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When and Why Did Irish "Travellers" become Social Outcasts?


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Sep 5, 2009
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Having been horrified by my own reaction to the behaviour of Traveller families living on estates here in Mayo and elsewhere, I am wondering now why they behave as they do when they know it is going to cause hatred and disgust among their neighbouors. On my very small estate we have 3 houses rented out to "infamous" traveller families. Today, at 4pm until 6pm, this small estate was encircled by dozens of gardai cars, vans, motorbikes and Gardai actually using their feet. I have no idea what was going on, only that some of the men from these families were removed by the Gardai.

I have noticed that a lot of these families look very similar to each other and that led me to think if there was "interbreeding" ongoing in their community, and if marriages were arranged. I was chatting to one girl, I find it hard to call her a woman as she is only 17, and she has a one year old girl and a 6 week old baby boy. I had to bite my tongue as I was about to ask her if she was insane, having babies so quickly when she was only a child herself.

So did these families take to the roads during the famine years or was it before that? Were there always Travellers moving around the country, and were they "gypsies" and are there any Irish gypsies, or were they always displaced persons?

Do they have a special culture, different from those around them and if so what is the difference? When did their reputation as thieves and violent people become part of their expected behaviour? To contradict this reputation they appear to be extremely religious and superstitious and yet I know that in Knock on special occasions they have caused havoc amongst fellow pilgrims and the local people.

Basically, what I am asking is why are they so hated and feared by settled people? Has this always been the case? When did these people arrive on the scene and are they native Irish who were displaced by the English or did they come initially from abroad? Do they have a relationship with Romas, Gypsies in other countries?
 


EvotingMachine0197

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I acknowledge Stewie's post above. Would question the fifth line though.

We called them tinkers. They were called tinkers in most parts of the country up until maybe 1985 and somebody called them nackers. And that name stuck.

I still call them tinkers in my head.

The big problem tinkers always had was water. They had no access to fresh water. So whatever town they pulled into, they had to get water. So they walked to the nearest fixed residence with big steeel churns and asked the houseowner for fresh water.
No problem with that.

Invariably, when they left, the place was like a bomb had hit it. Which I didn't especially mind.
One summer, after the tinkers left, we descended upon our back road to find a Ford Escort van overturned.

By jesus did we have fun in that.
 
M

MrFunkyBoogaloo

Having been horrified by my own reaction to the behaviour of Traveller families living on estates here in Mayo and elsewhere, I am wondering now why they behave as they do when they know it is going to cause hatred and disgust among their neighbouors. On my very small estate we have 3 houses rented out to "infamous" traveller families. Today, at 4pm until 6pm, this small estate was encircled by dozens of gardai cars, vans, motorbikes and Gardai actually using their feet. I have no idea what was going on, only that some of the men from these families were removed by the Gardai.

I have noticed that a lot of these families look very similar to each other and that led me to think if there was "interbreeding" ongoing in their community, and if marriages were arranged. I was chatting to one girl, I find it hard to call her a woman as she is only 17, and she has a one year old girl and a 6 week old baby boy. I had to bite my tongue as I was about to ask her if she was insane, having babies so quickly when she was only a child herself.

So did these families take to the roads during the famine years or was it before that? Were there always Travellers moving around the country, and were they "gypsies" and are there any Irish gypsies, or were they always displaced persons?

Do they have a special culture, different from those around them and if so what is the difference? When did their reputation as thieves and violent people become part of their expected behaviour? To contradict this reputation they appear to be extremely religious and superstitious and yet I know that in Knock on special occasions they have caused havoc amongst fellow pilgrims and the local people.

Basically, what I am asking is why are they so hated and feared by settled people? Has this always been the case? When did these people arrive on the scene and are they native Irish who were displaced by the English or did they come initially from abroad? Do they have a relationship with Romas, Gypsies in other countries?
Irish Traveller - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

eyeswideopen

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Nov 6, 2009
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260
Tinkers, traders and bards - if you want a song with 20 plus verses its where you'll go. Clever people, a lot of them. The girls don't date before marriage and get married young. Very religious and go on a lot of pilgrimages. Law based on recompense rather than institutional law. When they are settled, sometimes the local authority insist on putting families together who for one reason or another don't want to be beside each other. There are a lot of Travellers who blend in to avoid discrimination so you probably don't know all the Travellers that you know, if you know what I mean...
 

whitey1

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Nov 27, 2009
Messages
134
I acknowledge Stewie's post above. Would question the fifth line though.

We called them tinkers. They were called tinkers in most parts of the country up until maybe 1985 and somebody called them nackers. And that name stuck.

I still call them tinkers in my head.

