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Irish Music

A guide to Irish music resources in the Hesburgh Library and online.


The Hesburgh Library's Irish Music collections are varied, from the main music collection in the Music Library to the well-known Francis O'Neill Collection in the Special Collections. This guide outlines the resources here in the library as well as online. 

For assistance with research on Irish music, dance or song, please contact either the Music Librarian, Tiffany Gillaspy, or the Irish Studies Librarian, Aedín Clements.

Irish Music in the Hesburgh Library

While most Irish music (recordings, books, journals etc.) are in the Music Library, the Hesburgh Library has some important and interesting collections.

  • The Francis O'Neill Collection is the personal library of one of the best-known collectors of Irish music, given to the University in 1931. A selection of the books have been digitized.
  • The Larry Lynch Collection is a collection on Irish dance, music and song, given to the Hesburgh Library by Larry Lynch, author of Set dances of Ireland: tradition & evolution.
  • Irish Broadside Ballads: A collection of Irish, with some British broadside ballads. Digital images from this collection may be viewed via the archival finding aid.  See also 'Broadside Ballads: Social Media of Earlier Times'. 

The O'Neill Collection of Irish Traditional Music

In 1931 Captain Francis O'Neill, one of the great collectors of Irish music, gave his library to the University of Notre Dame. O'Neill's library of Irish history or ‘Hiberniana' as he called it, was known to scholars of Irish music and history and includes all the important books on Irish music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The O'Neill Collection - A Digital Selection is an introduction to the collection with links to digitized volumes.

See the Special Collections web page on the O'Neill Collection.

For a list of the music books in the O'Neill Collection, see the Irish Studies blog.

Manuscripts in the O'Neill Collection

The O'Neill Collection in the Hesburgh Library Special Collections includes two bound manuscripts.

MSE 1435-B
P.D. Reidy Manuscript. [c1890] 

Manuscript of Patrick Reidy, Professor of Dance.

Dancing masters were an institution in rural Ireland in the 19th century, staying for a period of weeks in one community and teaching regularly during that time.

Patrick Reidy, a well-known dancing master from Castleisland, County Kerry, settled in London and became the professional teacher for the Gaelic League in London in 1897. He taught and popularized the group dances now widely known as céilí dances, which then found their way back to Ireland.

Francis O’Neill had some correspondence with Reidy following the publication of his first book. According to O’Neill, “the talented and kindly ‘Professor of Dancing, London and Castleisland,’ obligingly forwarded us a MS. book of music and a treatise from his own pen entitled: Dancing-Theory as It Should Be.

This manuscript contains 37 pages of music, mostly dance tunes although there are some slow airs. A note on the source is often provided, and additional comments occasionally added.

MSE 1434-B
H. Hudson Manuscript [c.1841]

Manuscript of Henry Hudson of Dublin.

Henry Hudson (1798-1889) was a Dublin dentist and one of the early collectors of Irish songs and music. He collected and transcribed music and published selections, 106 melodies in all, in The Citizen or Dublin Monthly Magazine, of which he was musical editor from 1841 to 1843.

O’Neill purchased the Hudson manuscript volume through Nassau Massey of Cork. Of the other six manuscripts in Hudson’s collection, five are in Boston Public Library and one is in the National Library of Ireland.

Hesburgh Library Subscriptions: Online Collections and Databases

Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries
A subscription collection from Alexander Street Press in conjunction with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Music Online: A collection of Alexander Street Press music collections, including the Smithsonian collection above.

To find music literature, especially journal articles, the following bibliographical databases specialize in music:

Music Index Online (EBSCO)

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature (EBSCO)

For better guidance searching for music literature, use the Music LibGuide.