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Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival

Patrick O’Keeffe Remembered 50 years on

October 25th–28th, 2013

This year’s, Castleisland, Co. Kerry based Patrick O’Keeffe Traditional Music Festival will come of age and celebrate its annual outing and 21st birthday in one. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the man it honours. There was a special gathering at Kilmurry Cemetery on Friday evening, February 22nd last and in several warmer places in Castleisland afterwards.

Historically special in that it was the 50th anniversary of the death of Patrick O’Keeffe and the 30 or so hardy souls who gathered there braved a biting, easterly breeze. The event was attended by the oldest surviving pupil of the great man, Paddy Cronin and probably the youngest, Paddy Jones. Both spoke about the man they remember – the man most of the rest of us there only heard of and read about. While Paddy Cronin rightly observed that the late Patrick O’Keeffe wouldn’t delay the drops of whiskey, which Cormac O’Mahony filled for the attendance on the evening, the same could be said for those at his graveside as the bitter cold sunk in. Paddy Jones remembered his fiddle teacher 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 20th, 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 here 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. 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 1,500 or so word piece headed Dancing at Luachra. We were overjoyed. And boy oh boy was there ported drank for the rest of that evening.

On that Friday evening in Kilmurry the musicians among us stood and played to a reverential silence for the man who had departed this world on that afternoon 50 years ago to the day. Local man, Jimmy Cullinane who had, earlier in the day, put a covering of limestone chips on the grave, recited a poem he had composed about Patrick O’Keeffe’s life and times.

This year’s festival will be held in Castleisland, Co. Kerry over the October bank holiday weekend from Friday 25th to Monday 28th inclusive.

For more information visit the website

Permalink - Posted: July 30, 2013 at 12:55 pm