0:07 - Family

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Partial Transcript: KH: Yeah, I was in a family of eleven people, eleven of us, and my father was a lot older than my mother...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin talks about growing up on a small farm, the eighth in a family of eleven children. His older brothers migrated to England and would send money home to for their sisters' education.

Keywords: Education; Emigration; Family; Marriage

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3:13 - Storytelling

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Partial Transcript: KH: Growing up, one part of our tradition was storytelling. I was born and raised without television or radios, an odd newspaper coming in, we had a weekly newspaper, that was about the local district, the county you lived in, and we grew up with stories – fairy stories, folklore, and genealogy...

Segment Synopsis: The fairy stories he heard growing up had a powerful influence on Kevin's outlook on life. They taught him to 'look for the pot of gold'.

Keywords: Folklore; Traditional customs

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5:28 - Rural life on the Sligo/Mayo border

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Partial Transcript: KH: I come on the border to Mayo and Sligo in a place called Tubbercurry and it’s a border town if you know what I mean...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin was born in Cloonlarhan, Co. Mayo on the Sligo border. It was difficult to make a living from farming. The family had a limekiln on their land and used it to make whitewash for houses and fertilizer for the soil.

Keywords: 1930s; 1940s; Co Mayo; Co Sligo; Farming

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10:15 - Fife and drum band

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Partial Transcript: KH: So, jumping from one thing to another, music was a part of our ways of living. Music. My father was in charge of a fife and drum band...

Segment Synopsis: The fife and drum band in the local area, run by Kevin's father, dates back to the time of the Land League. Kevin believes having to survive through hard times taught people to stand up for themselves.

Keywords: History; Ireland

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12:12 - Work in Ireland

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Partial Transcript: KH: I was working on the land and burning the lime. Well, I had an older brother, he was taking care of that. My father died in 1945. I was 15 at the time...

Segment Synopsis: Before he emigrated, Kevin helped on the family farm. He also spent time as an apprentice grocer and worked on a Bord na Mona turf-cutting scheme.

Keywords: Farming; Work

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14:45 - Migration to England

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Partial Transcript: I left Ireland in 1947 and I’d be back and forth for a holiday and all of that. I was 18 and a half, but there was plenty of work in England you see at the time...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin emigrated in 1947, joining his brother as a seasonal agricultural labourer in Lincolnshire. He did that work for three summers and worked in construction during the winters.

Keywords: 1940s; Agricultural labour; Emigration; England

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18:41 - Agricultural labour & hiring fairs

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Partial Transcript: SG: When you were working on the farms would you go different places then when work finished in one place? Or did you just work for the same farmer?

Segment Synopsis: Kevin describes the process of getting work doing haymaking for farmers in England. There were hiring fairs in Bentham (North Yorkshire), Clitheroe (Lancashire), and Kirkby Stephen (Cumbria). The farmer and the labourer would agree on a rate of pay.

Keywords: 1940s; Agricultural labour; England

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24:56 - Coal mining

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Partial Transcript: SG: Where was that? KH: I worked in Doncaster in Yorkshire and I worked in Lancashire in Wiggan...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin worked blasting tunnels in coal mines in Doncaster and Wiggan. He describes the clogs (wooden shoes) the miners wore.

Keywords: Mining; Work

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28:53 - Mining: Cork and Butte

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Partial Transcript: KH: There’s a place in Cork, there was mines in it one time. AN: Indeed, out in the Beara Peninsula, Allihies. KH: A lot of them moved to Butte. There’s a place in Butte they call it Cork Town...

Segment Synopsis: A lot of miners migrated from the Beara Peninsula in Co. Cork to Butte, Montana. Kevin had an uncle in Butte and spent a few months there himself. He describes what his uncle told him about strikes during the war.

Keywords: Migration; Mining; Trade unions

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32:34 - Migration to Canada

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Partial Transcript:

Segment Synopsis: After six years in England, Kevin returned to Ireland and then took a ship to Canada in May 1953. He disembarked in St. John's, Newfoundland. He then went on to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he worked building an extension to a convent, and then on to Montreal.

Keywords: Canada; Migration

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36:08 - Toronto and anti-Catholic discrimination

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Partial Transcript: KH: I skiddadled to Toronto. I had the fare paid on the train to Toronto. In Toronto, very sad town, you noticed it coming out of England and Ireland, it had a whole new atmosphere, you’d swear you were in Belfast...

Segment Synopsis: In Toronto, Kevin had trouble getting work because he felt there was anti-Catholic discrimination at the hands of the Free Masons and the Orange Order. He wanted to cross the border to the United States as soon as possible. To do that, migrants pooled their money.

Keywords: Canada; Trade unions; Work

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42:25 - Irish migration patterns

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Partial Transcript:

Segment Synopsis: Kevin describes where people from different counties in Ireland migrated to in America. Once there, onward migration continued and for example, a lot of Cork people went from Butte to San Francisco. Kevin has relatives in New Jersey and Chicago.

