The Sheepscar Triangle – the Irish community in Leeds

This week, as part of Irish History Month, Librarian Helen Skilbeck looks back at some of the local haunts  of the Irish community in Leeds. Join us for a lunchtime talk on 13th March with Irish Arts that will continue this theme and look at the specific importance of the Sheepscar triangle.

Talk details: The Sheepscar Triangle by Irish Arts, 13 March, 1-2pm, Leeds Central Library, Sanderson Room. Places can be reserved for this free talk on www.ticketsource.co.uk/leedslibraryevents

1968, bottom of Roundhay road. Sheepscar Library is in the back centre of the photo and the Pointer Inn is to the right. 

The dance halls and public houses around the Sheepscar and Leylands area to the North East of the city centre were historically a focal point for the Irish community who were living in the surrounding areas of Harehills, Chapeltown, Scott Hall , Hyde Park and Woodhouse. A principal role of these venues was to provide the opportunity to find out about available work, to hear Irish music and songs from ‘home’ or a place to meet up with old and new friends in their adopted city. Many of these venues are long since gone, demolished for redevelopment or road building schemes such as the Sheepscar interchange. The Irish community has now dispersed to  other areas across the city but the ‘Sheepscar Triangle’ is fondly remembered within the Irish community.

Here we look back at some images of the long gone venues in the Sheepscar area and share some memories from two key resources that chart the Irish community in the 20th century: Taking the Boat; the Irish in Leeds, 1931-81 by Brendan McGowan and Róisín Bán: the Irish Diaspora in Leeds by Corinne Silva.

The New Roscoe on Bristol Street. This public house opened after the original Roscoe closed in 1982.

‘Everyone knew everybody else going into the Roscoe, a great place for meeting. They called it the Labour Exchange of Leeds because if a lad came over from Ireland, he’d go to the Roscoe and they were able to get him a job. There were people there who were contractor, whatever. So that’s where they went to for a job when they went to England from this part of the country, they went to the Roscoe’ (Bernard, Róisín Bán, p.97).

The Albion Hotel, July 1958. This was situated on Buslingthorpe Lane and was a Sam Smiths public house. Copyright West Yorkshire Archive Service.

‘I didn’t find it all that different in Leeds because half the Irish people from around here was in Leeds at that time. There was a better craic in Leeds than there was here. We mixed in Irish circles like, lived in Irish areas, sort of thing. You didn’t really meet much English people. And if you went dancing they were practically all Irish dancehalls around about. The same if you went in to the pub, Irish music and all that sort of thing’ (Tom, Róisín Bán, p.129).

The Eagle Tavern, North Street, 1962. Copyright West Yorkshire Archive Service. Previously known as the Builder’s Inn, Ordnance Arms and Golden Eagle.

‘There were so many Irish people over in the 50’s and 60’s you always felt at home anyway because once you went to an Irish pub, you went to an Irish dance-hall, you always mixed with your own people, so it was like home-from-home in one sense’ (Joe, Róisín Bán, p.120).

Maguires at The Regent, junction of Skinner Lane and Regent Street, 1999.

‘I mean what they used to do on a Saturday night an’ that, go from The Roscoe to The Vic, drive down to The Regent, maybe drive up to a Donegal pub, the one up the road, an’ maybe drive up to the Irish Centre. Or everyone had a finishing up place, whether it be The Regent, whether it be The Harp or The Roscoe or wherever’ (Michael, Taking the Boat, p.55).

1968, Roundhay Road, The Victoria, to the right, was at 8 Roundhay Road.

‘The sessions at the Victoria finished in …2000, and it had been going, I think, for eighteen years. It was in that area of land that I would say was the Irish capital of Leeds. It was within a stones’ throw of the Old Roscoe, on Sheepscar, next to the Pointers, close to the Regent, the White Stag, and the Eagle, all those pubs’ (John, Róisín Bán, p.133).

For more memories of the Sheepscar triangle pubs and dancehalls be sure to attend the lunchtime talk on 13 March 2019.

Images taken from  Leeds Library and Information Service’s photographic archive www.leodis.net 

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