John Locke, who was a native of Co Kilkenny Ireland was the author of the poem ‘Dawn on the Irish Coast’. US President Ronald Reagan quoted the first verse of the poem during his visit to Ireland in 1984. Locke was inspired to write the poem by the account given to him by a friend who paid a visit to Ireland having spent thirty years in exile. Locke wrote the poem in 1877.
John Locke was born in Callan, Co Kilkenny in 1847. He was educated locally at Callan National School and is reported to have been a talented player of the game of hurling. At the age of sixteen his first poem was published in the Irish People. Several other poems were to follow including ‘The Calm Avonree’.
In 1867 Locke was arrested for his involvement with the Fenian movement. He was found guilty and sentenced to six months in Kilkenny jail. Following his release he moved to Manchester, England and later to New York. In New York he became a journalist with the Celtic Monthly. He continued to publish poetry and novels including ‘The Shamrock and Palmetto’ and ‘A Tale of the Tithes’.
D’anam chun De! but there it is—
The dawn on the hills of Ireland!
God’s angels lifting the night’s black veil
From the fair, sweet face of my sireland!
O, Ireland! isn’t it grand you look—
Like a bride in her rich adornin!
With all the pent-up love of my heart
I bid you the top of the morning!
John Locke, author of the poem ‘Dawn on the Irish Coast’, died at the age of 42 in the year 1889 On This Day.