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

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