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My ancestors - O'Rahilly - Contents


The poet Aodhagán Ó Rathaille




The signature dated 9 Sept 1722 of the poet Aodhagán Ó Rathaille.




Aodhagán Ó Rathaille (see here),
Egan O'Rahilly, the celebrated Gaelic poet,
one of the last of the old Gaelic poets, after the final defeat of the native cause in 1691,
born est c.1670,
well versed in Latin and English as well as native Gaelic, "may have attended one of the last bardic schools in Killarney" [Wallace, 1983],
[Dineen and O'Donoghue, 1911] say he was very well-read and "seems to have been the most learned ollamh of his day".

His father died when he was young, leaving a good inheritance at Scrahanaveal, Kilcummin parish, E of Killarney, Co.Kerry.
He seems to have dissipated the inheritance. He is described in [O'Reilly, 1820] as "an opulent man".
He lived for a time in poverty in W Co.Kerry at "Duibhneacha". The index of [Dineen and O'Donoghue, 1911] says that "Duibhneacha" simply refers to Corca Dhuibhne (the Dingle Peninsula). On the Dingle Peninsula he lived opposite Rossbeigh (Rossbehy), Glenbeigh, Co.Kerry (see map).
See poem about living in "Duibhneacha".
Note this was before Blennerhassett came to Rossbeigh.
He finally tenanted, with his mother, a small farm in Stagmount, Kilcummin par, E of Killarney (see map).

He "came to manhood as the Jacobite cause was defeated at the Boyne, Aughrim and Limerick, and wandered through Munster visiting the homes of the last of the Gaelic chiefs, lamenting the decay of the old order".
"He is beyond all others the poet of the ancient Irish nobility" [Dineen and O'Donoghue, 1911].
"In his poetry he characterised the new planters as upstarts and boors and he mercilessly satirised their greed and ignorance".
"Ó Rathaille reached manhood as a civilisation came to an end" [Wallace, 1983].
Many of his poems are "Aisling" poems, where Ireland is portrayed as a sorrowful, beautiful lady, awaiting the return of her true love from exile (on the Continent).
His are the classics of the form. He was called "athair na haislinge" (father of the aisling).
[Dineen and O'Donoghue, 1911] write: "O'Rahilly .. lived at a time of supreme crisis in Irish history. ... never were a nation's woes depicted with such vivid anguish and such passionate bursts of grief." "His mind is never off this theme."

He was descendant of the brehons to MacCarthy Mor.
He now tried to maintain the patronage of their successors, the Catholic Viscounts Kenmare.
The estates of Valentine Browne, 1st Viscount Kenmare had been forfeited in 1691 due to the family's support for the Jacobite cause.
Nicholas Browne, 2nd Viscount Kenmare succeeded to the title in 1694, but his estates were still forfeit.
Aodhagán wrote in praise of both the MacCarthys and the Brownes.
He wrote an elegy in 1706 to John Browne, brother of 1st Viscount Kenmare.
He wrote a poem c.1708 "To the Chieftain Eoghan, son of Cormac Riabhach MacCarthy".
He wrote an elegy to John Blennerhassett of Ballyseedy in 1709: "John, son of John, son of John of Ballyseedy".
His patron Valentine Browne, 3rd Viscount Kenmare succ 1720 and recovered the family estates.
He wrote a poem celebrating the marriage of the 3rd Viscount Kenmare to Honora Butler in 1720.
See his signature on a manuscript in 1722.
He wrote "songs" to amuse the 3rd Viscount Kenmare's children. He was paid for these in 1727.
But at some point he wrote angry verses about the 3rd Viscount Kenmare.
See his works.

There are a few stories about him:
A learned and well-read man, he delighted on occasion in acting the simpleton.
See stories (below) from Pages xxviii-xxix in [Dineen and O'Donoghue, 1911].
[1910 letter from The O'Rahilly] says he heard "the story of a protest of his against collections in church, which was said to have resulted in their abolition".
[1910 letter from The O'Rahilly] says: "The only Ms. that I could trace was one which was given some years ago to a Mr. Francis Wicksteed, an English friend of The Mac Gillicuddy, by one of the Rahillys of Bellaghbeama" [Bellaghbeama Gap, Macgillycuddy's Reeks, Co.Kerry] "which, I understand, contained a satirical warning by Egan to any who might presume to molest his dog".

