Julia Clifford

Julia Clifford (June 19, 1914 – June 18, 1997) was born at Lisheen, Gneeveguilla, County Kerry, one of eight Murphy children. Her father Bill played flute, fife, and fiddle and had a fife and drum band. At a young age she picked up the fiddle and showed much promise, and she was sent to be taught by Pádraig O’Keeffe. Perhaps because she learned from him very early on in her development, she is thought to have absorbed and assimilated Pádraig’s style more than any of his pupils. Julia emigrated to Scotland and then London and in 1941 married accordion player John Clifford, also from Sliabh Luachra. Over the years they traveled back and forth between London and Ireland. She recorded extensively in many combinations with her husband, her son Billy, and with her brother Denis. Though she is often overshadowed by Denis’ reputation and more flashy style, she was a true torchbearer of the O’Keeffe style, as well as having her own unique take on the music, and she is rightly considered one of the greats of this music.

Learned from: Pádraig O’Keeffe

Taught: Billy Clifford

Played with: Denis Murphy, Johnny O’Leary, John Clifford


Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford star above the garter 300  Julia and Billy Clifford Ceol as Sliabh Luachra 300  Julia and John Clifford The Humours of Lisheen 300  The Star of Munster Trio 300 Kerry Fiddles 300

More resources:

Snippets of field recordings

In her own words

Alan Ward’s pamphlet about Sliabh Luachra music, with a section on The Waivers and Cliffords

In 2019, Katie Howson organized an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime event honoring Julia’s music, called As I Looked East and I Looked West”. Lot’s of interesting material here: https://katiehowson.co.uk/i-looked-east-and-i-looked-west and on the Facebook page.

One of the great things to come out of that event was this website hosting a huge treasure trove of intimate and informal recordings of Julia playing through her repertoire for the purpose of teaching tunes. You could spend a loooong time here: https://www.juliaclifford.eu/

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