Róisín Dubh (song)

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A Black Rose as Symbol of Ireland
"Róisín Dubh"

"Róisín Dubh" (pronounced Ro-sheen dove or Ro-sheen doo, meaning "Black Little Rose"), written in the 16th century[citation needed], is one of Ireland's most famous political songs. It is based on an older love-lyric which referred to the poet's beloved rather than, as here, being a metaphor for Ireland. The intimate tone of the original carries over into the political song. It is often attributed to Antoine Ó Raifteiri, but almost certainly predates him.[1] Originally translated from the Irish language by James Clarence Mangan, this translation is credited to Pádraig Pearse.

The song is named after Róisín Dubh, probably one of the daughters of Aodh Mór Ó Néill, earl of Tyrone in the late 16th Century. The song is reputed to have originated in the camps of Aodh Rua Ó Domhnaill.[citation needed]

This song is traditionally sung in the Irish language, with only a few recordings of the English existing.


Róisín Dubh has been frequently performed and recorded, both in its own native Irish and translated into English. (However, quality of the translations vary greatly, from strict ones to those bearing no relationship to the original Irish.) It has been sung by numerous Irish traditional singers including the late Joe Heaney and Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, as well as in genres ranging from classical to rock and jazz.

The instrumental range is as wide as the vocal, but the instruments best suited to render this air authentically are the native Irish uilleann pipes, flute, fiddle, and whistle, as these are capable of making the "caoine" ("cry"), the note-shaping and changing that is characteristic of the native Irish music. However, other versions using different instruments are also widely available.

Musicians/composers who have performed or recorded the song include these:


  1. ^ Duanaire, 1600–1900: Poems of the Dispossessed; Thomas Kinsella (Editor), Seán Ó Tuama (Editor); ISBN 0851053645