Take one glance at any of the programs on cable news networks and you’ll conclude that we live in a time of unprecedented political polarization. The Pew Research Center confirms that this has been a growing trend for over two decades, and the divide between those with conservative and liberal viewpoints is the greatest it’s been since the early 1990s.1 Nostalgia can guide us back to a time of political cooperation and mutual understanding of shared national interest, when Ronald Reagan and Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill were two leading Washington figures.
Monan, J. Donald at O’Neill Testimonial Dinner with Ronald Reagan, Garrett Fitzgerald, and Tip O’Neill, Boston College faculty and staff photographs, BC.2000.005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College, http://hdl.handle.net/2345.2/BC2000_005_ref1265.
While Ronald Reagan defines 1980s conservatism, Tip O’Neill’s avid defense of liberal positions on the national stage is unsurpassed. As Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, O’Neill’s tireless advocacy for causes benefiting the marginalized Americans often countered many of Reagan’s stated political objectives.2 Famously, Reagan thought that the most terrifying words in the English language were “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”3O’Neill viewed the government as not only capable of helping, but obligated to do so. Prior to his long political career, Tip O’Neill was a Boston College undergrad. O’Neill’s ties to Boston College run deep, and it is no small wonder that the University currently has numerous remembrances of one of the giants from a not so bygone era.
Burns Library holds the Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Congressional Papers and, while much of the material was generated by the Speaker’s staff, O’Neill’s personality is apparent throughout the collection. O’Neill’s identification with the common man and his generous sense of humor are preserved in the papers. Photographs featuring the Massachusetts statesman and Washington stalwart are available to the public from the collections of John J. Burns Library, Boston College, and a selection has been digitized for online access. These images strongly indicate why Tip O’Neill rose to and stayed at the heights of political power in Washington for over two decades. A few photographs of particular note will be highlighted here in order to offer a glimpse into the collection and the man at the center of it.
[Portrait of Thomas P. O’Neill for Boston College student yearbook], Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Congressional Papers (Tip O’Neill Papers) photographs, CA.2009.001, Boston College, Burns Library, http://hdl.handle.net/2345/9312.
[Informal pose of Thomas P. O’Neill as Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives], Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Congressional Papers (Tip O’Neill Papers) photographs, CA.2009.001, Boston College, Burns Library, http://hdl.handle.net/2345/9284.
One of the joys of archival research is finding surprising creativity you don’t expect. A prime example is the Austin W. White papers. As detailed in the collection finding aid, or inventory, Austin Welcome White was born on January 26, 1857 in North Bridgewater (now Brockton), Massachusetts, and lived with his parents, Phebe and Welcome White, and four older sisters.The collection covers White’s teenage years and, in addition to handmade books of fables, school compositions, and sketchbooks, captures Austin W. White’s hobby as a teenager– writing and drawing his very own weekly illustrated satirical newspaper,”The Sober Giggler.”
The inaugural issue of the Sober Giggler. “The Sober Giggler” newspaper, Austin W. White papers, MS.2016.026, John J. Burns Library, Boston College
Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives is delighted to announce that a significant trove of unpublished, open-reel audio from the 1950s and 1960s has been digitized and described, and can be requested for listening in the Burns Library Reading Room. With support from a Recordings at Risk grant, sound recordings from two collections, James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings andJoe Lamont Irish Music Recordings, can be accessed at the Library, facilitating the study of traditional Irish music in mid-20th century Boston and New York.
Reel-to-reel tape boxes, James W. Smith Irish music recordings, IM.M016.1991, John J. Burns Library, Boston College
The Smith and Lamont collections capture live performances of Irish traditional music on fiddle, flute, whistle, and accordion, with occasional piano accompaniment, banjo, and vocals. Since Irish music is traditionally learned by ear, field recordings such as these are a key resource for learning about repertoire, influences, social contexts, and tune variations. In addition to the live performances, the collections contain recordings from radio, as well as dubs of phonograph discs.
“Now you have me intrigued by those two archival collections … That was such a formative period for Irish musicians, with the availability of air travel opening up much greater communication between Ireland and the States.” — Helen O’Shea, author of The Making of Irish Traditional Music.
