Danny “Ab” O’Keeffe

Danny Ab O’Keeffe (1846-?) lived in Tureencahill, not far from the Murphys of Lisheen. He played the flute and whistle and was known to lilt a tune as well. He may have got his music directly from Tom Billy Murphy, or perhaps indirectly through his mother who could have been a Tom Billy pupil herself. He was a frequent visitor to the Weavers’, and a young Denis and Julia could get him to teach them tunes from his unique repertoire in exchange for endless cups of tea.

Johnny O’Leary remembered him: “He was a small little man that lived alone above, up the road from Denis Murphy. Danny Ab, he used to do a bit of mending in clothes. That’s how he lived, the poor man. Danny Ab, and he was an awful man for music. He never played. He had a bit on the tin whistle all right. He could start the tunes on a tin whistle. But, Jesus Christ, when Denis Murphy and them got to know him right, they followed lots of his tunes, and Art O’Keeffe the same way. He’d the nicest slides that was ever. Handed down to him. Seemingly his mother’s people used play. She was supposed to be a Welsh woman. But she had all traditional tunes. And ’tis she handed them over to him. […] I declare to Christ he started diddling the tunes and Denis above one day. And Denis said, ‘Where did you get that one Danny?’ ‘I have a share of them’, he says to Denis. And Denis started at him. Denis went up with the fiddle the following evening. Sure he got the world of slides from him, man. He called three or four of them Danny Ab’s slides.”

Click here to view the 1911 census form for the O’Keeffe household in Tooreencahill. I’ll admit to some confusion as to which of these is The Danny Ab–it seems more likely to be the senior. He would be about 80 at the time Denis and Julia might have been getting tunes from him. The Dan O’Keeffe listed as his grandson would have been of the same generation as the young Murphys.

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