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On Raglan Road voted as Ireland's favourite folk song

Poet Gerry Hanberry said the competition had sparked “some enjoyable heated debates and counter-thumping”.

A photo of the Patrick Kavanagh statue along the Grand Canal in Dublin.
A photo of the Patrick Kavanagh statue along the Grand Canal in Dublin.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

ON RAGLAN ROAD has been chosen as Ireland’s favourite folk song in an RTÉ contest.

The winner was chosen through a public vote and announced and performed live on The Late Late Show by Luka Bloom.

Written by Patrick Kavanagh and made famous by Dubliners singer Luke Kelly, On Raglan Road is one of Ireland’s most iconic folk songs.  

The song is closely based on a lyric poem written by Patrick Kavanagh following his one-sided infatuation with Hilda Moriarty, a medical student from Dingle.

Kavanagh and Moriarty were friends in the 1940s when both lived on Raglan Road. She enjoyed the famous poet’s company, but the 22-year-old wasn’t interested in having a romantic relationship with a 40-year-old man.

On Raglan Road was first published in The Irish Press in 1946 as “Dark-haired Miriam Ran Away”.

Writer Benedict Kiely recalls Kavanagh asking him at that time if his verses could be sung to the tune of The Dawning of the Day. It was in Dublin’s Bailey pub in 1964 that the poet told balladeer Luke Kelly that he had a song for him, but Kavanagh died before he could hear his lyric recorded.

Kelly eventually recorded the song with The Dubliners in 1971; it was included on their live album Hometown in 1972 and has remained a firm favourite with Irish people since.

Of the project, poet Gerry Hanberry, who wrote the background stories to each of the shortlisted songs for RTÉ Culture, said that the search for Ireland’s favorite folk song has sparked “some enjoyable heated debates and counter-thumping since it arrived on our screens a few months ago”.

It has stirred some wonderful spittle-spraying discussions around the definition of folk music, the intensity of which has not been heard since Dylan took out his electric guitar at Newport Festival decades ago.

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