou Killen’s version from his 1968 album Sea Chanteys fills the listener with pep and, naturally, the happiness to not be the unfortunate main character of the song. The song is a capstan shanty, meaning sailors wouldn’t have sung the song while hauling ropes, but instead while doing longer tasks on whaling ships, such as rowing (Hugill, 1984, 306). 

Illustration in book of men rowing on a small boat as a whale attacks them
Rowing on a whaling ship from Whale Ships and Whaling Scenes as portrayed by Benjamin Russel by Allan Forbes (1955). 03-44385 Boston

“Rolling Down to Old Maui” is not a sea shanty, but a forebitter, a song sung for pleasure, named for the ”forebits” of the ship on which the singers might sit while entertaining their crewmates (Hugill,1977,120). I found it on A.L. Loyd’s Leviathan!: Ballads and Songs of the Whaling Trade. The artist explains on the back of the record that the Pacific whalers would travel to Maui twice per year: in March and November, heading there from the bitter Arctic. The song carries the hope that Bostonians feel each March, looking forward to good weather and fun. As we come out of the woods of winter, the lines of “six hellish months have passed away in the cold Kamchatha Sea, but now we’re bound from the Artic ground, rolling down to Maui.” ring true. 

Album cover showing boat being capsized by a whale as sailors lunge for safety
A.L. Loyd’s Leviathan!: Ballads and Songs of the Whaling Trade. M074/2000-1 LD0761 

New England has a rich history in the whaling trade and as we listen to the songs the crews of whaling vessels may have sung, we can both accomplish our work and dream of far away lands as we continue to have hope for the future. 

–Erin Sheedy, Burns Library Student Assistant, Boston College Class of 2022

Sources Consulted:

Draskoy. A. (n.d). Shanties and Sea Songs. Retrieved March 1,2021  from http://shanty.rendance.org/what.php

Stan Hugill, Shanties and Sailors’ Songs (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1969).

Stan Hugill, Songs of the Sea (Maidenhead, England: McGraw-Hill, 1977), 120. 

Stan Hugill, Shanties from the Seven Seas, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), 306. 

Harold Whates. “The Background of Sea Shanties.” Music & Letters 18, no. 3 (1937): 259-64.  Accessed February 12, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/727760

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Streaming Audio: James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings, Reel 4

For all our readers and listeners eager to learn of new resources in Irish music, our audio series continues with reel #4 from the James W. Smith collection. The open-reel audiotapes in James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings primarily feature live instrumental music and song from the Boston area in the 1950s and 1960s. The box for reel #4 lists Paddy Cronin on fiddle, Frank Neylon on flute, and Gene Preston on flute. The accordionist heard on the tape is probably Mike McDonough.

Conversation on the recording among the musicians, mainly about the tunes, suggests an informal music gathering. Smith’s container label places the session at Frank Neylon’s house on Sunday, November 11, 1962. Sometimes all four musicians are playing; at other times smaller groups or solos can be heard.  

Reel boxes from the Smith collection

Digital audio from this open-reel tape is presented in 16 audio clips. In this collection, Smith’s container labels were the library’s initial source of performer information. Tune titles and additional insights are based on the library’s listening work, as well as on input from longtime faculty colleague and fiddle player Séamus Connolly.


Audio clips from Smith collection, reel 4

Reel 4, clip 1 (00:00 to 10:31) (music begins at 01:02)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: I Wish I Never Saw You — Eileen O’Callaghan’s ; The Galway Rambler ; The London Lasses — The Bag of Spuds — The Bucks of Oranmore (reels)


Reel 4, clip 2 (10:31 to 14:15)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: The Hare’s Paw (reel) — The Boys of the Town (jig)


Reel 4, clip 3 (14:15 to 16:37, from left channel)

  • Gene Preston, flute: unidentified reel — The King of the Clans (reel)


Reel 4, clip 4 (14:15 to 15:31, from right channel)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, and either Frank Neylon or Gene Preston, flute: The Green Mountain (reel) 


Reel 4, clip 5 (15:31 to 17:32, from right channel)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: The Blackbird (set dance)


Reel 4, clip 6 (17:32 to 22:12)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: The Girl Who Broke My Heart — The Connemara Stockings — The Mullingar Races (reels)


Reel 4, clip 7 (22:12 to 23:31)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle and either Frank Neylon or Gene Preston, flute: John McFadden’s Favourite (reel)


