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Travellers’ Tales


The writings in this book are in the contributors’ own words and express their own experiences, feelings and emotions Stories gathered and transcribed by Sister Carmel Clancy between 2009 and 2013 Š The contributors and Sister Carmel Clancy Printed in 2014 thanks to generous support from the Union of Presentation Sisters’ Nagle Solidarity Fund Edited and designed by Ciara Leeming All photos Š Ciara Leeming. All rights reserved. www.ciaraleeming.co.uk 7KLVERRNLVDQRWIRUSURÀWSURMHFWZLWKDOOZRUNFDUULHG out on a voluntary basis

With thanks to:


The Traveller Movement are delighted and proud to endorse this excellent book. Travellers’ Tales gives a great insight into the daily lives RIWKH8.¡V*\SV\DQG7UDYHOOHUFRPPXQLWLHVWKHGDLO\SUHMXGLFHDQG discrimination many of them face, the misunderstanding and untruths so often promoted about them and their personal struggles and triumphs. Gypsies and Travellers are not a homogeneous group and in many respects they are no different from sedentary society. They have the same desires and aspirations for their children and families and experience the VDPHMR\VDQGVRUURZVDVWKHPDMRULW\SRSXODWLRQ7KLVERRNEHDXWLIXOO\ illustrates who these communities really are while quietly challenging WKHSUHMXGLFHVRIWKHPDMRULW\SRSXODWLRQWRZDUGVRQHRI%ULWDLQ¡VPRVW excluded and marginalised communities. Yvonne MacNamara CEO, The Traveller Movement


Contents

Foreword 7 1. Lucky charms 10 2. The early risers 13 3. Pocket money 16 4. Campaigning days 18 5. Turning professional 24 6. The scholar 27 7. A different world 30 8. Whistling down the lane 33 9. Realising my dreams 40 (QMR\LQJVFKRRO 11. A spring in my step 44 12. Valued at work 48 13. At the mill 54 &KLOGKRRGLQÁXHQFHV 15. Formal requests 59 :DONLQJLQWKHÀHOGV 17. Community connections 67 Further information 69 Photo captions 70 Authors 71


Foreword

Since I began my ministry among Travellers and Gypsies almost WZRGHFDGHVDJR,KDYHEHHQDFXWHO\DZDUHRIKRZPXFKSUHMXGLFH and exclusion they experience on a daily basis. This mainly stems from a perception within mainstream society that all members of these communities are alike, that they are all law-breakers and a burden on society. To address that perception I have compiled these stories, which show the true face of most Travellers and Gypsies – namely that they are upright, hardworking people who play a valuable role in society. I began by collecting stories from the older generation, so that knowledge of their traditional way of life would not be lost. After presenting these in drama form it was suggested that they be turned into a book. In an effort to show how the life choices for Travellers and Gypsies have changed over the years we decided to also include more recent generations. I want to thank all who have contributed to this work: thank you for WUXVWLQJPHZLWK\RXUKLVWRU\,KRSH,KDYHGRQHLWMXVWLFH7KHUHDUH limits to what can be included in a book this size, so I apologise to those whose stories are not included, despite being of equal value. 7RGD\WKHUHDUHIHZSURIHVVLRQVZKHUHRQHZLOOQRWÀQGD7UDYHOOHU or Gypsy – from nursing to teaching, accountancy or social work; even representing you as solicitors. However, we do not recognise them because, for their own reasons, they have chosen to hide their identity. I also wish to thank Ciara Leeming, editor and photographer, for her expertise and encouragement. Sister Carmel Clancy March 2014

7


Lucky charms

“I’m a Romany Gypsy, a thoroughbred, which means we only mix with and marry into our own. My mother’s father and my father’s father ZHUHĂ€UVWFRXVLQV²WKH\ZHUHWKHVRQVRIDEURWKHUDQGVLVWHU ,ZDVERUQ\HDUVDJRLQDEDUUHOWRSZDJRQZHLJKLQJMXVWOELQD WRZQZKLFK*\SVLHVĂ€UVWYLVLWHG\HDUVDJR,ZDVWKH\RXQJHVWRIĂ€YH children and had a sister and three brothers. I was christened and brought up a Protestant. Our father went to Ireland when I was three, so I was fetched up in both places. My father was a horse dealer and a hawker. In the yard he had a tent that was held up by rods from the willow tree, which he bent over and VWXFNLQWKHJURXQGDQGWKHQFRYHUHGZLWKWDUSDXOLQ+H¡GSXWDĂ€UHLQ the middle and it was there that he spent the winter months making pegs, VNHZHUVDQGZRRGHQĂ RZHUV7KHFKLOGUHQSOD\HGLQWKHUHWRREHFDXVH the wagon was so small. My father wouldn’t let me go to school – he thought I was too frail, that I couldn’t cope in the schoolyard. My brothers and sisters went to school though, and my brothers walked with the scholars in our town’s annual Whit parade. My mother made them new velvet suits every year for this. In the summer, when my dad wanted to travel, he’d take his tent apart and hide the rods beside the railway line, which was opposite the big church on the top of the hill. They were always there when he came back the next winter. During winter, when the women weren’t able to go out, my father went hawking into Yorkshire and other places. He sold the pegs to the shops by the gross – he’d have them in a long line and sold them like that. He sold the skewers to the butchers, who were always glad to get them. We had a licence from the government to knock on the doors. At 10


RQHWLPHLWFRVWĂ€YHVKLOOLQJV DERXWS ,WZDVRXUGHDOLQJZHGLGQ¡W believe in getting money from the town. We never did that – we never took money from the government in our lives, we were frightened that if we did they might take our children off us. When the weather got warmer my mother would go hawking: she had FRPEVULEERQODFHWKHĂ RZHUVP\IDWKHUPDGHDQGOXFN\FKDUPV7R make the charms my brothers would take some bark from trees and she would cut it into letters of the alphabet and put some heather on them for luck. People liked them and would buy them for their friends, choosing whatever letter the person’s name started with. My mother – who lived to be 104 – also told fortunes. She was very clever at this, she could read the stars and people came to her to know what their birth star was telling them. I went hawking and telling fortunes too – we lived off that. I would buy lace, ribbon and other things from the warehouse and sell them for DOLWWOHSURĂ€W,ZRXOGPHDVXUHRXWD\DUGE\WKHOHQJWKEHWZHHQWKHWLS RIP\QRVHDQGWKHWLSRIP\Ă€QJHURQP\RXWVWUHWFKHGKDQG:HDOZD\V gave an extra few inches in case they thought we were cheating them. When I was reading the palms I wouldn’t tell them bad things. I’d say ‘be careful’ – not telling them what it was in case it hurt their feelings. %XW,GLGQ¡WQHHGWRVHHLWLQWKHLUKDQGV²,FRXOGWHOOIURPMXVWORRNLQJDW them. It’s a gift, it’s something you’re born with, you couldn’t get it from books. A few years ago when I had a pain in my stomach I kept ripping up the letters the doctor sent me. I couldn’t read them but I knew what they were. When I did go to the hospital I could see that he was a good doctor. He asked me if I trusted him, I said I did and he did the operation and look at me now – perfect. My husband was also Romany; he was born in Wales but we met LQ'XEOLQ:KHQZHĂ€UVWVDZHDFKRWKHU,IDQFLHGKLPDWRQFHDQGKH fancied me. We ran away together and were missing for nearly a week. When we returned my dad was very angry and upset as he knew that meant marriage. My parents were heartbroken as I was the last one at home and they needed me to do the cleaning. My husband thought my brothers would kill him but they calmed down and got to like him. I was three months short of 16 when we ran away – only a child really, but I never regretted it. He asked my dad if he could marry me and we were married in a 11


3URWHVWDQWFKXUFKLQ,QFKLFRUH'XEOLQ,ZRUHDUHGVNLUWEOXHMXPSHU DQGDOLWWOHZKLWHFRDW+HZDVWKHÀUVWSHUVRQ,HYHUIDQFLHGDQG,ORYHG him, and we reared our children clean and decent. We had 10 but I only reared four, one girl and three boys. Sadly one of my sons died in a road accident as a young man, leaving behind a wife and six children. My brothers were carpenters and they made my barrel-top wagon, our new home, from the wheels up. My family set me up with my pots and pans, as well as a horse to pull the wagon. There was a special baking SRWLQZKLFKZHZRXOGPL[DELWRIODUGFXUUDQWVDQGà RXUWRJHWKHUZLWK a drop of water. We’d put a few live coals under it and some more on the lid, and that was Gypsy Sunday cake. My cooking pot was egg shaped. I would make oxtail soup with oxtail, shin beef, onion and barley, or broth with brisket, bacon shank, peas, carrot and barley. At other times I would cook potatoes and cabbage DQGDQ\WKLQJ,FRXOGÀQG:HOLYHGRIIWKHIDWRIWKHODQG0\IDWKHUEUHG dogs, Gypsy dogs called Lurchers, and they caught rabbits. We grew up with them, and sometimes we had wild rabbit or pheasant. We’d use our pots until they wore to nothing and then we would bury them. My husband was clever at playing music, he could pick anything up. +HSOD\HGWKHÀGGOHDQGWKHPHORGHRQ,QWKHORQJVXPPHUHYHQLQJV ZH¡GVLWRXWVLGHDURXQGDELJÀUHKHZRXOGSOD\DQGZHZRXOGGDQFH, danced the Charleston and old-time waltzes. At one time we had a windup gramophone, and we danced to that too. We shifted in the summer, doing seasonal work, my children and XV:RUNLQJWKHÀHOGVZDVKDUGZRUN²ZHSLFNHGDSSOHVSRWDWRHV blackcurrants and strawberries, moving all the time to where the work was. We spent a lot of time in Wisbeach in the summer and went to Leeds in the winter. My children and grandchildren have married Gypsies but some of my great-grandchildren have married out.�

12


The early risers

“I’m one of 10 children, all born in Ireland. Most of us were born in a local hospital but my sister and I were born in a tent by the side of a road. I remember my grandfather for his ghost stories. We would sit RXWVLGHLQWKHHYHQLQJVOLVWHQLQJWRKLPDURXQGWKHĂ€UHERWKVFDUHG and enthralled. He told of dark lanes and spooky shadows, of noises, voices and encounters that were all of his own making but which kept us spellbound, waiting for the end. My grandfather was a tinsmith and my father learned the trade from him but turned out to be much better at it than his dad. My dad, who died aged 82, would get up at around 4am to get all his gear together for the day. He’d leave home at 5am, carrying his heavy wooden tool box on his EDFNDQGZRXOGZDONVHYHUDOPLOHVDORQJFRXQWU\URDGVWRUHDFKWKHĂ€UVW house. He walked all day from house to house, mending people’s leaking and broken pots, boilers, buckets and churns and sometimes taking orders IURPGLIIHUHQWSHRSOHIRUVSHFLĂ€FLWHPV At night, having walked 20 to 30 miles that day, dad would settle down to making vessels to sell the next day. He made large boilers used by farmers for boiling food for their animals, churns that people used to carry water, pots, saucepans, horseshoes and donkey shoes, and would adapt them for a farmer who required a particular size. He was a good craftsman and had a good reputation – there was never any complaint about his work. In fact, people valued his work and he had special customers who saved up work specially for him. Father also made bow-top wagons which he sold; these were solid structures that lasted for many years. He bought the wood at a mill where they cut it to measure. When it came to making one for his own family he did what many other Travellers did – he made ours in stages, as and when he had the money for it. He began by making the base and the four wheels; we used this, in the meantime, as our cart. He put a shelf 13


underneath where we could pack our possessions when we moved from place to place. He also added hooks at the back and front to hang his wares on. When he had saved enough money he bought the wood for the bow-top, bending the laths with skill. As he was unable to afford the customary green canvas covering, he bought strong sack cloth and painted it with tar to make it waterproof, and it was adequate. He furnished the inside with a bed at the back under the window and a type of bunk underneath for small children. There were seats on either VLGHDQGFXSERDUGVDQGVKHOYHVKLJKHUXSIRURXUIHZSRVVHVVLRQV%XW LWJDYHKLPJUHDWMR\ZKHQEHĂ€QDOO\EURXJKWKRPHWKHFRUUHFWFRYHULQJ DQGFRXOGULSRIIWKHWHPSRUDU\FORWK+HMXVWVWRRGEDFNIHHOLQJSURXGRI the lovely home he had provided for his family. It was a great day. Later, in England, he made miniature wagons which demanded a good level of skill to get the scale correct. %HIRUHZHKDGRXUERZWRSZDJRQZHVOHSWPRVWO\LQWHQWV7KH\ were made from strong canvas over curved willows. These had to be dismantled each time we moved on. We had nice warm rushes or straw XQGHUWKHVKHHWWRNHHSXVRIIWKHJURXQGDQGLQWKHZLQWHUZHKDGDĂ€UH My mother rose at the same time as my father and also walked several PLOHVHDFKGD\FDUU\LQJKHUJRRGV6KHPDGHĂ RZHUVIURPFUHSHSDSHU which were readily bought by the women who liked the colours and were pleased to have something to brighten up their living rooms. She also hawked clothes pegs and any small items she thought the women would buy, like ribbon, lace, shoe laces and so on – small essential items a family would need. My mother wore what we called a ‘bracheen’ – it was a long piece of material similar to an apron but different in that it had this large hem or fold that was turned back up to her waist, making a deep pocket all the way round. It was tied very securely around the waist like an apron. In it she carried whatever food she was given or had begged for, like potatoes, YHJHWDEOHVVXJDURUĂ RXU Sometimes she would have such a large amount that her shawl would ride up behind and one could see that she was carrying a big load. She was grateful for anything people gave her as survival was the priority in those days – there was none of this fancy china that people began to collect at a later date. It was my parents’ hard work that kept us going. ,QWKRVHGD\VSHRSOHZHUHYHU\SUHMXGLFHGDJDLQVW7UDYHOOHUV,WZDV 14