Keywords: Irish in America; Migration

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44:47 - From Canada to New York

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Partial Transcript:

Segment Synopsis: Kevin migrated to Canada in 1953 and the following spring crossed into the US at Niagra Falls (on his second attempt). He went to join his brother and sister in Westchester County, New York.

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47:27 - New York to Florida

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Partial Transcript: AN: After New York, where did you go? KH: I went to Florida.

Segment Synopsis: Kevin worked in tunnels in New York and then moved on to Florida, but found wages there were below par.

Keywords: Migration; Work

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48:47 - Work as a waiter and bartender

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Partial Transcript: KH: I worked on the beach in New York too, sideline, worked on construction 5 days and I was a plain waiter out in Rockaway Beach...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin talks about working as a waiter and playing music to entertain customers in Rockaway Beach, New York. In the 1960s he worked as a bartender at the Keyman's Club dance hall in Chicago. He describes the practice of tipping.

Keywords: Work

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51:46 - Work in Florida

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Partial Transcript: SG: Did you come to Chicago after Florida? KH: I came from Florida to here, yeah. I worked in Florida in a hotel putting beds together, 400 beds, and I worked on another project...

Segment Synopsis: In Florida, Kevin worked putting beds together at a hotel and then as a diver on a construction project in the Everglades.

Keywords: Migration; Work

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52:50 - A Chicago iron worker and trade unions

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Partial Transcript: KH: I came in here [to Chicago] in November and went to work right away in the tunnels here. I had worked with this Healy in New York before...

Segment Synopsis: In Chicago, Kevin started out working in tunnels, as for the same company he'd worked for in New York. In the end, had a thirty-seven year career as an iron worker. He says he belonged to eight or ten different unions during his lifetime.

Keywords: Chicago; New York City; Trade unions; Work

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55:17 - Music growing up

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Partial Transcript: KH: On the music end of it, we’ll go back to the music, when I was a lad about eleven years old my brother [Johnny Watt Henry], he was an albino, he played the fiddle...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin's older brother, Johnny, was a well-known fiddler in their local area. He had learned from a dancing master named Giblin. Kevin himself had a few music lessons, but stopped when the Second World War made travel difficult.

Keywords: 1930s; 1940s; Dancing; Learning music

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58:48 - Local musicians & country house dances

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Partial Transcript: SG: What other musicians would you have heard playing or learned tunes from in your area or later? KH: We had the country house dances was the first ways of learning how to play for the simple reason you had to walk a couple of miles to a dance and you knew who the players...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin describes going with his brother to country house dances in the local area. A number of famous traditional musicians came from the Sligo/Mayo border area where Kevin grew up.

Keywords: Dancing; Ireland; Musicians

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61:03 - Irish music in England

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Partial Transcript: SG: Did you play any music while you were in England? KH: England was a sad place, so was Ireland, a sad place to play music...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin says most towns in England and in Ireland frowned upon traditional music. The only place it could be found was dance halls and he played for a while in the Buffalo dance hall in London.

Keywords: Dance halls; England; Ireland; Irish in Britain

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63:31 - Public Dance Halls Act of 1935 (Ireland)

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Partial Transcript: KH: What happened was, sadly, in 1935 they brought out an act, The Dance Hall Act of 1935 where no country house could have a dance where you paid a fee...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin describes the impact of the 1935 Public Dance Halls Act on country house dances in Ireland. He was dragged by the ear out of an 'illegal' dance at the age of eight.

Keywords: Dance halls; Dancing; Ireland

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65:59 - Irish music in Chicago in the 1950s

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Partial Transcript: SG: What was it like in Chicago then, musicians? KH: ‘Twas at a very low steam when I came here. I came here in 1956...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin knew of the importance of Francis O'Neill's music collections made in Chicago around the turn of the twentieth century and he expected there to be more Irish musicians in the city when he arrived. Within a couple years things started to pick up and Kevin got involved in the Irish Musicians' Association of America.

Keywords: Chicago; Musicians

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69:37 - The Bothy Band in Chicago

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Segment Synopsis: Kevin Henry organized concerts for the Bothy Band in Chicago in the mid-1970s. He describes how they dressed like hippies and this shocked the Irish American audiences.

Keywords: 1970s; Chicago; Concerts; Musicians

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75:20 - Irish Musicians' Association of America

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Partial Transcript: SG: How did you get involved with the Irish Musicians’ Association? You mentioned that. KH: The Irish Musicians’ Association of America. We had a convention here in 1958...

Segment Synopsis: The Irish Musicians' Association of America was founded in Chicago in 1956. It brought together traditional musicians from different cities across the US in one centralized body for the first time. Kevin describes the controversy that started when Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann wanted to take it over from 1972.

