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Collection of 19th century Irish sheet music found in roof space in Co Down donated to Linen Hall Library

Dominic O'Reilly (centre) has donated his collection of antique Irish sheet music to the Linen Hall Library, Belfast. With Dominic are SDLP MLAs Patsy McGlone and Colin McGrath. Picture by Hugh Russell
John Monaghan

A COLLECTION of antique Irish sheet music dating back to the 19th century, which was found in a roof space in Co Down, has been donated to the Linen Hall Library.

Dominic O'Reilly, a writer who penned a book on the Catholic Chaplaincy at Queen's University in 2016, was joined by SDLP MLAs Patsy McGlone and Colin McGrath as he presented the collection to the Belfast library yesterday.

Mr O'Reilly has also donated some of the items to his home parish of Maghera in Co Down and to individual musicians in the Newcastle area.

The music pieces originally came with a piano purchased by Mr O'Reilly's parents and were discovered in the roof space of the family home.

Among the items handed over to the library include music written by Captain Francis O'Neill, who was born in Cork in 1848 and emigrated to the US at the age of 16, going on to become a police officer in Chicago.

Mr O'Reilly said: "Seeing the large numbers of people emigrating from our shores to America, Captain O'Neill knew something had to be done to allow them to hold on to their sense of identity as sons and daughters of Ireland. Music was his answer.

"He brought together over one thousand pieces in this compendium and in doing so preserved and enhanced the Irish identity in Chicago. Surely these are stories worth remembering and passing on to future generations."

The music sheets date back to the 19th century and cover the experiences of Irish people who emigrated to the US. Picture by Hugh Russell

Dominic O'Reilly has handed over the collection to the Linen Hall Library in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell


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