Reference Code: IE 2135 P17
Title: The John McCarthy Collection
Dates of Creation: 1905-1906, c. 2005
Level of Description: Fonds

Extent and Medium: 16 items (6 files)


Name of Creator(s): McCarthy, John (1885-1966).

Biographical History: John McCarthy was born in Cappamore, county Limerick in 1885 to William and Ellen McCarthy as the second of seven children.  His parents owned a farm, a public house and a bakery and while his siblings all went to college, John remained at home to run the family businesses. When in his early teens, John began taking violin lessons from John Corbett, a highly respected but strict music teacher in Cappamore, who insisted that his pupils learnt to play from sheet music rather than by ear.  Under Corbett’s tutelage, John developed into an accomplished and note-perfect player.  At the turn of the century, Irish traditional sheet music was rare and, to increase his repertoire, John began to collect popular tunes in the East Limerick and North Tipperary area. Some of the notations he wrote down himself, others were given to him by friends and fellow collectors, his sister Eily McCarthy, his cousin Justin McCarthy and his friend Cornelius Collins among others.  Music notations were commonly circulated among players and some of the sheets collected by John appear to date from as early as 1876.  He used the music to play with other musicians in pubs, dances and local houses.  Having married in 1916 Hannah Lally of Knockshambo, county Mayo, he reared a family of twelve children.  He died on 5 February 1966.

Immediate Source of Acquisition: Donated by the McCarthy family to the University of Limerick on 9 November 2005.



Scope and Content: This collection comprises musical notations of jigs, reels, hornpipes, mazurkas, flings, gallops, quadrilles, lancers, schottisches, mazurkas and waltzes popular in Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century.

Appraisal, Destruction and Scheduling Information: All records have been retained.

Accruals: No accruals are expected.

System of Arrangement: The bound volumes and accompanying photocopies have been arranged to match the arrangement of Noel McCarthy’s book.



Conditions Governing Access: The bound volumes in this collection require conservation treatment and are too fragile to be safely handled.  These documents have been identified in the finding aid and are not accessible until they have been conserved.

Conditions Governing Reproduction: Standard copyright regulations apply to all items.  For photocopying or reproducing material, please consult with the staff.

Language/ Scripts of Material: English.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements: Bound volumes in fragile condition and paper documents in good condition.

Finding Aids: A hard copy of the descriptive catalogue is available at the Special Collections and Archives Department, Glucksman Library, University of Limerick.



Publication Note: A detailed description of the three music books, their contents and their compiles is provided in Noel McCarthy’s book John McCarthy of Cappamore, Ireland.  His Irish Traditional Music Manuscripts 1876-1912 Collected from the Cappamore/ Silvermines Area.  A copy of the book is available in the Leonard Collection (OS/694) in the Special Collections and Archives Department.



Archivist’s Note: Papers arranged and described by Anna-Maria Hajba.

Rules or Conventions: This description follows guidelines based on ISAD(G) 2nd edition, 2000, Irish Guidelines for Archival Description, 2009, National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997, and EAP Guidance on Data Protection for Archive Services, 2018.

Date of Description: June 2022.