GLIÀFXOWWRJHWVHUYHGLQDSXEDQGWKRVHZKRDOORZHGXVLQVLGHNHSWXV segregated from the other customers – this was a real humiliation and forced people to drink at home instead. Traveller women are very clean and have their own way of doing things. They have separate bowls and cloths for washing up the cooking and eating utensils. If my mother ever saw a woman using the washing up bowl for any other purpose she would never again taste food made by that woman. I have inherited that strong code from her – I will never wash my hands in the kitchen sink in my own house or in anybody else’s house. This occasionally gets me into trouble with people but I stick to my tradition and will go to any length to wash my hands somewhere other than in someone’s kitchen sink. Our family came to England in 1963. My dad had planned for it gradually by selling off our wagon and horse. Another Traveller sold dad WKHOHDVHRIDKRXVHIRUVKLOOLQJV DERXW… DQGZHVWD\HGWKHUH until the lease expired. We then moved to an empty, fairly derelict house where we squatted. There was no glass in the windows, no electricity and no water. We hung whatever shawls or coats we had on the windows DQGOLWDÀUHIURPWKHVWLFNVZHJDWKHUHG'DGZDVDEOHWRFRQQHFWDZLUH WRWKHPDLQVDQGZLWKRQHOLJKWEXOEZHKDGVXIÀFLHQWOLJKWRQWKHORQJ evenings. We got water in churns from a nearby garage. After this experience it was absolute luxury when we got our own house, complete with all the essentials and a bath, which was wonderful. Our family settled and made it our home. Those who left only did so when they married. We have our roots here – we have settled well, PLQJOHGZHOOZLWKWKHORFDOFRPPXQLW\DQGÀQGZHDUHZHOOUHVSHFWHG This is all due to our parents, to how they brought us up, the principles they instilled in us, and how they lived themselves. They sent us to school and had us educated so that we can all live independent and IXOÀOOHGOLYHV My dad played the mouth organ and would entertain us with his music. He learned to play snooker during a six-month period in hospital, when he had tuberculosis. In his retirement years he loved to watch it RQ79DQGHYHQLIWKHWRXUQDPHQWODVWHGXSWRÀYHKRXUVKHZRXOGVWLOO retain his concentration. I once taught him to play pool and he became better at it than I was. He played against many a good player and beat them.�

15


Pocket money “I was born on the side of the road in a vardo, which is a little bit bigger than a bow-top wagon. I’m a full Romany Gypsy as my parents and grandparents were all Romany. I had two sisters and a brother, and when we were young we slept in a tent underneath the vardo, on a bed of straw with a large sheet over it. It was very comfortable and cosy and we felt safe there. They were very happy days as there were other people living near us and we had lots of friends. My dad was always busy. He was a knife sharpener and walked miles every day carrying the grinding machine on his shoulders. He would travel from town to town sharpening butchers’ knives and people’s scissors, stopping at farm houses on the way to sharpen their items. He had his regular customers who waited for his arrival – he never let them down and went out in all kinds of weather. There was one occasion when he had run short of money and had none to buy food for the family, so he decided he would ask a settled person to loan him some. When two or three refused him he became very disillusioned with settled people and didn’t ever trust them again – he realised he had to fend for himself and that was he did from then on. In WKRVHGD\VDKRUVHFRVWÂ…WREX\DQGLWWRRNGDG\HDUVWRVDYHXSIRU one. We had a wireless radio once but the government took it from us GXULQJ:RUOG:DU,,7KH\ZHUHGRLQJWKLVWRHYHU\RQHFRQĂ€VFDWLQJ wirelesses, as they didn’t want people to know what was going on and what was happening to the men who were called up. Dad also bought used sacks like the ones grain came in. He would be on the lookout for these on his travels and also buy some from merchants. When he had a certain number he would weigh them in and get good money. He often gave us pocket money, and would say: ‘Here’s your tutty.’ Two pence would get you a lot at Woolworths in those days. 16


0\PXPKDZNHGSDSHUà RZHUVZKLFKVKHPDGHIURPGLIIHUHQWFRORXU tissue paper or thick toilet rolls, using wire covered with green paper for the stems. Dad was killed in a hit-and-run car accident when he was nearly 70. My mother died from a cerebral haemorrhage when she was 63. I remember my granny well. She and grandad had a lot of children, 12 of them lived and there was three lots of twins. They also lived in a vardo, and granny hawked old-fashioned lace which she bought at a warehouse. There was no fancy china back then, in the 1940s. Some of what I have now I bought for my mum and she left it to me when she died. I love all my Crown Derby, crystal and porcelain ladies.�

17


Campaigning days

“I was born in a house and lived there until I got married, when we immediately moved onto a site. I went to school until I was 11 and was happy there, but I had no big plans for my life because I knew I was destined to marry and have children. When I was 11 or 12 I went hawking with some of my family and WRRNWRLWDWRQFH%DFNWKHQWKHUHZHUHQRÂ…VKRSVVRSHRSOHZHUH happy to buy what I was offering – pegs, ribbon, pillow slips and so on, all of which my mum bought at a warehouse. We would often go to rubbish dumps and search for items in good condition, which we washed and polished before selling on. Older people gave me fruit from their JDUGHQVDQGDOVRVRPHFORWKHV,DOZD\VKDGĂ€UVWFKRLFHRIWKHVHDQG when everybody had chosen the rest went to the rag and bone man. As a teenager I spent my summers on Travellers’ camps, babysitting for different mothers. My dad had died by the time I was of marriageable age so it was my aunt, with mum’s permission, who chose my husband. He had spent his life up to then in trailers so it was natural for him to want to continue that lifestyle. His schooling was different from mine in that his had been in a hut furnished as a classroom, with Travellers of all ages and each gender being the only pupils. The hut was in the grounds of a school but the Traveller children didn’t mix with the other pupils either at playtime or for dinners. In spite of these limitations he was happy there and received a good education. We moved to a house for the convenience and comfort when our children came along. Whereas my mother had lived in only three houses in all her 50 years of marriage, I moved many, many times over a few \HDUV0\KXVEDQGIRXQGLWGLIĂ€FXOWWRDGDSWWRDKRXVHDQGRIWHQZKHQLW rained he would open the back door and sit inside watching and listening as it fell in the yard, or sit in the car because the noise on the roof would bring back memories of being in a trailer. 18


On the whole I am not happy in a house either. The number of rooms and having an upstairs to cope with as well as the downstairs worried me – in a trailer I could see all my children at one glance but I felt nervous in a house. As our son grew older we felt he needed to mix with his own SHRSOHDQGPRYHGWRWKHRIÀFLDOVLWHZKHUHZHVWLOOOLYH+HKDGFDUULHG a magnet in his pocket from when he was four, and when we were out pushing the baby’s pram he would test different materials and have his own little load of scrap metal to weigh in with his daddy’s. All my children attended school up to the end of their primary years, after which I gave them home tuition. We are protective of them as they JRLQWRWKHLUWHHQDJH\HDUVDQGWU\WRVKHOWHUWKHPIURPWKHLQà XHQFHVRI drugs and promiscuity. I got a computer and printer from the Prince’s Trust, which helped my WHDFKLQJ,QWKHÀQHUZHDWKHUZHZHQWWRPXVHXPVWKHOLEUDU\DQGDUW galleries, where we all learned so much. With the computer I was able WRUHVHDUFKP\FXOWXUDOEDFNJURXQG,WZDVWKHQ,UHDOLVHGWKHSUHMXGLFH there is towards Travellers and decided to do something about it. As the children got older I became involved in campaigning for Travellers’ rights, beginning with petitioning for more sites. I worked with Traveller education services, delivering workshops for JURXSVVXFKDVWKHSROLFHWKHÀUHEULJDGHDQGPLGZLYHVLQWKHORFDODUHD I became part of an advisory group and we met with MPs at Westminster, Traveller rights being our only agenda. I became involved with the Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month in June each year and in setting up an exhibition of Traveller photographs in the local museum. I helped in putting work packs together for children going out travelling, aimed at compensating for missing out on school. I made a DVD on our culture IRUSXEOLFGLVWULEXWLRQ,HQMR\HGWKLVWLPHZKHQ,PHWVRPDQ\GLIIHUHQW people, travelled quite a bit, and learned so much. Sadly funding ran out and it all had to stop. There is still a great need for services to be more easily accessible to us. We have often been turned away from essential services and no health visitor comes onto our site. ,HQMR\VHZLQJPDNLQJP\RZQFXUWDLQVDQGFXVKLRQV:HKDYHD custom of having lots of cushions on our beds, and I like to embellish these with diamonds and sequins to add interest and sparkle. One of my GDXJKWHUVKDVDà DLUIRUGHVLJQLQJSDWWHUQVRQFORWKHVDQGKDVVSHQWPDQ\ happy hours with this hobby. Nowadays this is on hold as her baby takes priority.� 19


Turning professional

“I come from a long line of Travellers, going back many generations on both sides, and yet I’ve never travelled. In fact, I’d lived in only two houses prior to my marriage. My wife is not a Traveller but she almost could be as she shares many of our characteristics, including a love of children and family and the desire to send our children to a Catholic school. Recently, our precocious four-year-old asked if she was a Gypsy! I’m a professional boxer and I’ve been boxing since I was seven years old. Actually the legal minimum was eight but, being keen to get started, ,OLHGDERXWP\DJH,¡YHEHHQLQJ\PVHYHUVLQFHDQGVWLOOOLNHWRNHHSĂ€W DQGWUDLQHYHU\GD\²LWPDNHVPHIHHOPRUHUHOD[HGDQGFRQĂ€GHQW When I was only eight a local boxing celebrity noticed my style and ability and encouraged me to keep at it. My coach had me training with older lads and a few years later I was training with professionals. At 11 I KDGP\Ă€UVWDPDWHXUĂ€JKWZKHUH,ZDVGHFODUHG1RUWK:HVWFKDPSLRQ, was hooked – no one could stop me now. At 15 I became double national champion, after which I boxed for England against Ireland. That was ironic considering my Irish background and the fact a huge number of Irish people were supporting me, but I won. My face and name were well known by the time I went to high school because my photograph and comments about me had often been in the QHZVSDSHUV2QFHDQHZVSDSHU¡VVSRUWVHFWLRQZURWHWKDWÂśKLVOHIWMDELV OLNH%LJ%HQDOZD\VRQWLPH¡7KDWZDVSUDLVHLQGHHG I was now representing my gym and my school, winning the VFKRROER\V¡FKDPSLRQVKLSJHWWLQJWRWKHQDWLRQDOĂ€QDOVWZLFHDQGYHU\ QDUURZO\PLVVLQJRXWRQEHLQJQXPEHURQHLQ(QJODQG0\FHUWLĂ€FDWHV were sent to school where the headmaster presented them to me at full school assemblies, always giving me support and encouragement and accepting the fact that I needed time off for training. 24


I didn’t pay a lot of attention in class, preferring to talk or daydream. In fact, because of some intense training, my attendance one year was as low as 15 per cent. However, in spite of that, the head – at my dad’s UHTXHVW²WRRNPHEDFNIRUWKHODVWIHZPRQWKVRIP\ÀQDOWHUPZKHQ I had no training and could have ended up getting into trouble. Other members of my family were very studious and now have good careers, one being a teacher and another a social worker. I left school at 16 and turned professional two years later, continuing to box successfully over the next decade or more. Friends nicknamed PHœVWRUPER\¡DQG,IRXJKWIRUWKH(QJOLVK%ULWLVK&RPPRQZHDOWK LQWHUFRQWLQHQWDODQGZRUOGWLWOHV,ZDVMXVWRQHSRLQWDZD\IURP ZLQQLQJWKHZRUOGWLWOH2IWKHSURIHVVLRQDOÀJKWV,KDG,ORVWRQO\ three – and in each of these it was debatable who really won. 7KH&RPPRQZHDOWKÀJKWZDVKHOGLQP\KRPHWRZQDQGZLWKHDFK RIWKHWKUHHMXGJHVKDYLQJFRQà LFWLQJLGHDVWKHWKLUGJDYHKLVYRWHWR my opponent, admitting the closeness of the contest and meaning my opponent had won by the closest of margins. At 25 I began to look to the future. Up to then I had earned my living as a professional boxer; it was the only thing I knew but I wondered how long more I could keep at it. I was aware the young boxers had the edge on me – they were sharp, were taught new techniques and boxed at a high level. I felt I was reaching my peak. Call it coincidence or fate but around this time – and to my amazement – my coach told me he was preparing to retire and asked if I would take over the running of his gym. I was both nervous and excited and, for the next 18 months, I continued my boxing while learning the ÀQHUSRLQWVRIFRDFKLQJIURPKLPLQP\VSDUHWLPH My career took off from there and I now work with schools, colleges, youth clubs and youth offending teams, as well as training my own coaches and working with young people in my gym. Schools are now WDNLQJDELJLQWHUHVWLQER[LQJDQGWKH2O\PSLFVUDLVHGLWVSURÀOH IXUWKHU7HDP*%ZRQÀYHPHGDOVZLWK*\SVLHVDQG7UDYHOOHUVIURP England and Wales among the recipients, as well as a Traveller from Ireland. ,ÀQGZRUNLQJZLWK\RXQJRIIHQGHUVYHU\UHZDUGLQJ²WKHJ\PLVD place where they can be themselves, feel accepted and respected for who they are and very often it becomes a turning point in their lives. It is an inexpensive way of keeping people out of prison and many continue to 25


