Bantry in west county Cork was the nearby town to O’Neill’s homeplace of Tralibane. His family would have looked forward to “heading into town” for the regular fairs and festivals. It was a chance to sell and purchase livestock and other household items. Imagine a young Francis O’Neill lingering over a music shop in the town.
The great John McCormack singing Bantry Bay. Surely a tune O’Neill would have known. Perhaps he even saw the popular tenor when he sang at the Chicago Opera house circa 1910. Although sentimental, the exile is allowed these indulgences.
Then we heard the pipers sweet note tuning,
And all the lassies turned to hear;
As they mingled with a soft voice crooning,
Till the music floated down the wooden pier,
Save you kindly Colleens all! said the piper,
Hands across and trip it while I play,
And a tender sound of song and merry dancing,
Stole softly over Bantry Bay.