In the song Raglan Road, Irish poet Patrick Kavanah poured his heart out over his love for a dark-haired girl he chanced to meet one day in the street, leading to a relationship he immediately knew he would one day rue but one he just could not resist.
Kavanagh never revealed the identity of the mystery girl. This was in the days before kiss and tell stories in the newspapers.
The truth emerged in the 1980s after some careful digging by researchers. The girl was medical student Hilda Moriarty, who went on to become a doctor and marry Donogh O’Malley, one time Irish Minister for Health.
She met Kavanagh in 1944 when she was still a student living in the Raglan Road area of Dublin.
In an interview more than 60 years later, she said one of the reasons for the failure of the relationship was the age gap.
She was only 22 at the time and Kavanagh was 40. The age gap would also explain why Kavanagh sensed from the beginning that the affair would not succeed.
Kavanagh called her Miriam to protect her identity
The song we now know as Raglan Road was originally published as a poem called Dark Haired Miriam Ran Away.
Miriam was the girlfriend of Kavanagh’s brother Peter.
Kavanagh borrowed the name Miriam to protect his beloved Hilda’s identity and to avoid any embarrassment.
Kavanagh was upbraided for writing about ‘cabbages’
Dr Moriarty also gave a fascinating insight into how Raglan Road came to be written when she was interviewed for an RTE documentary about Kavanagh called Gentle Tiger.
The programme was broadcast in 1987. Dr O’Malley described how Kavanagh wrote the poem after she had teased him about his work.
She said: “I upbraided him about his Tarry Flynn and his writing about cabbages and turnips and potatoes, because he said he was a peasant poet. I said he should write something else.
Oh he said, I will. I’ll write something else and that was the origin of Raglan Road.”
Despite Dr Moriarty’s rejection of him, or maybe because of it, Kavanagh went on to make her famous in Raglan Road, giving her a celebrity she would never have otherwise achieved.
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