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Jack Feeney- Irish-American

posted Mar 6, 2019, 4:33 PM by Bernard O'Hara
The leading Irish-American tenor of his era, John (Jack) Feeney (1903-1967), was born in Swinford, County Mayo, Ireland, on 9 August 1903 (a plaque marks the house on Main Street), the fourth of seven children born to Patrick and Mary. Patrick Feeney, a native from County Leitrim, arrived in Swinford to work for the Kelly family. After marrying their daughter, Mary, in 1892, she inherited the house on Main Street which became their home and the premises for their grocery business. Jack attended the local primary school ran by the Marist Brothers until the age of sixteen.
Like many young men and women of his generation, Jack then emigrated to England, where he joined ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’, working on roads and buildings, including the erection of Wembley Stadium. He was transferred by the company to Dublin, which enabled him to visit Mayo regularly, when he met his future wife, Maura Ruddy (1904-1990) from Ballina. However, he did not see his future in construction, and set sail in June 1928 for the USA. His dream was to receive tuition there for his promising tenor voice and become a professional singer, but his arrival on the eve of ‘the Great Depression’ made life difficult for many years. With his singing talent, he earned a living performing at weddings, socials, and various other functions, before carving out a very successful professional career for himself. He became very popular with the Irish in New York. In 1932, he married Maura, who had followed him to New York. By the 1940s, he was the leading Irish-American tenor of his generation. He recorded fifty 78 rpm records, performed in concerts and films, and became a popular radio presenter in New York.
His biggest hits were When it’s moonlight in Mayo and Galway Bay. An accomplished performer, he entertained full houses regularly in Carnegie Hall in New York with classical recitals, as well as in other leading venues around the United States. He had the honour of singing the Irish and American national anthems prior to the 1947 Kerry and Cavan All-Ireland final, played in the Polo Grounds in New York and broadcast live to Ireland. On visits to Ireland, Jack Feeney sang in the Dublin Theatre Royal, the Olympia, the Cork Opera House, Swinford, Ballina and other venues. He and his wife returned to Ballina in 1964, when she inherited the family business, Hugh Ruddy and Co., mineral water manufacturers. After a slight accident and suffering a heart attack, he died at Lough Talt, near Tobercurry, County Sligo, on 22 December 1967. To mark the centenary of his birth in 2003, a re-mastered selection of John Feeney’s recordings on CDs and a booklet on his life were launched by Harry Bradshaw of RTÉ. Jack Feeney is regarded by many as second only to the great John McCormack (1884-1945) as a tenor.
The print version of Bernard O’Hara’s book Exploring Mayo can be obtained by contacting also sell the print versions of Killasser - Heritage of a Mayo Parish , Anseo and Davitt.
Bernard O'Hara's book entitled Killasser: Heritage of a Mayo Parish is now on sale in the USA and UK as a paperback book at, or Barnes and Noble
It is also available as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from and (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from (Nook tablet and eReader).
An earlier publication, a concise biography of Michael Davitt, entitled Davitt by Bernard O’Hara published in 2006 by Mayo County Council , is now available as Davitt: Irish Patriot and Father of the Land League by Bernard O’Hara, which was published in the USA by Tudor Gate Press ( and is available from and It can be obtained as an eBook from the Apple iBookstore (for reading on iPad and iPhone), from and (Kindle & Kindle Fire) and from (Nook tablet and eReader).