Keywords: 1950s; 1970s; Chicago; Musicians

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81:42 - Seán Ó Riada and changes in Irish music

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Partial Transcript: KH: The only people that started that was Seán Ó Riada, was the first guy to revolutionize that with Mise Éire. Then he formed the [Ceoltóirí] Chualann...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin describes Seán Ó Riada's impact on Irish music. He also discusses the association of traditional music with drinking.

Keywords: Change; Ireland; Music

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83:38 - Music in Chicago: pubs & concerts

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Segment Synopsis: Kevin says there wasn't much Irish music played in pubs in Chicago when he first arrived. He describes the concert tours organized by CCÉ that came to the city and how he became disillusioned with them.

Keywords: Chicago; Concerts; Pubs

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85:57 - Songs

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Segment Synopsis: Kevin has an interest in Irish songs. His brother Martin wrote the song 'MacAlpine's Fusiliers'.

Keywords: Songs

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87:56 - Word-of-mouth news about work

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Partial Transcript:

Segment Synopsis: Kevin says he'd hear about available work by word-of-mouth in both Canada and England. He mentions the song 'Men of '39' ('with the passport in my hand').

Keywords: Canada; England; Migration; Work

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Hyperlink: Listen to Michael Falsey sing the song 'Men of '39' (Irish Traditional Music Archive)

89:40 - Mining in Butte vs. England

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Partial Transcript: AN: The other thing I wanted to ask you was Butte, you were saying that the mining was bad out there, what do you mean by the mining was bad? KH: The conditions weren’t up to par compared to England. You’d get injured very fast...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin found working conditions poor in the copper mines of Butte, MT compared to the English coal mines. He said there had been a lot of Irish in Butte, but many had moved on.

Keywords: America; England; Mining; Work

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92:32 - Trade union membership

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Partial Transcript: SG: You mentioned you were always in the unions – how involved were you? Were you in any strikes or were you just a member? KH: I played the war pipes on the picket lines to give them morale. That was a part of my contribution to picket lines...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin belonged to several unions over the course of his life. He compares the employment opportunities in Chicago favourably to Canada or New York. In Toronto he helped organize a Labourers' union. He credits the Miners' Union in England his full immersion in trade unionism, though he had participated in a turf workers' strike in Ireland before emigrating.

Keywords: Trade unions; Work

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98:18 - Getting a job in the mines

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Segment Synopsis: Kevin describes how his brother got him started working in the coal mines in England and he managed to bypass the required apprenticeship.

Keywords: England; Mining; Work

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99:43 - Chicago iron worker

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Partial Transcript: SG: What sort of projects did you work on in Chicago then when you were doing the iron work? KH: I worked the Hancock, all that...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin describes the value of versatility and skill as an iron worker in Chicago.

Keywords: Chicago; Work

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102:39 - Irish traditions, writers, and songs

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Partial Transcript: KH: The music scene, it’s, with our own people, it’s strange how some people takes to it and more people don’t take to it. But with myself now you see my father was a great reciter of poetry and...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin reflects on traditions of Irish culture and entertainment, including poetry recitation, writers, storytelling, and songs. He and Alan Noonan discuss songs from Cork. Kevin sings a verse of 'Kate from Baltimore'.

Keywords: Ireland; Music; Songs

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108:19 - Return migration?

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Partial Transcript: SG: Did you ever think of going back to live in Ireland? KH: No, I didn’t, no. There was nothing there. When you leave it at a young age, you sort of. Well the savage loves his native land if you know what I mean. You love to belong to it, but to live in it is another story...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin says he never considered returning to live in Ireland, despite his love for it. He reflects on how his generation didn't get enough formal education, but he has learned a lot by reading. He says no academic has been able to tell him why a tune makes people want to dance.

Keywords: Education; Return migration

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112:17 - Visits to Ireland

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Segment Synopsis: Kevin describes his visits to Ireland, the most recent of which was for dancer Michael Flatley's wedding. Flatley grew up in Chicago and Kevin taught him flute.

Keywords:

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114:56 - Letters and schooling

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Partial Transcript: AN: How did you contact home? Was it through letters or telegram? KH: Through letters, it’s only in recent times that we got the computer. I don’t know nothing, I was raised with a candle, if you know what I mean...

Segment Synopsis: Kevin kept in touch with his family via letters. He describes how it was difficult to do schoolwork by the light of a candle when he was young and corporal punishment in school.

Keywords: Education; Ireland

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118:59 - Handball

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Segment Synopsis: Kevin says the only sport he ever played was handball. An outdoor ball alley was built in the area where he grew up by a man who returned from America in the 1930s. Kevin would play for money. He'd have to play with bare feet or wearing hobnail boots.

Keywords: Ireland; Sport

Subjects:

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