Performing a unique combination of close harmony singing accompanied by pipes and harp
The McPeake family are Belfast’s foremost traditional music family.
Frank McPeake, the patriarch of the family, was born in 1885, leaving school at 13 to become a linen worker, and began his career as a traditional musician after a visit to Belfast by the blind Galway harpist John O’Reilly.
O’Reilly stayed in Belfast for six weeks to teach McPeake the uilleann pipes, the Irish form of the bagpipes. From this beginning Frank McPeake became a famed pipe player throughout Ireland and the world, performing at the pan-Celtic expo in Brussels in 1911. McPeake allegedly put away his pipes, however, after the death of his daughter and wife within a year of each other.
Frank McPeake was persuaded to resume playing by the emergence of his son Francis as an equally talented pipe player. He and his father performed together in the Royal Albert Hall in 1956 and with James, a harpist, formed The McPeakes.
Their unique combination of close harmony singing accompanied by pipes and harp was revolutionary in, and had a great impact on, Irish music, paving the way for groups such as Planxty and Horslips in the 1970s. The McPeakes still tour the world with younger members of the family, and Francis Jr was closely involved in the inception of the Clonard Traditional Music School.