Ray Mahoney, Ġensna author and Maltese songbook poet, dies at 74

Mahoney’s words accompanied the best music from the canon of Maltese songs fielded in national contests and the Eurovision Song Contest

The writer Ray Mahoney, whose name shared the billing on so many works from the Maltese popular songbook, has died. He was 74.

Mahoney was already a household name when he made his mark in Malta’s Eurovision history by penning its 1991 entry ‘Could It Be’, performed by Paul Giordimaina and Georgina at the Eurovision Song Contest held in Rome.

The following year, in 1992, he would write the words to the evergreen ‘Little Child (Tfajjel Ċkejken)’ sung by Mary Spiteri, reaching number 3 in Eurovision Song Contest held in Malmö, Sweden.

Mahoney was a poet and wordsmith sought after by collaborators and artists in the theatre world. In 1982, he wrote the lyrics for the Maltese rock opera Ġensna, which former Labour prime minister Alfred Sant dubbed “a marvellous testament to his skill in using the Maltese language to convey the changes and achievements of the Maltese and Gozitans over the centuries.”

In the following years, he wrote several musicals – from the comical to those inspiring national consciousness – such as Bastilja (1989), Ulied in-Nanna Venut fl-Amerika (1991), Il-Gwerra ta’ Spiru Ċefai (1992), Ali Baba (1994), Żeża tal-Flagship (1996), It-Tfajla tal-Palazz (1997), It-Tieġ ta’ Karmena Abdilla (1999), Rita ta’ Cascia (2000), Manuel! Manuel! IL-Bandiera tal-Maltin (2000), and Jien Ġużeppi (2006).

Alfred Sant saluted Mahoney as a poet with a profound mastery of the Maltese language and a man of socialist beliefs which “he never compromised for convenience.”

“He expressed his thoughts with words of wisdom, sincerity, and kindness, regardless of agreement or disagreement... His contribution in this field cannot be underestimated. Nevertheless, I will always remember above all the kindness, sincerity, and gentleness of Ray Mahoney as a person.”

Born in St Julian’s on 1 June, 1949, Mahoney began writing poetry in 1963 and was one of the founders of the Moviment Qawmien Literrarju. Many of Raymond Mahoney’s poems have been published in books and anthologies. For 19 years, he was one of the authors of Antenni and several other books.