O’Sullivan’s John

There’s no fool like an old fool, they say, so what happens when a bunch of oul’ coots gather together to make music? The next batch of posts may enlighten you as to the question just posed and may also, perhaps, enrage or entertain. Anything’s better than a yawn, I guess. And everything that is not that bloody virus is a plus. At the moment we can’t meet as a group, as we are in lockdown, so I have set out a version of songs that are in our repertoire but which have not yet been recorded. With any luck (and, as three of us are north of 70, we’ll need it!) we will be able to resume our normal practice of meeting weekly and playing tunes, singing songs and generally enjoying the crack.

Patrick “Pecker” Dunne (1 April 1933 – 19 December 2012]) was an Irish musician and seanchaí. [storyteller]

Dunne was born in Castlebar, County Mayo, “in the old county home”. His family were Irish Travellers originally from County Wexford, where his father was a fiddle player. He was one of Ireland’s most noted banjo players and was also proficient on the fiddle, melodeon and guitar, and was among an elite of Traveller musicians.

Dunne became known to a wide Irish audience from his regular busking at GAA sporting fixtures, particularly in Munster. Later he played in England, France, Australia and New York City, where he appeared with The Dubliners. He also performed alongside Richard Harris and Stephen Rea in the 1996 feature film Trojan Eddie.

He lived in Killimer, County Clare with his wife and four children. He died there, aged 79, and is buried in Burrane, near Killimer. (Thanks to Wikipedia for the notes above.)

Gifted musician, storyteller and activist Paddy Pecker Dunne has died.

In a statement, the Temple Bar Company said it regretted to announce his death at the age of 80.

“We were honoured to work with Farcry productions to facilitate a gala benefit concert for Pecker Dunne during the 2012 Temple Bar Tradfestival,” it said. “Our thoughts are now with his wife and family at this sad time.”

Artistic director of the Tradfestival Kieran Hanrahan praised Dunne’s musical abilities.

“The Pecker mastered the art and craft of many an instrument, the mandolin, the fiddle and the banjo,” he said.

“He was distinctively known for his most precious of gifts, his voice, and what that voice could deliver. It was the envy of some of the world’s most renowned rock, pop, folk and traditional singers.”

Dunne, a traveller, wrote songs and music to describe injustices and prejudices he and his community faced.

He busked nationwide and played with The Dubliners, who covered his song Sullivans John, and he also played with Christy Moore and The Fureys.

Some of the exploits and anecdotes he was renowned for telling were his meeting Woody Guthrie in Boston, his friendship and work with Richard Harris and playing New York’s Carnegie Hall.

His music career was marked with a gala benefit night at Dublin City Hall last January. (The above is taken from an obituary published by the Belfast Telegraph on December 20, 2012.)

I first heard this song in Wollongong in 1974 when Joe Brown, Bertie McKnight, Tony Fitzgerald and I formed the group, Seannachie. Bertie told me he heard it from the writer, Pecker Dunne. Tony, a Londoner of Irish descent and our main singer,would belt this out at venues around the Illawarra.

But I like the song from first I heard it and would sing it- almost as a party piece- at informal gatherings in various places down the decades. I brought the song to Banter and look forward to being able to sing it at a pub or club in front of an audience-remember that phenomenon from pre-COVID times?

I only use two chords for this song, say, C and Bb, which swings along in 3/4 time. Quite a few Irish songs can be rendered with just two chords. I guess some of us might look at all those three-chord trickers as virtual demi-gods!


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