Maureen O'Looney Collection
Born Maureen Staunton on February 8, 1922 in Bohola, Co. Mayo, Maureen O’Looney was one of Chicago’s most renowned and beloved Irish figures. A passionate devotee of Irish games, politics, and music, O’Looney also helped thousands of newly arrived Irish immigrants find employment, accommodations, and support.
The daughter of an IRA fighter and a shopkeeper, O’Looney worked for a couple months in England before deciding to visit her aunt in Chicago in October of 1953. Traveling from Southampton on the Queen Elizabeth, she was supposed to stay for a three week vacation. Instead, she made Chicago her new home, married, had a daughter, and worked for United Airlines for a short time before starting her own business.
O’Looney’s shop located at 3150 N. Laramie Ave., Shamrock Imports, opened in 1967 and sold Aran sweaters, Irish tweed, and imported Irish food and music for 44 years. She used the store as a way to help new Irish immigrants to Chicago, assisting them in finding jobs and housing. She also gave assistance to those wanting to become citizens and even allowed visitors to stay in her home rent free until they found lodging.
Maureen O’Looney was also active in the early formation of Chicago’s Gaelic Athletic Association. She played camogie while growing up and played in Chicago with Erin’s Own Hurling Club. O’Looney was a founding member of Chicago Gaelic Park.
Politically active, O’Looney was a founder of Irish Northern Aid in Chicago and the Irish National Caucus Chicago Chapter. She helped lobby US Congress to reform immigration laws and helped to establish the Irish American Heritage Center, Emerald Society of Illinois, and the Chicago Irish Immigrant Support where she was an honorary life board member. She also helped organize and operate 169 benefits for various charities and Irish organizations.
Starting in 1972 and continuing for nearly 40 years, O’Looney hosted the American Irish Radio Network program, first on Chicago’s WXRT and later on WSBC-AM. She played the latest Irish music releases as well as providing Irish news to her audience. She felt the radio show was a service for the public. O’Looney kept an open door for musicians visiting Chicago as well, visiting and playing for the family during their stays on tour.
Maureen O’Looney passed away on August 20, 2014.
Maureen O'Looney Collection
Maureen O’Looney’s collection of audio recordings consists of recordings used for her radio program and includes 119 78 rpm discs and 620 LPs. The collection represents a broad range of Irish music, including recordings of Irish traditional music, Irish American recordings of the 1930s and 1940s, as well as a large selection of folk and ballad recordings.
Maureen O'Looney Interview
78 RPM Discs
The O'Looney Collection's 78 rpm discs represent a broad range of Irish music recordings produced in the United States from the early 1920s through the 1950s. Recordings from traditional musicians like Paddy Cronin and Michael Coleman are present alongside popular tenors of the time such as Connie Foley and Theo Karle. Quite a few of the discs were recorded on the Copley label, including recordings from the McNulty Family and Joe Derrane.
The O’Looney collection of LPs has 620 Lps that range mostly from the 1960s through the 1980s. The collection is varied with many albums from Ireland and from the U.S. There are many of the popular artists during this time such as The Chieftains, The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, and The Wolfe Tones. The collection does have some unique albums from Chicago and from other artists in Ireland. Strong emphasis on the Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann recordings and, of course, any recording with even a hint of rebellious content.
Many of the albums have stickers on them with the Shamrock Imports details:
In one particular LP, the band dedicated the album to Maureen and her daughter, Theresa. The album was by the Tinkers Dam and titled Do Ye Good & Help Ye Too, on the front cover they also included a secondary title of “O’Looney’s Irish Sausage.” The inside note reads:
During a recent engagement in Chicago, Illinois, we were fortunate enough to meet Mrs. Maureen O’Looney and her daughter, Theresa – owners of Shamrock Imports on Laramie Street. For their kindness and hospitality, we dedicate this album.
The Tinkers Dam
LP Cover Examples
MOL LP 00-002: The Little Thatched Cabin by Tom Madden and Frank Warren
MOL LP 00-003: Glad To Be Here by The Rambling Boys of Pleasure
MOL LP 00-004: Live at the Fairways Hotel
MOL LP 00-005: From Ireland by Big Tom and the Mainliners
MOL LP 00-006: H-Block: An Album In Support of Political Prisoners Rights In Long Kesh and Armagh Womens Gaol
MOL LP 00-007: The Green Groves of Erin Comhaltas Tour of 1981
MOL LP 00-008: The Immortal Harry Lauder
MOL LP 00-009: Stars On Solo Volume 1
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.
Maureen O'Looney's Appearance with Conan O'Brien