He was reduced to poverty in later years.
See him being paid for writing songs for Viscount Kenmare's children in 1727.
His wife died. He lived with his younger, unmarried daughter at Stagmount.
After his daughter died, he moved to his elder daughter's house in Tomies.
He died est c.1730, age c.60 yrs, at his elder daughter's house in Tomies.
There are various estimates for his year of death, but no real knowledge.
See his deathbed poem (referred to in the poem The Curse of Cromwell by Yeats).
He was bur Muckross Abbey, Killarney, Co.Kerry, see the poet's grave.
No wife is named, but he had issue:


  1. (dau) O'Rahilly, born est c.1700,
    mar --- Moynihan and had issue.


  2. (dau) O'Rahilly, younger daughter,
    lived at Stagmount,
    died unmarried at Stagmount in her father's lifetime.


"Everyone whom I interviewed stated that Egan had no sons" [1910 letter from The O'Rahilly].
However Aodhagán is claimed to have had illegitimate issue:


  1. (son) O'Rahilly, had issue:

    1. Patrick Rahilly, born c.1735,
      the "rake outrageous O'Rahilly",
      said to be grandson of the poet,
      [1834 article] speaks: "of having been in my juvenile days intimately acquainted with his grandson, Mr. Patrick Rahilly".





Stagmount on 1829 to 1842 map.


   
A story about the poet playing a trick in a bookshop.
From Pages xxviii-xxix in [Dineen and O'Donoghue, 1911].



A story about the poet bringing his cattle to the fair.
From Page xxix in [Dineen and O'Donoghue, 1911].




The entry for the poet on Pages ccxx-ccxxi under "A.D. 1726" in [O'Reilly, 1820].

  

The poet's grave, Muckross Abbey.


  

His works

Aodhagán's works include the following.
The number of the poem in [Dineen and O'Donoghue, 1911] is indicated. These are not in any chronological order:

  


"Aogán O'Rághálláigh" credited as the author in Irish of "The Prophecy of Donn Firinneach".
From [Hardiman, 1831].
Mentions of the poet in this work:
  

Translation of Ó Rathaille's poem "Gile na Gile".
Translation made by James Clarence Mangan, published 1849.
Above is from p.31 of 4th edn of [Poets and Poetry of Munster].
The lady (Ireland) is left "to languish Amid a ruffian horde till the Heroes cross the sea" (Mangan's translation).
A more accurate translation would be the one on page 21 of [Dineen and O'Donoghue, 1911].



Castle Togher, Togher, Fanlobbus par, Co.Cork, on 1829 to 1842 map.
Poem X, "The poet at Castle Togher", describes the poet visiting this castle (would be before 1730).
Castle Togher was a former MacCarthy castle, now held by Warner.
He sees such hospitality that he thinks the MacCarthys are in their seat again.
See modern satellite view.



Castle Togher.
Photo 2007. From Mike Searle on Geograph.
See more pictures.
See street view.


  

Deathbed poem

  


The deathbed poem (est c.1730) of Aodhagán Ó Rathaille.
The reference to the "princes" is to the MacCarthys, who were also buried at Muckross Abbey.




  

Memorials to Aodhagán Ó Rathaille

  


"Stadfadsa feasta - is gar dom éag gan mhoill
ó treascradh dragain Leamhan, Léin is Laoi;
rachad 'na bhfasc le searc na laoch don chill,
na flatha fá raibh mo shean roimh éag do Chríost."

"I will stop now - my death is hurrying near
now that the warriors of the Laune, Lein and Lee are destroyed;
I will follow the beloved among heroes to the grave,
those princes under whom were my ancestors before the death of Christ."

- The deathbed poem (est c.1730) of Aodhagán Ó Rathaille.


  

Irish language links




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