The big problem tinkers always had was water. They had no access to fresh water. So whatever town they pulled into, they had to get water. So they walked to the nearest fixed residence with big steeel churns and asked the houseowner for fresh water.
No problem with that.

Invariably, when they left, the place was like a bomb had hit it. Which I didn't especially mind.
One summer, after the tinkers left, we descended upon our back road to find a Ford Escort van overturned.

By jesus did we have fun in that.

When I was a kid back in the 70s I was in town (Castlebar) one Saturday with my Granny. We ran into a large group of travellers who knew her by name and called every blessing known to mankind down on top of her.

"Granny" I Said "how do all the tinkers know you?"

As it transpired, granny used to live along the main Swinford to Castlebar road (now the N5) from the 40's to 60's. It was a small thatched house, no indoor plumbing, but there was a spring well right outside her door. Because of that, it was a great visiting house as all the neighbors and passerbys would avail of the well. It was an open door policy, and the tinkers were as welcome as anyone. The kettle would be put on for them as quick as it would be put on for the parish priest, and they often would dry out their clothes in front of her fire. The tinkers we met in Castlebar that day would have stopped into her house when they were kids walking from Swinford to Castlebar.

My family werent poor, they werent rich-they were like everyone else in West Mayo-they didn't have a pot to piss in. The tinkers were respectable people and were judged by their actions.

The travellers today are being judged by their actions. The actions of a sizeable minority have screwed it up for all the respectable ones, much like the Irish on England.
 

atlantic

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Jan 25, 2008
Messages
649
I can tell you some of the young buckaleroos arsing about and make noise on main street Castlebar recently,aren't the type you would let within a hundred yards of your house.
When I was a kid back in the 70s I was in town (Castlebar) one Saturday with my Granny. We ran into a large group of travellers who knew her by name and called every blessing known to mankind down on top of her.

"Granny" I Said "how do all the tinkers know you?"

As it transpired, granny used to live along the main Swinford to Castlebar road (now the N5) from the 40's to 60's. It was a small thatched house, no indoor plumbing, but there was a spring well right outside her door. Because of that, it was a great visiting house as all the neighbors and passerbys would avail of the well. It was an open door policy, and the tinkers were as welcome as anyone. The kettle would be put on for them as quick as it would be put on for the parish priest, and they often would dry out their clothes in front of her fire. The tinkers we met in Castlebar that day would have stopped into her house when they were kids walking from Swinford to Castlebar.

My family werent poor, they werent rich-they were like everyone else in West Mayo-they didn't have a pot to piss in. The tinkers were respectable people and were judged by their actions.

The travellers today are being judged by their actions. The actions of a sizeable minority have screwed it up for all the respectable ones, much like the Irish on England.
 

patslatt

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Joined
Apr 11, 2007
Messages
13,693
The welfare state undermined travellers' work ethic

Having been horrified by my own reaction to the behaviour of Traveller families living on estates here in Mayo and elsewhere, I am wondering now why they behave as they do when they know it is going to cause hatred and disgust among their neighbouors. On my very small estate we have 3 houses rented out to "infamous" traveller families. Today, at 4pm until 6pm, this small estate was encircled by dozens of gardai cars, vans, motorbikes and Gardai actually using their feet. I have no idea what was going on, only that some of the men from these families were removed by the Gardai.

I have noticed that a lot of these families look very similar to each other and that led me to think if there was "interbreeding" ongoing in their community, and if marriages were arranged. I was chatting to one girl, I find it hard to call her a woman as she is only 17, and she has a one year old girl and a 6 week old baby boy. I had to bite my tongue as I was about to ask her if she was insane, having babies so quickly when she was only a child herself.

So did these families take to the roads during the famine years or was it before that? Were there always Travellers moving around the country, and were they "gypsies" and are there any Irish gypsies, or were they always displaced persons?

Do they have a special culture, different from those around them and if so what is the difference? When did their reputation as thieves and violent people become part of their expected behaviour? To contradict this reputation they appear to be extremely religious and superstitious and yet I know that in Knock on special occasions they have caused havoc amongst fellow pilgrims and the local people.

Basically, what I am asking is why are they so hated and feared by settled people? Has this always been the case? When did these people arrive on the scene and are they native Irish who were displaced by the English or did they come initially from abroad? Do they have a relationship with Romas, Gypsies in other countries?
Up until the 1960s,travellers,formerly known as tinkers,traditionally made some money repairing pots and pans,doing handyman jobs and trading bits of furniture and household items. The women went door to door begging for money and food.Their lives were hard and they generally looked thin,malnourished and poorly dressed. They kept colourful horses that fed on God's half acre-roadside grass verges.

