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Researchers into the history of Irish traditional music in New York in the 1920s and 1930s owe a great debt to James Hayden, a flute-playing immigrant from Ballyraggett, County Kilkenny whose column in The Advocate (the only New York Irish weekly easily available online via provide a detailed chronicle of the Irish music scene of his era. Hayden also had a radio program on station WARD, (later on WEVD) and managed a performing troupe known as the Advocate Players, who staged shows in parish halls and theatres in all the Irish neighbourhoods of New York and nearby New Jersey.

The Advocate of 26th November, 1932 printed a formal group portrait of Hayden’s Players in the build-up to a “monster radio show” at St. Vincent Ferrer’s auditorium on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The performers included some of the most popular and well-known Irish singers, musicians, and dancers of the day. Tommy Hill, a champion step dancer for whom Michael Coleman named a set of hornpipes, poses with a cummerbund full of medals. The McNulty Family – Ann (“Ma”), Eileen and Pete – smile broadly, as does young Eddie Dunne, Jnr., a precocious banjo player who recorded with Frank Quinn. The girls on the floor include both Hayden’s daughters, Dorothy and Ann and Tommy Hill’s, Dorothy and Rita. Dorothy Hayden would go on to succeed her father as a radio host for decades, and to serve as the first female grand marshal of the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.