Reflections on Daniel J. Hannon, immigrant, composer

And the ticket cost all of a dollar!

By Conor Doolan

Daniel J.Hannon, the composer of "My Native Brosna Town" was born a hundred years ago today, on October 7, 1920.

He was raised from a young age in Brosna, County Kerry. His parents were David Hannon and Deborah Sheahan. Young Daniel attended Knockaclarig National School and was renowned as being very bright. Daniel had four siblings, Ned, Thomas, Sonny and Betty.

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His father worked for the Forestry Commission but died suddenly at the age of 40 in 1938.

His mother was caretaker of Knockaclarig Church. Daniel worked as a farm laborer and as a road worker for Kerry County Council. In August, 1948 Daniel made his way to Cobh, County Cork, where like many others he boarded a steam ship bound for New York. Uncles from both sides of his family had emigrated there in a previous generation.

Daniel held a number of odd jobs when he first arrived in the Big Apple. This included working at the Bronx Terminal Market loading trucks. He lived in Highbridge and later near Bainbridge Avenue.

For many years, Dan was employed as a bus driver for the 5th Avenue Coach Company in Manhattan based at 100th Street depot on Lexington Avenue.

His uncles were trade union men and he became very friendly with Mike Quill, the president of the Transport Workers Union. In 1956, Daniel married Margaret "Peggy" Guerin of Kilcummin, Killarney.

They were married in St.Frances De Sales Church in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Daniel and Peggy would raise a family of ten children.

After Daniel emigrated he started writing folk songs including "My Killarney Mountain Rose" and "Dear Old Rockchapel Town." In 1957, his most well-known composition "My Native Brosna Town," was recorded by the O’Neill’s on the Dublin Records label.

One of Daniel's most famous charitable interventions made the front page of the Sunday News (Daily News) on December 5th, 1958.

Daniel had met Catherine Traynor from Galway in Highbridge. Mrs. Traynor immigrated to the United States to provide for her family whom she had to leave behind.

Her daughter was a nun in South Africa whom she had not seen in nearly forty years. Daniel organized a fundraiser with the cooperation of the Kerrymen’s Association at Gaelic Park in an effort to reunite them.

The Daily News reported that $1,800.00 was raised on October 11, 1958. Mrs. Traynor and Sister St.Dennis were pictured at Idlewild International Airport, New York (later renamed JFK) with Dan beside them.

Daniel was also involved in the running of a bar in the Bronx called The Irish Village. He was a good matchmaker and often found employment for fellow immigrants. Dan organized group outings from The Irish Village, including an excursion to Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. Daniel and his daughter, Kathleen, placed a wreath at grave of President John F. Kennedy in 1964.

Daniel was involved with two GAA Clubs in the Bronx, firstly with Highbridge Harps, and later the Fordham Shamrocks. In 1988, Brosna GAA held a dance at Gaelic Park to raise funds to develop their grounds at Pairc na Féile. Jimmy O’Keefe and Dan were the guests of honor. It was at this time that Daniel donated the Con Carey Cup to Brosna GAA.

Daniel J.Hannon passed away on October 26, 1989. He was waked at Fox’s Funeral Home and his funeral mass was held at St.Philip Neri Church in the Bronx. His obituary was written by his friend John Byrne and featured in the Irish Echo. Dan’s wife, Peggy, passed away on August 24, 2018. Peggy’s final resting place is beside her loving husband Daniel and their son John, in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, NY.

In June 2000, the Millenium Festival was held in Daniel's honor in his native Brosna. In 2014, Brosna GAA won the Junior All-Ireland Club Football Final. They marked the pinnacle of their footballing history by playing of "My Native Brosna Town" as the final whistle blew in Croke Park.

Three folk festivals have been held in recent years (2016, 2017 and 2019) to commemorate Dan’s dedication to charitable causes, Irish culture, and folk music.

During the most recent festival a memorial was unveiled to a large gathering of family, friends and neighbors in the Square at Brosna.

In these uncertain times, it is hard to say when the folk festival will return but to mark the centenary of Daniel J.Hannon’s birth a website for the folk festival has now gone online. For more information visit www.danhannonfolkfest.com.