The O’Neill Henebry Wax Cylinder Project



Apologies for poor audio, this is due to technical issues with the sound system in the room.

An important collection of wax cylinder recordings has been digitised and made available for the first time as a result of a partnership between UCC Library and The School of Music at UCC http://www.music.ucc.ie/henebry/. Deriving from a friendship between the extraordinary Captain Francis O’Neill (1848-1936), Cork-born Chief of Police in Chicago, and the Reverend Richard Henebry (1863-1916), Professor of Irish at UCC from 1909 until his death in 1916, the collection is comprised of 114 wax cylinders, which are more than one hundred years old, and are among the first field recordings to be made in Ireland of Irish traditional music.

First deposited in UCC Library in 1911 by Henebry, these cylinder recordings were part of a noble aspiration to build a national archive of Irish traditional music at University College Cork in the first decade of the twentieth century, the first such initiative in Ireland, and one which ultimately was not realised. In the spirit of O’Neill and Henebry, this project came about through a desire in UCC Library and The School of Music to apply current technology to the task of preserving and providing maximum access to these important archival recordings.

Following conservation of the cylinders, digitisation, and transcription of musical notation, the collections have been made available for free download in a 21st century fulfilment of the ambition of the original collectors. The cylinders were transferred to digital format using a French-made Archeophone (http://www.archeophone.org/), a universal cylinder player that uses electrical reproduction and modern styli (such as Stanton or Shure cartridges) to play back any of the varieties of cylinders made including 2 and 4 minute standard, intermediate and concert cylinders.

The dissemination of the digitised contents of the Henebry and O’Neill cylinders expands the soundscape from which Irish traditional musicians and scholars will draw inspiration and enjoyment. That this music is now excavated and recovered from university storage in which it resided, rarely heard, for a century or more is also in keeping with Henebry’s ambition that the music be made available for all to hear.

This paper will describe the historic and recent collaborative processes, provide some context and feedback on current access to these recordings, and describe how they may be used in the academic and wider public environments of the traditional music community into the future.


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If you require information about any aspect of the conference please contact: Fi Coyle: fiona.coyle@heanet.ie / +353 1 6609040