DWWHQGHYHQZKHQWKHLUFRXUVHKDVĂ€QLVKHG ,¡POXFN\LQWKDW,KDYHQHYHUFRPHDZD\IURPDĂ€JKWIHHOLQJ downhearted or with a grudge. The closest I got to that was the day my second baby was born: her birth had made it a very exciting morning and ,KDGWRĂ€JKWWKDWHYHQLQJ,KDGZDQWHGWKLVWREHWKHSHUIHFWGD\KDG wanted to win for her but to my disappointment it was a draw. $VZLWKVRPHRIP\SUHYLRXVĂ€JKWVWKHUHZDVVRPHFRQWURYHUV\ZLWK 6N\79VD\LQJWKDW,KDGZRQE\HLJKWSRLQWV,QDOOP\Ă€JKWV,KDYH never been knocked out, losing only by one point on those occasions. %HFDXVHRIP\VXUQDPH,RIWHQJHWDVNHGLI,¡PD7UDYHOOHUDOWKRXJK those closely involved with the sport know I am one. However, there have been times when someone who is losing an argument feels the need to harass me or aggressively call me ‘Gyppo’ or other offensive names – to which my reply is: ‘Yes I am and what’s your excuse?’ %R[LQJ¡VVRPHWKLQJPRVW\RXQJ7UDYHOOHUER\VHQMR\DQGWKRVH living locally come to my gym. Many seem to have an innate talent for the sport, but because of their custom of moving regularly from place to place they lose out on the opportunity to prove themselves.â€?

26


The scholar

´0\JUDQGSDUHQWVZHUHDPRQJWKHÀUVWJURXSRI7UDYHOOHUVWROLYHRQ their Lancashire site, which opened in the 1980s. I was born in hospital and soon afterwards we moved to Scotland, before returning to our hometown three years later. We had to camp outside the site until a plot became vacant. At one stage my dad spent some time in prison so we lived with JUDQQ\ZKRKDGDWZREHGURRPà DW7KHUHZHUHFKLOGUHQWKHUH altogether – six of us, some of her own, as well as other cousins. In the end the council gave her a large house that was really two houses knocked into one. When dad was released he went back to travelling. Every summer we travelled around the country, returning home for the winter. I think I’ve been to every region of England and Scotland as it wasn’t his custom to stay for long in any one place. From a young age many Traveller boys have a great curiosity about engines, cars, pick ups and other motors and I was no exception, so I began driving young. This was not to my advantage though as one day a SROLFHRIÀFHUVWRSSHGPHDQG,JRWDVXPPRQVIRUXQGHUDJHGULYLQJDQG not having a licence. I ended up in a young offenders’ institute, which was a very scary time because prison is a bleak place for Travellers. Having been accustomed to roaming the country at will, suddenly being behind bars is a huge deprivation – it’s the greatest punishment a Traveller can be given. Added to this is the fact that non-Travellers have very little understanding of our culture. To make things worse, we could see a Travellers’ site from the window of that place, so we would watch them driving in and out all day, going freely about their business, and this rubbed salt in the wounds. We’d be locked in our cells for 23 hours each day. During the one 27


free hour we had to clean our cell, take a shower, phone home and take exercise in the yard. Mercifully slopping out had ended the previous year, so it could have been worse. There was no opportunity for work or education and no TV in our cells, so with nothing to occupy me I decided to teach myself to read and write. I borrowed books from the library and struggled with sounds and words. I wrote home regularly and when mum replied she would point out my spelling mistakes. This long-distance learning was a great help DQGVXSSRUW2YHUWLPHDQGEHWZHHQOLEUDU\ERRNVDQGWKH%LEOH,JRW FRQĂ€GHQWDQGSURJUHVVHGUDSLGO\1RZP\ZLIHDQGRWKHUVFDOOPHÂśWKH scholar.’ There was no opportunity to buy sweets or biscuits as there is QRZDGD\VDQGQHLWKHUZHUHZHDOORZHGWRVPRNH%XWVRPHWLPHVRXU families would sneak in some cigarettes which we would smoke in our cells hoping the smoke would go out the window. Not being able to read is a huge deprivation as it’s needed for so many WKLQJV7KHPHQXLVĂ€OOHGLQRQFHDZHHNEXWLIVRPHRQHLVXQDEOHWRUHDG WKH\JHWJLYHQWKHĂ€UVWFKRLFHRQWKHVKHHWHYHU\GD\6RPHWLPHVWKH\ tick at random and end up not being able to eat the food. Reading is also QHFHVVDU\IRUĂ€OOLQJLQDYLVLWRUV¡RUGHUĂ€QGLQJRXWYLVLWLQJWLPHVDQGIRU reading general instructions. ,IWKH\KDYHDMREWKDWUHTXLUHVLQVWUXFWLRQVWKH\UHO\RQWKHLUPHPRU\ WRUHPHPEHUWKHĂ€UVWGHPRQVWUDWLRQDQGDUHFOHYHUDWZDWFKLQJZKDWWKH other workers do. You are always dependent on asking for help, which can be embarrassing. Reading is also valuable for passing the time and writing home. 3ULVRQRIĂ€FHUVDUHDPL[HGEXQFK²WKRVHZKRDUHNLQGZLOOSXW themselves out to help, while others are very nasty and disobliging. There LVDORWRIDQWL7UDYHOOHUIHHOLQJDPRQJVRPHRIĂ€FHUVEXWLW¡VKLGGHQ² some show it by their attitude, while others whisper ‘gyppo,’ ’pikey’ or other offensive words as you pass them on the landing, as they walk behind you on the corridor or as they lock your cell door. They want you WRWDNHWKHEDLWDQGHQMR\LWZKHQ\RXUHDFW I have been back in prison since then and things are a lot different. There is more time for recreation, the gym, ordering from the shop, JHWWLQJDMREDQGZHFDQQRZZHDURXURZQFORWKHV(YHU\RQHOLNHVWKH kitchen work although the hours are long – the one big advantage is that the workers get their food while it is still fresh, while it could be cooked 28


several hours before getting to the wings. For punishment you are sent to the block. I spent nine months there GXULQJP\ODVWWHUPLQVLGH7KHFHOOVDUHEDUHMXVWDEHGFKDLUWRLOHW DQGKDQGEDVLQQR79UDGLRPXVLFRUERRNVH[FHSWWKH%LEOHDQGQR association. Just 15 minutes a day is given for shower, phone call and to mop the cell. In the block you must exercise alone while the person in the cell next door exercises in a different yard. Food is passed in but few words are VSRNHQ7UDYHOOHUVRIWHQĂ€QGWKHPVHOYHVLQWKHEORFNDVWKH\DUHPRUH comfortable settling an argument with a punch than with words. We all dread the term ‘shipped out’ – which means being transferred. 7KLVQHZVLVJLYHQĂ€UVWWKLQJLQWKHPRUQLQJZKLFKOHDYHV\RX wondering all day where you are going and how far away from home. The chaplaincy is a great source of help. Travellers have great respect for priests, they often feel comfortable talking over their problems with WKHFKDSODLQDQGWKLVLVWKHLUĂ€UVWSRUWRIFDOOIRUKHOS The thing that got to me most on my second stint inside was the worry about my wife and children. It is something that gnawed away at me, thinking of her living on the dole, having to shoulder all the responsibility for the children, wondering how she could afford to travel to see me, if she will get safely to and from the prison as well as missing her company and not seeing the children grow up. %HFDXVHVKHFDQ¡WUHDGRUZULWHVKHGLGQ¡WNQRZWKDWVKHFRXOGFODLP IRUWUDYHOH[SHQVHVDQGHYHQLIVKHGLGVKHZRXOGKDYHWRVHHNKHOSWRĂ€OO LQWKHIRUPV,ZDVRQWKHEORFNZKHQP\ODVWEDE\ZDVERUQVRWKHĂ€UVW glimpse I got of her was through a glass panel. Not being able to hold her was devastating. Most people think Travellers don’t contribute to the economy and don’t pay rent or taxes but that’s not true. We pay rent for the plots we live on, the equivalent of what others pay for a council house. Those of us who collect scrap have to get a carriers’ licence and a waste disposal licence, which gives us authority to carry it. There is no cash in hand payment these days – people get paid through the bank.â€?

29


A different world

“When we were travelling, we’d have to get up the minute we were called in the mornings – and at the same time as mum and dad – as there was such a lot of work to be done. The children had to be called, washed, dressed and fed; the bedding had to be folded and put away and the bunks put up in case anyone called. Mum always saw to the babies and their needs but there were no long sleeps for us, the two oldest girls in the family. We were 12 and 10 ZKHQZHÀUVWZHQWWUDYHOOLQJ 7KHÀUVWGD\ZHZHUHRXWWUDYHOOLQJZHVDZVRPHSXGGOHVDQG² feeling completely free – thought it was okay to sit in them and have a splash, but our dresses got in a mess. We always preferred camping on country lanes to living on a site – we felt being on a site was almost the same as living in a house. We met lots of nice people on our travels and made lifelong friends with them. We had two trailers, a big one and a small one. Our parents, the baby and the next one up slept in the big one and the remaining children in the small one. For a time we only had a small generator, so mum and dad would switch it off when they were ready for bed and take it into their trailer, in case it got stolen. All the lights and the TV would go off and we’d be left in the dark; sometimes we would frighten each other with scary stories. When we had a large generator dad would often send us out to switch it off. We were scared of the dark and would run frantically back inside as it would often be pitch black outside. Even then we would try to scare each other. We spent our days cleaning: the two trailers were cleaned inside and outside, and the windows and mirrors had to be polished until they sparkled. There were lots of mirrors in the chrome trailer, it took ages ZLSLQJWKHÀQJHUSULQWVDQGRWKHUPDUNVRIIWKHP 30


:H¡GWKHQJHWGRZQRQRXUNQHHVWRZDVKWKHà RRUV²DOOWKHVKHOYHV had to be wiped down each day, and we would use a knife to get into the corners and crevices. Every part of the trailer had to be ready for inspection, as it were. I think the girls on the sites vied with each other as to whose trailer was the cleanest. :HKDGRXUVHWMREVPXPZRXOGGURSRQHRIXVRIIDWWKHZDVKKRXVH with a huge load. She would then sort the clothes into darks, lights and EHGGLQJDQGÀOOHGWKHZDVKLQJPDFKLQHV:KHQWKH\ZHUHGU\WKH\ would be folded and put into piles on the chairs: small trailer, big trailer, under the bunks. In that way they’d all be ready to be put away when she got home. The only clothes to be ironed were dad’s. The one who was always left behind often felt upset that she had to stay at home to do the cleaning with all the children running around, JHWWLQJLQKHUZD\:HZRXOGRIWHQKDYHELJÀJKWVRYHUWKLVZLWKWKH younger children taking sides. We would end up not talking to each other until mum and dad got back. Dad would be very angry if we were rude to each other or to anybody. Dad was strict but mum was soft. 6XQGD\VZHUHWKHEXVLHVWGD\V%HGVZHUHFKDQJHGFOHDQOLQHQSXW on, the ornaments dusted and polished, the children were bathed, hair washed and so on, to be ready for school next morning –when there was a school nearby that is. All this washing entailed a constant supply RIKRWZDWHUIURPWKHNHWWOH²ÀOOLQJDQGERLOLQJLWRYHUDQGRYHUDJDLQ %XW6XQGD\KDGLWVMR\VWRRZHKDGDELJIU\XSIRUEUHDNIDVWDQGPXP always cooked a huge roast in the evenings. :HORYHGWKHZLGHRSHQVSDFHVDQGWKHODUJHÀHOGV:HORYHGJRLQJ to the park – we would bring as many children from the camp as wanted to come. There we could be children ourselves – we could play, have fun and be carefree. Once, on our way back we passed by a house that had a VZLPPLQJSRROLQWKHJDUGHQ7KHUHZDVQRERG\DURXQGVRZHMXPSHG LQWRWKHSRRO²DPDQUXVKHGRXWLQKLVVKRUWVDQGMXPSHGLQWRJHWXVRXW :HMXPSHGRXWZKHQKHMXPSHGLQDQGMXPSHGEDFNLQZKHQKHJRWRXW He shouted at us and we left peacefully. We loved going to the public swimming pool, learning to swim but especially to have a shower. It was great having all that hot water available after the hardship of having to fetch and boil each drop we QHHGHG:HKDGWZRELJFKXUQVDQGZRXOGJHWWKHPÀOOHGZLWKZDWHUDW the garage. People were very friendly towards us, and we don’t remember 31