James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings document musical gatherings at the home of James W. Smith (1929-1990) in the Allston neighborhood of Boston. Featuring some of Boston’s most prominent Irish musicians of the time, the recordings also include music in homes of his musician friends and in other settings. The informal nature of the recordings captures the spirit of this evolving musical genre. The collection of open-reel tapes, 86 hours of which have been reformatted to 140 digital audio files, was donated by James W. Smith’s sister Mary Smith Duffy.
Joe Lamont and his sister, Sr. Mary Malachy, 1954. Box 3 folder 1, Joe Lamont Irish music recordings, IM.M145.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College
Joe Lamont Irish Music Recordings include performances of Irish traditional music in the greater New York City area. A fiddle player from County Derry, Joseph A. Lamont (1905-1972) immigrated to New York City in 1926 and settled in the Bronx. Lamont was a founding member and officer of the Paddy Killoran Club, a branch of the Irish Musicians Association of America. The Lamont collection features selected events of the club and performances by many well-known Irish musicians. Lamont’s tracklists offer details of performers and musical selections. The collection of open-reel tapes, which the Library reformatted to 110 digital audio files (80 hours), was donated by Lamont’s nephew James Lowney.
Colleagues across the Boston College Libraries collaborated for 12 months to digitize, describe, preserve, and develop a model for in-house access to these sound recordings. The above links to the finding aids offer details about both collections.
We invite you to review the above finding aids to learn more about these collections. If you have an inquiry or a comment, please feel free to get in touch using the Burns Library contact form. If you would like to schedule a visit to listen to this material, please contact us at least one business day in advance with a list of the recordings you would like to listen to. When compiling your list of reel numbers and/or digital content numbers, we encourage you to cast a broad net. We are happy to field questions to help identify relevant materials.
When you are ready to request material, you may schedule an appointment by creating your Burns Library Account. We will then request delivery of the selected files to the Burns Reading Room for your use. Burns Library hours are listed on the Boston College Libraries hours page.
The Irish Music Archives research guide includes links to both of the finding aids, as well as to our other Irish music collections. We hope you enjoy the following sample audio clips from the Smith and Lamont collections, and we look forward to receiving your questions and feedback.
Elizabeth Sweeney, Irish Music Librarian
Audio examples from James W. Smith Irish music recordings:
Reel performed by Paddy Cronin (fiddle) and Gene Frain (piano), 99446 (reel 27), James W. Smith Irish music recordings, IM.M016.1991, John J. Burns Library, Boston College:
Jig performed by Brendan Tonra (fiddle) and Eddie Irwin (piano), 99484 (reel 64), James W. Smith Irish music recordings, IM.M016.1991, John J. Burns Library, Boston College:
Introductory remarks by Smith: “This medley of tunes is being played by Brendan Tonra on the violin and Eddie Irwin on the piano.”
Reels performed by Jimmy Kelly (banjo) and Sally Kelly (piano), 99444 (reel 24), James W. Smith Irish music recordings, IM.M016.1991, John J. Burns Library, Boston College:
Audio examples from Joe Lamont Irish music recordings:
“Moving Cloud” reel performed by Peggy Riordan (fiddle), 99599 (reel 38 side 1), Joe Lamont Irish music recordings, IM.M145.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College:
Reels performed by Paddy Killoran (fiddle) and others, 99567 (reel 6 side 2), Joe Lamont Irish music recordings, IM.M145.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College:
Introductory remarks by Killoran: “You had asked me to make a few records. And, we have the great help here of Andy Conroy, Bob Conroy, and our good friend Mike Flynn. But nobody give[s] any help to the announcer who is doing all the announcing. Of course you know him anyway, Martin Feeney, our president of the club. And he has said so much about us that well Rob Conroy and Mike Flynn said, somebody has to say a word about Martin. So, we’ll just say a few words. Now we wish to dedicate those numbers to your good mother who is out here and hope that she will like them [INAUDIBLE] and play them for some of those great old Kerry friends and lovers of Irish music over there. Thank you.”
