Barney Golly Power

Me right name is Barney Power, known as Golly, and I’m married to Mary McDonagh. I’m sixty years of age and I live in Ballyfoyle, Corbettstown, Co. Kilkenny. I had fourteen children, seven boys and seven girls.

S: It is now on, and you can talk till you’re blue!

What do you want to know about?

S: Everything! You said that when you see things on telly, about Travellers, you disagree.

I do disagree, yeah, The first start of the Travelling people was at the time of the Famine. Well, that’s not the first of the Travellers, but – the Travellers lived in houses years on top of years ago, back in centuries ago. And there was people came back here called the sheriffs. They were ran out of their homes the same as this house here. And the Traveller took to the road. There was no asses and cars that time; there was asses, there was no cars. What they used to carry around that time was up on the ass’s back. And they used to stay in houses called the lodging houses. That means, if they came to your place, that you’d give them a night in the kitchen, you know? Or if you hadn’t room in your kitchen for them that night, you’d give them a shed to lie in, a hay shed or barn, anything like that. So they started off. They didn’t know anything about the roadside. Knew nothing about the roadside, the Travellers didn’t. They came down, a few of the Travelling People, and they came to Connemara. That was the first start of the tent.

S: Would these be people that would be related to you? Are you talking your own personal family here?

Yeah, they’d be related to meself, relation of meself and relation of all Travelling People. Be all Joyces, Quinn McDonaghs, Cawleys, McDonaghs, Nevins, Joyces, Wards, Driscolls, Connors, Cashes – they all, they joined in a group one time, and went toConnemara. And they’d nothing only asses, carrying purse-bags on their back, what they called them that time, that was carrying their bed-clothes, and their belongings. And they went to Connemara, they went back Connemara, a lot of those Travelling People, and when they broke into Connemara, they met a Connemara man. That’s the man teached them, and learned them, how to build a tent – that was a camp, you’d call it. And how he done that: he used to make this tent, I’d call it, at the side of a boat to bring the cattle across the sea from one island to another. So he seen the Travelling People staying agin a ditch with nothing there for shelter or nothing. So he looked at them. He says, “There’s a way of fixing yourselves, lads,” he says. So one of the Travelling People asked him how. “Well,” he says, “If ye build – That’s the boat there, he says. And that’s the yoke there beside it. I puts the cattle’s head in there. And ye build that, turn it upside down.” he says, “you could make a place to lie.”. So there was one Travelling man looked at it. “I think” he says, “I know what he means. We can build that, ” he says, “and we can make our home out of it.|” So he went down along the ditch and he cut fourteen hazel sticks, wattles we’d call them, and he pared them out. He got another piece of a board, and he bored all holes down along them. And he built a tent, and put a calico cover over it, like – something like a dress at that time, and he made a tent out of it. And the local man told him, “Now,” he says, “if you get a bed of straw,” he says, “and throw it in there, your kids can lie here.” So out of that, out of that tent, a few year after, this man started thinking, right? He was a McDonagh. A McDonagh man. And he looked at the tent on the ground, and he says, “What if I made something that it would go up on, and lie higher off the ground, that the water wouldn’t go under it?” So he come up with the idea to build a car, a horse’s car. So he got the timber and the boards and he got the wheels, and he built the car. That was the first car a Traveller ever built.

S: Any idea what time we’re talking about?

Oh, you’re going back, what? You’re going back centuries, like! You’re going back over a hundred and fifty years. So he built the car and put the tent on top of it, and gave it a name. Called it “accommodation”. And out of the accommodation another Travelling Man came up with the idea again, a Mongans, came up with the idea of it when he looked at the tent upon top of the car, staring at it, he says, “That could be made more comfortable.” “What?” says your man – that was the McDonagh man. “What do you mean?” he says, like. “Well, he says, you could make it bigger.” And the McDonagh man looked. “How would you make it bigger?” he says. “No bother!” he says. “Just look at it,” he says, “and stare at it! for a second” So the Mongans looked at it and started showing him. “You can make, ” he says, “what you’d call a wagon out of that,” he says. “With four wheels,” he says. “And you can put a stove inside in it. And can make your home out of it.” So he built a wagon. That was the horse-drawn wagon.

