Patrick O’Keeffe – 53rd Anniversary Today

Patrick O'Keeffe in that evergreen and probably best surviving photograph. It was taken in Lyons' Bar in Scartaglin in 1955.
Patrick O’Keeffe in that evergreen and probably best surviving photograph. It was taken by Liam Clancy in Lyons’ Bar in Scartaglin in 1955.

I didn’t want to let the day go without remembering Patrick O’Keeffe (1887 – 1963) who went to his eternal reward on this day 53 years ago. Patrick is widely credited with being the catalyst behind the survival and ultimate popularity of the music throughout his area.

A gang of us headed off to Kilmurry on a wickedly cold Friday evening to mark his 50th just three years ago.

One of his most accomplished pupils, Paddy Jones remembered his fiddle teacher on that occasion as “A grand old gentleman” and a man who made a huge contribution to the music of Sliabh Luachra.

Paddy’s observations on his teacher can be backed by a paragraph from the late Con Houlihan’s ‘Tributaries’ column in the Evening Press from Wednesday, October 20-1993:

“Of course Patrick liked a drink but I never saw him the worse for it; he was never less than a gentleman; among his many attributes was an intense dislike of bad language.”

“He passed away on a Friday afternoon; I got onto Andreas O Gallchoir in RTE; his passing was on the six o’clock news.

There was a huge attendance at the removal on Saturday evening; the funeral next day was even bigger; admirers came from all parts of Munster and beyond.”

The ‘Tributaries’ page from which I quoted there was Con’s response to a letter from the late Mike Kenny. Mr. Kenny wrote to Con some few weeks earlier wondering if he would give a mention to the first festival in honour of his old friend Patrick O’Keeffe.

He waited for a response – and waited without despairing. It came two days before the festival was due to kick off in the shape of a complete ‘Tributaries’ column about Patrick and Sliabh Luachra in general.

The festival itself got all of three glorious lines in the piece headed: ‘Dancing at Luachra’. We were overjoyed. And boy oh boy was there ported drank for the rest of that evening. May God be good to them all this evening.