Reels performed by Pat Murphy, Joe Coleman, Joe Lamont (fiddles), 99619 (reel 58 side 1), Joe Lamont Irish music recordings, IM.M145.2005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College:
Introductory remarks by musicians: “Will you want to keep it to one or switch into something else? “Ah go ahead, play anything you only want to … every man for their self. You play one thing, I’ll play something else.”
This is the third in a series of seven blog posts highlighting and summarizing important events in Irish history, and Burns Library resources which aid in further study of the topic. Burns Library holds many Irish history resources and is an invaluable resource for scholars in this field.
This book was written for the centenary of the 1798 Rebellion. It provides an overview of the 1798 Rebellion, but does so in an interesting fashion—written as if those who participated in the Rebellion are telling the story to young relatives. From Ireland’s Revolt in ’98 by F. Tuite, Burns Library, Boston College.
John Burk, in 1799, noted that much writing was produced on the 1798 Rebellion before his volume, History of the Late War in Ireland. (Burk, 1799, IV) Burns Library has many sources available on this topic, spanning from the late 18th century to the modern day, including Burk’s work, which providesa contemporary account of the rise of the United Irishmen and the Rebellion itself. Joseph Stock’s A Narrative of What Passed at Killallaprovides further insight into the French connection to the rebellion.Burns Library also holds works on major figures in the 1798 Rebellion, including Wolfe Tone and Henry Joy McCraken. The rise of the United Irishmen, their continuous presence after this conflict, and government documents relating to them can also be researched at Burns Library.
The 1798 Rebellion in Ireland occurred in the Age of Revolution, following the footsteps of the American and French Revolutions. The 1798 Rebellion is also referred to as the United Irish Rebellion, after the group which planned and carried it out. Initially formed by Ulster Presbyterians, the United Irishmen wanted parliamentary reform in Ireland and greater Irish representation within the British parliamentary system, they did not set out to rebel. The United Irishmen wanted to bring Ireland together under a common identity as Irish people, avoiding sectarian religious divides which they believed to be imagined and imposed by British rule and influence. (Burk, 1799, 37) Continue reading →
Photo of Ciaran O’Neill, Fall 2018 Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies
Professor Ciaran O’Neill, Ussher Lecturer in History at Trinity College Dublin, has become a familiar face in Burns Library since his arrival in September. Ciaran is in residence this semester as Boston College’s Fall 2018 Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies.
On Wednesday afternoons, Ciaran has been conducting his course on “History and Fiction in Irish Culture” in the Burns Library Irish Room. He has been drawing on our collections to introduce his students to original and early editions of works they have been reading, including George Egerton’s Keynotes, Maria Edgeworth’s Tales and Novels and our original proofs version of George Moore’s Héloïse and Abelard. They have also examined copies of Sharon Turner’s History of the Anglo-Saxons in tandem with the second American edition of Sir Walter Scott’s classic historical romance novel, Ivanhoe, some of which was based on Turner’s History.
On Tuesday, November 6, at 4:30pm, Ciaran will offer a public lecture titled “Love, Power, and Consent in Pre-Famine Ireland: A Dublin Courtship.” Based on an examination of an unpublished diary held at Trinity College Dublin, the talk will consider the power dynamics of mid-19th-century love affairs and how historians handle intimacy and emotion in their work. A reception will follow in the Irish Room.
Diary of James Christopher Kenny. Trinity College Library Dublin, IE TCD MS 10800, p. 115. Courtesy of Manuscripts & Archives Research Library.
On Saturday, December 1, Ciaran will host a daylong symposium on history and fiction at Connolly House, home of the Boston College Irish Studies program. The symposium will feature a keynote by Dublin-born writer Emma Donoghue, who has published in a variety of genres from coming-of-age novels to mysteries, from short stories to stage and radio plays, from biographies and historical fiction to young adult fiction. The full program will soon be posted to the Irish Studies website.
Prior to his appointment at Trinity College in 2011, Ciaran was Irish Government Senior Scholar at Herford College, University of Oxford. He received his doctorate from the University of Liverpool after earning master’s and undergraduate degrees from the National University of Ireland Galway.