Reel 4, clip 8 (23:31 to 26:42)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, and Gene Preston, flute: The Morning Dew — The Reel of Mullinavat (reels)


Reel 4, clip 9 (26:42 to 28:55)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: The Woman of the House (reel)


Reel 4, clip 10 (28:55 to 30:52)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, and Gene Preston, flute: Rattigan’s (aka Larry Redican’s) (reel)


Reel 4, clip 11 (30:52 to 34:45)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: The Steampacket — Greig’s Pipes (reels)


Reel 4, clip 12 (34:45 to 36:26)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute: The Queen of May (reel)


Reel 4, clip 13 (36:26 to 48:32)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: Tom Ward’s Downfall — Music in the Glen — Down the Broom; The Gatehouse Maid — The Boys of Ballisodare — The Sally Gardens (reels)


Reel 4, clip 14 (48:32 to 50:11)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, and Gene Preston, flute: The Mountain Road (reel)


Reel 4, clip 15 (50:11 to 59:34)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle, Frank Neylon, flute, Gene Preston, flute, and probably Mike McDonough, accordion: The Jolly Tinker — The Doonagore — The Dublin Reel — Paddy on the Turnpike ; Miss Thornton’s (reels)


Reel 4, clip 16 (59:34 to 01:00:37, from right channel)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle: Miss Langford’s (reel)


About the James W. Smith Collection

Each audio clip in this blog post is from audio file 99424_0000,  James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings, IM.M016.1991, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The sixteen audio clips above represent reel 4 from beginning to end. The audiotape is just over one hour long and contains unpublished music. Listeners may notice anomalies that originated on the tape: abrupt beginnings and endings, variation in sound quality and volume, and tempo/pitch alterations. 

A native of Boston, James W. Smith (1929-1990) was the eldest child of Maitland Smith of Boston and Mary Monica (McDonagh) Smith of County Galway. They married in 1928 and settled in the Allston area of Boston. In the late 1950s and early 1960s James often hosted and recorded informal gatherings of Irish traditional musicians in the family home on Bayard Street. He occasionally played accordion and piano and his personal friends included flute player Gene Frain of Watertown. Smith’s collection of open-reel tapes was donated to Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives by his sister, Mary Smith Duffy. Boston College Libraries digitized and described the collection as part of a 2018 Recordings at Risk digitization grant project.

As we continue to learn about the Smith collection we are grateful for input received from a number of musicians including Séamus Connolly, Jimmy Noonan, and Daithí Gormley. Further details about the collection can be viewed by downloading the collection’s finding aid and viewing the latest blog posts from the Smith collection. If you have questions, comments, or additional information to share with us, we invite you to contact the Library.

Elizabeth Sweeney, Irish Music Librarian, Burns Library


Sources Consulted

“Eugene Preston — Hall of Fame 2002.” CCÉ Northeast Regional Hall of Fame. https://cceboston.org/hall-of-fame/eugene-preston-hallof-fame-2005/. Accessed February 23, 2021.

“Francis G. Neylon.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_G._Neylon. Accessed February 23, 2021.

“Frank Neylon Hall of Fame 2000.” CCÉ Northeast Regional Hall of Fame. https://cceboston.org/hall-of-fame/frank-neylon-hall-of-fame-2000/. Accessed February 23, 2021.

Gedutis, Susan. See You at the Hall. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.

Henrik Norbek’s ABC Tunes.

“Michael McDonough — Hall of Fame 2004.” CCÉ Northeast Regional Hall of Fame. https://cceboston.org/hall-of-fame/michael-mcdonough-hall-of-fame-2004/. Accessed February 23, 2021.

“Paddy Cronin.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paddy_Cronin. Accessed February 23, 2021.

The Session.


Related Collections

Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings

Muise Family Collection of Cape Breton and Irish Music

Posted in Digital Projects, Irish Music Archives, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Early Jack B. Yeats Stenciled “Broad Sheet”

Anyone who has seen one of Jack B. Yeats’s later paintings can easily recognize others. Same for his earlier watercolor work and his pen-and-ink sketches. The distinctiveness of Yeats’s style, along with his characteristic choice of subjects, have made him one of the most unmistakable and well-known Irish artists.

Yet, were average gallery-goers to encounter “A Broad Sheet,” they may not readily associate it with Yeats. The flat color fields and vaguely abstract forms, akin to scissored silhouettes, conjure up neither the cartoonist he was nor the expressionist he became. Observant viewers might nevertheless decipher the clever “JBY” monogram in the lower left corner, or take a clue from the title, both realized in reverse stencil.

