Tinkers: Synge and the Cultural History of the Irish Traveller

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How The Persecuted Irish Travellers Survive The Modern World

Nollaig na mBan appears to have been passed on orally from mother to daughter and to have become widely forgotten with the loss of the Irish language. JJQ : One thing which comes up repeatedly in your article is the notion that the Gregorian and liturgical calendars are haunted by their predecessors, whose roots are embedded in folk and pagan tradition. Burke: January had been the days on which Christmas was celebrated prior to the Gregorian calendar. Thus, the forgotten trauma and commemorations of women, the poor, and the defeated return to haunt both Gabriel and official calendars at the close.

Irish Travellers

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Oxford Handbooks Online. Though generally based in Belfast, Nan's family journeyed widely throughout Northern Ireland, and across the sectarian divides of the era : "We travelled around Portadown and Lurgan, to Ballymena and Newry, we travelled all of the North over and over again" Joyce demonstrates a shaded appreciation of the position of Travellers within dominant society ; although the autobiographical voice acknowledges that the Traveller minority is an ethnic group to be differentiated from the majority populations of Northern Ireland "we're a different- speaking people with our own traditions and our own way of life" 39 , its sense of solidarity with the Roman Catholic, Protestant and immigrant working classes subverts the sociological fallacy that the Traveller has nothing in common with her sedentary neighbour :.

I think poor is poor : it doesn't matter if you're a Protestant or a Catholic, if you're a black or a white [ The people in the Bog Meadows [ We were staying at the back doors of their houses with no water, no toilets, no bin collection, just like today, and still they didn't come out and call us names. They understood because they were poor oppressed people themselves Although Travellers are subject to mistreatment by the police her father dies mysteriously while in custody , such experiences are not framed within an easy discourse of sectarian or ethnic conflict, rather one of the subjugation of the underprivileged by the institutions of social control Nonetheless, disregard for the sacred cows of majority identity permeate the Traveller memoir genre, and the minority's oral.

In the following anecdote dictated by Traveller Frank Dunne, the "Black and Tans", anathema to Irish nationalist and republican recollection, are remembered with something akin to affection ; they paid for services provided by the Travelling community, and demonstrated a skewed benevolence and perhaps class solidarity towards the minority, since members were generally drawn from the lowest socio-economic stratum of British society :.

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The British had sent troops to Ireland to try and make peace [ Some of the men in this regiment were very cruel and some were very kind. They used to hold parties and they would ask my parents to play music for them and they would pay [ One day [my mother] went to the shops to get food when one of the troops saw her in the butcher's shop [ It's on the house. Nevertheless, Traveller ethnic difference is generally stressed in Joyce's memoir. Despite much commonality with the majority population, a sense of distance from the inter-community conflict, and a seeming lack of allegiance to either "side" figures "the Troubles" as a form of entertaining spectacle to the Belfast minority :.

When Protestants and Catholics couldn't get on and they were afeared [afraid] of living side by side they'd move from one area to another. They'd come along to the travellers and say, "Can I have a lend of your lorry? At first in the troubles we were very nervous but then we got used to it, we just walked out on the street where people were rioting and we did our shopping and we weren't afeared. You might stand and look at what's going on and you'd just say "Ah" and walk on.


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It's like seeing a cowboy picture Rituals and traditions that were a cause and symptom of conflict are described with palpable affection by Nan, who. One Twelfth of July I went down to Sandy Row with [my brother] Willie and we were all day watching the Orangemen marching and listening to the music. I had a skipping rope and I'd go skipping along beside them while they were marching.

The Protestant side of the Bog Meadows [where Nan's family had camped] had a bonfire and they [ It was like a scarecrow and it was supposed to be the Pope In exploring the detachment of Travellers from the political concerns of sedentary society, North and South, and in depicting Cant being spoken by Traveller characters, MacMahon 's revolutionary Honey Spike acknowledged that the community constituted a cultural and ethnic minority on the island.

