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Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Andres Poveda
# you know this
The President announced Ireland's favourite poem of the past 100 years, can you guess?
Clue: “When all the others were away at Mass”.

OUT OF 440 nominations one poem has been voted as Ireland’s Best Loved Poem of the past 100 years.

President Michael D Higgins announced the winner of RTÉ’s A Poem for Ireland today.

The sonnet When All The Others Were Away at Mass by Seamus Heaney topped the poll as the best-loved Irish poem of the past century.

Seamus Heaney’s son Mick Heaney said: “We are delighted and honoured that my father’s sonnet When All the Others Were Away at Mass has been voted by the public as the Poem For Ireland, particularly given the magnificent shortlist it was part of.

Dad was never happier than when reading or writing poetry, so for his work to be part of a project that shows the sweep of Irish poetry and underlines its crucial part in our culture is a wonderful tribute to his life and work, for which our family are truly grateful.

When all the others were away at Mass

In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.
So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives –
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

RTÉ’s A Poem For Ireland began last September with a call-out to the public to nominate their best-loved Irish poems of the past 100 years. Over 440 poems were nominated and a jury whittled the nominations down to just ten poems.

  • A Christmas Childhood by Patrick Kavanagh
  • A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford by Derek Mahon
  • Dublin by Louis MacNeice
  • Easter 1916 by William Butler Yeats
  • Fill Arís by Seán Ó Ríordáin
  • Filleadh ar an gCathair by Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh
  • Making Love Outside Áras an Uachtaráin by Paul Durcan
  • Quarantine by Eavan Boland
  • The Statue of the Virgin at Granard Speaks by Paula Meehan
  • When all the others were away at Mass [from Clearances in memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984] 3, by Seamus Heaney

The final ten were announced in late January and people from Ireland and all over the world were then able to vote for their favourite.

The full reveal can be viewed on The Works this Friday at 8.30pm on RTE One.

Read: These are Ireland’s 10 favourite poems>

Read: “Just damn the consequences and see what happens”: Rick O’Shea on his new poetry show>