“Michael Davitt”


"Oh, the Lords and and the Commons, Bill Gladstone and Bright" passed Coercion "and arrests and evictions are going on still." Davitt, Dillon, Parnell, "Kettle and Brennan, and two hundred more" are arrested. "[T]he land it is ours and we mean to be free"


Bodleian, Harding B 40(17), "A New Song on Michael Davitt ("Then up with the flag, raised by Davitt, our head"), J.F. Nugent and Co.? (Dublin?), 1850-1899 is apparently this ballad but I could not download the image to verify that. It has the tune as "Garryowen."

"A Coercion Act, I should explain, is defined to be a statute which is not a part of the general law, but applies only to some specified portion of the kingdom. And within the limits to which it applies it arms the police with powers unknown to the ordinary law, and sometimes foreign to the spirit of that law." (source: _The Lighter Side of My Official Life_ by Sir Robert Anderson, 1910 on the Casebook site re Jack the Ripper).

In 1881 Gladstone established "the Irish Coercion Act that let the Viceroy detain people for as 'long as was thought necessary.'" (source: "William Ewart Gladstone" in Wikipedia)

Zimmermann: "A.J Kettle and Thomas Brennan were Land Leagers arrested in 1881.... John Dillon was arrested in May 1881, but was released later on grounds of ill-health."

Zimmermann p.281: "Michael Davitt, who had been sentenced in 1870 to fifteen years' penal servitude for his share in the Fenian movement and released in 1877, was re-arrested in February 1881. Released in 1882, he was again prosecuted for seditious speeches and imprisoned for four months in 1883 ...." - BS

Considering that Gladstone worked for most of his career trying to improve conditions in Ireland, and passed much relief legislation, and on one occasion lost a confidence vote over a proposal for Home Rule, this is a pretty unfair accusation. It was the Tories who opposed rights for Ireland. Yes, Gladstone at times was forced to clamp the lid down, but it was hardly something he desired. Unfortunately, he inherited an Ireland which was in turmoil over tenants' rights (see, e.g., "The Bold Tenant Farmer"). He also had to contend with the Phoenix Park Murders (see the notes to "The Phoenix Park Tragedy"). The situation was bad enough that any government would have been forced into a crackdown.

John Bright (1811-1889) is a more confusing case: He was a pacifist, but an imperialist, and supported more freedom for Ireland and India, but opposed Home Rule in 1886.

Michael Davitt (1846-1906), having seen his family evicted from their land at five and then lost his arm in an industrial accident at the age of 12 (see Robert Kee, _The Bold Fenian Men_, being volume II of _The Green Flag_, p. 74), started out as a radical, and though he moderated over the years, he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 1870. Released after half that time, he allied with Charles Stewart Parnell to form the Land League, though they would later fall out violently. He was imprisoned again from 1881-1882, this time apparently for more conservative views. (Altogether he is a very confusing figure, at least to me.) In 1886, he suppored home rule (Kee, p. 119).

His popularity is a bit ironic, given that he was anti-clerical and inclined toward socialist solutions.

For more on Davitt, see the notes to "The Bold Tenant Farmer" and "Erin's Lament for her Davitt Asthore."

John Dillon (1851-1927) came from a wealthy background but spent most of his life campaigning for land reform; he was four times imprisoned despite spending most of the years 1880-1918 in parliament.

For Parnell (1846-1891), see the various songs in the cross-references.

The other imprisoned Land Leaguers, Kettle and Brennan, were not noteworthy enough to show up in hte histories I checked. - RBW


  • cf. "The Blackbird of Avondale" or "The Arrest of Parnell" (subject)
  • cf. "The Land League's Advice to the Tenant Farmers of Ireland" (subject)
  • cf. "Erin's Lament for her Davitt Asthore" (subject of Michael Davitt)
  • cf. "Garryowen (II)" (tune, per broadside Bodleian Harding B 40(17))


  1. Zimmermann 80, "A New Song on Michael Davitt" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, Zimm080


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1881 (Zimmermann)