This weekend Dublin City Hall plays host to a gala benefit concert for the Pecker Dunne. The event which takes place on Sunday, January 29 at 5pm, and is organised by writer, actor and Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn as part of this year’s Temple Bar Tradfest, aims to raise funds for Pecker. The singer, who turns 80 this year, is in poor health.
“But more importantly, it’s to honour the man,” Mannix Flynn told the Irish Times. “He has made an outstanding contribution to broader Irish society and culture. He’s not just a traditional player, he could compose – for me, he’s up there with Sean Ó Riada and Carolan. Also, we’re always ready to talk about integration, an equal society and cultural democracy, but Pecker is one of the very few examples of this: he gives voice to his community through his art.”
Born into a Traveller family, in compositions such as The Last Of The Travelling People and Wexford Town he sings powerfully and frankly about the lure and hardship of life on the road, speaking of his pride in his culture while lamenting its slow decline. He came from a distinct, disappearing tradition within the community, the Travelling musicians who would earn their living busking at fairs and football matches around the country.
These entertainers spoke their own variation of Cant, the Traveller language: The Pecker’s biography, entitled Parley-Poet And Chanter, is studded with the dialect. Their music was also distinctive.
“He bridged the worlds of Traveller music and the folk revival scene. The themes he sang about engaged with the folk world of the 1970s,” says Niall Keegan of the University of Limerick
The Pecker Dunne is in failing health and no longer performs: he will not be at Sunday’s gala, although his children will be playing the instruments and songs he taught them. And his peers will be there to pay tribute to his legacy as a songwriter, musician and singer.
“When an artist gets overlooked, it can end up being all about a tragic story. But we are trying to get to the contribution his music has made, bring it to a new generation and to acknowledge him while he is still in his boots,” says Mannix Flynn.
Pecker Dunne Biography