Image of “A Broad Sheet” printed by Jack B. Yeats using stencils and watercolor paint
Jack B. Yeats, “A Broad Sheet,” 1901. Watercolor stencil on Japanese paper. 38 x 32cm. Box 19, Folder 1, Boston College Collection of Yeats Family Papers (MS.1986.054), John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Between 1902-1903, while living in Devonshire, Yeats produced a monthly series of broadsides, also titled A Broad Sheet, which combined verse with hand-colored woodcut illustrations, collaborating first with Pamela Colman Smith and subsequently with his wife, Mary Cottenham (“Cottie”). In 1908, Yeats helped his sisters, Susan Mary (“Lily”) and Elizabeth (“Lolly”), launch their Cuala Press in Dublin by supplying sketches and texts for a comparable periodical titled A Broadside.

Unlike those broadsides, this “Broad Sheet” and a few others like it were neither published nor sold. They seem to have been created as experiments without any particular end in view beyond the indulgence of Yeats’s ever-playful and bountiful imagination. Yeats biographer and critic Hilary Pyle (1994, p. 32) finds a reference to the project in a letter to his New York benefactor John Quinn dated 15 December 1902: “I had a weird thing called the Broad Sheet two years ago, just stencils that I used to print myself.”

Detail image of upper half of “A Broad Sheet,” printed by Jack B. Yeats.
Jack B. Yeats, “A Broad Sheet,” detail

We acquired our example from the 2017 Sotheby’s sale of the Yeats Family Collection (lot 182), and the faint, hand printed type slugs situated it within this exploratory period, offering a poetical creation date: “Midsummer 1901.”  In a cut-out space in the upper image, Yeats has penned a caption: “This Trout weighing all but half a pound was caught May 1901 ~ by a younger brother of Isaac Walton Esq”—a line cast toward a fishing fantasy mythological poem about a trout by his own brother, William Butler Yeats, “The Song of Wandering Aengus”? On the lower half of the sheet, Yeats has whimsically captioned an image of a fisherman imposed on a rough outline of northwest Ireland “The Fishman in the Orchard,” and a smiling sun on a swinging placard “The Jolly Signboard / Signboard for an Angler.”

Detail image of lower half of “A Broad Sheet,” printed by Jack B. Yeats.
Jack B. Yeats, “A Broad Sheet,” detail

Two copies of another experimental “Broad Sheet,” labeled “Number 2,” appeared in the second Yeats Family Collection sale held in 2017 (Fonsie Mealy, lot 677). Yet another example of a stenciled broadside, featuring a sailing skiff, survives at the University of Reading in the papers of Elkin Mathews, the London publisher and bookseller and friend of Yeats’s, who issued A Broad Sheet. The Yeats Archives at the National Gallery of Ireland includes an album containing numerous stencil paintings and cut-outs, as well as stenciled postcards and bookplates. Collectively, these compositional trials and ephemera witness a transitional period in Yeats’s artistic development, from line illustration through watercolor, presaging the oil paintings that have secured his enduring fame.

– Christian Dupont, Burns Librarian, John J. Burns Library

Sources consulted:

Pyle, Hilary. 2009. “Jack B. Yeats and the Stencil,” in Foley, Declan J., ed., The Only Art of Jack B. Yeats: Letters & Essays. Dublin: Lilliput Press. [ND497 .Y4 O55 2009 IRISH]

Pyle, Hilary. 1994. The Different Worlds of Jack B. Yeats: His Cartoons and Illustrations. Dublin: Irish Academic Press. [NC1479.5 .Y42 1994 IRISH]

Pyle, Hilary. 1970. Jack B. Yeats: A Biography. London: Routledge. [Accession: 12150156]

Posted in Fine Press, Irish Studies, Rare books | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Notes from abroad: the correspondence of Charlotte Louisa Hawkins Dempster

I’m always on the lookout for material at Burns Library that shows different corners of the world, has an underrepresented viewpoint, or can be useful for classes. I’ve discovered travel writings can be a treasure trove when researching globalization and the interactions among different cultures. The correspondence and published writings of individual sight-seers or missionaries, with a smaller viewpoint than official government or diplomatic accounts, can reveal a lot about both the area the traveler is visiting, as well as the perceptions and prejudices of the traveler’s own culture. While I frequently reach towards the published travel writings in the Williams collection (with an introductory discussion with the students about the racism woven into most of these accounts of Europeans or Americans traveling in South America, the West Indies, and Africa), I was happy to realize we have a large manuscript travel writings collection as well.

