Beckett, Walter Keohler (1914–96), composer, musician, and writer, was born 27 July 1914 in Dublin, youngest of four children of James Walter Beckett (qv), building contractor and TD, and Elizabeth Ethel Beckett (née Keller). He was educated at Avoca School, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, and Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh. He studied piano under Lily Huban at the Read School of Pianoforte, Dublin, and organ under George Hewson (qv) at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin, graduating Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music in piano teaching (1934), Associate of the Royal College of Organists (1936), Mus.B. (Dubl.) (1936), and Mus.D. (Dubl.) (1947). He enjoyed a varied career: organist at St Canice's cathedral, Kilkenny (1940s), conductor of the Dublin Operatic Society and the Dublin Musical Society, music critic of the Irish Times (1944–52), and teacher in schools and colleges in Ireland, England, and Italy. After winning a scholarship from the Italian government to study conducting in Rome (1953), he moved to Venice where he spent twelve years from the late 1950s; he taught English at the Scuola Navale and was commissioned to write orchestral and vocal arrangements of traditional Irish music for the Radio Éireann Light Orchestra and Singers. After a period in England, during which he was head of music at Ullathorne Boys Grammar School, Coventry, and conducted the Leamington Spa Bach choir, he returned to Ireland in the 1960s and taught music at the Holy Faith Convent, Glasnevin, Dublin, and at the College of Music, Dublin, before being appointed professor of harmony and counterpoint at the RIAM (1973–85). His works include ‘Suite for orchestra’ (1945), ‘String quartet no. 1’ (1980), ‘Piano preludes’ (1942–80), ‘Golden hair’, a song cycle to words by James Joyce (qv) (1980), ‘Organ voluntary’ (1987), and the ‘Dublin symphony’ (1990); his music has been described as diatonic, romantic, and impressionistic in idiom. He wrote Liszt (1956), which became a standard text, and First harmony course (1975), and contributed to Humphrey Searle's Ballet music: an introduction (1958) and the German encyclopaedia Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (1979). He was elected a member of Aosdana (1986) and FRIAM (1990).
He was a member of a family of notable literary and musical figures which included Samuel Beckett (qv) (their fathers were cousins); John Beckett, a founder of Musica Riservata and an expert on early music, and Edward Beckett, flautist, were his second cousins. A keen sailor, he won many prizes and (with his brother David) won a cup for sailing round Ireland. He died 3 April 1996 and is buried in Rathnew cemetery, Co. Wicklow. He married (1960) Hylda J. Madden, singer; they had one daughter, Elisabeth.