Friday, 9 January 2009

Luke Kelly Raglan Road


This song encompasses at least three pure pleasures for me…the song itself ,a sublime expression of unrequited love - the clarion voice of Luke Kelly, who gives the piece a strength and integrity uniquely his own - and of course the poet himself Patrick Kavanagh who wrote the words and put them to an old Irish tune. The subject of Kavanagh’s poem was Hilda Moriarty later (at Paddy’s misfortune) to become O’Malley married to Donogh a minister for education in a Fianna Fail government, and remembered for bringing in free Secondary school education. In her later years Hilda lived just up the road from me on Roses Avenue and outlived her husband by several years, as he died a relatively young man. When I knew her she was a very old lady , slightly stooped with long blond hair ,but in her hay-day she was apparently quite the beauty and well worthy of a poets attention. However the impoverished nature of the poetry profession was not a sufficient enticement to lure Hilda away from her middle class circle and Kavanagh’s expression of love had to find its enduring home within the haunting words of this glorious song. By the way such is my attachment to ‘Raglan Road’ that on even the slightest prompting I will rise to sing it at weddings, bar-mitzvahs and wakes…so be warned !

Gerard O’Shea

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