Jacqueline was born in London to Irish parents who had emigrated to England in the early 1950s. She grew up listening to traditional music, her father Tommy McCarthy being a piper and concertina player from Kilmihil, Co. Clare. She played with all the legendary players from Ireland who were living in London. Musicians like Máirtín Byrnes, Raymond Roland, Roger Sherlock, Danny Meehan, Paddy Taylor and Bobby Casey were all part of a thriving music scene that Jacqueline experienced first hand. She also recalls meeting John Kelly and Willie Clancy during frequent visits to Ireland.
With her father Tommy, sisters Marion and Bernadette and brother Tommy, Jacqueline performed throughout Ireland and the UK - including The Royal Albert Hall, London. She was a member of The Sergeant Early Band who performed traditional music for a contemporary ballet production Sergeant Early"s Dream by the London-based Rambert Dance Company. This association goes back to 1985 and has taken her to Poland, Egypt, Greece, Jordan, Zambia, and all over the U.K.. Since 1987 she has been living in Co. Galway where she teaches concertina. She is a regular performer at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Co. Clare and has toured the U.S. on several occasions with her husbandTommy Keane. In 1995 they released an album "The Wind Among the Reeds". She is a member of Maigh Seola a group who specialise in songs collected in North County Galway at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1999 she released "The Hidden Note" featuring the McCarthy family, Tommy Keane and Alec Finn.