Róisín Bán by Ian Duhig

You may remember an article Chris Nickson wrote for us awhile ago, Leeds, Motorway City of the Seventies. The poet, Ian Duhig, wrote Róisín Bán about the Irish workers that the M1 brought up and  the singer Darach Ó Catháin who lived in Leeds.

Sean-nós is traditional Irish unaccompanied singing, a Gaeligore an Irish-speaker and the poem’s title literally means ‘White Rose’, for Yorkshire, but alludes to the ‘Roisin Dubh’ of the song, an image for Ireland. The pub knocked down was the Roscoe.

Róisín Bán

The M1 laid, they laid us off;

we stayed where it ran out in Leeds,

a white rose town in love with roads,

its Guinness smooth, the locals rough.


Some nights we’d drink in Chapeltown,

a place not known for Gaeligores,

to hear Ó Catháin sing sean-nós –

Ó Riada gave him the crown.


Though most were lost by ‘Róisín Dubh’,

all knew his art was rich and strange

in a pub soon drowned by our black stuff

when we laid the Sheepscar Interchange.


Pulped books help asphalt stick to roads

and cuts down traffic-sound as well;

between white lines a navvy reads

black seas of words that did not sell.


Ian Duhig (6)Róisín Bán is published in Ian Duhig’s  fifth collection of poems, Pandorama (2010).

You can read more about Ian Duhig here and follow him on Twitter.

Fiona Gell

Fiona is a lifelong reading enthusiast and book lover. Her career started as a bookseller and has never really veered away from the written and spoken word. It was a dream for her to be a founder member of The Leeds Big Bookend. Fiona is its Coordinator and Marketing Director of the Northern Short Story Festival.

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