In the fall of 2013, our good friend Paddy Homan helped the Ward Irish Music Archives arrange a donation from Maureen O'Looney of audio recordings that she used for her Chicago Irish radio show. Maureen, originally from Bohola, Co. Mayo and one of Chicago's most beloved Irish personalities, had just wrapped up duties hosting her radio program after nearly 40 years. We were ecstatic and honored to be chosen to host Maureen's collection going forward, as well as to get a chance to spend an afternoon with this respected bean an tí.
On the day we went down to pick up the O’Looney collection, Maureen was very generous with her time and hospitality. Of course, those that knew her would know that her hospitality was legendary. Paddy Homan organized everything, and so it was just the four of us in her kitchen. We tried to engage her into telling stories, but it seems that she insisted on cooking enough sandwiches, bread, and other unknown snacks to us and that this meal was going to be the order of the day. We surely expected more people to come with the platters overflowing and hardly room to see over the food in her small kitchen. Meanwhile the old refrigerator would occasionally come to life and sputter out a very loud mechanical jig as it strained to keep up with Maureen’s coming and goings.
Eventually we made our way to Maureen’s living room where we were able conduct an interview. Once again she was generous with her time. Like most people her age, and in dealing with certain areas (especially with Irish immigration), she seemed reluctant to chat about those things. We suppose for fear that some things she had done or associations she had were perhaps borderline with the laws of the day. We assured her that we would not turn her in and were on her side.
After our interview she gave us a tour of her basement where many of the parties happened and guests stayed.
She was very happy that her collection was going to the archives. Maureen, ever engaged with the Irish community, was pretty aware of what we were doing and our mission. We tried to get her to come up to Milwaukee and see our facilities over the next year or so before she passed, but with her health and other schedule issues we could never quite find the time.
We are ever grateful to Paddy Homan, who was Maureen’s close friend, and with his help the Maureen O’Looney Collection has a good home at the Ward Irish Music Archives.
Want to learn more about the Maureen O'Looney Collection and listen to a sample of her 78 rpm recordings? Visit her collection page below.