Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy 2021

Sráid na Cathrach, Co. an Chláir  3ú Iúil - 11ú Iúil.

The 49th Willie Clancy Summer School, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare, Ireland. Saturday 3rd July to Sunday 11th July, 2021.

John Dwyer (1933-2020)


An appreciation by Paddy O'Brien.


A noble Irishman has passed away, leaving those who knew him with fond memories of his sincere friendship and kindly camaraderie.


I first met John Dwyer when I was a member of the Castle Céilí Band, when he played alongside three fiddles of Seán Keane, Joe Ryan, and John Kelly, making up a formidable quartet.


Although he was a police sergeant with An Garda Síochána, I could never imagine John arresting anyone, such was his mild manner and gentle disposition. I once saw him in his Garda uniform playing a couple of tunes for a visiting musician, who’d loaned John his fiddle. This was at the 1970 All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil in Listowel. I remember it was a bright sunny afternoon, and there he was, playing a reel known as “The Broken Pledge” while he and the visitor stood on the footpath along the main street of the town.


Another characteristic that I often saw in John was his very agreeable presence when playing in a session with other musicians. In other words, he was always happy to play along with whatever was suggested by some of the other players.


I once learned one of his arrangements of a very engaging reel, after recording his performance on solo fiddle on the old RTÉ television programme, “Bring Down the Lamp.” I remember the tune he played was in the key of A minor, and its title was “Fair-Haired Molly.” Another setting of it was usually played in G minor, but John’s version was highly creative and even more melodic, and spoke of his inventive imagination and keen sense of interpretation.


John was born in Castletownbere, County Cork in 1933. He was a man of profound humility, a gifted musician, and master of the art of composing and playing some of Ireland’s oldest dance melodies.


Like many members of his musical family, he played the fiddle for his love of the music and for the uplifting embrace of a new reel and the sense of achievement that came with it.


In a brief summation of John’s impact on those with whom he played, it can be said that (at least for me) he was truly a musician’s musician.


And finally, may his gentle spirit live forever within the loving light of heaven.

John Dwyer (centre) playing with Liam O'Connor and John Kelly during Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy 2015.

Photo: Tony Kearns

© Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy 2020   Logo photo: Éamon McGivney