He was a blind, itinerant fiddle player, but his songs and poems were hugely influential. Yeats, Synge, Lady Gregory all fell under his spell. In his verse he railed against the harsh oppression of the Protestant landlord class. Yet it was a Church of Ireland clergyman's son, Douglas Hyde, who did most to preserve his memory. His best known poem is the poignant lyric Mise Raiftearaí an file. But Raiftearaí didn't write that poem - not only that, it was almost certainly written in an obscure town on the US Canadian border and first published in an Irish-language magazine in Brooklyn, NYC, in 1882.
The story of Raiftearaí, like all great dramatic stories, features at its heart a flawed character, full of contradictions. Since his death in 1835, one hundred and seventy five years ago this Christmas, his songs and poems as well as the memory of his fiesty, obstinate, idealistic and tender personality have flourished in folk memory, in both the Irish and English languages. This documentary drama seeks to sift through the myths and misinformation to find the real Raiftearaí.
Shot this year on location in the West of Ireland as well as in New York State and city, Mise Raiftearaí an Fíodóir Focal follows its writer and presenter, Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin as he goes in search of the true story. Illustrated by dramatic reconstructions of key moments from both the life and the verse of Raiftearaí, the film also features contributions from Nollaig Ó Muraile and Gearóid Denvir of NUI Galway, well-known actor broadcaster and raconteur Máirtín Jamsie Ó Flatharta, local Mayo historian, Betty Solan; poet and researcher Collette Nic Aodha and sean-nós singers Treasa Ní Cheannabháin, Máirtín Tom Sheáinín, Naisirín Elsafty, Caitríona Ní Cheannabháin and Jimí Ó Ceannabháin.
The large dramatic cast of over fifty actors and extras is led by Mayoman Aindrias de Staic who plays the adult Raiftearaí, Naoise Ó Gibne, who portrays the teenager and nine year old Domhnall Ó Braonáin who plays him as a young boy.
Mise Raiftearaí an Fíodóir Focal is directed by IFTA award winner Seán Ó Cualáin, and produced by Léirithe Sónta. Mise Raiftearaí an Fíodóir Focal was produced with the support of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland. It airs on TG4 on New Year's Eve at 7.45pm.
Linda Ní Ghríofa, TG4, 091-505228 / 087-9172864