On Raglan Road

"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]

Raglan Road street sign-showing Dublin 4 post code


As a poemEdit

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][4] Though she regarded Kavanagh as a friend, her feelings were not romantic and in 1947 she married Donogh O'Malley,[4][5] who later became Fianna Fáil Minister for Education.

In 1987, Hilda Moriarty was interviewed by the Irish broadcaster RTÉ for a documentary about Kavanagh called Gentle Tiger.[6] 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.[7]

Dr Moriarty also described how Raglan Road came to be written. Kavanagh had lived in Pembroke Road in Dublin, but he moved out as he could not afford the rent and he moved into Mrs Kenny's boarding house on Raglan Road which cost 10 shillings a week full board - Hilda was staying on Raglan Road - a road off Pembroke Road. Kavanagh saw Hilda coming and going from Raglan Road to University on a daily basis and as an excuse to meet with her in the Country Shop on St Stephen's Green or Mitchell's on Dawson Street he would often ask Hilda to critique his work. Kavanagh described himself as a peasant poet but Hilda was not that impressed and teased him - "Can you not, then, write about anything other than stony grey soil and bogs, Paddy?" Kavanagh said, "I will immortalise you in poetry, Hilda." And so he did. According to Dr Moriarty, he went away and wrote Raglan Road - and Hilda featured in many of Kavanagh's poems, including Hilda, Hilda 2, and Hilda 3 and several others.

As a songEdit

"Scorn Not His Simplicity/Raglan Road"
Single by The Dubliners
GenreFolk, Irish
The Dubliners singles chronology
"Free The People"
"Scorn Not His Simplicity/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.[8] 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.[9] 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 Dubliners released the original recording as the B-side to "Scorn Not His Simplicity" in 1971.[10] One year later the song was included on their live album Hometown!

Besides Kelly's version with The Dubliners, the song, often known simply as Raglan Road, has since been sung by Van Morrison w/The Chieftains, Mark Knopfler, Ed Sheeran, The Young Dubliners, Sinéad O'Connor, Billy Bragg, Roger Daltrey, Dick Gaughan, Loreena McKennitt, Billy Joel, Joan Osborne, Órla Fallon, Ian Tamblyn, Tommy Fleming, Mary Black, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Nyle Wolfe among others.[11][citation needed]

The Luke Kelly version was also featured in a poignant scene in the 2008 film In Bruges.[12]

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

Incorrect Phrasing in Song PerformancesEdit

The third verse of the song is almost always phrased wrongly, probably due to the way Kelly recorded it, when he left the first line too short and the second line too long, ie,

"I gave her gifts of the mind, I gave her the secret sign"

"That's known to the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone"

(Stone does not rhyme with Sign) The correct phrasing is;

"I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that's KNOWN"

"To the artists WHO have known the TRUE gods of sound and STONE".

This also maintains the internal ryhming (who and true) as in the other verses, e.g., hair and snare, ravine and seen, etc.


  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. ^ a b Ó Séaghdha, Darach. "The Irish For: Where old ghosts meet - the story behind On Raglan Road". The Journal.
  5. ^ Walsh, Niamh. "The true story behind Ireland's favourite folk song: On Raglan Road". Evoke.
  6. ^ "Portrait of Patrick Kavanagh". RTÉ News. 18 April 2006. Archived from the original on 13 August 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "The beauty who inspired Kavanagh's "Raglan Road"". The Independent. 29 June 2004.
  8. ^ Geraghty, Des (1994). Luke Kelly: A Memoir. Dublin: Basement Press. pp. 38, 39. ISBN 1-85594-090-6.
  9. ^ Breathnach, Breandán (1971). Folk Music and Dances of Ireland. Cork: Mercier Press. p. 112. ISBN 0-85342-509-4.
  10. ^ "Scorn Not His Simplicity / Raglan Road by The Dubliners" – via rateyourmusic.com.
  11. ^ "RTÉ Archives | Daily stories from television and radio records of Irish life". www.rte.ie. Archived from the original on 13 August 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ In Bruges review, Entertainment.ie

External linksEdit