Mrs Elizabeth Crotty (1885-1960)

24 November 2006, 10:11 PM GMT

Mrs Elizabeth Crotty was born in Cooraclare, West Clare in 1885 - the year in which the first sod of famous West Clare Railway was turned. Her maiden name was Markham, a very large family. At school she was a member of the choir and also seems to have had access to a piano. Her parents and neighbours all spoke Irish but Lizzie did not, just like all the youngsters in her area. Her mother played the fiddle and Lizzie started practising on her sisters’ concertina - the 2 row German make which were very common instruments in all homes at that time, because they were cheap to buy; they were the press/draw types so that each button sounded two distinct notes.

In 1914 Lizzie married a neighbour Miko Crotty and they had a pub in Kilrush - all but one of her brothers and sisters emigrated - she bought a gramophone and 78’s. She made occasional visits to Dublin for health reasons and joined up with Mrs Kathleen Harrington (fiddle) for Radio Éireann recordings and regularly visited the Pipers’ Club in Thomas Street and attended the Oireachtas Competitions.

She was a founder member of CCÉ in Co. Clare in 1954, becoming its first president for life. Now she visited fleadhanna cheoil, never entered competitions but was listening so as to broaden her repertoire and noting various styles. Also Ciarán Mac Mathúna visited Kilrush and did some recordings on various occasions during the 50’s. Lizzie never did commercial recordings and we are fortunate that her music has survived through Radio Éireann outside recordings. She died rather suddenly on the 27th of December, 1960 - The West Clare, Clare Railway closed permanently one month later!! Her memory is perpetuated annually with the Éigse Mrs Crotty weekend in Kilrush; a CCÉ branch in USA is called the Crotty-Doran; perpetual trophies are presented at competitions in CCÉ and Oireachtas.

Her Music

Mrs Crotty was entirely self taught, didn’t read nor write Staff Notation nor Tonic Solfa but she committed a tune to paper by giving each key a number and having a sign put over it depicting press or draw. She had an unique style, not very ornamented but she played with great clarity with life and rhythm. She also used a technique of playing the high part of the tune in double octaves. Her “Signature tunes” which made her famous were two reels - “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” and “The Reel with the Beryl”.

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