ever having problems with discrimination or having our feelings hurt. Sometimes children shouted at us but we shouted back, and louder. On one occasion we got moved on from where we were camping ZKLOHGDGZDVDWZRUNKHKDGDOPRVWĂ€QLVKHGWKLVSDUWLFXODUMREEXW hadn’t yet been paid for it. He went out early one morning, but no sooner had he left that the police came, got us out of bed and moved us. Moving was always a big hassle, with the children to be seen to as well as all the china. This had to be wrapped in bath towels and handled carefully but it was a real panic when we were suddenly shifted. What a shock for dad when he got home. He had no idea where we were, so he rang his mother, hoping our mum would also have rung her with news of our whereabouts. 7KDW¡VZKDWKDSSHQHGDQGZHZHUHĂ€QDOO\UHXQLWHG Our few years travelling from one place to another were wonderful, a different world. We wished we could have stayed out forever, got married and brought our children up as Travellers. We sometimes fantasise about going back out but things have changed so much that it would be too GLIĂ€FXOWIRURXUFKLOGUHQWRDGDSWDQGLWZRXOGQ¡WEHIDLUWRWKHP Now we both keep many of the customs we learned from our mum in those days. We cook a big roast each Sunday and keep strict control over our children, especially the girls, calling them in early from play. We VSRLORXUKXVEDQGVDQGRXUER\VJLYLQJWKHPWKHLUIRRGĂ€UVWSLFNLQJXS their plates and not asking them to do any housework, preferring to do all the work ourselves as we did when we were young. Today we live in houses. We both love ornaments – shiny, sparkly ones especially – but we choose tastefully. We both have displays of china cake stands with imitation cup cakes on them and champagne bottles on ice in our kitchens, similar to what one would see in a trailer. We made curtains for both our living rooms, in a modern style but we like to add diamonds – one has red diamonds and the other has white RQHV%RWKRXUURRPVDUHHOHJDQWO\GHFRUDWHGLQEODFNDQGZKLWHRQH in French-style furnishings and the other with an Italian-style table and cabinet that look as though they are marble. :KHQDFRXQWU\SHUVRQVHHVRXURUQDPHQWVLQWKHNLWFKHQWKH\MXVW say ‘that’s nice’ or ‘that’s different’, but when a Traveller sees them she goes wild about them, asking where we got this or that. We have often taken our children on holiday to a caravan park – they loved it and looked forward to getting back to their trailer each evening.â€?

32


Whistling down the lane

“I’m an Englishwoman and a settled person who married a Traveller. I knew Travellers long before I met my husband, even before I met my IXWXUHVLVWHULQODZ6KHDQGKHUIDPLO\OLYHGLQWKHĂ DWVFORVHWRPHDQG it was she who introduced me to him. He and I lived together for a few years before getting married. I always felt accepted by the other women, and in fact the only ones who didn’t like me and were slow to accept me were my husband’s parents. They wanted him to marry one of his own people, but if I had been an Irish country girl they probably would have accepted me more readily. Also, I’d had a baby before I met their son, which was a barrier too for Travellers of that generation. ,ORYHGWKHWUDYHOOLQJSDUWRIRXUOLIH7KHĂ€UVWWUDLOHUZHKDGZDV FKURPHZLWKDFRDOĂ€UHDQGORWVRIPLUURUV,WZDVWHUULEO\FROGRQZLQWHU mornings – the windows would get all iced over, and the gas bottle top KDGWREHGHIURVWHGDQGWKHĂ€UHOLWEHIRUH,JRWWKHFKLOGUHQRXWRIEHG:H travelled around a lot, stopping on waste ground, car parks or wherever we found a convenient spot. I had left so many comforts behind, luxuries by comparison with what ,KDGLQP\QHZOLIHEXW,VWLOOHQMR\HGWKHFKDOOHQJHDQGWKHH[SHULHQFHV Each day we had to look for water, and we went mostly to garages. We KDGWZRPLONFKXUQVDQGWKH\OHWXVĂ€OOWKHVH Whistling down the lane to go to the toilet was a bit daunting, so it was great when we were near a town with a supermarket. When there was one nearby I would take the children in, switch on the hot tap – oh, the luxury of that – and wash them. To wash the children in the trailer I would have to warm some water in a pan on the stove. I had a baby bath and bathed each child in this, washing their hair as well. It was backbreaking work as I had so many children, but sometimes we would go to the swimming pool where they could have a shower. 33


I went to the wash house once a week, and as time went by the trailers got more modern – they had a generator for the electricity, a telly and a gas cooker, but the toilet problem remained the same. Summers were great, depending on who you were with. We would sit out talking or visit each other in our trailers and occasionally we would JRWRWKHSXE7KHPHQZRXOGVLWDURXQGDÀUHWDONLQJRUWKH\WRRZRXOG go to the pub. We were frequently moved on by the police. Some were friendly and would sit with us and have a cup of tea, but others were aggressive – we were often woken at 5am and told to move off. In those situations we were only given minutes to get the children out of bed and pack up our possessions, with no time for a hot drink or to make a baby’s bottle. The bailiffs were often rough and didn’t care if they broke our things. 7KH\ZHUHGRLQJDMRERQEHKDOIRIWKHFRXQFLODQGWKHSROLFHZHUHWKHUH to give them credibility. We found that sometimes the police would be all nice and friendly one day but the next day would be evicting us. Sometimes they would follow us until we crossed the border where their MXULVGLFWLRQHQGHGDQGWKHQULQJWKHSROLFHLQWKHQH[WFRXQW\WRWHOOWKHP that a gang of Gypsies were on their way. When we camped on council land we were only allowed to stay for 24 hours. When we were on private land we could stay about a week, until the court case to evict us took place. Once when we went on private land, the men knocked a wall to get LQ7KHIDUPHUFDPHWRXVDQGRIIHUHGWRJLYHXV…IRUHYHU\ZHHN we stayed – he’d been looking for planning permission and each time the QHLJKERXUVREMHFWHGVD\LQJKLVEXLOGLQJVZRXOGEORFNWKHLUYLHZ:H were a godsend for him as his neighbours would prefer have their view blocked by a row of houses than by a row of Travellers’ trailers. The SODFHZDVUHPRWH²LWZDVGLIÀFXOWWRJHWRXUVKRSSLQJDQGVRRQ²EXWZH stayed for two weeks and then moved on. Two of my children were born after we settled back into a house, but three were born while we were travelling, in Swansea, Norwich and .HLJKOH\%DELHV¡ELUWKSHJVZHUHGLIIHUHQWLQVKDSHDFFRUGLQJWRZKHUH they was born. I saved all of mine and they’re on a keyring, ranked in order of age. Having these little ones was the best part of my life – I loved being a young mother. 6FKRROLQJZDVGLIÀFXOWZKLOHZHZHUHPRYLQJDURXQGDVZHZHUH never in one place long enough to put them in school. My middle 34


children suffered because of this as they got no schooling in their early years and my little ones were too young, but the older ones had already experienced school and could read and write a little. That was the downside of travelling. I remember my mother-in-law once showing her daughter and myself KRZWRPDNHĂ RZHUVRXWRIGLIIHUHQWFRORXUHGWRLOHWSDSHU6KHVHWXVXS ZLWKWKHVHĂ RZHUVVRPHPDWHULDODQGSHJVDQGVHQWXVRIIKDZNLQJLQWR 0LOWRQ.H\QHV7KHYHU\Ă€UVWGRRU,NQRFNHGRQDPDQFDPHRXWDQG VDLGQR,VDLGÂśWKDW¡VDOOULJKW¡DQGOHIWWRĂ€QGP\VLVWHULQODZ,WROGKHU ‘I will never, ever go hawking again.’ When I got back home I put all the hawking things in the rubbish bin, telling myself that once was enough and that I would never have a go again. That was the worst experience of my whole life – my problem was that I wasn’t brought up to do it. When I was young my grandmother never refused to buy things from a Gypsy, mostly because she was a bit scared of getting cursed, so I probably expected everybody to be like her. ,ORYHGPRYLQJIURPWRZQWRWRZQPHHWLQJGLIIHUHQWSHRSOHDV,Ă€QG it easy to get on with people. There was always work to be done and P\KXVEDQGDOZD\VKDGDMRE2QHWLPHZHZHUHFDPSLQJLQWKLVORYHO\ peaceful valley with hills to the back of us. I had got the children washed, fed and in bed when suddenly we were bombarded with stones and had to Ă HHDOWKRXJKLWZDVODWH Another time he got into trouble with the law in Yorkshire. We were living in this cottage, a lovely place, when husband did some work for a farmer nearby, who refused to pay him. My husband threatened the man’s property and the farmer called the police. My husband ended up getting VL[PRQWKVLQMDLO I have very good memories of my travelling days but I’ve always said I would never repeat the experience again. Recently, however, one of my daughters visited a Travellers’ site where all the residents were closely related and all got on well together. She thought it was great and asked PHLI,DQGVRPHRIWKHIDPLO\ZRXOGOLNHWRĂ€QGDVLWHDQGOLYHOLNHWKDW family. I found the idea very appealing, and was surprised to realise that even after 20 years or more living in a house, travelling and living in a trailer holds an attraction for me. I still wash and dry up using a white muslin cloth as Travellers do, I also use the same type of chamois for my windows, cook in the same way and buy the washable non-slip mats as I did when in my trailer.â€? 35


Realising my dreams

“I was born in London, the oldest of three children. From as far back as I can remember I loved being with my cousins who lived on a site. I loved the big windows in the trailer, the freedom of playing outside and RIVLWWLQJDURXQGWKHĂ€UHFKDWWLQJZKHQDOOWKHZRUNZDVGRQH,WKDGD magical feel and I always wished I didn’t have to return home. I think it was my dad who taught me to have dreams, hopes and ambitions for my life. When we went on holiday to Ireland we had a routine of walking by the weir. Dad would give me a coin to throw in and make a wish. Sometimes the coins would get splashed up on to the wall and get stuck there but usually they were swept away in the swell of water. He said that if my coin got lodged on the wall my wish would QRWEHJUDQWHGEXWLILWJRWFDUULHGDZD\E\WKHĂ RZLWZDVDVLJQWKDW slowly over time my wish would come back to me – and I believed him. We always returned the next day to see if my coin was there and I’d be excited when it wasn’t clinging to the wall. I always seemed to have a lot of ideas in my head and an opinion about lots of things, and I’m still the same today. As a child I lived a lot in my head and if ever there was bad news or tension around I would Ă€QGDUHIXJHWKHUH$WQLQH,VHHPHGWRKDYHWKHWKRXJKWVRIDWKLUWHHQ year-old – I always seemed to be ahead of my age. I once lived in Ireland with my aunt and uncle who had a trailer in their back garden and would spend most of their days out in the open. Although she had a cooker in KHUNLWFKHQP\DXQWSUHIHUUHGWROLJKWDĂ€UHDQGFRRNRXWVLGH6KHZRXOG sit on a tree trunk to prepare the stew, peeling the potatoes and preparing the vegetables and whatever meat she had, dropping them into the pan as she did so. On warm evenings we would sit out for hours, savouring WKHVWLOOQHVVOLVWHQLQJWRWKHĂ€UHFUDFNOLQJDQGODWHUZDWFKLQJWKHVWDUVLQ the clear sky. When the men returned from the pub the storytelling would begin and I would be enthralled listening to them. 40


I have such nostalgia for these times that I have an idea that if I ever have some extra money I will buy a trailer and keep it in the garden until we have the opportunity to go travelling. I feel this need to relive my childhood experiences, to feel that freedom again and I would like my children to experience some of the magic I felt back then. *URZLQJXSZHH[SHULHQFHGDORWRISUHMXGLFHIURPWKHFKLOGUHQ on the estate. They would shout ‘pikey,’ ‘Gypsy’ or ‘we will take our clothes off the line tonight’. I would retaliate verbally by asking if they ZHUHMHDORXV,ZDVHPEDUUDVVHGLQIURQWRIWKHQHLJKERXUVEXWSUREDEO\ because I didn’t get too worked up about it, they stopped. High school was similar – I was told that I was an intruder in their country or an alien on their turf and some students tried to prevent others from talking to me, but once again I rose above it and did well. I worked very hard in college during my hairdressing course. In the HYHQLQJV,ZRUNHGDVDFOHDQHULQDVROLFLWRUV¡RIĂ€FH,ZRXOGRIWHQWDNH a Kentucky Fried Chicken or a Chinese takeaway home to the family, wanting to care for my parents in the way they had looked after me. Leaving college I had so many dreams and so many ambitions but I fell pregnant with twins. This was a big disappointment to my parents and to myself – it stopped me going forward for a while, but the dreams DQGKRZWRIXOĂ€OWKHPWKHGHVLUHWREHWWHUP\VHOIQHYHUOHIWPH1RZ WKHFKLOGUHQDUHLQVFKRRO,DPEDFNRQWUDFNRQFHDJDLQ,DPLQWKHĂ€QDO stages of my business degree and am choosing to go solo for the moment. ,SODQWRJRLQWR,ULVKFDWHULQJKDYLQJP\RZQYDQDWĂ€UVWDQGODWHU my own cafĂŠ and then a chain of cafĂŠs. I hope one day the children will come into partnership with me. I have researched it well, have got a lot RIVXSSRUWIURPFROOHJHDQGDPFRQĂ€GHQWWKDW,ZLOOVXFFHHG/XFNLO\, am still young enough to apply to the Prince’s Trust for some money to get me started. I am also passionate about the media, broadcasting, public speaking, presenting shows and speaking out in defence of vulnerable people. I feel the need to do something with all the opinions, ideas and thoughts that I have always had in my head. I am taking a course on these studies as well. This second option is to supplement my income – I will need it to advance my catering work which, in the end, will all be for the children, as well as to have dad’s ambitions for me bear fruit. Sadly mum died fairly recently, leaving all of us devastated. Another thing I want to do with my spare cash is to buy a house in Ireland for dad. That was his wish in his heyday but unfortunately things didn’t work to plan.â€? 41


