Antoine Ó Raifteiri

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Antoine Ó Raifteiri
Born30 March 1779
Kiltimagh, County Mayo
Died25 December 1835 (1835-12-26) (aged 56)
Craughwell, County Galway
Resting placeKilleeneen Cemetery, Craughwell
Notable worksEanach Dhuin, Cill Aodain

Antoine Ó Raifteirí (also Antoine Ó Reachtabhra, Anthony Raftery) (30 March 1779 – 25 December 1835)[1] was an Irish language poet who is often called the last of the wandering bards.


Anthony Raftery was born in Killedan,[2] near Kiltimagh in County Mayo. His father was a weaver. He had come to Killedan from County Sligo[1] to work for the local landlord, Frank Taaffe. Raftery's mother was a Brennan from the Kiltimagh area.[3] She and her husband had nine children.[4] Anthony was an intelligent and inquisitive child. Some time between 1785 and 1788, Anthony Raftery's life took a huge turn. It all started with a cough. Soon two of the children began suffering from headaches. Another child had a high fever. A rash appeared on Anthony's hand. It caused severe itching. Soon the children were covered in that same rash. They had contracted smallpox. Within three weeks, eight of the nine children had died.[4] One of the last things young Anthony saw before going blind was his eight siblings laid out dead on the floor.

As Raftery's father was a weaver, he had not experienced the worst of that era's poverty, but it would be much more difficult for his son to escape hardship. He lived by playing his fiddle and performing his songs and poems in the mansions of the Anglo-Irish gentry.[citation needed] His work draws on the forms and idiom of Irish poetry, and although it is conventionally regarded as marking the end of the old literary tradition, Ó Raifteirí and his fellow poets did not see themselves in this way.

In common with earlier poets, Antóin had a patron in Taaffe. One night Frank sent a servant to get more drink for the house. The servant took Antóin with him, both of them on one of Franks good horses. Whatever the cause (said to be speeding) Antóin's horse left the road and ended up in the bog, drowned or with a broken neck. Frank banished Antóin and he commenced the life of an itinerant. According to An Craoibhín (Douglas Hyde) one version of the story is that Antóin wrote Cill Aodáin (as DH Kileadan, County Mayo, his most famous work apart from Anach Cuan, to get back in Frank Taaffe's good books. Taaffe however was displeased at the awkward way Antóin worked his name into the poem, and then only at the end. Another version has it that Antóin wrote this poem in competition to win a bet as to who could praise their own place best. When he finished reciting the poem his competitor is reported to have said "Bad luck to you Raftery, you have left nothing at all for the people of Galway" and refused to recite his own poem.[5]

None of his poems were written down during the poet's lifetime, but they were collected from those he taught them to by An Craoibhín Aoibhinn Douglas Hyde, Lady Gregory and others, who later published them.[6]

Raftery was lithe and spare in build and not very tall but he was very strong and considered a good wrestler. He always wore a long frieze coat and corduroy breeches.[7]

Ó Raifteirí died at the house of Diarmuid Cloonan of Killeeneen, near Craughwell, County Galway, and was buried in nearby Killeeneen Cemetery. In 1900, Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and W.B. Yeats erected a memorial stone over his grave, bearing the inscription "RAFTERY". A statue of him stands in the village green, Craughwell, opposite Cawley's pub.


Ó Raifteirí's most enduring poems include Eanach Chuin and Cill Aodain which are still learned by Irish schoolchildren.

Eanach Chúin[edit]

Má fhaighimse sláinte is fada bheidh trácht
Ar an méid a bádh as Eanach Cuain.
'S mo thrua 'márach gach athair 's máthair
Bean is páiste 'tá á sileadh súl!
A Rí na nGrást a cheap neamh is párthas,
Nar bheag an tábhacht dúinn beirt no triúr,
Ach lá chomh breá leis gan gaoth ná báisteach
Lán a bháid acu scuab ar shiúl.

Nár mhór an t-íonadh ós comhair na ndaoine
Á bhfeicáil sínte ar chúl a gcinn,
Screadadh 'gus caoineadh a scanródh daoine,
Gruaig á cíoradh 's an chreach á roinnt.
Bhí buachaillí óg ann tíocht an fhómhair,
Á síneadh chrochar, is a dtabhairt go cill.
'S gurb é gléas a bpósta a bhí dá dtoramh
'S a Rí na Glóire nár mhór an feall.

If my health is spared I'll be long relating
Of the number who drowned from Anach Cuain.
And the keening after of mother and father
And child by the harbour, the mournful croon!
King of Graces, who died to save us,
T'were a small affair but for one or two,
But a boat-load bravely in calm day sailing
Without storm or rain to be swept to doom.

What wild despair was on all the faces
To see them there in the light of day,
In every place there was lamentation,
And tearing of hair as the wreck was shared.
And boys there lying when crops were ripening,
From the strength of life they were borne to clay
In their wedding clothes for their wake they robed them
O King of Glory, man's hope is in vain.[8]

Cill Aodáin[edit]

These are the opening two verses of "Cill Aodáin":

Anois teacht an earraigh
beidh an lá ag dul chun síneadh,
Is tar éis na féil Bríde
ardóidh mé mo sheol.

Ó chuir mé i mo cheann é
ní chónóidh mé choíche
Go seasfaidh mé síos
i lár Chontae Mhaigh Eo.

I gClár Chlainne Mhuiris
A bheas mé an chéad oíche,
Is i mballa taobh thíos de
A thosóidh mé ag ól.

