U2 – Van Diemen’s Land – Meaning

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U2, Van Diemen’s Land – 3:06 – Voice: The Edge (David Howell Evans)
Album: Rattle and Hum (1988)

Meaning or interpretation

Van Diemen’s land, which gives the title to the song, is the name originally given by Europeans to today’s Tasmania island, located in South Australia. This island in the 1800s became a criminal colony of the British Empire. The song is dedicated by U2 guitarist The Edge, to poet John Boyle O’Reilly (1844-1890), deported to Australia because of his poetry and his militancy in a Irish patriotic secret society, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, which aimed at starting an uprising against British domination in order to gain independence to Ireland. The Fenian Brotherhood was the American branch of the same association. The United States was in the midst of a massive Irish emigration. Ireland will only gain independence in 1922, with the establishment of the Free State of Ireland, which in 1948-49, coming out of the British Commonwealth, will officially become Republic of Ireland. Van Diemen’s Land is one of the few U2 songs that have as their main voice not that of Bono, but of The Edge.

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