Enjoying school

“When I was about eight years old a girl in my class and I had a silly argument, and she called me ‘Gypsy scum’. I was very angry at the time but she is my best friend now. I’m in year six in school and I really like it. At one time I had a few problems with bullying but I didn’t let them affect me too much – I told my teacher and the head teacher sorted things out for me. My mum is a Romany Gypsy and my dad is an Irish Traveller. They both tell us wonderful stories from when they were young and went travelling with their parents, my mum in England and dad in Ireland. 7KH\WDONRIDOOWKHIUHHWLPHWKH\KDGWRSOD\LQĂ€HOGVDQGODQHV always safe, always excited at the thought of the next new place they would move to, hoping they would meet lots of other children to play ZLWK8QIRUWXQDWHO\WKH\GRQ¡WWUDYHOQRZDV,ZRXOGMXVWORYHLW My mum speaks the Romany language and my dad the Traveller language – I know some of the words because I try hard to remember them. I was born in Leeds so I’m a Yorkshire man, but we moved away when I was about six months old. Sadly the police put an end to mum and dad’s travelling because people nearby complained about having Gypsies near them. They think all Gypsies will steal from them or maybe have some other kind of SUHMXGLFH I love being a Traveller – I’m happy to be one as it’s a very good thing to be. I suppose the best thing about it is having a big family: I have lots RIXQFOHVDXQWVDQGFRXVLQVDQG,ORYHWKHPDOODQGHQMR\PHHWLQJWKHP I even have a good few cousins in this school and we all like it. June is Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month and this year my teacher got us to do some writing about being Travellers and entered it in a national competition. My poem was about the freedom and happiness of travelling and I won the local section of the contest. 42


I’ve often visited my cousins who live on a site in Leeds and know the freedom there is on a site compared to being being in a house. We go for ORQJZDONVLQWKHĂ€HOGVDWWKHEDFNRIWKHVLWHDQGFDQVWD\RXWIRUKRXUV HQMR\LQJRXUVHOYHV ,GRQ¡WZDQWWROLYHLQDKRXVHZKHQ,JURZXSDQGKRSHWRĂ€QGDQLFH site where I can settle down. Hopefully my wife, whoever that will be, will like being a Traveller as much as I do. ,OLNHVFKRRODQGDPJRRGDWORWVRIVXEMHFWVHVSHFLDOO\OLWHUDF\7ZR years ago I fell behind in maths because I couldn’t get the hang of it, and learning all the different rules was a real struggle. Then I got some help and gradually, through hard work, I got to my proper level. 7KLVWHUPZHDUHOHDUQLQJDERXW:RUOG:DU,,ZKLFK,Ă€QGYHU\ interesting. In religious education we’re doing a topic called ‘called to serve’ and our teacher is telling us that if we try to help people we can make a big difference in their lives. She tells about how wars cause refugees and asylum seekers and how unfair it is for them having to leave their country and she also talks about the hungry people in the world. It’s DJRRGVXEMHFWWROHDUQDQG,HQMR\LW School is the best place for children. I would tell all Travellers to send their children to school because education is important, and I would tell the kids not to give up too easily. /HDUQLQJWRGHDOZLWKSUHMXGLFHLVSDUWRIHYHU\RQH¡VOLIH,KDYHEHHQ teased at times because of my size and in a way that is another form of SUHMXGLFH0\EURWKHUVWD\HGRIIVFKRRORQFHEHFDXVHKHZDVEXOOLHGEXW he went back some time later. All of my family attended school and my mum and dad did too. My brother and sister stayed on until they passed all their exams and now KDYHJRRGMREV²P\VLVWHULVDEHDXWLFLDQ,¡PJRLQJWREHDSOXPEHU when I pass my exams because I think there is a lot of money in it, and I hope, one day, to have my own business. I will probably have to do some scrap metal work in my spare time to get a good van and all the tools I ZLOOQHHGIRUWKHMREÂľ

43


A spring in my step

“I was born in hospital and grew up on a street in Ireland where all 32 houses were part of a government scheme to house Travellers. Most of us were related, which often caused confusion because of the same name being repeated along the road. My future wife lived three doors away so we grew up together. Travellers are enterprising people and these families were no exception. We all did seasonal work on the farms, especially carrot and potato picking. We started picking at 7am – often in rain-soaked or frozen Ă€HOGV²DQGFRQWLQXHGXQWLOSP7KHQZHZHUHWDNHQWRWKHVKHGZKHUH our pickings were washed by machine and bagged by us. We were paid according to the number of sacks we had picked – the going rate back then was 20p per bag. It could be 9pm by the time we got home. It was DGLIĂ€FXOWEDFNEUHDNLQJMRE²RXUKDQGVZHUHDOZD\VGLUW\DQGLWZDV GLIĂ€FXOWWRJHWWKHFDUURWVNLQVIURPXQGHURXUQDLOV Sunday was our only free day, when we were given pocket money and went to the cinema. Occasionally we would be taken to Dublin to see our cousins who lived on sites. We would make tents from willow sticks covered with a sheet of canvas and sleep in them. My father was a cart maker, a skill passed down from my grandfather, DQGKHPDGHĂ DWFDUWVWKH-DXQWLQJFDUW\SHRQHVHHVLQ.LOODUQH\DV well as traps and farm carts. When the farmer I worked for died, I started working with dad. He had an arrangement with local farmers to cut their trees, providing them with an ample supply of logs for winter fuel and keeping the rest himself. He used the long trunks for the carts and the UHPDLQLQJZRRGZDVFKRSSHGIRUĂ€UHZRRG 7KHUHZDVDODUJHĂ€HOGDWWKHEDFNRIWKHKRXVHZKHUHGDGNHSWKLV horses. I was always on hand to help with their training and to take them WRWKHIRUJHIRUVKRHLQJ²WKLVFRVWÂ…DOWKRXJK,GLGSDUWRIWKHZRUNE\ working the bellows. 44


Granddad was a great storyteller and was a regular at Galway races, where crowds gathered to listen to him. He also had a coconut shy and three-card trick stall. He was often invited to tell stories on the radio. In the summer months he would pitch a tent near Croagh Patrick, a place of pilgrimage in County Mayo, where thousands climb the Reek, a mountain. There he would pick birch and use it to make walking sticks to sell to the climbers. He was also very skilled at cleaning chimneys. I was one of his KHOSHUV²ÀUVWZHFRYHUHGWKHFKLPQH\EUHDVWZLWKDVKHHWRIFDUGZLWKD KROHODUJHHQRXJKWRÀWWKHEUXVK,ZRXOGWKHQJRRXWVLGHDQGZKHQWKH brush emerged through the chimney and would shout to let him know KHKDGJRWWRWKHWRS$IWHUZDUGVLWZDVP\MREWRFROOHFWWKHVRRWIURP the grate and clean up. We’d spread the soot as fertilizer on our lawn and ODUJHÀHOG In his spare time my granddad bred greyhounds and kid goats, selling meat from the latter to the neighbours and making bodhrans – Irish drums – from their skins. The younger members of the family would often be sent into the town to ask around for empty bottles. These were washed, put into crates and stored in our back garden. A few weeks before Christmas, mum would ask someone to collect them and the proceeds helped fund our presents. :KHQ,ZDVROGHU,KDGDUHJXODUMREFXWWLQJSHRSOH¡VODZQVDQG selling the grass for fertiliser. I gave my earnings to mum, who opened a Credit Union account for me so that when I decided to marry I had enough money to pay all my expenses as well as the hotel bills for the guests. We looked forward to school because it got us away from the work at home, but it wasn’t what I had hoped for. We were made sit in the back of WKHFODVVDQGZHUHQHYHUDOORZHGVSHDN%HLQJDOZD\VLJQRUHGJRWWRPH and on one I occasion asked why we couldn’t answer – a question which led me to be slapped until my hands bled. My saviour was Mrs Duffy, who took a special interest in me. It was she who taught me how to break words down and pronounce them bit by bit and with that knowledge I could now teach myself and went regularly WRWKHOLEUDU\JUDGXDWLQJIURPHDV\WRYHU\GLIÀFXOWERRNV Mrs Duffy, together with two of the nuns, also set up evening classes for us – they taught us music, and soon we were able to play the accordion, tin whistle and take part in shows. 45


There was a great spirit of friendship among all of us on the road. We helped each other out and often found work for each other. Some families cut turf for farmers – we would swap some of our wood for their turf so WKDWZHHDFKKDGDPL[WXUHIRURXUZLQWHUĂ€UHV6RPHZLWKWKHFRXQFLO organised a rubbish collection for the neighbourhood and many became ELQPHQ&OHDQLQJVHZHUVZDVDQRWKHUMREWKH\GLG (YHQWXDOO\LQWKHVWKLQJVJRWGLIĂ€FXOWLQ,UHODQGVRGDGDQG mum went to England to a site owned by my uncle. With dad – the main VRXUFHRIRXUMREV²JRQHOLIHJRWWRXJKDQGEHFDXVH,PLVVHGKLPP\ wife and I decided to follow. ,WZDVDKRXUMRXUQH\IURPRXUKRPHWR9LFWRULDVWDWLRQLQ /RQGRQ$VZHSDVVHGWKHELJFLWLHV,JRWWHUULĂ€HGDWWKHVLJKWRIWKHODUJH buildings. The nearer we got to London the worse I felt. The underground was the worst, it smelt of turf and we were clutching each other in fear, but the welcome we got when we distributed the soda bread, Irish sausages and bacon rashers among the family made up for it. We ended up living in an empty building that my uncle knew had squatters’ rights. We cleaned the place up, changed the locks and lived WKHUHKDSSLO\IRUZHOORYHUD\HDU7KLVTXDOLĂ€HGXVWRDSSO\IRUDKRXVH and eventually we got our own place, which we loved and decorated with great enthusiasm. This was the beginning of the happiest period in our lives. I had a great spring in my step – I was young, with a beautiful wife and was now living my own life. For a time I worked with my uncle putting up ZRRGHQIHQFHVIRUSHRSOHDGYHUWLVLQJRXUVHOYHVE\SXWWLQJOHDĂ HWVRQFDU ZLQGVFUHHQVDQGWKURXJKOHWWHUER[HVDQGZRUNĂ RRGHGLQ ,Q/RQGRQWKHUHZHUHEXLOGLQJVLWHVHYHU\SODFH,ZRXOGĂ€QLVKLQRQH place on a Friday and through contacts in the Irish clubs I would have another even better one on Monday. I once worked near Fleet Street where we could see Robert Maxwell’s helicopter arrive each morning. Soon I was working on the construction of a massive building near Embankment. The work was intense and I was the foreman giving instructions and doing paperwork. For a period I worked from 8am to 11pm to bridge the gap between the two shifts. The money was so good that one of my brothers took six months RIIIURPKLVMRELQWKHDUP\WRWDNHDGYDQWDJHRILW$VWKHFRQVWUXFWLRQ Ă€QLVKHG,KDGWROD\RIIPRVWRIWKHPHQLQFOXGLQJUHODWLYHVRIPLQH ZKLOH,ZDVRIIHUHGDQRWKHUIRUHPDQ¡VMRERQDQHZVLWH,UHIXVHGDV,IHOW 46


