Antoine O Raifteiri (Anthony Raftery)


Plaque in Kiltimagh
Author's Personal Photo
Memorial by Sally Mc Kenna in Kiltimagh
Author's Personal Photo
Memorial in Kiltimagh
Author's Personal Photo
Museum at Kiltimagh Sculpture Park
Author's Personal Photo


A poet, singer, musician, Antoine O’ Raifiteri’s legacy has been ‘Cill Aodain.’  He has been immortalized with sculptures also an annual festival in his honour.

Antoine O’ Raifteri or Anthony Raftery was born in Killedan, Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo during 1779. His father was a weaver from Co. Sligo, his mother (nee Brennan) from Kiltimagh.  He was the only surviving child from nine children in the family that contacted smallpox between the years (1785-88) with the result that Anthony lost his sight. He studied at the hedge schools.  He was knowledgeable in Greek & Latin & the English language. [i]

Antoine O’Raifiteri  was a talented young person. In sports he excelled at wrestling also was the anchor-man at the local tug-o-wars.  His patron was Frank Taffe (his father’s landlord) that encouraged him to perform his poetry.  He was employed by Taffe as a household messenger & delivered mostly on horseback.  At the time of his mother’s death in his late teens he was an employee of Taffe. [ii]


However due to a falling out with Frank Taffe: Antoine Raifteri spent his life as an itinerant musician also a  poet along the roads & towns of Co. Galway.  He performed in some of the large houses.  He played the fiddle, sang songs or recited poetry in the Irish tradition.  Antoine Raifteri was a poet of the people: he was on the side of those who agitated for ‘fair rents’  with ‘security of tenure.’   His work dealt with the events of that time as he reflected on the people’s own views. [iii]


Antoine O ‘Raifteri’s legacy has been his ‘Eanach Dhuin’ also ‘Cill Aodain.’   Lady Gregory reported she was told he carried a book with him (a pantheon): he would invite people to read to him then memorized the contents.  None of his poems were written during his lifetime but were transcribed by Douglas Hyde Raifteri’s poetry from RIA Manuscripts as Ambhráin agus Danta an Reachtbhragh during 1903. [iv]


Antoine O ‘Raifteri’s demise occurred  on Christmas Eve 1835 at the house of Darby Cloonan. He is interred in Reilig na bhFile at Croughwell, Co. Galway.  His gravestone was erected by Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn & Douglas Hyde. [v]

Antoine O’Raftieri’s demise occurred on  24th  December 1835 at the house of Diarmuid Cloonan of Killeeneen, Craughwell, Co. Galway.  He is buried in the nearby cemetery of the poets. [vi]


A granite memorial to poet Antoine O ‘Raifteri was erected in 1985 on the town square of Kiltimagh produced by artist Sally Mc Kenna.  A poem by poet Terry Mc Donagh may be viewed nearby.  A sculpture of the poet O ‘Raifteri is located on the village green of Craughwell opposite Cawley’s pub .  During 2011 a documentary on his life was produced by Sonta Teo for TG4.  Loughrea in Co. Galway hosts an annual festival on last weekend of March. It features a contemporary Irish poet who promotes the native arts of Ireland.  The festival called ‘Feile Raifteri’  finishes with a visit to Raifteri’s grave.  During 1983 Scoil Raftery was founded in Castlebar, Co. Mayo.  Raftery Close in the Ballymagroarty Estate is also named in his honour.  [vii]

Additional Information

Poet Antoine O ‘Raifteri from Kiltimagh has been credited with writing a song / poem entitled A Bhrán Cluanaigh

‘ Is i gCill Cluanaigh do thainig an t – eag

Nuaircalleach máistir Bodcin

Tá na Protastúin i n – áit na nGaedle

Agus a t – oidhre a dbhfad ó bhaile’  [viii]

Famous Poem

Mise Raiftearaí an file,

Lán dóchas ‘s grá,

Le súile gan solas,

Le ciúnas gan crá…

Féach anois mé

Is mo chúl le balla

Ag seimn ceoil

Do phócaí folamh   [ix]

Antoine O ‘Raifteri’s famous poems Eanach Dhuin  also  Cill Aodain  are still included on schools curricula.  English translations of his poetry were published by Stephens James in his volume Reincarnations. This site features several: [x]

The  first lines of his Mise Rafterai  were inscribed on Irish banknotes. [xi]

Antoine O’ Raifteri is referenced by Liam Devlin: an Irish freedom fighter in the 1975 Higgins Jack novel The Eagle Has Landed. [xii]

Yeats referenced Antoine Raifteri in Dust hath Close Helen’s Eyes  (Celtic Twilight) during 1902. [xiii]

Brian Oswald Donn penned  a biographical novel called Blind Raftery and his wife Hilaria during 1924.  [xiv]

In The Connaught Telegraph  31st March 2020 Johnny Mee in his column Auld Stock  referenced Antoine Ó Raifteirí  as a person ‘who overcame his blindness, never looked for pity, got on with his life.’ The lines ‘Now, with the coming of spring, the days will be lengthening, and after St. Bridget’s Day, I shall raise my sail’  is a tribute to his works. (page 21 ) (NBC)

Mc Nally Liamy’s  2021 Happy Birthday Mr Bob’  referenced poet Antoine O ‘Raifteri.

The Kiltimagh-born poet Antoine Ó Raifteirí’s famous poem Anois Teach an Earraigh is referenced with details of his life in Jaybee’s Corner of The Connacht Telegraph 10th January 2023 on page 26.


[i] Raftery

[ii] Ibid


[iv] Ibid


[vi] Raftery




[x] Ibid






Comments about this page

  • What means this crowd of people?
    What means this Beat of Drum?
    Why go there to the churchyard?
    From wherefore have they come?
    Why gather here the rich, the poor
    From East -West – South and North
    There’s someone speaking to the throng.
    And ringing cheers go forth!

    I put these different questions.
    To an old and feeble Man
    His hair was white as driven snow.
    His face was thin and wan.
    And though old age had done its work,
    Yet still his merry eye
    Lit up with Kind and Marry smile and thus he did reply.

    Tis Now 3 score and 12 long yrs.
    Since I was but a boy
    When there passed away our Gaelic Bard
    To the Land of peace and joy

    His soul with God but his body’s here
    In Killeen old Graveyard
    Sure, every Irish Man has heard.
    Of Raftery the Bard

    For tis he could tell the stories
    Tis he could sing the songs.
    In his own native language
    For he Hated the Saxon tongue

    And on a Sunday evening
    The Boys and Girls would come
    And listen with willing ear
    to Raftery’s latest poem or song
    or dance while Raftery would play
    upon his good old fiddle his comrade night and day

    But now around him headstones stand
    Like sentinels or Guards
    To protect the bones of RAFTERY


    By paula kealy (14/08/2023)
  • Thank you Paula for information.

    By Noelene Beckett Crowe. (10/03/2020)
  • He is buried in the Killeeneen graveyard near Craughwell

    By PAULA KEALY (04/03/2020)

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