RIP Fiddle-player and Composer John Dwyer
The fiddle-player and tune composer John Dwyer has died in New Ross, Co. Wexford. Originally from Caolrua on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, Dwyer came from a musical family of nine children. His father played the fiddle and his mother played accordion. His brothers Michael and Finbarr, who died in 1997 and 2014 respectively, were musicians and composers, as is his brother Richard.
John joined the Gardaí in the 1950s and moved to Dublin where he played in sessions in Church Street and the Pipers’ club and was influenced by musicians such as John Kelly, Tommy Potts and Sonny Brogan. In 1959 he played in the Shannonside Ceili Band and from 1970 to 1974 in the Castle Ceili Band.
From 1964 he was based in Wexford, followed by An Rinn in the Waterford Gaeltacht, and then New Ross in County Wexford. Dwyer often played locally in Wexford and Waterford and was an influential musical figure in the area. In 1972, he became the first chair of the county board of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in Waterford and then the Munster Council of CCÉ.
Dwyer was known for his subtle and discerning fiddle-playing and for his compositions. In 2010, he and his brother Finbarr were jointly awarded the TG4 Gradam Ceoil composer award. Among John’s best-known tunes are ‘John Dwyer’s Reel’, ‘John Dwyer’s Jig’, ‘The Fall of Dunboy’ set-dance, ‘The Sunny Hills of Beara’ and ‘The Caha Mountains’. In 2012, he released The Dursey Sound, an album of his own compositions. The same year, musicians Edel Fox and Neill Byrne established the annual John Dwyer traditional music festival which takes place in the autumn. In 2018, Dwyer was presented with the Gradam Ceoil Nioclás Tóibín award in An Rinn.
Predeceased by his wife Ann, John Dwyer is survived by his children Karen, Ann, Sean, Richard and Brian, grandchildren and extended family. The funeral took place on Saturday 22 August in New Ross.
The Irish Traditional Music Archive have released the video tribute below to mark his passing.