LWZRXOGEHXQIDLURIPHWRKDYHDJRRGMREZKLOHWKH\P\IDPLO\ZHUH out of work. %\WKLVWLPHZHKDGWZRGDXJKWHUVDQGKDGH[SHULHQFHGDSHULRGRI JUHDWKDSSLQHVVDQGWRJHWKHUQHVV%XWP\ZLIHJUDGXDOO\EHJDQWRVKRZ signs of depression, which never left her. Life was becoming hard for her DQGZLWKWZRFKLOGUHQVKHZDVÀQGLQJVKRSSLQJXVLQJHVFDODWRUVDQGWKH WXEHGLIÀFXOW,IHOWVKHQHHGHGDFKDQJH :HPRYHGQRUWKDQG,IRXQGYDULRXVMREVEXWQRQHWKDWJDYHWKH satisfaction or pay of those glory days. I have memories of arriving here with two children and lots of luggage – sitting, freezing, outside the town hall waiting for McDonald’s to open so we could buy a hot drink for the children. We were starting all over again. ,VRRQIRXQGDFRQVWUXFWLRQMREDQGZKHQWKDWKRXVLQJHVWDWHZDV complete I acted as a security man before the houses became occupied. ,KDGRQHYHU\GHJUDGLQJMRELQDEDGO\UXQVNLS\DUGZKHUHHYHU\WKLQJ was done manually – sorting all the rubbish by hand with rats running EHWZHHQRQH¡VIHHWEXWZHQHHGHGWKHPRQH\/XFNLO\,WKHQJRWDMRELQ a very different skip yard where we were treated with respect, given good wages and accepted for who we were. During this period things deteriorated at home, with my wife suffering from black moods, not sending the children to school and thinking that drink would cure her. Due to my own ill health and feeling the need to be at home for her and the children I gave up work and went on the dole. Whenever I intervened in an attempt to save her from herself she would make false accusations against me to the police, which got me into very GLIÀFXOWVLWXDWLRQV 7KLVZDVDORQJDQGYHU\YHU\GLIÀFXOWSHULRGIRUDOORIXV ending, tragically, with her death by misadventure, brought about by a dependence on prescription drugs and alcohol. Thanks to my extraordinarily supportive family I am still here, recovering slowly from the experience and still mourning her loss.�

47


Valued at work

“I may have lived in houses all my life but I’m still a Traveller in every respect. As a child I often went out travelling with my cousins during the holidays, and I was instilled with the Traveller way of life. I was brought up by my granny and had a very happy childhood. Sundays were the best day of the week – we got up early for church and had a deliciously big fry-up after it. The older members of the family cooked the meal while the elders went to the pub until 3pm, when we all sat down to eat. There were no choices in those days, so everybody ate what was given to them. We would row as siblings and one of my sisters would pinch and hit me because she felt that I had replaced her as the youngest and thus deprived her of our parents’ love and attention. Granny instilled the Traveller culture into us – love for family, respect for others, and a high moral code. It was a strict upbringing with restrictions such as not playing out with boys, not going to discos, being home early, and certain codes of dress and conduct. My granddad was strict too, especially with the girls. At that time girls wore these bright neon dresses that he dismissed as ‘cheap girls’ clothes,’ so obviously they were forbidden. I loved school and was very happy there in spite of being bullied because of my surname and being called ‘gyppo’ and ‘tinker.’ There were HYHQWLPHVZKHQ,ZDVEXOOLHGLQWRÀJKWLQJEXW,GLGQ·WHYHUWHOODQ\ERG\ at home about it. When I asked to go to secondary school granny, after a struggle, said that I could try it out for a year. At the beginning of the second year there ZDVWKHVDPHVWUXJJOHEXWJUDQQ\JDYHLQ%\WKHWLPHWKLUG\HDUVWDUWHG, was so involved with school that there was no going back and no way she could stop me. I did well at school and passed all my GCSEs. When I was 14, I began working at weekends as a waitress in a hotel and got extra hours during holiday time. Granny was very protective and 48


would drop me off and pick me up no matter how late it was. On leaving school I worked there again, booking the groups and meetings, where we had huge numbers to cater for, often as many as 200 arriving at once for a conference. I got on very well until a new manager arrived – when suddenly, after seven years as a valued member of staff, my work was EHLQJFULWLFLVHGVR,GHFLGHGLWZDVEHVWWROHDYHDQGIRXQGDQRWKHUMRE in a hotel nearby. Since I have always been open about who I am, my FROOHDJXHVDQG,ZRQGHUHGLIVKHZDVSUHMXGLFHGDJDLQVW7UDYHOOHUVDQG was showing her discrimination by acting in this way. 7KHQH[WMRE,JRWZDVVLPLODUWRWKHSUHYLRXVRQH,EHFDPHWKH cordinator of the business centre at a large city centre hotel and was responsible for taking the bookings, preparing in advance for the clients’ arrival, welcoming them and in seeing to their every need while they ZHUHRQRXUSUHPLVHV,HQMR\HGEHLQJKDQGVRQZLWKVRPDQ\GLIIHUHQW people. Now I work for a large worldwide insolvency company where ZHGHDOZLWKEDQNUXSWF\,WLVDYHU\LQWHUHVWLQJMREDQGZHDUHRIWHQD lifeline for many companies which are in trouble. :KHQ,ÀUVWPHWP\KXVEDQG,ZDVYHU\UHWLFHQWWRWHOOP\JUDQQ\ about him as he is not a Traveller, but in the end I had to tell as I was regularly coming home late and I knew she would have guessed. She was actually very accepting, mainly because she knew his grandmother who had been a neighbour at one time. I introduced my boyfriend to my family on Christmas day. It was daunting for him to meet such a large family all at once but he coped very well. He is now very much part of the family and at one stage was nicknamed ‘the weekend Gypsy boy’ as we stayed with my sister and her husband on Saturday nights before our children came along. I have always been open about being a Traveller. My two children know I’m a Traveller and I take them to sites regularly to play with their cousins. I intend on bringing them up in the Traveller way by instilling in them respect for others and moral behaviour, albeit with a little bit more leniency than I had.”

49


At the mill

“We moved around a lot when I was a child, travelling from county to county and staying in each place for a few weeks at a time. Dad was a tinsmith, a tinker, which is the name some Irish people give WR7UDYHOOHUV%DFNWKHQLQWKHSUHSODVWLFHUDKLVZDVDKLJKO\YDOXHG trade. He made all sorts of useful utensils – buckets, milk cans with handles, tin drinking cups and so on. His items were bought and used by the country people, especially the farmers. He also mended items such as cooking pots, put bottoms on buckets and soldered things together. His tool box was full of different hammers – some for heavy work and others IRUĂ€QHUMREV+HDOVRFDUULHGWRQJVZDVKHUV²ZKLFK,EHOLHYHFRXQWU\ people used to call ‘tinkers pennies’ – and everything else he needed for his craft. Whenever we moved to a new place, people would be pleased to see us arrive because they would have stored up their leaking, broken vessels for dad to mend. My mother was a hawker, and she had a basket with all sorts of items for sale. There were combs, hair slides, pot scrubs, strainers, needles, ribbon – all kinds of things she had bought in the warehouse. The farmers’ wives would always be pleased to buy from her as in some areas the nearest village could be quite a distance away. I was about 10 or 11 when I started going out hawking. We’d go out in twos or threes and I wore a black shawl, as the women did in those days. I was good with money and the people were always friendly and would buy whatever we had to sell. Dad also did seasonal work, pulling sugar beet or picking potatoes for the farmers during harvest time. He’d get his own children helping out – his own army of helpers, even though some or us would be as young as eight years old – and the more work we got done, the better his pay would be. 54


The farmers were good to us and would give us vegetables, milk or RWKHULWHPVZHRIWHQGHVSHUDWHO\QHHGHG$OOZRXOGEHĂ€QHEHWZHHQXV XQOHVVRQHRIRXUKRUVHVVWUD\HGLQWRWKHLUĂ€HOGZKHQWKHSROLFHZRXOGEH called and we would have to move off at a moment’s notice. My mother was also good at sewing and crochet. She bought large TXDQWLWLHVRIĂ DQQHOHWWHDQGPDGHQLJKWLHVIRUWKHJLUOVZKHUHYHUZH camped, sewing by hand as sewing machines were expensive in those days. She had no patterns as she couldn’t read or write but she had a keen eye and knew which size to make by looking at the child and comparing her to one of her own daughters. She’d be paid in kind for these – the mothers would give her eggs or bacon or some potatoes and vegetables. They valued her skill. Traveller women never had time for themselves. They were the providers of food, clothes and the material comforts of all the family. They were very hard workers, always on the go. We moved so often that we were unable to attend school. We did go for a few weeks to prepare for our First Holy Communion, and later to JHWUHDG\IRURXU&RQĂ€UPDWLRQ,RQFHZRQDSUL]HIRUEHLQJWKHEHVWLQ the religion class and some of the other children cried, saying that as I hardly ever went to school I didn’t deserve it. Lack of education was a big loss in our lives. I think the government should have taken more of an interest and ensured we went to school, even if it was only in the winter when there was no work on the farms for us to do. My parents planned to move to England, so my father and his brotherLQODZZHQWĂ€UVWWRJHWMREVDQGURRPV0XPZDVVXSSRVHGWRIROORZ but she lost courage at the last minute and backed out. My brothers and I moved to the accomodation provided by my dad, but he returned when he realised my mother would not come. 0\Ă€UVWMREZDVLQDUDJIDFWRU\7KHUHZHUHRWKHU7UDYHOOHUJLUOV there, and when we went to the wages foreman to collect and sign for our money, all we could do was put a cross as few of us could read or write. He would ask: ‘Are there no schools in Ireland?’ From there I moved to a mill up the road, where I had to pack sheets. There was row after row of sheets and they were all different sizes. I pretended I could read and watched the lady very carefully as she demonstrated how they did their wrapping and packing. That was easy, EXWLWZDVPRUHGLIĂ€FXOWIRUPHWRNQRZZKLFKRQHVWRSXWLQHDFKSDFN 55


The sheets had different brand names, but since I was unable to read these I latched onto the fact that there were little coloured dots on the different sheets – colour coded we would say nowadays. I soon got the KDQJRIWKLVV\VWHPDQGIHOWFRPIRUWDEOH,WZDVDQLPSRUWDQWMREDVWKH mill delivered their goods to the big stores in the city like House of Fraser and Debenhams. When I left there I tried my hand at being a waitress in Wimpys, ,WKLQNLWZDV:HZHUHGUHVVHGLQDKDWDQGZKLWHRYHUDOOV,HQMR\HG setting the tables but my inability to write down the orders was such a problem for me that I felt embarrassed. I loved washing the pots and pans and found the staff and customers very pleasant and kind-hearted but left after a short time – going, instead, to a factory canteen. This was physically very demanding – we were on our feet for long hours and the demands always seemed to get greater. We were responsible for the running of the whole works – serving meals, washing up, mopping the à RRUVDQGVRRQ,IWKHSRWDWRSHHOHUZDVQ¡WZRUNLQJZHKDGWRSHHOWKH potatoes by hand. ,ZDVWKHRQO\7UDYHOOHUEXW,GLGQ¡WZDQWWREHLGHQWLÀHGDVVXFKVR didn’t mix with my colleagues, which made it a lonely time. I was glad WRIDOOSUHJQDQWDQGKDYHDQH[FXVHWROHDYH%HIRUH,PDUULHG,KDGVDYHG up most of my money and gave it to my parents each time I went home – it was a great help to them in bringing up the other children and also we could have some extra nice food on the table.�

56


&KLOGKRRGLQĂ XHQFHV

´7KHUHZDVDVWURQJ7UDYHOOHULQĂ XHQFHLQP\FKLOGKRRGDVP\ mother and grandparents were Irish Travellers through and through – and yet I don’t think of myself as a Traveller. When people see my name and occasionally ask if I’m a Traveller, my reply is: ‘I’m not, but my people are.’ Growing up, my home life was similar to many Traveller girls – there were strict rules about how we dressed, mixing with boys, being out late and so on, as well as deep faith, Irish music, home-cooked food and strong family ties. There were lots of religious pictures on the walls and mantelpiece, along with photos and memorabilia of the extended family, all of which are typical aspects of Traveller life. $WWKHVDPHWLPHWKHUHZHUHWKHLQĂ XHQFHVRIP\QRQ7UDYHOOHU friends on the street, the many girls I played with and the friends I made both there and in school. Somehow I aligned myself with these and saw P\VHOIDVRQHRIWKHP²WKLVZDVQ¡WDFRQVFLRXVGHFLVLRQMXVWVRPHWKLQJ I fell into. In spite of this I have retained a lot from my childhood – my strong faith, for example, how I dress and my love of Irish people. At gatherings, Traveller men and women traditionally break into separate JURXSVDQGQHLWKHUJHQGHUFURVVHVWKDWGLYLGH,Ă€QGWKLVLQP\VHOI,DP very much a woman’s woman. I feel shy around men and tend to be very reserved where conversations have sexual undertones or innuendos. This is, I think, a natural reserve – a desire to protect myself and to live by certain standards. Much of who I am today stems from what I was taught by my grandparents, who brought me up and both of whom I loved and respected enormously. Eight years on from my granddad’s death I’m still living in their house – their travelling days had ended by the time I came 57


along. My grandparents were very keen on education – having sent their own children to school, it followed automatically that I would also be educated. As far as I’m aware there were no other Travellers in my Catholic primary school but there were some in high school. Since those close to me in age were boys I kept my distance, obeying my grandparents’ code for me. ,HQMR\HGVFKRROEXWZDVDQ[LRXVWROHDYHDQGÀQGDMRE7RP\JUHDW UHJUHW,OHIWZLWKRXWDQ\TXDOLÀFDWLRQV0\ÀUVWMREZDVDVDQHYHQLQJ FOHDQHULQWKHRIÀFHVDWWKHXQLYHUVLW\FRPSOH[QHDURXUKRXVH/DWHU I became a dinner lady in the halls of residence, and for some years I DOWHUQDWHGEHWZHHQWKHVHWZRMREV ,GLGQ¡WIHHOIXOÀOOHGWKHUHWKRXJKVR,DVNHGDQDXQWWRKHOSPH research the cosmetics industry – something I’d always been interested in – on the computer. I had a face-to-face and a telephone interview and to P\JUHDWMR\,ZDVRIIHUHGDMREZLWKDODUJHDQGZHOONQRZQFRVPHWLFV brand. I now travel all over the country to promote their products, and work LQDOOWKHELJZHOONQRZQGHSDUWPHQWVWRUHV$WÀUVW,ORYHGWKHIUHHGRP this brought me – it was exciting seeing the different areas and the scenery, but that wore off as I got more responsibility. I’m now an elite seller in the sales development team. I still travel but have a lot more pressure as I’m responsible for setting up special SURPRWLRQGD\V'XULQJWKHZHHNOHDGLQJXSWRDQHYHQW,ZRUNà DWRXW ²,KDYHWRÀQGRXWWKHH[SHFWDWLRQVRIWKDWVWRUHWKHLUSURÀWPDUJLQV WDUJHWVDQGWKHSHUFHQWDJHSURÀWVWKH\ZLVKWRPDNH,¡POHDUQLQJDOOWKH time and am always extremely tired by the end.�

