On Raglan Road

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For the road in Dublin 4, see Raglan Road, Dublin.
Raglan Road street sign-showing Dublin 4 post code

"On Raglan Road" is a well-known Irish song from a poem written by Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh named after Raglan Road in Ballsbridge, Dublin.[1] In the poem, the speaker recalls a love affair that he had with a young woman while walking on a "quiet street". Although the speaker knew that he would risk being hurt if he initiated a relationship, he did so anyway.[2]


As a poem[edit]

It was first published as a poem in The Irish Press on 3 October 1946 under the title "Dark Haired Miriam Ran Away."[1] Peter Kavanagh, Patrick's brother, said that "it was written about Patrick's girlfriend Hilda but to avoid embarrassment he used the name of my girlfriend in the title".[1] Her real name was Dr. Hilda Moriarty, then a medical student from County Kerry,[3] who later married Donogh O'Malley, the Irish Minister for Education. Their son is the actor Daragh O'Malley.[4]

In 1987, Hilda Moriarty was interviewed by the Irish broadcaster RTÉ for a documentary about Kavanagh called Gentle Tiger.[5] In the interview, she said one of the main reasons for the failure of their relationship was that there was a wide age gap between them. She was only 22, whereas he was 40.[6]

Dr. Moriarty also described how "Raglan Road" came to be written. Kavanagh had described himself as the peasant poet but she was not impressed and teased him for writing about mundane things such as vegetables. She said he should write about something else so he agreed to do so. According to Dr. Moriarty, he then went away and wrote "Raglan Road".

As a song[edit]

"On Raglan Road"
Single by The Dubliners
Released 5 October 1986
Format 7"
Genre Folk, Irish


The Dubliners singles chronology
"Free The People"
"On Raglan Road"
"The Irish Rover"

The poem was put to music when the poet met Luke Kelly of the well-known Irish band The Dubliners in a pub in Dublin called The Bailey.[7] It was set to the music of the traditional song "The Dawning of the Day" (Fáinne Geal an Lae). An Irish-language song with this name (Fáinne Geal an Lae) was published by Edward Walsh (1805–1850) in 1847 in Irish Popular Songs, and later translated into English as The Dawning of the Day, published by Patrick Weston Joyce in 1873.[8] Given the similarity in themes and the use of the phrase "dawning of the day" in both "On Raglan Road" and the traditional tune, it is quite likely that Kavanagh from the beginning imagined the pairing of verse and tune. Indeed, there is a broadcast recording of Kavanagh singing "On Raglan Road" to the tune on Irish television and in 1974 Benedict Kiely recalled in an interview for RTÉ Kavanagh trying out the paired verse and tune for him soon after its writing. Kelly himself acknowledges that song was gifted to him that evening at The Bailey.

The song, often known simply as "Raglan Road", has since been sung by Ed Sheeran, The Dubliners, the Young Dubliners, Van Morrison, Sinéad O'Connor, Mark Knopfler, Billy Bragg, Roger Daltrey, Dick Gaughan, Loreena McKennitt, Joan Osborne, Órla Fallon, Ian Tamblyn, Tommy Fleming, and Nyle Wolfe among others.[9][citation needed]

The Luke Kelly version was also featured in a poignant scene in the 2008 film In Bruges.[10]

The song was performed by Andrew Scott in the 2013 Irish film The Stag.


  1. ^ a b c Kavanagh, Peter (1980). Sacred Keeper. Kildare: Goldsmith Press. p. 126. 
  2. ^ ""Raglan Road": a love affair doomed to fail". Irish Music Daily. 
  3. ^ "An ode to unrequited love". Irish Identity. 
  4. ^ "Hilda's enchanted way". Irish Identity. 
  5. ^ "Portrait of Patrick Kavanagh". RTÉ News. 18 April 2006. 
  6. ^ "The beauty who inspired Kavanagh's "Raglan Road"". The Independent. 29 June 2004. 
  7. ^ Geraghty, Des (1994). Luke Kelly: A Memoir. Dublin: Basement Press. pp. 38, 39. ISBN 1-85594-090-6. 
  8. ^ Breathnach, Breandán (1971). Folk Music and Dances of Ireland. Cork: Mercier Press. p. 112. ISBN 0-85342-509-4. 
  9. ^ RTE.IE Archived 13 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ In Bruges review, Entertainment.ie

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