Ciaran O’Neill. 2014. Catholics of Consequence. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press.
Recent essays appear in Eire-Ireland, Gender & History, The Public Historian, and Historical Research, as well as the Cambridge History of Ireland (2018) and Cambridge Social History of Ireland (2017). The wide scope of Ciaran’s interests and publications embrace public history, modern Irish and British literature, the social and cultural history of Ireland, and Britain and the Empire in the nineteenth century.
Since 1991, the Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies program has brought to Boston College a long and distinguished series of academics, writers, artists, journalists, librarians, and notable public figures who have made significant contributions to Irish cultural and intellectual life. Burns Visiting Scholars teach courses, offer public lectures, and engage with the rich resources of the John J. Burns Library in their ongoing research, writing, and creative endeavors.
Christian Dupont, Burns Librarian, John J. Burns Library
This is the second in a series of seven blog posts highlighting and summarizing important events in Irish history, and Burns Library resources which aid in further study of the topic. Burns Library holds many Irish history resources and is an invaluable resource for scholars in this field.
The Penal Laws were established in Ireland in 1695 to lessen Irish Catholic power, dismantle their culture, and anglicize or ‘civilize’ Ireland. The Penal Laws were not all created at once in 1695, new Penal Laws were added throughout the 1690s and the early 18th century. Burns Library has many resources for studying the Penal Laws, including 11 original printings of some of the laws.
In his book which discusses the experience of Irish Catholics under the Penal Laws, Cardinal Moran wrote “it was not that England had not long before laid aside the delusive hope that Ireland could be driven by the sword to embrace that pretended Reformation; but she continued nevertheless to heap afflictions upon the Irish Catholics, and she ceased not to pursue them with relentless hatred, that thus she might at least impress the stigma of a reproach upon their faith, and degrade the religion of which she had failed to destroy.” (Moran, 1899, 2)Continue reading →
Prison hunger strikes became an integral part of protesting in the struggle for Irish independence over the course of a century. Two recently opened collections at Burns Library, both newly processed, include materials that reflect how hunger strikes were used during times of rebellion and struggle in Ireland.
Hanna Sheehy Skeffington photograph, Box 4, Folder 37, Loretta Clarke Murray collection of women in revolutionary Ireland, MS.2016.016, John J. Burns Library, Boston College. Irish Women and the Vote: Suffrage and Citizenship Conference 2008, Box 4, Folder 63, Loretta Clarke Murray collection of women in revolutionary Ireland, MS.2016.016, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.
The Loretta Clarke Murray collection of women in revolutionary Ireland documents the critical roles women held during the years of conflict surrounding the 1916 Easter Rising. Women not only fought alongside the men involved in the Rising and subsequent struggles, but, according to Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, were also the first to implement hunger strikes as a form of protest in the movement.
On June 13, 1912 Sheehy Skeffington was arrested and imprisoned for smashing windows at Dublin Castle as a protest for women’s rights. She and three other female prisoners went on hunger strike in prison in support of fellow suffragettes. In her memoirs, Sheehy Skeffington wrote, “Hunger-strike was then a new weapon–we were the first to try out in Ireland–had we but known, we were the pioneers in a long line. At first, Sinn Féin and its allies regarded the hunger-strike as a womanish thing…But the public was, at least, not apathetic, and a feeling began to be voiced that there was something unreasonable in refusing women the vote” (Sheehy-Skeffington, Hanna, and Ward, Margaret, Editor, 2017, 77). The suffrage and Irish independence movements were closely interconnected, so it’s no surprise that hunger strikes became a means used by both men and women to fight for political causes throughout the 20th century.
Irish republicans began to see the effectiveness of using this form of protest for their own uses, starting in 1917 with Thomas Ashe, whose death by force-feeding while on hunger strike caused a rise in anti-British sentiment. Hunger strikes began to gain popularity in the following years and garnered much attention and support for the republican movement. Handbills from the Loretta Clarke Murray collection show how popular propaganda leveraged what was happening inside the prisons.Continue reading →