Virtual Music Trail

Elizabeth Crotty

Kilrush, County Clare
Concertina

Elizabeth Crotty was born Elizabeth Markham in Gower, Cooraclare on the 6th December 1885. Her family were  small farmers and she grew up in a house filled with traditional music. Her mother was an excellent fiddle player, having learned from a travelling blind fiddler called Schooner Breen who had settled in Kilmacduane in the Parish of Cooraclare. However as a child Elizabeth did not play the fiddle but instead followed her older sister Maggie by playing the Anglow concertina. She perfected her own style while playing at local house dances with her mother  and sister.

In 1914 Elizabeth married her neighbour Miko Crotty who owned a public house in the Square in Kilrush and moved into the town. Over the years she achieved a local reputation for her playing but it was not until the 1940s and 1950s that her fame began to spread beyond West Clare as the Crotty public house attracted the cream of musicians from around the country.

After the founding of Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann in 1951, Elizabeth became active in the Clare branch and was elected its first President, a position she held until her death . Mrs. Crotty (as she was always referred to outside of her own area) began to make appearances at the newly instituted Fleadhanna Cheoil, although she never took part in competitions or adjudication.

While she never made commercial recordings we are fortunate that her music and songs were recorded by Ciarán Mac Mathúna for the Radio Éireann programme ‘A Job of Journeywork’. These broadcasts earned her nation-wide recognition as a virtuoso on her Lachenel concertina.

Elizabeth Crotty died at the height of her fame at the age of  75 on 27th December 1960. In a tribute in The Irish Times journalist John Healy wrote “Today a seat is empty and the throne is vacant. It will not be filled for many a year nor will it ever be filled with quite the dignity that Mrs. Crotty of Kilrush brought to it.”
The Copperplate - Reel - Elizabeth Crotty
Elizabeth Crotty
Elizabeth Crotty