Francis Davis

Life
1810-1885[?]; b. Hillsborough, Co. Down, son of a Presbyterian small-holder who troubled his family by enlisting in the Army (when he prob. served in garrison at raised Ballincollig, Co. Cork), later being bought out; Davis became a weaver & frequently contributed to The Nation, as ‘The Belfastman’; edited the Belfast Man’s Journal, 1850; his collected poems as Earlier and Later Leaves (1878); wrote elegy for Henry Cooke and dedicated a later work to Queen Victoria; received civil list pension; Belfast, of infectious disease; bur. Milltown Catholic Cemetery; monument erected by Young Ireland Association. CAB PI DIW MKA RAF DUB OCIL

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Works
The Lispings of the Lagan (Belfast: J. Henderson 1847), xi, 168pp.; Poems and Songs (Belfast: J. Henderson 1847), vii, 94pp; Miscellaneous Poems and Songs (Belfast 1852); Belfast, The City and the Man, a poem (Belfast 1855); The Tablet of Shadows, a fantasy, and other poems (London 1861); Leaves from our Cypress and Our Oak (London 1863) [anon.]; Earlier and Later Leaves, or An Autumn Gathering (Belfast: Patrick Mahon 1878), port.; intro. Rev. Columban O’Grady, O.P.

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Commentary
Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, 1789-1850, Vol 1 (1980), on Davis’s provenance, see David Stewart, ‘Francis Davis’, in Irish Book Lover, March 1914. Stewart cites his father’s diary in evidence that Davis was born in Hillsborough, giving other details at variance with O’Grady, Read, O’Donoghue and - of course - Cleeve. See also IBL April 1914, V, 9, ‘FD’s remains lie in Milltown Cath. Cemetary outside Belfast ... lifelike bust unveiled by Belfast YI Assoc. at a big demonstration at St. Mary’s Hall, etc.’ NOTE, Refroidi adds no publication details, taking his information from Stewart, with the following caveat, ‘details for [Lispings] have been taken from David Stewart with some hesitation, the bibliographer’s information concerning the two preceeding titles and the re-issue of the 1st being erroneous.’

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References
Brian McKenna, Irish Literature, 1800-1875: A Guide to Information Sources (Detroit: Gale Research Co. 1978) , calls The Belfast Man’s Journal and Magazine of Miscellaneous Literature (Jan-March 1850) a ‘significant literary journal’ edited by Francis Davis; to judge by the copy in the Linenhall, this is an exaggeration; it contains nothing but his own descriptive essays on Belfast region. Cites essays by Matthew Russell (Irish Monthly, 1877), John McGrath (D.U. Review, 1886) and David Stewart (Irish Book Lover, Vol.V, Mar. 8, 1914); also, a chapter in John Hewitt, Rhyming Weavers [MA 1951] (Blackstaff 1974), devoted to him.

D. J. O’Donoghue, Poets of Ireland : A Biographical Dictionary (Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co 1912): b. Ballincollig, Co. Cork, 17 March; d. Oct. 7 [Belfast]; contrib. to The Nation as ‘The Belfast Man’; settled in the north of Ireland where he practised his trade as a weaver; ed. Belfastman’s Journal, 1850; obtained small pension from Civil List. Works, The Lispings of the Lagan (Belfast 1844) [sic err.]; Poems and Songs (Belfast 1847) [sic err.]; Miscellaneous Poems and Songs (Belfast 1852); Belfast, The City and the Man, a poem (Belfast 1855); The Tablet of Shadows, a fantasy, and other poems (London 1861); Leaves from our Cypress and Our Oak (London 1863) [anon.]; Earlier and Later Leaves, or An Autumn Gathering (Belfast 1878), port.; intro. Rev. Columb[i]an [sic, for Columban] O’Grady, O.P.

Chris Morash, The Hungry Voice (1989), b. 7 March 1810, Hillsborough; d. Belfast, 7 Oct. 1885; weaver; wrote for The Nation as “The Belfast Man”; est. The Belfast Man’s Journal, running for three months, in 1850. ‘A Song of Ulster’, in Earlier and Later Leaves (Belfast: Patrick Mahon 1878), p.267.

Library Cats.: Belfast Public Library holds Earlier and Later Leaves, an Autumn Gathering (1898); Funeral Voices in Mem. of Rev. Henry Cooke (1869); Lispings ... (1849); Rambles and Gossip (1866); The Tablet of Shadows (1861). Belfast Linen Hall holds Lispings (1849).

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Quotations
Lispings
(1849), ‘Nazareth of Nations’, ‘Can any good come out of Nazareth?/Enquired the mighty ones of earth, who held/That muscle was the larger mind. A deep/Voice boomed “No!”; a critique of British Imperialism which anticipates the Israel-Ireland analogy of later nationalists. For further quotations, see NOTESHEETS.

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Notes
W. P. Ryan, The Irish Literary Revival (1894), note on Belfast Young Ireland, ... not least of its actions was the erection of a Celtic Cross over the grave of Francis Davis, ‘The Belfast Man’ [158]. Note that the cross was destroyed by Ulster Loyalists in the Northern Troubles of the 70s.

?Birth place?: Davis’s place of birth is given as Ballincollig, Co. Cork, in both H. H. Sparling, Irish Minstrelsy (1888), and W. J. Paul, Modern Irish Poets (1894; 1897, vol. II [1897], pp.192-94), as in O’Donoghue [infra]; Paul places his death at d. Cliftonpark Ave., Belfast, 8th Oct. 1893; but a variant biographical account is given in Rafroidi [infra] and other sources, including the copy-cat compilation, Dict. of Ulster Biography; for an authoritative correction to misleading accounts perpetuated by O’Donoghue [PI], see David Stewart’s biographical notice of Davis, in Irish Book Lover, 5, 14 (1914), but note also McKenna (Irish Literature, 1974), who comments that Stewart’s view is based on Davis’s own account, which was not always reliable.

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