Generally,they were law abiding,like virtually all Irish people then. But apparently they had a tendency to engage in violent public faction fights among themselves with weapons. A relative remembers being terrified in her childhood witnessing a mob engaged in such a fight in her small village in the late 1950s. These fights may have been drink fuelled. Travellers occasionally went binge drinking despite their poverty. They had a very unusual custom for the times of inviting their women to drink with them in the pubs.

The attitude of Irish public towards travellers was reasonably tolerant then,but not welcoming. It had to be,because travellers could not have survived without public charity and odd jobs. What has changed since then?

The relationship of the travellers with the Irish public changed profoundly with the arrival of the welfare state which removed travellers dependency on the goodwill of the Irish public for charity and odd jobs. This made their hard existence easier, but at the cost of undermining the work ethic of many (including the work ethic of begging,which is similar to that of selling!). This undermining of the work ethic created a large element of idle travellers,just as it created a similar element of people in permanent dependency on the welfare state in the settled community.

As international experience shows,the incidence of criminality is high among sociological groups of families in permanent dependency on the welfare state,especially those with a lone mother parent. (Irish travellers conservative marriage culture seems to result in a low rate of lone motherhood,however.)

The Devil creates work for such idle hands,it seems. Crime rates rose sharply in Ireland from the late 1960s onwards. As the crime rate rose among travellers,just as it rose in Irish society at large,the reputation of travellers suffered as an identifiable group with an apparently high crime rate according to anecdotal evidence. By contrast,the reputation of the welfare dependant poor in many parts of Dublin has not suffered,even though the incidence of crime among them is also very high.
 

b.a. baracus

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A DNA study was done which shows that Travellers are as Irish as the rest of the general population. There are no ethnic differences. Their origins are unknown even to them. The story that they took to the road during the famine is, as far as I am aware, a myth. There is no eveidence that this is the case and nobody knows how they came to be an identifiable section of the population.
 
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I think linguistic evidence points to quite an old genealogy for the travelling community, about a thousand years they seem to have seperated from mainstream Irish. There is nothing apart from similar lifestyles to link them to Roma. Most social scientists would classify them as a distinct ethnic group.

They do lead pretty hard lives. They are probably one of the most discriminated populations in Ireland. If they have no respect or regard for settled people (and most of them do, I would hazard), it is because they are treated so abysmally themselves by mainsteam society.
 

Clanrickard

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Law based on recompense rather than institutional law.
The only law in this country is the law signed by the President and passed by the Oireachtas. No other law is possible or allowable. End of.

When they are settled, sometimes the local authority insist on putting families together who for one reason or another don't want to be beside each other.
.
When you earn your own money and buy your own house you can live where youlike. When the taxpayer is paying for it you get what you are given and be thankful for it.
 

Clanrickard

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They do lead pretty hard lives. They are probably one of the most discriminated populations in Ireland. If they have no respect or regard for settled people (and most of them do, I would hazard), it is because they are treated so abysmally themselves by mainsteam society.
Nomadism has no place in the 21st century. They should settle down and ensure their children get an education and access to proper services. If you live by the side of many roads don't whinge that you don't have the standard of living others do.
 

MauriceColgan

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I had to bite my tongue as I was about to ask her if she was insane, having babies so quickly when she was only a child herself.
:) I was married at the insane age of 17.

A grandfather at 38. A great-grandfather at 63. There are silver linings to be found if you look and learn.

Having been a car-boot sale guy I know a great many gypsies,tinkers,travellers and knackers.

My brother and I were robbed of our plastic masks at knife-point by gypsy children when I was 7 years old in 1949. They lived in the old style horse driven caravans by the grand canal at golden bridge.

My younger brother wanted to go back to them armed with the carving knife from our kitchen! :)

Because of our involvement in car-boot sales my wife and I grew to know a lot of travellers and they are mostly decent people. As in the rest of society.

The worst of them are those that get the headlines and leave places in an awful mess.

Much like a lot of our business folks, and Politicians.
 
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Nomadism has no place? So much for the jet-setting types who pride themselves on continent-hopping. Society is very accomodating for some nomads, it seems.

In this century of ours we have almost made 'not belonging' a crime. If you don't have a country, as many don't, then frankly you're not a person, indeed you probably don't really exist (reality to the contrary). Access to proper services and education are not based on settlement, they based on the State doing its job. It has failed in this for many years. Remember that travellers are citizens of this country, the state their humble servants. There are many cases of 'settled' families continuing to have problems (and cause problems). It's not a matter of actually travelling or not. I know some people who are proud to announce that they won't employ travellers.
 

spacely sprockets

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I think linguistic evidence points to quite an old genealogy for the travelling community, about a thousand years they seem to have seperated from mainstream Irish. There is nothing apart from similar lifestyles to link them to Roma. Most social scientists would classify them as a distinct ethnic group.

