Francis O’Neill is an Australian with a ‘royal’ Irish heritage. She is now working on a musical based on the story of an Irish girl and Spanish captain set in the 16th century. Here she tells us why she wrote it.
I have never felt “Australian “. This is probably due to being raised by Scotch/Irish parents. Music was a part of my feeling different. My family still sing together, no families I know do this.
Having no extended family, my mother thought it important to tell stories of her family, childhood and youth. She wanted me to be grateful, for her childhood was tumultuous and dangerous, mine was youthful, naïve and safe. So I came to understand why she left Scotland.
One day she mentioned incredulously that her violent, alcoholic father used to say that she should walk proudly and properly as she was of royal blood. Oh! Doesn’t every girl want to be a princess? This piqued my interest in the O’Rourkes.
I had become interested in my father’s side when I was sent “home” to visit. My first experience of what it is to be a McGinnis was an English army officer, upon hearing my last name abruptly turning his back on me. Perplexed, I told my cousin who asked: “Don’t you know who you are?” I am a white Australian, but here I was black Irish. I came to know myself as half terrorist, half royal.
Studying opera I became passionate about writing one, and whilst researching the O’Rourkes I found an event that excited me: the 1588 wreckage of some of Philip of Spain’s fleet off the West coast of Ireland. The story explained the Spanish characteristics in my family, and the reason such a noble clan ended up broken in Scotland. At its heart it is a story that many indigenous people share. It pays homage to people who fight for freedom and the Irish spirit.
When I started writing the opera it came naturally as if it were emerging from my bones. I felt that it was being whispered in my ear and for five months I worked like a woman possessed.
After four years of working on it, (during holidays) it is finished and I am crowdfunding to get it to showcase. I am asking for a fair amount, but as far as musicals go it’s a pittance. Please support this project, and remember lots of little amounts will add up. What better time than the year of “The Gathering”?
Read my blurb, watch my promo video, get to know my team and listen to some of the tracks.