One page handwritten letter in bound volume
The first letter in Volume 1 of Charlotte Louisa Hawkins Dempster letters to George Dempster, MS1995-007

The Charlotte Louisa Hawkins Dempster letters to George Dempster are 13 bound volumes filled with letters that Hawkins Dempster sent to her uncle, George Dempster, from 1864-1887. Though bound together, the letters are still the original handwritten manuscripts. The paper size varies from one letter to another, with the occasional telegram or program from a play interspersed within the volume. By the sheer volume and breadth of the correspondence, researchers can track Hawkins Dempster’s travel experiences, and what that says about both the places she visited as well as her own cultural perspective.

Charlotte Louisa Hawkins Dempster was born in 1835 in Scotland, where she spent most of her childhood. After her father died in 1841, George Dempster, her uncle, adopted her and her siblings and became a lifelong correspondent with Hawkins Dempster. To avoid the ill effects of harsh Scottish winters, Hawkins Dempster began spending her winters in Nice, Paris, and Rome. Later, as an adult and writer, she traveled more extensively around Europe while continuing to send letters home to her uncle. After her death, her goddaughter compiled transcriptions of some of these letters into an autobiography, The Manners of My Time.

There is still a lot to be learned from the original correspondence, however, as the physicality of the letters themselves can carry additional information. Near the end of the second volume and the beginning of the third, there are a series of letters with a black border. Is this a sign of mourning? Has someone died? There’s no overt mention in the letters’ contents, but physical signs provide clues that provoke further research. In another occasion, a letter assuring George Dempster that Hawkins Dempster and her sister are well and were afraid their aunt would have been worried about them is reinforced by a telegram directly before it letting their aunt and uncle know that snow had delayed the mail for three days. Ephemera is also occasionally tucked in the letters. Ticket stubs and playbills offer glimpses into the entertainments Hawkins Dempster was pursuing in her travels. 

Handwritten letters with pasted in blue watercolor in right-hand corner
Artwork and ephemera can be found within the letters, such as this art in Volume 1 of the Charlotte Louisa Hawkins Dempster letters to George Dempster

By being able to follow Hawkins Dempster and her travels for decades, these letters offer a research opportunity to get into the details of how a 19th century Scottish woman experienced the rest of Europe and what that reveals about both Europe and Scotland at the time. As we frequently discuss with classes, looking at a rich source such as this one and asking questions can lead into deeper research topics. Some questions that came to mind for me included:

  • What plays and music performances was Hawkins Dempster going to? 
    • What did popular culture for the well-educated Europeans look like at this time?
    • What themes (if any) can be found amongst these performances and what does that tell us about social or political dynamics this time period?
  • Health and illness, both of Hawkins Dempster and her family members, are mentioned frequently in her letters. 
    • What do these letters tell me about medical care? About social responses to illness?
    • What were common ailments in 19th century Europe?
  • What does physical travel and communication itself look like in Europe during this time period? How does it change from the beginning of Hawkins Dempster’s letters to the end? 
    • What modes of communication (telegrams, letters) are used and how/why does Hawkins-Dempster choose which mode of communication?
    • What modes of transportation are used, what are the relative speed and comfort in those modes, and how does Hawkins Dempster choose which mode of transportation?

These, and many other topics, could be explored within these sources. Other holdings in the BC Libraries could provide background and contextual information to explore the topics further, by searching for books written about 19th century European music and theater, by searching for a history of medicine, and reading more about the development of telegraph, rail and boat systems across Europe. 

To get started on this, or any other project on our holdings, you can make an appointment to view material in our reading room.

–Kathleen Monahan, Reference, Instruction & Digital Services Librarian

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Streaming Audio: James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings, Reel 47

From Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives, we are excited to share music performed in the 1960s by members of the New State Ceili Band. The group’s name derived from being the resident band at Bill Fuller’s New State Ballroom at 217 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. Music by the band can be heard on the audio clips from reel 47 of the James W. Smith collection. Smith’s box label lists band members Paddy Cronin, Eamon Flynn, Mike McHale, Frank Neylon, Des Regan, and George Shanley. Another regular band member, Sean McGlynn, may also have been one of the performers on the tape. The melody players are joined by guest pianist Mary Irwin; Eddie Irwin may have been another guest piano player. In addition to the full band, the tape includes members’ solos and duets, with piano accompaniment throughout.

