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The Society of United Irishmen was established in Belfast in October 1791 and the following month saw the formation of the Dublin Society of United Irishmen. Wolfe Tone, one of its founders, stated its aim as being "to break the connection with England". It was banned in 1794.

The 1798 Rebellion only lasted a few weeks. It was harshly put down and over 30,000 were killed. Wolfe Tone was captured and sentenced to be hanged but died in prison and was buried in Bodenstown, just outside Clane, County Kildare. The grave and surround is on the care of the National Graves Association.

In the nineteenth century Cardinal Cullen condemned the Fenians for wishing to make pilgrimages to Republican graves. He was almost certainly referring to Wolfe Tone and Bodenstown, which has a long tradition as the holiest spot in Ireland and the place where generations of Irish men and women have reaffirmed their Republican faith. This is the subject of Davis's moving ballad. The National Graves Association is in line of succession in caring for Tone's grave for almost 100 years and faithfully carries out necessary repairs and maintenance with a small team of dedicated volunteers. Bodenstown is maintained by voluntary contributions only and the NGA facilitates all, regardless of political affiliation, who wish to honour the father of Irish republicanism.