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

Like many tapes in the Smith collection, reel #112 appears to have been recorded during an informal house session. Owen Frain can be heard on flute; Jimmy Kelly on piano; and Paddy Cronin on fiddle and probably flute as well.

Owen Frain with flute in 1917County 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. Frain appeared on commercial discs recorded in 1927 by Dan Sullivan’s Shamrock Band, alongside Dan J. Sullivan, Michael Hanafin, Martin Mullin, Daniel P. Moroney, and Dominic J. Doyle. (Photo: Detail of Owen Frain, 1917 Irish Pipers Club, Box 1, Hanafin Family Papers, IM.M143.2005, Burns Library.)

Jimmy Kelly circa 1975Boston’s own Jimmy Kelly (1936-2001) 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. He can be heard elsewhere in the Smith collection as well as in the Muise collection. (Photo: Detail of Jimmy Kelly playing music at the Muise home circa 1975. Photo by Tim Prendeville.)   

Paddy Cronin in 1990Fiddle 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. (Photo: Detail of Paddy Cronin from 1990 video interview, BC Irish Fiddle Festival Collection, IM.M003.1990, Burns Library.)

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. The eleven audio clips in this blog post are drawn from sections of the tape with the best sound quality. For reducing the level of audio distortion from the original tape we are grateful to Jon Sage, audio engineer in BC’s Information Technology Services.   


Audio clips from Smith collection, reel 112

Reel 112, audio clip 1 (side 1, 00:00 to 02:51)

  • Either Paddy Cronin or Owen Frain, flute and Jimmy Kelly, piano
    • The Liffey Banks (reel)


Reel 112, audio clip 2 (side 1, 02:51 to 08:56)

  • Owen Frain, flute and probably Paddy Cronin, fiddle
    • Cronin’s ; Fitzgerald’s (hornpipes)
    • The Lark in the Morning (jig)
    • The Maid on the Green (jig)


Reel 112, audio clip 3 (side 1, 17:41 to 20:04)

  • Probably Owen Frain, flute and Jimmy Kelly, piano
    • Scatter the Mud (jig)


Reel 112, audio clip 4 (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 5 (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 6 (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 7 (side 2, 06:47 to 10:07)

  • Either Paddy Cronin or Owen Frain, flute and Jimmy Kelly, piano
    • Sporting Paddy ; The London Lasses (reels)


Reel 112, audio clip 8 (side 2, 25:18 to 26:58)

  • Unidentified musicians, tin whistle, accordion, and fiddle
    • Hand Me Down the Tackle (aka Tom Steele) (reel)


Reel 112, audio clip 9 (side 2, 43:49 to 47:02)

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


Reel 112, audio clip 10 (side 2, 52:24 to 54:39)

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


Reel 112, audio clip 11 (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 reel 112 (digital content number 99526), 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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