“The Blackbird of Avondale (The Arrest of Parnell)”


A fair maid mourns "Oh, where is my Blackbird of sweet Avondale." The fowler caught him in Dublin and he is behind "the walls of Kilmainham." She says "God grant that my country will soon be a nation And bring back my Blackbird to sweet Avondale"


Parnell, who was born in Avondale, County Wicklow, is arrested under the Coercion Act of 1881, which was intended to inhibit Land League activities. Parnell was the head of the Land League at the time. (source: "Charles Stuart Parnell (1846-1891)" at the Alumni Website of Magdalene College, Cambridge) - BS

[We should note that almost all sources spell Parnell's name "Charles Stewart Parnell."]

For the Land League, see the notes to "The Bold Tenant Farmer."

This, incidentally, was one of the Great Mistakes of Britain's dealings with Ireland. Prior to his arrest, Parnell was in the uncomfortable position of leading a divided organization: Many Land Leaguers were for fighting the British with all their might, others favored purely parliamentary means. Both were growing somewhat suspicious of Parnell (who seems to have favoured whatever was most effective at a particular time). But the radicals' activism caused Gladstone to pass a Coersion Act, and to round up Parnell and his associates. That united all Ireland behind him; by the time he was released, he was Ireland's dominant politician (see Robert Kee, _The Bold Fenian Men_, being volume II of _The Green Flag_, pp. 81-85).

I should say, *almost* all Ireland. The exception was the Ulster presbyterians. According to Kee, p. 103, the Kilmainham "treaty" which led to the release of Parnell, and the accompanying British concessions, alarmed the workers of northeast Ulster. The result was the revival of the Orange Society, and the rise of the Ulster Unionists, and eventually partition; see, e.g. the notes to "A Loyal Song Against Home Rule." - RBW

Historical references

  • Oct12, 1881 - Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891) is arrested in Dublin. He is released from Kilmainham Jail May 2, 1882 (source: Zimmermann)

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 26(59), "The Blackbird of Avondale" or "The Arrest of Parnell" ("By the sweet bay of Dublin whilst carelessly strolling"), unknown, n.d.


  1. Zimmermann 81, "The Blackbird of Avondale" or "The Arrest of Parnell" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Roud #5174
  3. BI, Zimm081


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1881 (Zimmermann)
Found in: Ireland