The music of Paddy “Pecker” Dunne “is silent but not dead”.
That is according to Fr Michael Sheedy, who told mourners yesterday that Pecker “made an extraordinary difference to lots and lots of people”.
The musician and storyteller died last Wednesday, aged 79, and St Senan’s Church in the west Clare town of Kilrush was packed to overflowing yesterday to hear his life celebrated in word and song.
At the end of the funeral Mass, Pecker’s eldest son, Stephen, paid his own tribute when he played a solo at the altar, receiving a sustained standing ovation after performing Pecker’s best known tune, ‘O’Sullivan John’.
Earlier, tuning up his banjo before performing Pecker’s ‘Tinker’s Lullaby’, Stephen raised laughter in the crowd when he said: “Pecker would say this is a Chinese song: Tun-ing.”
As Stephen stepped down from the altar, Fr Sheedy told him: “Stephen, as long as you are alive, Pecker will never be dead”.
Asked to speak on behalf of the family, friend Oliver O’Connell told the congregation, that Pecker’s death “is the passing of an icon.”
Mr O’Connell said that with Pecker’s death “we lose a piece of ourselves”.
He said that Pecker “helped us define us as a people”.
Mr O’Connell said: “Traditional music is enjoying unprecedented popularity. It is at its zenith. You often wonder where the music comes from.
“It was the guys who were standing on the sides of the road and the lanes like Pecker Dunne who kept it alive when it was not popular nor profitable and we owe them a huge, huge debt of gratitude.”
Fr Sheedy said Pecker “travelled widely and had a huge impact at an international level as a musician and a singer, rubbing shoulders with many great and famous people. But that didn’t change his attitude to life and he never forgot his roots.”
Fr Sheedy said music came second to being a husband and a father for Pecker.
He said Pecker enjoyed 28 years of tremendous happiness with his wife, Madeleine, who had given tremendous care to Pecker over the last number of years when he had fallen ill.
Fr Sheedy recalled how the birth of Pecker’s son, Stephen, 27 years ago, had a profound impact on him.
“He saw the birth of Stephen as his saviour. It was life-changing for him. It woke him to his drinking habits and he joined Alcoholics Anonymous [AA] and for the past 27 years, he has been a powerful ambassador for AA. He made a huge difference to people who had drinking tendencies.”
He added: “Pecker was a very, very gifted man and had a huge influence on those around him.”
Pecker was born in a traditional tinker’s caravan in Co Mayo and grew up in Crumlin and Drimnagh in Dublin.
Symbols of Pecker’s life were offered up, including keys to his van, representing the Traveller nomadic life, and Pecker’s puppet, which according to Fr Sheedy was a reminder of his busking “where he was known at all the GAA hurling and football matches”.
A model of a wagon was also offered symbolising Pecker’s gifted hands and a fiddle that he also played during his long musical career.
Later, en route to Burrane cemetery, Killimer, Pecker’s remains were transferred from a hearse to a horse and coal cart for the final leg of the journey.
The people of Killimer — where Pecker lived for the past 23 years — lined the route to pay their respects to the celebrated singer.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved