Emigration is a common theme throughout Irish history, one that has touched almost every family in Ireland. Until recently, thousands found work in Britain’s major industrial centres. For a large proportion of people leaving County Mayo in the west of Ireland, the Yorkshire city of Leeds was their chosen destination.
Today the Leeds-Irish population measures around 20,000. For many Irish in Britain a combination of family ties, economic dependence and prolonged absence means that whilst Ireland is still ‘home’, the imagined permanent return is often impossible.
Róisín Bán explores the Irish community living in Leeds and their ties to the West of Ireland. Róisín Bán (pronounced Rosheen Bawn) refers to the floral symbol of Yorkshire, the white rose. By contrast, Róisín Dubh, the black rose or dark maiden, was an allegory for Ireland used in poetry and song during times of persecution when it was considered too dangerous to openly express patriotism.