About Us

Life and Music 

Maurice O’ Keeffe (September 5, 1919- March 22, 2017) was born and lived all his life in Glounreigh between Ballydesmond and Kiskeam in County Cork.  Maurice had ten brothers and sisters. He was a child of Francis O’ Keeffe and Mary O’ Connell (Molly Morrissey , Glencollins). 

His mother, Mary O’ Keeffe was an accomplished concertina and melodeon player from a noted musical family from nearby Glencollins, and she made sure to get young Maurice and his siblings started early on the music. When Maurice was 10 years old his mother purchased a fiddle for him from a shop in Ballydeswmond and arranged for lessons with John Linehan was a renowned teacher and performer from Glounreigh who had been a student of Corney Drew. By the time Maurice started lessons with him Linehan was quite aged, and indeed it seems Maurice was his last pupil. Nevertheless, the lessons were productive and imbued Maurice was a style and repertoire that would serve him well throughout his long life. When Linehan passed away, Maurice continued lessons with his mother, and no doubt absorbed considerable music from the maternal family. Frequent house parties, at the O’ Keeffe home and those of neighbors, guaranteed plenty of opportunity for Maurice to hone his craft.

Maurice married Peg in 1947 and lived in the same house Maurice was born and reared, in Glounreigh. Together they then reared eight children. Four girls and four boys. Maurice taught some of his children to play the box.  Maurice and Peg were always welcoming to any visitor that called to the house. A fond memory that their children have growing up in the home was that there were always musicians visiting their house. Maurice and Peg welcomed 16 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great grandchild. Maurice loved children and was always “diddling” tunes and loved to see them dancing to his tunes. The tradition carries on within the grandchildren and great grandchildren as many of them play musical instruments including the fiddle.  

Maurice came from a musical family, Maurice had said in an interview that his mother always heard him “diddling and whistling” from the age of 6 years old. This resulted in Maurice’s mom buying him his first fiddle when he was ten years old. His mother Molly, bought his fiddle from a shop in Ballydesmond (KingWilliamstown) for ten pence. Maurice took lessons from John Linehan who was a renowed teacher from Glounreigh. Maurice was John Linehan’s last student. John called out the notes for Maurice to write down on paper to learn. This served Maurice well as he was still able to recite tunes he learnt in his early years as a musician by letter further on in life. Maurice carried on this way of teaching, when giving tunes to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  When Linehan passed away, Maurice continued lessons with his mother. As his skill progressed he was often called to play at the dance halls which dotted the countryside at that time.  Pub sessions became popular when the dance halls died out and Maurice found himself playing in many pubs around the Sliabh Luachra area, a pub that he frequently played in was Dan O’ Connells in Knocknagree. His talent as a musician was undeniable, but his true legacy is that of a tirelessly enthusiastic champion of the local musical tradition. He was known to always have an encouraging word for anyone interested in pursuing the tradition, and he would often record cassette tapes in his kitchen for friends and acquaintances, playing from his repertoire of rare and interesting tunes from his old fiddle master, along with various tidbits about the music and its history. He had a vast store of polkas and slides, as well as jigs and hornpipes, with reels following in a distant last place, as they did for many musicians of his region and generation. He generously shared these with any and all, and there must be scores of these tapes scattered all over the globe.