Rowland Soper


Rowland Soper, born Rohan Soper in 1940, a panel beater by trade is best known as a singer and composer, whose song “Come Back to Stay” was chosen to represent Ireland in the Eurovision song contest and sung by Dickie Rock in 1966.

Born on the 8th of April 1940 to Percy Soper, a labourer from York Street, and Annie Jordan of St Kevin’s Avenue, Rowland found his rhythm in music and moved to Our Lady’s Road in Maryland before settling down in Walkinstown, where he still hangs his hat today. He married Phyllis O’ Hanlon and had four kids: Alan, Carol, Kenneth, and Laura.

Rowland’s rise to stardom wasn’t overnight. From ’58, he started making waves as “Ireland’s Nat King Cole,” belting out tunes in Dublin’s hottest spots like the Rialto Olympic and the Kingsway Ballroom. His golden ticket came when he landed a gig with The Apollo Cinema group, crooning almost weekly at cinemas around Sundrive Road, Dundrum, and Walkinstown. Soon enough, he became the pop prince of Ireland, with posters dubbing him everything from “Ireland’s newest teenage rave” to “Dublin’s teenage idol.”

His popularity soared, and by ’63, he was hitting the airwaves on the freshly launched UTV channel. You’d catch him five nights a week on “Teatime with Tommy” and “Parade,” serenading audiences with his silky voice.

Then came the Eurovision. Rowland penned “Come Back to Stay,” a song inspired by his wife Phyllis, and boy, did it strike a chord. He claimed it took ten-minutes to write on his parent’s-in-law piano while waiting for this wife to get ready. Despite Jack Boyle’s initial skepticism (“It’s a load of shite, so it’ll probably win” he said), the song sung by Dickie Rock soared. It clinched the National Song Contest on Telefis Éireann and hit the top of the Irish singles chart.

In March 1966, off to Luxembourg they went for Eurovision, greeted by  Ballyfermot Boys’ Band at their departure at the airport. Backed by a 41-piece orchestra, Dickie took to the stage, earning a respectable joint fourth place. But the real victory was back home, where crowds clamoured to catch a glimpse of the returning heroes, at the airport though sadly, some ended up injured in the throng.

As the years rolled on, Rowland remained a fixture on both Irish and international stages. Teaming up with the Rory McGuinness Trio, he graced venues like the Metropole, Slattery’s Terenure, and St. Francis Xavier Hall, leaving audiences in awe of his talent. But it wasn’t just about the spotlight for Rowland. He had a heart of gold, often lending his voice to charitable causes, giving back to the community that had supported him throughout his career.

Now, in the twilight of his years, Rowland still calls Walkinstown home. Though the stage lights may have dimmed, the music still plays on in his heart. He spends his days with his family, cherishing each moment and the melodies that have shaped his life.

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Connection with area: Songwriter who wrote the Irish entry in the 1968 Eurovision contest lives on Dowland road