Colm MacCárthaigh: Vocal and Guitars, Matt Jerrell: Djembe, Ryan Davidson: Double Bass, Hanz Araki: Flute


On Raglan Road of an autumn day
I saw her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare
That I might one day rue
I saw the danger and I passed
Along the enchanted way
And said let grief be a fallen leaf
At the dawning of the day

On Grafton Street, in November
We tripped lightly along the ledge
Of a deep ravine, where can be seen
The worth of passion’s pledge
The Queen of Hearts, still baking tarts
And I not making hay
Oh I’ve loved too much, by such by such
Is happiness thrown away

Oh 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
By word and tint, I did not stint
I gave her poems to say
With her own name there, and her own dark hair
Like clouds over fields of may

On a quiet street, where old ghosts meet
I see her passing by
Away from me, so hurriedly
My reason must allow
That I have loved not as I should
A creature made of clay
When the angel woos the clay
He’ll lose his wings at the dawn of day

Notes about Raglan Road

“Raglan Road” is one of the great Dublin songs. I’ve heard it sung countless times. From unaccompanied singers with a pint in one hand, to huge stage shows with full orchestras. The melody is old and is often attributed to the 17th century blind harpist Thomas Connellan, as “Fáinne Geal an Lae” which translates to “The Dawning of the Day”. It’s a very versatile melody and is often sung as either a march (as it was originally done), with a steady 4 beats, or as a waltz, to a more lilting “one, two, three”.

Monaghan man Patrick Kavanaugh put these words to the old melody in the 1940s. The words tell a simple story of unrequited love, with more than a twinge of self-agrandization and self-pity. The line “passing by, away from me, so hurriedly” bears a weight of creepiness when you learn that the song was written for Hilda Moriarty, who was 22, to Patrick Kavanaugh’s 40 years at the time. But despite itself, the song seems to somehow convey something more simple and pure.

As it happens, the song was recently voted Ireland’s favorite song. There are many versions, with mine to follow. Luke Kelly’s version is definitive and arresting in its simple measure. It may also have been Kelly who first adapted the song to waltz time, giving it that lift along the way. My personal favorite version comes from Mark Knopfler though because of its quiet subtly, and because it freed to see how it can be ok to experiment even with the sacred.