Tag Archives: Best-Loved Irish Poem


00000401Seamus Heaney with the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1995

Embargoed until 4.15.

The waiting is over.

Ireland’s best loved poem of the last 100 years is…

‘When all the others were away at Mass’

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.
So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives–
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

Seamus Heaney

As voted by the general public.

Beating works from Kavanagh, Durcan, Yeats and Moynes.

Judges felt the poem had everything.

Mammy. Check. Potatoes. Check. Parish Priest. Check. Hammer and tongs. Check. Death. Check. Tears. Check. Dipping knives. Check.

Sinead Harrington writes:

The sonnet When All The Others Were Away at Mass [from Clearances III – In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984] by Seamus Heaney topped the RTÉ poll to identify the best-loved Irish poem of the past century. This iconic poem was revealed in front of a live audience during a special filming of The Works which will be aired this Friday 13 March at 8:30pm on RTÉ One. Seamus Heaney’s son Mick Heaney noted: “ Dad was never happier than when reading or writing poetry, so for his work to be part of a project that shows the sweep of Irish poetry and underlines its crucial part in our culture is a wonderful tribute to his life and work, for which our family are truly grateful.”


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