This song is sung from the point of view of an Irish poet who spoke out against the British government and was going to be exiled to Tasmania (Van Dieman's Land is the original name for the island. Many Irish and British convicts were sent there in the 1700's.)
Isaac Lee icleeucdavis.edu) and Danielle (Unknown email address) (contributed before the 20:th of February 1998)
The song is about John Boyle O'Reilly, a Fenian, who was sentenced for mutinous conduct and transported to Fremantle on board the "Hougoumont" in 1867. JB served his time and moved to Boston, USA, where he was involved in organising the Catalpa Fenian breakout in Fremantle, Australia. In the song, why is John transported to Van Diemens land instead of Fremantle? I do not know.
beli belilindtgmail.com (19:th of December 2004)
"It's an emigrant's song - or an immigrant's song. That's what justifies its place on the album." -Bono, pg 80, U2: Into the Heart
Chris Taguchi chris.taguchigmail.com ( 4th of November 2008)