Elisabeth Crotty

(08/01/1886 - 27/12/1960)

Elizabeth Crotty, widely known as Mrs. Crotty (née Markham; December 6, 1885 – December 27, 1960), was a highly respected traditional Irish concertina player. Crotty Avenue, Walkinstown is named after her.

Born in Gower, Cooraclare, West Clare, she came from a family of small farmers who surrounded her with music from an early age. Her mother played the fiddle, having learned from a travelling blind fiddler named the Schooner Breen, while her sister Maggie played the concertina. The Markham family played for local events like house dances, weddings, and christenings, contributing to the local music scene.

In 1914, Elizabeth married Miko Crotty, a neighbour who had spent time in America. Upon his return, they ran a public house in the Square in Kilrush. Mrs. Crotty’s journey to musical prominence began in the 1950s when her fame spread, notably due to recording sessions held in her house by Ciarán MacMathuna and RTÉ. Her unique playing style, characterised by rhythmic clarity, was especially suited for dancers, making her two most popular tunes, “The Wind that Shakes the Barley” and “The Reel with the Beryl,” stand out.

Despite being unable to read or write conventional musical notation, Mrs. Crotty developed her own method, assigning each key a number and using symbols to indicate press or draw movements. Her favoured instrument was a Lachenal concertina, particularly the one with the serial number 134,999 that she acquired in the 1950s.

Mrs. Crotty’s fame coincided with the rise of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, a movement she actively participated in. She was elected President of the County Board, a position she held until her death in 1960. Despite suffering from severe angina, she remained dedicated to her musical activities and played a key role in the success of various Fleadhanna held in County Clare.

In addition to her contributions to traditional music, Mrs. Crotty’s interactions with other musicians, such as Mrs. Harrington, reflected her love for the camaraderie within the traditional music community. Although she didn’t participate in competitions, her impact was recognised, and RTÉ included one of her recordings, “Geary’s Reel,” in an LP commemorating fifty years of Irish radio.

Mrs. Elizabeth Crotty passed away on December 27, 1960, as a result of an anginal attack. She left a lasting legacy in Irish traditional music, and her memory is perpetuated annually through the Éigse Mrs Crotty weekend in Kilrush. The Crotty Galvin Traditional Weekend continues to celebrate her influence, and her music can be heard on recordings like “Concertina Music from West Clare” (1999, RTÉ).

Person Photo
Connection with area: Concertina player who Crotty Avenue, Walkinstown is named after.