Furthermore, MacMahon 's depiction of the manipulation of Travellers by republican representatives is perceptive : Joyce suggests that, historically, Travellers' perceived indifference to hostilities occurring around them was exploited by "the old IRA", who used the minority to smuggle guns because "travellers [ It should be noted that Joyce's memoir centres on the period preceding "the Troubles" ; certain research indicates that Travellers were increasingly labelled as "nationalist" or "Catholic" in the wake of the decisive eruption of sectarian tensions, although the identification was not always inevitable, and rarely asserted by the Travellers themselves Both MacMahon and Joyce stake a claim in a "third space" of Northern Irish identity, negotiating the bi-vocal and ubiquitous discourse of "Catholic" and "Protestant", "nationalist" and "loyalist", and answering in the affirmative Paul Delaney's question as to "whether it is possible to recognise and depict another culture as also Irish.

I would like to thank Roisin Kelly-Girard and Sylvain Girard for their kind assistance with the translation of the abstract.

New Publication: J. M. Synge and Travel Writing of the Irish Revival

II, p. Phil, Trinity College Dublin, In Maurice Walsh's novel The Road to Nowhere, the flimsy boundary between Traveller and dominant culture effordessly and willingly yields to the penetration of the sedentary adventurer who wishes to "join the tinkers". It is one of the most masterly pieces of theatre that the Abbey has ever produced.

De Camp eds. See Travellers : A Way of Life, p. Now here you have a white aborigine who rejoices in being a white aborigine, who loves the sense I get of undermining all of us [ In the establishment in the south of Ireland, they hate me because I remind them of their tinker ancestry. The theory that Travellers issue from a vanquished archaic caste that descends unbroken to this day has become a convention among those writing about the community.


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Bulfin, William, Rambles in Eirinn, 2 vols. Sharon Gmelch's discovery of references to tinkers in The Commission on the Condition of the Poorer Classes is generally understood to be the earliest modern reference to the ethnic category of "tinker", as subsequently recognised.

The Tinker's Wedding - WikiVisually

One submission stated that "Ordinary beggars do not become a separate class of the community, but wandering tinkers, families who always beg, do. Three generations of them have been seen begging together. They intermarry with one another, and form a distinct class. Traveller activist David Joyce, personal correspondence, 23 May Letter to The Standard 16 Aug.

Likewise, Thomas Acton was informed by a British radio producer that the "Gypsy knowledge of old English ballads now no longer known by the English" suggested that "the Gypsies were more English than the English. Nan Joyce, My Life on the Road,. It was the cruellest thing I ever saw.

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Travellers are at least nominally viewed as 'Catholics' and their 'brogue' defines them as Irish. It is sometimes said that the 'South' should deal with its own problem and not export it 'up North'. This sectarian factor is present and may be seen to be reflected in the voting patterns at Local Council meetings when the 'itinerant problem' is raised.

While the sectarian factor is present [ The reduction of the peripatetic figure in Ulster Literary Theatre productions in contrast to its valorization by the Dublin faction indicates that the vagabond motif was pivotal in the construction of 3 62 Mary BURKE the industrial, plain-speaking North and the heritage-laden but impoverished South ; in Gerald MacNamara's The Mist that Does Be on the Bog, a "tramp" is revealed to be a method-writing middle-class dramatist 7. Contemporary Belfast poet Ciaran Carson's "Travellers" opens in an unanchored space that has lost its previous designation in the wake of the minority community's arrival : On the waste ground that was Market Street and Verner Street, wandering trouserless Through his personal map — junked refrigerators, cars and cookers, anchored Caravans - the small boy trips over an extended tow-bar, picks himself up [ As depicted by MacMahon, Travellers slide easily between the seemingly polarised identities of Northern Ireland : Mickle, Martin's Traveller stepfather, and a former member of the British forces, regales the young man with an anecdote in which his superficial loyalty to the Republic is bought with a pint of beer : "A fella shook hands with me, an' I comin' out of a pub," Mickle went on.