Affy Dillon

In Croagh Patrick’s morning shadow, Affy Dillon first saw light

In the hungry eighteen forties, famished by potato blight

Falduff by Clew Bay’s lovely shores was his native heath

He was to see few joys, as man and boy, but hunger, want and grief.


He heard the chilling hunger cries while still a babe in arms

And his parents like so many more were forced to beg for alms

The seashore was the only hope to give some sustenance

As the “praties” failed and grain was sold to pay the cursed rent


With death and fever all around, word spread from door to door

That a ship had reached the Killary with grain and food in store

The long trek by the mountainside might bring them some relief

‘Though deathly weak the hundreds walked through snow, storm and sleet.


Young Affy’s loving mother tied him snugly on her back

And set her face for the “promised land” through wild Doolough pass

But soon hope turned to despair at the Delphi Lodge they found

No food was there or even passes to the workhouse grounds.


With heavy hearts and stomachs slack, they stumbled o’er the land

The ghost of death walked by their side and on many laid his hand

By lake and track and riverbank the lifeless bodies lay

To the powers to blame eternal shame for a plight they could allay.


Affy’s ailing mother too fell by the corpse-strewn track

And left this life just where she fell with her babe still on her back

The child himself at death’s cold door was rescued just in time

His life was saved but starvation’s wear had left young Affy blind.


His life was hard and comfortless till the day he passed away

He never viewed the pleasant scenes that abound around Clew Bay

The sunset red o’er Old Head hill, Croagh Patrick’s stately cone

Like luxuries were unknown to him though amid them he had grown.


Kilgeever holds his unknown grave unmarked by plaque or stone

At rest at last from earth’s cruel way since God has called him home

Let we who have seen better times spare a moments thought

And pray for those like Affy who have borne a fearsome cross.

© Michael O’ Grady

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