Davis, Eugene (1857–97), journalist, poet, and nationalist, was born 23 March 1857 in Clonakilty, Co. Cork, the only son of John Davis, teacher of classics, formerly renowned as a private tutor to the local gentry, and his second wife, Ellen (née Murphy). He had three stepsisters and one stepbrother, Fr Charles Davis (1829–92), who achieved brief fame during the late 1880s for his innovative work to develop the fishing industry in south-west Cork. A very well read young man of a tall, powerful build, Eugene was educated by his father, who intended him for the priesthood. Accordingly, he studied as a divinity student in the Irish Colleges of Louvain and Paris (1878–80), but he did not take his studies seriously and devoted himself instead to literature, adopting the pen name ‘Owen Roe’. During 1876–80, on an almost weekly basis, he contributed a series of literary articles on Irish poetry and history to the Shamrock, as well as much original poetry (chiefly nationalist ballads) and some translations of French and German romantic verse. After the publication of his first year-long series, ‘Hours with Irish poets’, he was commissioned by the widow of J. K. Casey (qv) to write Reliques of John Keegan Casey ‘Leo’ (1878), a critical biography which included many previously unpublished poems and articles. During the autumn of 1880, on leaving the Irish College in Paris, he began contributing verse and some fiction to the Irishman before joining the staff of United Ireland a year later, though he remained permanently resident in Paris, settling at a hotel on 338 rue St Honoré. A strong sympathiser with the republican movement in Ireland, on the suppression of United Ireland (December 1881), at the request of Patrick Egan (qv), for six weeks he edited an underground, Parisian issue of the paper. Thereafter he was commissioned by the retired IRB founder James Stephens (qv) to help edit and arrange the publication of his memoirs in the Irishman (February–June 1882) and Weekly Freeman (October 1883–February 1884).
During 1883 Davis unwittingly became an associate of several British spies and agents provocateurs thanks to his brief connection with the United Irishman, the New York paper of O'Donovan Rossa (qv). Ultimately this led the French authorities to arrest both him and Stephens and expel them from France in February 1885, although neither was politically active. Over the next eighteen months he contributed regularly to the San Francisco Chronicle and Boston Pilot and travelled much of Europe. He later drew upon these experiences in Souvenir of Irish footprints over Europe (1889), a witty and learned book which was in part a history of the Irish in Europe, a tourist guide, and an account of contemporary social life on the Continent. During 1886–7 he contributed a few lengthy articles on Ireland to the republican journal La Nouvelle Revue (Paris) and, on being allowed to return to France in early 1887, was asked by a Franco-Irish politician to act as editor of a new, bilingual Irish nationalist newspaper in Paris, but the project failed to materialise.
Moving to Dublin that summer, he became a literary editor with the Nation, befriended Michael MacDonagh (qv), and also contributed verse regularly to United Ireland. In January 1889 he provided Michael Davitt (qv) with information about the Parisian activities of Richard Pigott (qv) to help expose his duplicity before the Times special commission. During the late 1880s he spoke before the Cork Young Ireland Society, the Pan-Celtic Literary Society, and Southwark Irish Literary Society occasionally, and a single volume of his verse was published, A vision of Ireland and other poems (1889), consisting almost entirely of recently published love songs and patriotic ballads. Some of his other poems were published in the Dublin University Review (April 1886) and Lays and lyrics of the Pan-Celtic Society (1889), including a tribute in verse to Walt Whitman.
After the collapse of the Nation (July 1891), he left for the USA, contributing to the Chicago Citizen and various American literary magazines before securing an editorial position with the Boston Pilot. In June 1892 he married a wealthy widow, a daughter of Charles Graham Halpin (qv); they had two daughters. He soon settled in Brooklyn, New York, and died there 25 November 1897 while working on a novel. A very prolific poet known for his ability to write appealing verse in a matter of minutes to commemorate social occasions, Davis was considered by T. D. Sullivan (qv) to be of conspicuous merit, though his powers of expression were clearly much greater as a prose writer. His romantic verse was invariably simple in style and very often predicated on an obvious moral viewpoint.