Reminiscences: The real lives of Irish Travellers
The children of the Travelling community grow up constrained by strict social mores, they keep themselves to themselves and are shunned by the wider community. Often denied ecucation by the state, surrounded by inter-family fueding, alcoholism, domestic violence and drugs, their prospects are limited in the extreme.
The old conventions of arranged marriage at an early age persist, aided now by social media which, in a community where face and shame are everything, brings it’s own problems.
Charles wants to be a boxer just like his brother.
His brother was sixteen. He was good, he was winning fights. His grandfather’s father was a boxer.
It was last year when they went up to the lake. They were all doing a course up at the workshop and those lads that took him, that family, they were all brothers and cousins, they knew that he couldn’t swim.
They watched him and they didn’t call the Gards until he was drowned.
The Gards called us and we heard the helicopter come. We went up there but they wouldn’t let us near. The Gards said that when they took him out of the lake he was already dead.
Denise: I’m fifteen and the boy I’m to be engaged to, he is fourteen. When he’s fifteen we’ll be getting engaged.
He’s away in London working. He’s living on a site in West Drayton near Heathrow. He’s working there to make some money for us.
I’ll join him when we’re both sixteen. Then we’ll get married and I’ll go over to live in London with him.
Jason: I’m from Cavan, Rachel’s from Galway. Our families knew each other but we met through Facebook, one of the first social media relationships. Back years ago it wasn’t like that, you’d have to meet each other face to face or something like that, but it was through Facebook that we met.
I was seventeen and she was just about hitting seventeen, we got married about a year and a half later, she was eighteen and I was nineteen.
Rachel: I got married on my eighteenth birthday, I won’t forget my wedding anniversary and he’d better not or he knows where the door is!
After I got married I found it hard moving up here, we’d go down to Galway for the weekend and meet my family and I’d be crying on the way home. Now I’ve got used to it. Do you know what? Now when we go down, if we’ve been there a few days, I’ll say to Jason it’s time to go home because I’m only getting upset. You just know when you have taken enough.
I like it here, I’ve lots of friends but I’d prefer to have my own place and sometimes I get upset about it.
Jason: I was living in a caravan ’til I was about ten then we moved into a house. We were living on a site before in the old caravans an all, been living in a house since then. I’d rather live in a house. We’re fighting to get a house but it’s very, very hard to get a house. It makes us sick. Nothing exciting happens here but I’ll stick it round, it’s my hometown.
Rachel: Jeez I’m glad to hear that. We’re living in a caravan now though because we can’t get a house. We’re married two and a half years with a child and they’re still not interested in giving us a house. I don’t like living in a caravan because I never lived in one before, but what’s the point talking when nobody listens to you, like the council.
Reminiscences: The real lives of Irish Travellers exhibition opened in October 2016 at the Cavan Arts Centre, Cavan Town. The exhibition is touring Ireland throughout 2017, currently showing at the County Library, Cootehill.
Details of the London opening in summer 2017 to follow.
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