The award-winning biography of pre-famine poet and songwriter, Mise Raiftearaí an Fíodóir Focal (I am Raiftearaí the word-weaver ), recently awarded the prestigious Gradam Uí Shúilleabháin, Irish-language Book of the Year Award, is to be launched in Raiftearaí’s native Kiltimagh by the Most Rev Brendan Kelly, Bishop of Achonry.
Written by writer, musician, broadcaster and Aghamore native, Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin, the book will be launched on Thursday December 3, at 8pm, in the Cill Aodáin Court Hotel, which takes its name from one of Raiftearaí’s best-loved songs. Bishop Kelly, a native of east Galway has himself a personal connection to the poet – his father, Seán Ó Ceallaigh, wrote a book about the poet and his competitive relationship with the Callinan brothers, natives of the Craughwell area, where Raiftearaí died and is buried.
The book draws together all the various strands of knowledge about the life, times, and poetic output of a man born in a weaver’s cottage in Killedan, near Kiltimagh, County Mayo in 1779, who died, destitute, in a barn near Craughwell, east Galway on Christmas Eve, 1835.
Struck blind at the age of five by an outbreak of smallpox that killed all of his eight siblings, Raiftearaí lived his life with passion and reckless energy. A self-confessed reveller in his early years, he found his voice in his early forties as a radical spokesman of his people, the illiterate Irish-speaking poor of east Galway. His poetic interests were wide: he produced satire, comic poems, verse in praise of sporting heroes and the master craftsmen of his community, laments, moralistic dialogues and religious poems – a body of work that offers a unique insight into the life of the Irish-speaking Catholic poor of pre-famine Connacht. The launch will be followed by an informal session of music, poetry, and fun, to celebrate the spirit of a great Mayo man whose songs are still sung and whose memory lives on to this day. All are welcome to this special event.