58


Formal requests

“My parents were still living in a tent when I came along in the 1970s, their second child. I was born in the nearby hospital in Dublin and taken KRPHWRWKHLUOD\E\FDPS,UHPHPEHURXUĂ€UVWWUDLOHUD%OXHELUG,W EURXJKWQHZOLIHWRXVDVZHWUDYHOOHGQHDUDQGIDU²FKLHĂ \LQWKHZHVW of Ireland. I loved travelling: the sense of movement, of meeting new people, new cousins. At one time in Dublin a large number of families OLYHGLQDELJĂ€HOGZKHUHZHKDGORWVRIIULHQGVWRSOD\ZLWK6RPHWLPHV ZHZHQWĂ€VKLQJIRUWDGSROHVDQGRWKHUWLPHVZHSOD\HGNLVVDQGFKDVH of which our parents would not have approved. At one stage we were moved off the campsite into prefabs – all of us, our aunts, uncles and their families. My granny came to live with us then – I remember she had long blonde plaits and drank two bottles of Guinness every night. A bus came every morning and took us to school, which we liked as it got us away from the chores. We were all in the one FODVVURRPDJHGIURPĂ€YHWRDQGER\VDQGJLUOVWRJHWKHU%HLQJPL[HG didn’t suit our parents though as it wasn’t encouraged at home. My future husband was among these boys but whereas he remembers me, I have no recollection of him. We all brought a packed lunch to school – my brother and I would bring bread and butter and a bottle of %RYULOWRGULQN ,ORYHGVFKRROHVSHFLDOO\0UV%U\DQ2QHGD\VKHSURPLVHGWREX\ me a present if I learned the alphabet. On the following Monday morning ZKHQ,UHFLWHGWKHĂ€UVWKDOIRILWVKHJDYHPHDEHDXWLIXOGROOP\Ă€UVW doll – this made me all the more eager to learn. Once we were taken on a trip to a forest where we found all sorts of interesting fruit, leaves and insects. There was a lovely stream there, which added to the excitement. It was a great day out and we loved the freedom. There was no dole when I was young so my mother and the other ZRPHQZHQWRXWHDFKGD\WREHJIURPWKHKRXVHV0XPKDGĂ€YHRIXV 59


in the pram and I would knock on the doors for her. I loved peeping into the hallways seeing the lovely carpets, TV and pictures and longed for a home like one of these. The people were very good and would keep things for us – that was how I got my First Holy Communion dress. A woman liked me and handed down her daughter’s one; it was beautiful. 2QHZRPDQ%ULJLGZRXOGEULQJXVLQWRKHUNLWFKHQDQGJLYHXVWHD 6KHZDVYHU\NLQGDQGORYHGWRWDON²VKHPXVWKDYHEHHQORQHO\%DFNDW the camp the women would pool the clothes, sorting them out according to the sizes of the different children. At one stage I went potato picking ZLWKP\GDGG\,WZDVDKDUGMREEHQGLQJDOOWKHWLPH:HZRUNHGORQJ hours from 6am to 6pm, even when there was frost on the ground. We got Â…IRUSLFNLQJDFHUWDLQDPRXQWDQGGDGG\QHHGHGRXUKHOSWRUHDFKWKDW target. We came to England when I was nine and lived for a short time with PXP¡VEURWKHULQDĂ€IWKVWRUH\Ă DW6RRQGDGG\ERXJKWDWUDLOHUDQGZH travelled around the area, camping wherever there was a space. It was an exciting time seeing all of this new country. When we settled once more in a house I was sent to school, only to be taken out again sometimes to help mummy. In high school there was a country girl in my class who was being bullied. This upset me and I took on the bullies and verbally put an end to it. The girl and I became great friends but I became isolated because I supported her. ,ZDVUHDOO\HQMR\LQJVFKRROZKHQRQHGD\GDGSXOOHGXSRXWVLGH the playground and said my help was needed at home, and so began my WLPHDVDEDE\VLWWHU%HLQJDWKRPHDQGOLVWHQLQJWRDGXOWFRQYHUVDWLRQV made me very precocious. When I next saw mummy packing a bag I guessed what she was doing. I felt very lonely and sad as I watched her walk across the courtyard to the bus stop – I knew she was heading for the maternity hospital and that I would miss her terribly. Dad was good to us when she was away and would often buy us a ‘Chinese special,’ which was our favourite food. One day, out of the blue, I got a message through my sister-in-law that a young man had asked if I would go out with him. Obviously, my answer was no. I think he was impressed that I was keeping the rules which made him all the more determined that I was the girl for him. Mummy had noticed a change in me and when I told her about him she broke the news to daddy, who asked me if I wanted to marry him. I said no because I was embarrassed and afraid of his reaction but he left me free to decide for 60


myself. When the news that daddy had approved got to my young man he and his parents came and asked for me formally. I was very shy but by the end of the evening a marriage was arranged. I took to him instantly, excitedly telling everyone that I was engaged. I felt very lucky to be marrying this man and still do today. We have gone through a lot but our love is still strong after 20 years together. $WRQHWLPHP\EURWKHUDQG,HDFKKDGDMRELQDODUJHSULQWLQJZRUNV I started as a messenger girl, making tea and so on but soon I was given DQRIÀFHMREDQVZHULQJWKHSKRQHDQGERRNLQJEXVLQHVVWLFNHWVIRUWKH VWDII2QHGD\P\ÀDQFpUDQJDVNLQJPHWRPHHWKLP,KDGWRWHOOWKLVWR my daddy, who was so cross that he called off the marriage and made me give back the ring. I was heartbroken and cried all that day at work – my boss was very understanding and offered me time off to sit and recover myself. He was a very good man, and when a group of us were made redundant he gave me extra money asking me not to tell the others.� View of her daughter ´,HQMR\HGVFKRRODQGKDGQRSUREOHPZLWKEHLQJD7UDYHOOHU,ZRUNHG KDUGDQGZHQWWRFROOHJHZKHUH,TXDOLÀHGDVDEHDXW\WKHUDSLVW,JRWD YHU\JRRGMRELQDVDORQGHVSLWHWKHIDFWWKDWWKHPDQDJHUNQHZ,ZDVD Traveller. My introduction to my husband was a bit similar to my mum’s in that I got a message from him that he was interested in me because he had VHHQP\SKRWRJUDSK+HZDQWHGP\SKRQHQXPEHUDQG,ÀQDOO\JDYHLW When we were chatting over the phone for some time I told my mum. :HFDUULHGRQOLNHWKLVIRUD\HDUEHIRUHHYHUPHHWLQJDQGÀUVWVDZ each other at a wedding. I wasn’t allowed talk to him without daddy having approved of him. Finally, in the evening he approached daddy ZKRJDYHKLVFRQVHQWDWRQFH,ZDVZKHQZHÀUVWEHJDQWDONLQJDQG 18 when we married and he was a similar age. I only began travelling after we married. We chose to do this because RIWKHGLIÀFXOW\RIÀQGLQJDKRXVHDQG,WRRNWRLWDWRQFH0\KXVEDQG LVDWUDGLWLRQDO7UDYHOOHUYHU\LPPHUVHGLQKLVFXOWXUHDQGÀQGVOLYLQJLQ KRXVHVVXIIRFDWLQJ%HLQJRQDFDPSZLWKRWKHU7UDYHOOHUVNQRZLQJWKDW friends are nearby and staying up late chatting gives him a real buzz and NHHSVKLPURRWHGLQZKRKHLV,HQMR\WKLVWRREXWVRPHWLPHVZHQHHGWKH house with all its comforts for our baby.� 61


:DONLQJLQWKHĂ€HOGV

â&#x20AC;&#x153;My mother was one of four children. At that time tuberculosis was widespread in Ireland and my grandfather, my mum and her sister caught it. All three were in the sanatorium at the same time, being treated for the condition. Very sadly my mummyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s father died. The children werenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t told, so they kept asking â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;whereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s daddy?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; â&#x20AC;&#x201C; but after a while they realised he KDGGLHG7ZRZHHNVODWHUKHUVLVWHUGLHGDQGP\PRWKHUQRZĂ&#x20AC;YH\HDUV old, wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t told this time either. She was now alone in the place, but WKDQNIXOO\VKHJRWEHWWHUDQGOLYHGDYHU\KDSS\DQGIXOĂ&#x20AC;OOHGOLIH Some time later my motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mum married again, this time to a widower who already had 10 children. Combined with her own three children, they were now a family of 15. Then, once again, tragedy struck â&#x20AC;&#x201C; my grandmother died giving birth to her second child with her new husband, and that baby died also. My mumâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s auntie â&#x20AC;&#x201C; my grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sister â&#x20AC;&#x201C; had never married. She was a formidable woman with strong views and huge determination. Soon after her sisterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s death she drove to the house in her horse and cart, determined to take her children and bring them up herself. It was a MRXUQH\RIDERXWPLOHVVRLWWRRNKHUVHYHUDOGD\VWRJHWWKHUH 7KHĂ&#x20AC;UVWVLJKWWKDWPHWKHUH\HVZDVDEORQGHER\ZLWKDEDGO\ cropped haircut. She said â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;I hope thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not one of our children,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; but LWZDV7KLVVWDUWHGWKHĂ&#x20AC;UVWURZEHWZHHQWKHPDQDQGKHUVHOIÂś<RX¡UH MHDORXVRIWKHLUORYHO\ZKLWHKDLU¡VKHVDLG:KHQKHUVLVWHU¡VFKLOGUHQ VDZKHUWKH\ZHUHRYHUMR\HG²WKH\UDQRXWDQGFOXQJWRKHU Then began a battle of wills. The man didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to hand over the children, he felt they were his by right as he had reared them over the past few years. Mumâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s aunt, having brought her tent, camped nearby and used every opportunity to harass him to hand over the children. The DUJXPHQWVZHUHPDQ\DQGKHĂ&#x20AC;QDOO\UHOHQWHGEXWKHOGRQWRRQHWKHFKLOG 62


he and his second wife had had together. 0XFKDVDXQWLHIRXJKWWRKDYHKLPVKHDOVRĂ&#x20AC;QDOO\KDGWRJLYHLQ taking the three she had acquired back home with her. She brought them up hard and independent. She bought the oldest boy, although only eight, some horses and he turned out to be very skilled and later made a very good living from them. The two girls were taught how to hawk and were sent out every day WRGRVR7KHLUDXQWZRXOGVD\Âś<RXPXVWEHVHOIVXIĂ&#x20AC;FLHQW\RXFDQ¡W depend on the men.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; My mother was always very thrifty â&#x20AC;&#x201C; she rarely spent money on herself but saved every penny. She had winter clothes and summer clothes and that was all she wanted. I remember how beautiful she looked on my First Holy Communion day, she wore a lovely top and skirt with suede boots and had her hair down loose. That was the one time she took some care of herself. When she was only 13, it leaked out that she was a saver and had money set aside, and people would come to borrow from her. She was very astute and knew who would repay her but she always made them promise they wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t tell anyone who they borrowed from. In later life she often talked about this aged man whose wagon had fallen apart, coming to her asking if she would lend him some money. She replied with her usual story: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;I have no money, what makes you think I have?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; 6KHĂ&#x20AC;QDOO\UHOHQWHGDQGJDYHKLPVRPHJHWWLQJLWEDFNLQLQVWDOOPHQWVDV was the case with other borrowers, always giving some extra for herself. My mum never spoke about how she and my dad met but aunt told me how sometimes in the evenings mum would go down to a widowerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Ă&#x20AC;UHZKHUHKLVFKLOGUHQZHUHJDWKHUHG7KLVZDVDQXQXVXDOWKLQJWRGR as in those days Travellers only visited if they were close family. Her aunt thought she was chatting to his daughters as they were the only girls of her age around. Then one evening my mum and the childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s father walked over the hill â&#x20AC;&#x201C; or ran away as Travellers would say nowadays. Her aunt, who was the same age as this man, was furious, especially with herself for not having realised what was happening. Soon though they were married. My mum never spoke about this, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m only saying what someone else told me. At that time, we lived in bow-top wagons and stayed in the same place for three to six months at a time. All the family went to school regularly and were clever. My mum, being the thrifty person she was would spend 63


