The above image is of my personal copy of Chief O’Neill’s memoirs, collected and extensively annotated by his great-granddaughter Mary Lesch and Chicago historian Ellen Skerrett. I was fortunate enough to meet Mary and Ellen in Chicago where they showed me around the Chief’s old haunts as well as providing incredible research materials for my upcoming novel on his life: Chief O’Neill.
The “Sketchy Recollections” are anything but. They provide a unique insight into the man’s life and times and are a forgotten treasure, particularly to anyone interested in traditional Irish music. A recent reprint of an review on his memoirs in Irish Central describes the memoirs:
Simple human joy, in music and in discovery, animate every page of the memoirs he left behind. […] That joy in discovery is perhaps best underlined by the fact that O’Neill carried his tin whistle with him at all times, in case he heard a new tune and wanted to learn it on the spot. It was that impulse of delight that marked his character and it won him many friends as the years went on. […] As the book reveals, O’Neill picaresque travels took him across every continent on earth, which he recalls in vivid detail – from the first shot of sake to an encounter with Chinese pirates.Francis O’Neill: The Irish cop in Chicago who saved traditional Irish music [Irish Central]
A fascinating recount of a fascinating life and highly recommended.
To close: here is a video from the Irish Central article of a memorable celebration by the descendents of the local community, Tralibane, where O’Neill grew up: