Honored posthumously, February 4, 2006
Francis Joseph “Frankie” O’Neill was born October 18, 1966, in the Bronx to proud parents Frank and Teresa O’Neill. Frank emigrated from Ballina, Co. Mayo, and served as Chairman of the Michael Coleman Branch of Comhaltas during the early 1980’s. Teresa (nee McKenna) came from Ballinamuck, Co. Longford.
Influenced by his parents who came from a very musical family, young Frankie started taking lessons on piano accordion at age seven and attended the Irish music school of the late and great Martin Mulvihill. Becoming an accomplished musician at an early age, Frankie won many solo competitions, as well as duet and trio with his brother Keith on fiddle and sister Pauline on flute, both in New York and in Ireland. Frankie was greatly influenced by Jim Mahon and loved to listen to the music of Joe Burke, John Whelan and Sharon Shannon.
Martin Mulvihill formed the Garrai Eoin II Ceili Band in 1976. In 1977 the band won First Place Under 11 in the NY Fleadh at Manhattan College. They travelled to Ireland that August and competed in Fleadh Cheoil Na hEireann at Innis, Co. Clare. In 1977 the band won the All-Ireland Under 11 Championship. Wth the Tara Ceili Band the Garryowen released a record on the Green Linnet Record Label. Their success continued with All-Ireland Championships at Listowel 1978 and Buncrana in 1979 and 1980. At the Buncrana Fleadh Frankie was the drummer for the band.
In 1980 the Garryowen II Ceili Band, including Frankie, took part in a video recorded in the late Martin Mulvihill’s home. Did your Mother come from Ireland? was a documentary written and presented by Conrad Fischer and Mick Moloney for RTE, the Irish national tv broadcasting service, documents the “renaissance of Irish traditional music in NYC during the 1970’s and documents the renewed vitality and growth of this music, after years of dormancy, revealed through performances by second and third generation children of Irish immigrants.”
Frankie graduated from The Bronx High School of Science in 1984 and became a Plumber with Local #2. After a few years in the union he decided that he would try to become a NYC Plumber. He sat for the test, received one of the highest scores, and was immediately hired. In 1993, Frankie married the love of his life, Anna Marie Dineen and they settled in their home in Hawthorne NY. After many years of being an exceptional craftsman Frankie expressed a desire to become one of “New York’s Bravest” and in 1995, with great pride he joined the New York City Fire Department. He had finally found his calling and he absolutely loved being a Firefighter.
On September 18, 1999, Frankie and Anna became the proud parents of a beautiful boy named Kieran. Frankie had always loved children and finally had one of his own. Sadly, he only got to enjoy being a Dad for a mere 10 months. Frankie O’Neill died unexpectedly at age 33 of a heart ailment. His death was devastating to his family and friends. He will always be remembered for his smile, hearty laugh and big heart as well as for his brilliance as a musician. Ar Deis De Go Raibh A Anam.
– Ira Goldman