- IE ITMA P00083
Dan was born in Birmingham, England on the 27 March 1945, and was predeceased by his Irish mother Nora Mary (nee Cremin) and Irish-English father, William Milner. During and after World War II his family lived in many other places including Ballybunion, Ireland, Toronto, Canada, as well as Brooklyn and Queens, NY where they became US Citizens. He attended schools in both New York City and in England.
Upon losing his student deferral for not carrying enough college credits, Dan received his draft notice during the Vietnam War era. He promptly signed up for the United States Air Force and served at Travis Air Force Base in California.
After leaving the military, he began working in the airline industry in California and then in New York. He started as a baggage handler, reservation agent, and eventually became a sales manager for two airlines. Coupled with the many moves he made during his childhood; travel became an important part of his life. Working for airline companies led to many spectacular trips around the globe.
He also worked as a National Park Ranger, a cartographer for the Census Bureau and most recently as a professor at St. John’s University in New York City.
The most important passion of his life was his singing. Music was in the family. His mother was a keen set dancer and his father a good singer and piano player. Dan’s first “performance” occurred when as a wee lad he became separated from his family at Coney Island Beach and was brought to the police station. When his mother came roaring into the station, there was Dan on top of one of the desks regaling the Irish cops with song. He narrowly escaped punishment!
A quick student, Dan learned not only his father’s repertoire, but began to absorb the canon of Irish, English, and Scottish traditional folk songs along with a strong dose of sea chanteys. In the United States, he won the Mid-Atlantic Fleadh Cheoil several times and competed in the Fleadh in Ireland twice. He was a renowned and respected singer and collector of Irish songs in the English language.
In the early 1970s he established the Eagle Tavern Folk Club in New York City. He ran weekly concerts there for 10 years attracting the best of traditional singers and musicians from here and abroad. He was a founding member of the acclaimed band, The Flying Cloud, who performed in the USA including the 1977 Philadelphia Folk Festival. Their one, eponymous recording, was with Adelphi Records. In 1983 he published his first book, The Bonnie Bunch of Roses: Songs of England, Ireland & Scotland.
Though work dominated his life at this time, he still kept a hand in music by going to sessions and concerts whenever possible. He met his beloved wife Bonnie at one such session at the Eagle Tavern. They were wed in 1989 and she encouraged him to get back to singing which led to a rich and rewarding life.
Over the years Dan made five CDs: three for Folk Legacy Records – Irish Ballads and Songs of the Sea, Irish in America, and Irish Songs from Old New England and two for Smithsonian Folkways: Civil War Naval Songs and Irish Pirate Ballads and Other Songs of the Sea.
Upon retiring and after a 37-year hiatus from college, Dan decided to go back and received his bachelor’s and master’s degree from Hunter College in New York City. He then pursued and completed his doctorate in American Studies back “home” at the University of Birmingham in England. His doctoral dissertation led to his second book, The Unstoppable Irish: Songs and Integration of the New York Irish, 1783-1883.
Attending the Inishowen Singers weekend in Ballyliffin, Ireland was a fixed highlight on his calendar, along with the Mystic and CT Sea Music Festivals. He and his wife, Bonnie, enjoyed their music and travels together during an incredible lifetime journey.