The New Policeman

State Street, Chicago, 1870s
State Street, Chicago, 1870s

Francis O’Neill started as a policeman on August 17th, 1873. At that time, Chicago was still recovering from the devastation of the Great Fire a couple of years before. Francis had his own tragedies to contend with: he and his wife Anna lost their first child during that difficult time and he struggled to keep a steady job in the infamous Chicago stockyards.

It must have seemed like he was turning a corner and heading for better things once accepted onto the force. However, he was only a new officer for a few weeks when disaster struck. One day, while “travelling beat” on State Street, he did indeed turn a corner, only to be confronted by a Pinkerton detective chasing a criminal. The story of what follows is described in my book Chief O’Neill. I am pleased to announce that the relevant section is excerpted in the latest issue of the Celtic Junction Arts Review which you can read here.

Every section of the book has a title taken from one of O’Neill’s tune books. In this case, the obvious choice was “The New Policeman”. Not only is the title appropriate but the music of the reel is breakneck, like the action. To finish, here is the master Matt Molloy (who I saw play recently in Halifax) doing it justice on his 2008 album “Matt Molloy”.

Matt Molloy and Donal Lunny playing “The New Policeman”

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