Freeman’s Journal Saturday 21st may, 1904
AN IRISH MINSTREL
THE BLIND BARD OF CONNAUGHT – RAFTERY THE ROVING POET (edited)
Anthony Raftery was born in Killedan, County Mayo in 1779. He was smitten with smallpox when he was a little lad and the disease left him blind.
Someone taught him to play the fiddle and when he was still a young man he left his native place to go tramping the Galway roads, fiddling and singing songs for his meat and lodging. He was a poet of a type then fairly common – there were over two hundred wandering Irish poets when Raftery was on the roads, and each one of them, wherever they went, was welcome at the fireside and the fair. Raftery was the most famous, a man one was proud to entertain. He would play dance music at Kiltartan Cross “of a Sunday evening'” and it is said he could “turn a marriage into a wedding” with his music.
His chief poems are “Eanach Dhiun”, “Mairin Stanton,” and a long solemn poem of great beauty, called “The Vision of Death,” which he made from a vision that came to him some seven years before he died. Of his life, there were many anecdotes, telling how he was once worsted in a dispute with a farmer poet, called Callinan, how he liked whisky, and was ever too fond of money, and how, at his death, the poor house where he lay “was all lighted up as bright as the day, and a flame in the heavens above it.” Blind though he was, it was said he could walk the roads with neither dog or stick, taking the turns rightly and leaping the bog-holes without a guide.
Raftery died in Killeeneen in 1835 and was buried in the graveyard there, with all the villagers to play him home. Lovers of his poetry placed a simple white stone above his grave.