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The important thing to know about Thomas Davis, who was born two hundred years ago, is that although he died young he achieved so much. He was only 31 when he was polished off by a virus during the Famine.

The important thing to know about Thomas Davis, who was born two hundred years ago, is that although he died young he achieved so much. He was only 31 when he was polished off by a virus during the Famine.

Davis's influence on Irish history was enormous, but he remains underestimated. His weekly newspaper The Nation would be the source of much of the thinking behind Irish politics in the next 50 years.

His songs The West Asleep, Eibhlin a Ruin and A Nation Once Again (which should have been our national anthem) were sung throughout the country. They were not just patriotic songs. WB Yeats came to recognise this and blurted out to the poet Padraic Colum on one occasion

'I was wrong, I was wrong, Davis was a great poet'. Patrick Pearse was another fan of Davis and referred to him in a famous speech as a model for the new Ireland.

'The Romans' Pearse said 'had a noble word which summed up all moral beauty and civic valour, the word virtus. If English had as noble a word as that, it would be the word to apply to the thing which made Thomas Davis so great a man'.

Davis was, in particular, an admirer of the Wild Geese, those four hundred thousand Irishmen, who after the defeat by King Billy of England at Limerick went into exile and would become famous among the armies of France, Austria Russia for their military skill.

The greatest victory of the Irish Brigade which we all know about, is the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745 when Louis IV was being driven back by the English and ordered his Irish left flank to confront the British guards.

The Irish not only won the battle but seized the guards colours of the brigade and brought them back to Paris where they were hung in Les Invalides.

Here is how Davis imagines the scene of the Brigade in the mess tent the night before the exiles set out for the fray.

Why not try having a read of the ballad outside Thomas Davis's house at 67 Lower Baggot Street.

I think he would have appreciated this.


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