They do lead pretty hard lives. They are probably one of the most discriminated populations in Ireland. If they have no respect or regard for settled people (and most of them do, I would hazard), it is because they are treated so abysmally themselves by mainsteam society.
The government bends over backwards for the travellers, all at the taxpayers expense of course. Travellers need to take responsiblity for their actions. Yes it is a minority who cause problems but anytime something happens that guy from pavee point comes out and tries to play down any responsiblity on the part of travellers. He then usually tries to paint the "settled white community" as racist. Travellers are not a distinct racial group.
 

Clanrickard

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Nomadism has no place? So much for the jet-setting types who pride themselves on continent-hopping. Society is very accomodating for some nomads, it seems
Examples please and explain what relevance the above has to my post.

In this century of ours we have almost made 'not belonging' a crime. If you don't have a country, as many don't, then frankly you're not a person, indeed you probably don't really exist (reality to the contrary). Access to proper services and education are not based on settlement, they based on the State doing its job. It has failed in this for many years. Remember that travellers are citizens of this country, the state their humble servants. There are many cases of 'settled' families continuing to have problems (and cause problems). It's not a matter of actually travelling or not. I know some people who are proud to announce that they won't employ travellers.
*puts down small violin* If you move from place to place your children never settle and don't a proper education. You cannot live a 19th century lifestyle and expect a 21st century standard of living. The state's job is provide for all citizens and this includes travellers. But for obvious financial and time reasons the state cannot pander to every whim of every citizen. There is a baseline standard of what every one gets and that's that. I would suggest travellers are well looked after by the state and get far more than frankly they should be getting.
 

eyeswideopen

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The only law in this country is the law signed by the President and passed by the Oireachtas. No other law is possible or allowable. End of.

When you earn your own money and buy your own house you can live where youlike. When the taxpayer is paying for it you get what you are given and be thankful for it.
Yes. I'm describing something, not lobbying for it. There is in most nomadic cultures "customary law" that relies on the two sides getting fairness, rather than a top down State law. That can sometime work but can obviously lead to problems of prolonged feuding when there is perceived unfairness. The idea of compensatory law is now beginning to return to State legal systems through "restorative justice" initiatives that involve some kind of pay back and contact between the offender and the offended. I think they have been trying it in the North. There are times, apparently, when it works well. There are some Circuit Court judges who seem to apply it in an informal way. Its not so unusual for someone to come to Court offering to pay compensation to the person they have injured.

On housing, there is always private rental, and that's where a lot of younger Travellers are living. The Local Authorities aren't prone to listening to people who tell them that x or y isn't going to work.
 

eyeswideopen

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Examples please and explain what relevance the above has to my post.



*puts down small violin* If you move from place to place your children never settle and don't a proper education. You cannot live a 19th century lifestyle and expect a 21st century standard of living. The state's job is provide for all citizens and this includes travellers. But for obvious financial and time reasons the state cannot pander to every whim of every citizen. There is a baseline standard of what every one gets and that's that. I would suggest travellers are well looked after by the state and get far more than frankly they should be getting.
Its very good at pandering to some whims: trips to Disneyland, tax reliefs for art works, etc. etc. It depends who you are.

Its a massive adjustment for them to make. Nomadic people made to settle often have a lot of difficulties, anywhere in the world. Nomadism isn't always associated with poverty. Look at the Bedouin, or the Sami. If historically, people have made a living from something and they are entirely geared up to a particular life, its not so easy to shift that overnight. Some people manage it and others don't.
 

eyeswideopen

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As a youngster I remember tinkers, as we called them, and tramps being regular visitors to my parents' house. They were given a cup of tea, home-made bread and an egg. The notion of there being a threat simply didn't exist. There was mutual respect.
Growing up, I had friends who were settled travellers. They were fantastic handball players.

All that has changed totally. Travellers have changed out of all recognition. I see so many that are now arrogant, bad-mannered and obnoxious, with no respect for anybody, including themselves. Their 'culture' is now one of nuisance and, too often, crime. They now speak of 'owning towns'.

It's time the tax laws, means tests and child welfare laws were equally applied in Irish society. It's time people were forced to accept responsibility instead of handouts.
Travellers are not all the same. I know some who have jobs and one girl in college.

The most in-your-face families are the most visible.

Isn't employment the biggest issue then? The seasonal agricultural work is gone, and rural trading is too with everyone owning cars. One of the local authorities had an apprenticeship scheme that seemed to work out. Its harder for Travellers to get employment. Then there is trading, good and bad.

Anyway, it is a bit of a weird thread, as there are no Travellers here to take part in it.
 

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