Seán Mac Aoidh

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Seán Mac Aoidh (aka Sean McHugh), Irish poet, fl. 1820s. [clarification needed]

Mac Aoidh was a native of Islandeady, near Castlebar, County Mayo, who was married to Sail Og Rua Ni Mhaille (Sally O'Malley), who died early in their marriage. His in-laws suspected him of killing Sail Og, and approached his house one night intending to kill him. However, upon hearing his lament for his wife, Sail Og Rua, they concluded he was innocent, and let him be. Another account has him composing it in Castlebar or Dolliwista jail as proof of his innocence.

O'Rourke states "All one can say is that if, in addition to being a murderer, Mac Aoidh was a cynical hypocrite, then he was a brilliant one, for 'Sail Og Rua' has all the accents of genuine grief."

A translated extract from the lament is as follows:

In Islandeady my love, my first love (is buried)/the woman to whom I have my love in youth/I have three young children crying after her/and the woman who could quiet them, my grief, is under the sod/I am weak and worn out and there's no point in denying it/I have no more strength in me than the mist/And, o love of my heart, you left me on my own/And you went into the clay on me while still a young girl.[attribution needed]

Two subsequent verses are thus:

At the age of sixteen she came to me/and wasn't she a fine present for a man to get?/But the quiet gentle woman to whom I gave my love/and she only a child when I got her.

If my people only knew half of what I suffer/when I think about my young red-haired Sal/who used to be stretched out with me throughout the long nights/and my hand would be resting between her two bright breasts.

The surname McHugh is still found in the parishes of Islandeady and Castlebar.


  • County Mayo in Gaelic Folksong", Brian O'Rourke, pp. 183–85, "Mayo:Aspects of its Heritige", ed. Bernard O'Hara, 1982.