Go Coillte Mách rachaidh
Go ndéanfadh cuairt mhíosa ann
I bhfogas dhá mhíle
Do Bhéal an Átha Mhóir

Now coming of the Spring
the day will be lengthening,
and after St. Bridget's Day
I shall raise my sail.

Since I put it into my head
I shall never stay put
until I shall stand down
in the center of County Mayo.

In Claremorris
I will be the first night,
and in Balla just below it
I will begin to drink.

to Kiltimagh I shall go
until I shall make a month's visit there
as close as two miles
to Ballinamore.[9]


  • The first four lines of "Mise Raifteirí an File" appeared on the reverse of the Series C Irish five pound note.

Mise Raifteirí, an file,
lán dóchais is grá
le súile gan solas,
ciúineas gan crá

Dul siar ar m'aistear,
le solas mo chroí
Fann agus tuirseach,
go deireadh mo shlí

Feach anois mé
mo dhroim le balla,
Ag seinm ceoil
do phocaí folamh.

I am Raftery, the poet,
full of hope and love
With eyes without light,
silence without torment.

Going back on my journey,
with the light of my heart
Weak and tired,
until the end of my way.

Look at me now
my back to the wall,
playing music
to empty pockets.

  • The author James Stephens published English translations of poems attributed to Ó Raifteirí in his book Reincarnations.[10] The American composer Samuel Barber wrote a composition for mixed chorus – also entitled Reincarnations – based on three of the poems translated by Stephens.[11]
  • An annual festival, Féile Raiftéirí, is held in Loughrea, Co. Galway each year on the last weekend in March. Raftery spent most of his later years in townlands close to the town. The festival features a contemporary Irish language poet and promotes the native arts of Ireland. The festival ends with a visit to Raiftéirí grave in neighbouring Craughwell.[12]
  • Kiltimagh town square features a granite memorial in honour of Anthony Raftery erected in 1985, in that same year Kiltimagh twinned with Craughwell, the final resting place of the blind Gaelic poet.[13]
  • Scoil Raifteirí, an All-Irish Primary School in Castlebar, County Mayo is named in honour of the poet.[14]
  • The Raftery Room Restaurant is located in Kiltimagh Main Street[15]*
  • Raftery is mentioned in passing by IRA member Liam Devlin in Jack Higgins's 1975 novel The Eagle Has Landed.
  • In 2011 Seán Ó Cualáin directed a feature film Mise Raiftearaí an Fíodóir Focal/I am Raftery, The Weaver of Words documenting the life of Raftery, which was produced by Sonta Teo for TG4, and featured Irish actor Aindrias de Staic in the lead role as Raftery.[16]
  • A street on the Ballymagroarty estate in Derry, Raftery Close, is named after Anthony Raftery. All the streets in the estate are named after Irish writers.
  • Sketch of Raifteirí
  • In Radclyffe Hall's novel The Well of Loneliness, Stephen Gordon's horse is named Raftery after the Irish poet.
  • Bob Dylan's 2020 song "I Contain Multitudes" contains the line "Follow me close, I'm going to Bally-na-Lee", presumed by Richard F. Thomas, Paul Muldoon, Brian Hiatt, and others to be a reference to Raifteiri's "The Lass From Bally-na-lee" ("Agus gluais go lá liom go Baile Uí Laí" / "So walk with me to Bally-na-Lee").[17][18]


  1. ^ a b Jeffers, Ron (2003). Reincarnations. [Corvallis, Oregon]: Earthsongs. p. 4.
  2. ^ Murphy, Maureen O'Rourke; MacKillop, James (2006). An Irish literature reader: poetry, prose, drama. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-8156-3046-3.
  3. ^ O'Hara, Bernard (1982). Mayo: aspects of its heritage. Galway, Ireland: Archaeological, Historical, and Folklore Society, Regional Technical College. p. 292. ISBN 978-0-9508233-0-0.
  4. ^ a b "The Deel Basin : a historical survey". Crossmolina Historical & Archaeological Society. [Crossmolina]. 2 (8): 106. 1990.
  5. ^ Denvir, Gearóid (1997). Litríocht agus Pobal. Cló Iar-Chonnachta.
  6. ^ Bartleby. Retrieved 24 February 2007.
  7. ^ Recollections of Dermot McManus
  8. ^ Lyrics of "Eanach Dhúin" Archived 14 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Lyrics of "Cill Aodáin"
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ [2][permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 December 2010. Retrieved 24 May 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Raftery on Famous People from Kiltimagh
  14. ^ Scoil Raifteirí WebSite
  15. ^ Ireland OnLine Raftery Room Entry
  16. ^ "Mise Raiftearaí an Fíodóir Focal (I am Raftery, The Weaver of Words)". Archived from the original on 29 July 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Antoin Ó Raifteirí: Máire Ní Eidhin (The Lass from Bally-na-Lee)". Love poems & quotes: German, French, Italian, Russian etc. 20 April 2009. Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  18. ^ Pavel Barter (26 April 2020). "Bob Dylan fans tangled up in clue to solve Irish riddle of I Contain Multitudes". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 14 June 2020."Bob Dylan's latest song makes reference to Irish poets, an ode to his own life". IrishCentral. 27 April 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.Brian Hiatt (27 April 2020). "Hear Bob Dylan's Daring New Song, 'I Contain Multitudes'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 14 June 2020."Bob Dylan's New Song and Ballinalee County Longford". Cassandra Voices. 18 April 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.

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