Smith's reel tape boxes
Boxes of open reel tapes in the Smith collection (photo by Shelley Barber)

This post presents digital audio content from reel 47 of the Smith collection in seven audio clips. The open-reel audiotapes in the collection James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings primarily feature live instrumental music and song from the Boston area. Also included in the collection are dubs of published 78-rpm discs.

Smith’s labels on the reels and reel boxes were the initial source of performer information. Additional insights are based on the library’s listening work as well as on input from longtime faculty colleague and fiddle player Séamus Connolly.


Audio clips from the Smith collection, reel 47

Reel 47, clip 1 (00:00 to 27:27)

  • New State Ceili Band: reels, jigs, and marches


Reel 47, clip 2 (27:27 to 28:58)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle and Mary Irwin, piano: “Pigeon on the Gate” (reel)


Reel 47, clip 3 (28:58 to 30:52)

  • Probably Mike McHale, flute, Frank Neylon, flute, and Mary Irwin, piano: “Rattigan’s” (aka “Larry Redican’s”) (reel)


Reel 47, clip 4 (30:52 to 33:21)

  • Des Regan or Eamon Flynn, accordion and probably Mary Irwin, piano: “Mulhaire’s #9” composed by Martin Mulhaire (aka “The Rising Sun”) and “The House on the Hill” composed by Martin Mulhaire (aka “Seamus Thompson’s”) (reels)


Reel 47, clip 5 (33:21 to 36:20)

  • New State Ceili Band: “The Ash Grove” and “The Gentle Maiden” (waltzes)


Reel 47, clip 6 (36:20 to 38:54)

  • New State Ceili Band: “Paddy Kelly’s” and “King of the Clans” (reels)


Reel 47, clip 7 (38:54 to 43:00)

  • Paddy Cronin, fiddle and Mary Irwin, piano: “Pretty Peg,” “Pigeon on the Gate” and “Lord Gordon” (reels)


About the James W. Smith Collection

Each audio clip in this blog post is from audio file 99425_0003, James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings, IM.M016.1991, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The seven audio clips above represent reel 47 from beginning to end. The side is 43 minutes and 43 seconds long and contains unpublished music. Listeners may notice anomalies that originated on the tape: abrupt beginnings and endings, variation in sound quality and volume, and tempo/pitch alterations.

A native of Boston, James W. Smith (1929-1990) was the eldest child of Maitland Smith of Boston and Mary Monica (McDonagh) Smith of County Galway. They married in 1928 and settled in the Allston area of Boston. In the late 1950s and early 1960s James often hosted and recorded informal gatherings of Irish traditional musicians in the family home on Bayard Street. He occasionally played accordion and piano and his personal friends included flute player Gene Frain of Watertown. Smith’s collection of open-reel tapes was donated to Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives by his sister, Mary Smith Duffy. Boston College Libraries digitized and described the collection as part of a 2018 Recordings at Risk digitization grant project.

As we continue to learn about the Smith collection we are grateful for input received from musicians Séamus Connolly, Tommy Sheridan, Mike McHale, Eamon Flynn, and Colin Kadis. Further details about the collection can be viewed by downloading the collection’s finding aid and viewing the latest blog posts from the Smith collection. If you have questions, comments, or additional information to share with us, we invite you to contact the Library.

Elizabeth Sweeney, Irish Music Librarian, Burns Library


Sources Consulted

“Eamon Flynn — Hall of Fame 2005.” CCÉ Northeast Regional Hall of Fame. https://cceboston.org/hall-of-fame/eamon-flynn-hall-of-fame-2005/. Accessed January 25, 2021.

Gedutis, Susan. See You at the Hall. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004.

Henrik Norbek’s ABC Tunes.

“Mary Irwin — Hall of Fame 2007.” CCÉ Northeast Regional Hall of Fame. https://cceboston.org/hall-of-fame/mary-irwin-hall-of-fame-2007/. Accessed January 25, 2021.

“Mike McHale.” Mid-Atlantic CCÉ Hall of Fame. https://www.cce-ma.com/mike-mchale. Accessed January 25, 2021.

“Sean McGlynn.” Mid-Atlantic CCÉ Hall of Fame. https://www.cce-ma.com/sean-mcglynn. Accessed January 25, 2021.

The Session.


Related Collections

Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings

Muise Family Collection of Cape Breton and Irish Music

Posted in Archives & Manuscripts, Digital Projects, Irish Music Archives | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment