Son's tune sends 'Pecker' off on his final journey

THE music of Paddy 'Pecker' Dunne "is silent but not dead", a priest told mourners at his funeral.

The famous musician and story-teller died last Wednesday aged 79 and St Senan's Church in the west Clare town of Kilrush was packed to overflowing yesterday.

Dunne's life was celebrated in word and song, with Fr Michael Sheedy remembering how he "made an extraordinary difference to lots and lots of people".

At the end of the mass, Dunne's eldest son, Stephen, paid tribute as he played solo at the altar. He received a sustained standing ovation after performing his father's best known tune, 'O'Sullivan John'.

As Stephen stepped down from the altar, Fr Sheedy told him: "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 Dunne's death "is the passing of an icon".

"Traditional music is enjoying unprecedented popularity. You often wonder where the music comes from. It was the guys who were standing on the sides of the road like Pecker Dunne. They kept it alive when it was not popular nor profitable and we owe them a huge, huge debt of gratitude."

Fr Sheedy said Dunne "travelled widely and had a huge impact at an international level as a musician and a singer".

Fr Sheedy added that Dunne enjoyed 28 years of happiness with his wife, Madeleine, who had given tremendous care to him over the last number of years when he had fallen ill.

Fr Sheedy recalled how the birth of Stephen had a profound impact on Pecker.

"He saw the birth of Stephen as his saviour. 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."

Symbols of Pecker's life were offered, including keys to his van, representing the nomadic life of the Traveller, and a puppet, a reminder of his busking.

Later, en route to Burrane cemetery, Killimer, Dunne's remains were transferred from a hearse to a horse and cart for the final leg of the journey.

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