Musicians of Sliabh Luachra: (Courtesy of The Knotted Chord Archive).
Denis Murphy(1910-1974) Fiddle.
Born in Lisheen, Gneeveguilla, on the Kerry side of the area which makes up the Sliabh Luachra region(which runs along the Cork/Kerry border). His family was immersed in tradition which included storytelling and singing as well as music. Denis was the second youngest of eight. His father Bill could play several instruments and was a leading member of the Lisheen Fife and Drum Band, and his mother was a singer. Julia(Clifford), famed along with her brother, described her father as ‘stone mad for music’ and all the Murphy children player some instrument. Another brother of Denis’, Dan, played with Paddy Killoran and James Morrison in New York in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Sessions were held regularly in the house. Denis learnt his first tunes from his father and later went along with his sister Julia to learn from the fiddle master Patrick O’Keeffe in Glountane. Patrick would also be a regular visitor to the house.
Denis and Julia began to play regularly for dances along with the likes of Patrick, Din Tarrant, Dan O’Leary and Johnny O’Leary(who was to become a playing partner of Denis’).
Denis married(Julia Mary Sheehan) in 1942 and they emigrated to New York in 1949 where they remained on and off until 1965. While in America Denis played with Andy McGann, Paddy Killoran and Ladd O’Beirne among others and also made some ’78’s. Returning to Lisheen in 1965 Denis was straight back into the music scene which now included Fleadhanna Cheoil. He also developed a friendship with Sean O’Riada who was a great admirer of Denis’ music.
The same year as Denis returned Dan O’Connell’s pub in Knocknagree started set dancing on Sunday nights. Denis and Johnny O’Leary provided the music for the nine years until his death and established the venue as an institution which Johnny himself has maintained to the present time.
RTE produced a cd of his music "Denis Murphy – Music from Sliabh Luachra" in 1994 which was taken from recordings made from 1948 to1969 by Seamus Ennis, Ciaran MacMathuna and Aindrias O’Gallachoir. He also has a recording on the Claddagh label with his sister Julia titled "The Star above the garter: Fiddle music from Kerry played by Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford". Two 45 minute radio documentaries (RTE radio 1 1995) tell his full life story.(DH)
You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.