Jack Connell (1906-1994) took his nickname from his home in Meendurragh, just north of Ballydesmond, known locally as “The Lighthouse”. The village sits at a high point along the Cork/Tralee road, and in days gone by a lantern was indeed kept lit to direct carriages travelling by night. Jack was a celebrated fiddler, teacher, and tune-maker, taught by both Pádraig O’Keeffe and Tom Billy Murphy, as well as a certain “Mrs. Cronin” of Rathmore. His sister Nonie played the melodeon.
Apparently, Pádraig O’Keeffe once told him one should practice daily for 15 minutes, and Jack took it to heart; for nearly his whole life he played, whether at a dance or session or on his own at home. In the 30s and 40s he played for dances in the nearby Clamper dancehall. In later years he took on students and had a lasting influence on the local music community. Dan Herlihy was a pupil, and remembers Jack using O’Keeffe’s accordion tablature with which to teach him. O’Connell provided tunes to Breandán Breathnach who treasured his large and rare repertoire. Along with the usual dance tunes, he was known for his large store of waltzes. Interestingly, though he played and taught the Sliabh Luachra music of O’Keeffe and Murphy, his ideal musician was the legendary East Clare fiddler Paddy Canny. Anytime Canny was heard on the radio conversation with Jack would stop until the tune ran out. “The Lighthouse” is remembered as a good-humored, easy-going man and a patient and thoughtful teacher.