The Late Maurice O’Keeffe, Musician, Kiskeam, Co. Cork.

The late Maurice O'Keeffe pictured at the Ivy Leaf Art Centre on the occasion of his Patrick O'Keeffe festival award in 2007. ©Photograph: John Reidy 28/10/2007
The late Maurice O’Keeffe pictured at the Ivy Leaf Art Centre on the occasion of his Patrick O’Keeffe festival award in 2007. ©Photograph: John Reidy 28/10/2007

The death has occurred of Maurice O’Keeffe, Musician, Glounreigh, Kiskeam, Cork. Maurice passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his loving family in his 98th year. Beloved husband of the late Peg and father of the late Jeremiah. Deeply regretted by his sons: Francis, Denjoe and Christy, daughters: Maura, Sheila, Eileen and Margaret, brother John, sister Julie, daughters-in-law, sons-in-law, brother-in-law Dermot, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews, nieces, relatives, neighbours and his many friends.

May He Rest In Peace.

Maurice achieved a degree of fame in the late 1960s when, as a Cork County Council road ganger he was filmed playing the fiddle on the side of the road during a tea break with his men. Of more sustainable fame for Maurice though was his undoubted gift for the music of his locality and his generosity with the dispersal of the many tunes he had gathered and learned.

Honour All Round

It was a case of honour all round in 2007 when Maurice O’Keeffe agreed to his nomination for the Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Award.

The award is presented annually at the October bank holiday festival in Castleisland and to people who have given outstanding service to the music of Sliabh Luachra.

Maurice O’Keeffe was blessed with the kind of good health that kept him playing music with the zip and zest of a 16-year-old.

Accepting the award in 2007, the 88 year-old Kiskeam native was genuinely moved after being presented with award for his contribution to the music of the Sliabh Luachra area.

Legendary Generosity

In making the presentation festival founder, Peter Browne told of Maurice’s legendary generosity with the music he passed on to so many players who made the journey to his home for that purpose. During his appraisal of Maurice’s worth to the area Mr. Browne played a piece of crystal clear fiddle music from a recording made with Maurice at Dan O’Connell’s Pub in Knocknagree in 1992.

We were then treated to a solo from Maurice before he and his fellow musicians, Emma O’Leary, Gerry Harrington, Paddy Jones, Mick Culloty, Eileen O’Keeffe (granddaughter) and Aoife Desmond lit the place with the selection of polkas and hornpipes.

Thanked the Audience

After the presentation, while holding aloft his well earned statuette, Mr. O’Keeffe thanked the audience and the festival organisers for thinking of him.

“This is something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life,” he said to a standing ovation from the packed theatre.

In the famed kitchen off Lyons’ Bar in Scartaglin during World Fiddle Day 2014, Maurice knocked wonderful music from an old fiddle once played by Patrick O’Keeffe – no relation.

Rub of the Bow

This was in the course of a talk by Nicky McAuliffe on the making of The Star above the Garter LP. As he showed the restored fiddle to the packed room he spotted Maurice and handed him the precious instruments. What’s that they say about the touch of the master’s hand.

Maurice gave her a rub of the bow across the belly and that was that as fiddles nestled under chins and bows sprang into action until closing time – or thereabouts.

May God be good to him.

Funeral Arrangements

Reposing at Casey’s Funeral Home, Kiskeam on Thursday evening from 6p.m. to 8p.m. followed by removal to the Church of the Sacred Heart, Kiskeam. Requiem Mass on Friday at 12 noon followed by burial in the local cemetery. Date Published: Wednesday 22nd March 2017 Date of Death: Wednesday 22nd March 2017

The Old Violin

‘Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.

“What am I bid, good people”, he cried,
“Who starts the bidding for me?”
“One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?”
“Two dollars, who makes it three?”
“Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,”

But, No,
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said “What now am I bid for this old violin?”
As he held it aloft with its’ bow.

“One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?”
“Two thousand, Who makes it three?”
“Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone”, said he.

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
“We just don’t understand.”
“What changed its’ worth?”
Swift came the reply.
“The Touch of the Masters Hand.”

“And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with hardship
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.

But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters’ Hand.


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