Packie Duignan was an Irish flute player from Aughabehy, County Leitrim. Born in 1922, Duignan grew up in a region rich in musical heritage, which significantly influenced his development as a musician. His style was deeply rooted in the music of his native County Leitrim and the nearby County Roscommon. This area, particularly in the early to mid-20th century, was a hotbed of traditional Irish music, fostering a unique style characterized by a rhythmic and lively approach to melody.
He began his musical journey by learning on a Clarke’s whistle and was part of the Drumshanbo-based céilí band Shannon Star from 1958 to 1973. His family enjoyed music, but the only known musician in his lineage was his grandmother’s brother, James Cauley, also a flute player. A significant influence in Duignan’s life was John McKenna, a Leitrim flute player who had emigrated to the United States and worked as a fireman, passing away around 1947. Duignan was deeply influenced by McKenna’s recordings from the 1920s and ’30s, adopting a similar driving and direct style.
Duignan began playing the whistle around the age of 12 and eventually moved on to the concert flute. He worked as a miner in the coal mines of Arigna, similar to McKenna’s earlier work in nearby pits. After leaving mining about five years prior to this account, Duignan split his time between farming and music.
In the early 1970s, Duignan played for about a year in the Lough Allen Trio, which performed in local pubs. Fiddler Seamus Horan, a member of this group, was a musician Duignan enjoyed playing with, noting their familiarity and Horan’s pleasing music style. he recorded an album with Horan in 1978. Duignan also appreciated playing with fiddlers, much like McKenna did in his recordings with James Morrison.
Duignan, who passed away in 1992 after a battle with leukemia, is honored annually at the Packie Duignan Traditional weekend in Drumshanbo.