her day out in the pony and trap going from house to house, begging. 6KHZRXOGJHWWHDVXJDUĂ RXUPLONSRWDWRHVHQRXJKDOPRVWHDFKGD\ to feed the family. Some people were very good to her and she would sometimes drive a long distance to get a can of milk from a farmer who was particularly generous. She had her children very organised so that when she got home the Ă&#x20AC;UHZDVOLWDQGWKHSRWVDQGSDQVZHUHUHDG\VRVKHFRXOGEHJLQWKHWDVN RIFRRNLQJWKHHYHQLQJPHDO(YHQWKHER\VKDGWKHLUMREVXSWRWKHDJH of about 12, when they regarded themselves as men â&#x20AC;&#x201C; after that, men donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t do housework. When times were hard and she was getting very little from the houses she would go to the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;college,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; as she called the convent. Once, when I was on holiday from England, I went with my young cousins to the college to beg for food. The Sister asked each of us in turn what we wanted and we would say something like: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;I would like something to eat and I promise I will say seven Hail Marys for you, I promise I will pray for you.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; When it came to my turn I completely forgot what to say and said: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Can I have the same as them please.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; She said â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;What? Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s easily known youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re from England,â&#x20AC;&#x2122; as she recognised my accent. I think she ZDVMXVWWHDVLQJXVDVZHDOOJRWVRPHWKLQJWRHDW Mammy was a fanatic about cleaning, something she learned in her childhood. We were always dressed spotlessly. She did the washing herself, going down to the river with her load and bar of carbolic soap. The bushes all around were weighed down by the weight of our wet clothes. Later in England she washed in the bath, never going to a wash KRXVHEXWZKHQ,ZDVDERXWVKHĂ&#x20AC;QDOO\JRWDZDVKLQJPDFKLQH :KHQZHZHUHWUDYHOOLQJ,ORYHGZDONLQJLQWKHRSHQĂ&#x20AC;HOGV,NQHZ the different smell of all the trees although I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t name them. There was a certain smell if rain was on its way and different again when the rain was over. Often when I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet I would see a mist moving like a fog but it was gone in the morning. We miss all these nice things by living in a house or a built-up area. There is nothing as satisfying as being out in the open and seeing nature at work. One by one the children in our family, who had never moved any distance away from our parents, moved to England as soon as they UHDFKHGEHWZHHQDQG0\VLVWHUZDVWKHĂ&#x20AC;UVWRQHWRJRDQG everyone was sad when she left. When she was getting married she gave 64


us very little notice so nobody was able to go to her wedding. Daddy was very upset that he couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be there for her so he went into town to have DGULQNDQGFHOHEUDWHWKHZHGGLQJRIKLVĂ&#x20AC;UVWFKLOG,WKDSSHQHGWKDWP\ mother went into labour, with me, on the same day. We lived very far out of the town â&#x20AC;&#x201C; it was miles and miles away â&#x20AC;&#x201C; but my mother had to drive herself to the hospital, where she tied her horse to a railing inside the grounds while she went in and gave birth to me. I contracted pneumonia, had to be christened there and was kept in and away from my mother for a few days. &RPPXQLFDWLRQZDVGLIĂ&#x20AC;FXOWLQWKRVHGD\V7KHRQO\ZD\P\PXP had of telling the family at home why she was away so long was through WKHSROLFH7KHKRVSLWDOUDQJWKHVWDWLRQDQGRQHRIWKHRIĂ&#x20AC;FHUVF\FOHGRXW that long distance to inform the family of the problem. When Travellers needed to have a letter read, they would also frequently ask the police or a priest. Mummy and daddy never wanted to come to England but felt pressurised into doing so because so many of the family were there DOUHDG\:KHQ,ZDVD\HDUROGZHPRYHGWR%LUPLQJKDPDQGOLYHGLQ two attic rooms, with a separate kitchen. Later we moved here and settled in very well â&#x20AC;&#x201C; so much so that my mother was making plans to buy a house. She had her eye on one but for one reason or another her plans fell through. 0\IDWKHUZRUNHGLQFRQVWUXFWLRQJHWWLQJWRKLVMRERQKLVELNH,W PXVWKDYHEHHQVRGLIĂ&#x20AC;FXOWIRUKLPWRVHWWOHLQWRWKDWW\SHRIOLIHZKHQKH had been accustomed to being his own boss out in the open spaces with KLVKRUVHV+HGLGDGDSWWKRXJKDQGHYHQVWD\HGRQGRLQJRGGMREVDIWHU he retired. Mother was only young when she was diagnosed with Parkinsons. She coped with it for a long time but gradually it became severe and she became wheelchair-bound. She suffered greatly during the last 20 years of her life and was totally dependent on her family. Even the doctors were surprised at how aggressive it was â&#x20AC;&#x201C; at times she would shake so violently that she would be thrown out of her ZKHHOFKDLUDQGRQWRWKHĂ RRU:HDOZD\VKDGH[WUDUXJVDURXQGZKHUH she sat to make the fall less painful. Mummy began to save again, this time for herself. The doctors built up her hopes of a cure, they told her that there was a lot of research being done, saying it was only a matter of time before there would be a breakthrough. She thought she might have 65


to travel to America for it, but sadly it never happened for her. Thankfully her mind remained clear until the end, and on the day before VKHGLHGDJHGVKHMXVWWDONHGDQGWDONHGUHPLQLVFLQJDERXWKHUOLIH,ZDV OXFN\WRKDYHEHHQZLWKKHUMXVWDFKDQFHRYHUQLJKWVWD\DQGVKHGLHGQH[W day. 0\RWKHUJUDQGIDWKHUMRLQHGWKHDUPHGIRUFHVDQGIRXJKWLQ:RUOG:DU II. Shortly before it ended he was among a number of soldiers captured and made prisoners of war. When the war was over his wife, my granny, received a letter saying he was missing, probably lost in action. She was devastated and mourned for him, as did all the family. It was hard for her but she accepted the responsibility of bringing up the children on her own. What a shock it was for KHUWKHQZKHQRQHGD\DIHZ\HDUVODWHUKHZDONHGLQZHDULQJDĂ DWFDSDQG uniform. She couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t believe it. Not fully understanding his story and wanting some proof, she got him to ZULWHDZD\DQGKDYHKLVVWRU\YHULĂ&#x20AC;HG/XFN\IRUKLPKLVVWRU\ZDVWUXHÂľ

66


Community connections

â&#x20AC;&#x153;I was born in Ireland into a traditional Catholic travelling family, the 14th of my parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; 15 children. My family moved to England in WKHVDQG,JUHZXSLQWKH0LGODQGV%HWZHHQWKHDJHVRIVL[WR I attended a Catholic primary school but I did not receive much more schooling after that. My family moved to London in 1972 and there I met my husband, who is also an Irish Traveller. We married in 1975, when I was 18, and we have lived both in trailers and houses during our married life. We had seven children and all have received a full school education. Three of my children completed further education, with one entering university. All of my children are married except for my youngest, who at 17 is training to become a nursery leader. One of my married daughters is a working mother and is employed in secondary education, teaching Traveller children. I have 15 grandchildren so far, to whom I devote a lot of my time. Most of my children are married to Travellers but the ones who are not also share with us a Catholic travelling culture. I have lived in London and attended my local church for many years, and having my children all attend the parish school helped to connect them with the community. Helping out at church events and being actively involved with the congregation is very important to me. I have always practised my faith, ZLWKP\PXPP\DQGGDGG\EHLQJP\Ă&#x20AC;UVWDQGPRVWLQĂ XHQWLDOWHDFKHUV I have worked in my parish, helping where needed. About 15 years ago, I started to help out with the catechism lessons at my church for WKHSDULVKVFKRROFKLOGUHQVRPHWKLQJ,HQMR\HGYHU\PXFK,ZDVDZDUH of Traveller families who were not accessing some of the parishâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s programmes for the sacraments and I started to prepare those children in their family homes. I then asked the parishes if the children could be accepted to make 67


WKHLU)LUVW+RO\&RPPXQLRQDQG&RQÀUPDWLRQDQGWKDQNIXOO\VRPHGLG DFFHSWWKHP,ÀQGWKHUHDUHPDQ\GLIÀFXOWLHVOLYLQJDPRQJDOOJURXSVRI people, but having faith in what we believe to be the good for all needs action to take place. Father Eltin Daly was a priest who worked with Irish Travellers for 40 years and was loved by the community, including my mother who knew him well. At his funeral I met another priest who had also been helping out with Travellers and who had set up a programme for their children in London. He invited me to help with preparing them for their sacraments and I agreed. That was back in 2000 and I still currently work in the same position today. ,DOVREHFDPHWKHÀUVW7UDYHOOHUWUXVWHHPHPEHUIRUWKH,ULVK7UDYHOOHU 0RYHPHQWLQ%ULWDLQ QRZNQRZQDV7KH7UDYHOOHU0RYHPHQW LQ and continue to be an advisory member for the organisation today. ,EHOLHYHZHDUHDOOVHQWKHUHWRGRDMRE²SDLGRUXQSDLG²IRUWKH good of all. We must never feel ashamed of what we are or what we come from. We must be thankful to the Lord for the faith he has given to us travelling people and I am personally honoured to teach His word.”

68


Further information

The Traveller Movement $QDWLRQDOFRPPXQLW\GHYHORSPHQWFKDULW\ZRUNLQJWRĂ&#x20AC;JKW discrimination and raise the capacity and social inclusion of Gypsy and Traveller communities in the UK. www.irishtraveller.org.uk

The Gypsy Council Community-led campaigners on issues including the lack of legal VWRSSLQJSODFHVLQDGHTXDWHDQGXQKHDOWK\RIĂ&#x20AC;FLDOVLWHVUDFLVP LQHIĂ&#x20AC;FLHQWKHDOWKFDUHJRYHUQPHQWDQGLQVWLWXWLRQDOKDUDVVPHQWDQG education. Offers advice and services to Gypsy and Travellers, students and others. www.gypsy-association.co.uk

Catholic Association for Racial Justice Works to support and empower Catholics from diverse backgrounds and to give them a more effective voice int he church and in wider society. ZZZFDUMRUJXN

Travellers Times Quarterly print magazine and website offering news, opinion and resources from within the UKâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Largely written and produced by community members. www.travellerstimes.org.uk

69


Photo captions

Cover: 9LHZRYHU$SSOHE\&XPEULD%ULWDLQ¡V*\SVLHVDQG7UDYHOOHUV have been gathering in the village to socialise and trade horses every June for more than 300 years. 8-9: Many Travellers still have traditional horse-drawn wagons in the family, and fairs such as Appleby are a time when they come out of VWRUDJHWREHHQMR\HGDQGVKRZQRII 20-21: Horses are washed in the River Eden in Appleby before being offered for sale. 22-23: $EDUHNQXFNOHĂ&#x20AC;JKWEUHDNVRXWDW$SSOHE\²DWUDGLWLRQDOZD\ many Traveller men settle disputes. The older men at the front ensure the Ă&#x20AC;JKWLVIDLUDQGQRZHDSRQVDUHXVHG7KHRSSRQHQWVZLOOVKDNHKDQGVDW the end. 36-37: A Scottish Traveller mother washes down one of her trailers â&#x20AC;&#x201C; part of her daily cycle of chores. Hygiene and cleanliness are important to Gypsies and Travellers. 38-39: Youngsters play inside their trailer on a private North West site. 50-51: Men watch the goings-on at Appleby Horse Fair, one of the most important dates on the calendar for many indigenous Gypsies and Travellers. 52-53: A roadside camp in Leeds. There is a shortage of legal stopping places for mobile Travellers, forcing some to set up temporary camps and EULQJLQJWKHPLQWRFRQĂ LFWZLWKVHWWOHGFRPPXQLWLHV 70


Authors

Sister Carmel Clancy is a member of the Presentation Sisters in the English Province. She was born, educated and did her religious training QRYLWLDWH LQ,UHODQGDIWHUZKLFKVKHPRYHGWR(QJODQG7KHUHVKH TXDOLĂ&#x20AC;HGWRWHDFKLQERWKSULPDU\DQGVSHFLDOQHHGVVFKRROVDQGVSHQW 30 years working in classrooms. She then worked with homeless people, before taking up her present role of pastoral care of travelling people. In this book she gives us a birdâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eye view of how they lived in bygone days, as well as a snapshot of how they are becoming more immersed in mainstream society and â&#x20AC;&#x201C; through their own industry and initiatives ²DUHFRQWULEXWLQJWRLW6KHORRNVIRUZDUGWRDIXWXUHZKHQSUHMXGLFH and discrimination will be replaced by respect for their culture and an acceptance of their ethnicity.

Ciara Leeming is a writer and photographer with a longstanding interest in challenging the visual and media representation of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma migrants. For more information see www.ciaraleeming.co.uk

71


Profile for ciara leeming

Travellers' Tales  

Labour of love illustrated book project featuring the stories of Gypsies and Travellers - in their own words. Compiled by Sister Carmel Clan...

Travellers' Tales  

Labour of love illustrated book project featuring the stories of Gypsies and Travellers - in their own words. Compiled by Sister Carmel Clan...

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