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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