And you’ll get some people telling you that Travellers came from this breed, that breed, they’re stowaways, they’re Indians, they’re this and they’re that. And the main point about a Travelling man today is that he’s a pure bred Irishman. Because the Traveller never left Ireland. He’s bred born and reared in Ireland. Now, there is different people coming in – younger generations. But my side, those side here, and going back say fifth or sixth generation of a Traveller, they’re pure-bred Irish people. I do be looking at it there: they say the Travellers came from America, that’s what I hears on television.

S: That’d be a first for me, now. So were the stowaways. I never heard that.

Well, I did.

S: Stowaway from where?

They’re supposed be (laughs) That is the truth!

S: That’s meant to be Gypsies.

Yeah, Gypsies, now. But no. The Traveller came fromIreland. Bred in Ireland. Travelled the world! And that’s how the Traveller has the roving mind today. Now I’m in a house myself there, and I wouldn’t give an hour on the side of the road for this house. Never did and never would. We’re fond of outside fires, I lights one this minute. And the truth is it’s your culture, do you know what I mean, now? We’d a trade ourselves, tinsmiths. And you know the motor – panel beaters. Let’s say your car got dinged. We were the first panel beaters ever came into the world, because we’re tinsmiths. We could get a piece of galvanised there, all creases, and we’d only have a hammer, and we could straighten that out the same as that there, and we could make buckets out of it. Still can do today! But they never got the chance, see? We’d pull into a camp, years ago, my grandfather – my father was telling me this. We’d pull into a camp – that’s how there’s a lot of us with no schooling. And we’d only get about twenty four hours, if we’d be lucky, to stay in one place. We’d be shifted from here, now, to Dublin. And when you’d pull in there, you wouldn’t be an hour there, you’d be shifted from there back someplace else. We never got that chance.

The local people there gets up, they gets up and they calls Travellers this and they calls Travellers that. I don’t go to school. Never went to school in me life. But I’ll tell you one thing for sure – and try it yourself, now! Go back toDublin.Dublinis a big city. There’s a lot of libraries in Dublin. Fierce lot of libraries! I can’t even write me own name. Can’t spell me own name! But I’m one man will tell you the truth: that never – you get people there that calls a tinker. Now, my idea – I never went to school – but when people calls that to Travelling People, I think they’re very ignorant. Because there’s no such thing as a tinker. Never was and never will be. Now you can get a book – go up to any library inDublin, pick out any book, and you’ll never see tinker wrote. Now the real tinker is, in my mind, anyway – I travelled a fierce lot of Ireland, I travelled a lot of England, and I went through very, very hard times through me lifetime, me father before me, me grandfather – but I think a tinker is, and I told this to a government woman, down in County Wexford, and she asked me what was a tinker. Says I, “I’ll tell you what a tinker is,” says I, “I’ll tell you what a tinker is. Did you ever walk into a town there, and you’d see a local person, standing up agin a wall?”

S: You’re talking about corner boys and bowsies!

Now you have it! Them is the tinkers! Them is the tinkers!

S: You’re talking about knackers! Skangers, as we say in Dublin!

Yeah! Them is the tinkers! Now, you’ll get a lot of local people come out with that word. But there’s no such thing as a tinker in my mind, or anyone. Because I’ll tell you the straight truth: there are people that went to school, got good education, a fierce lot of them. But they’re very ignorant Now, there’s an old saying, and a true one, and I’m going to tell it to you. There’s five pound in any town for anyone that’s willing to do one thing, and that’s what they can’t do, is, mind their own business!

S (roars laughing) I didn’t fall for it!

When they go in to the bank to ask for the £5, they still can’t mind their business! Do you see? That’s what I’m saying, Now, when you go back to Dublin yourself, go in to any library, there’s a lot of libraries, and take a lot of books about history, and you’ll never get one wrote tinker. Never! Our rightly name is tinsmith be trade. That’s the right name: tinsmith be trade. That’s really what the Traveller is, that’s what it’s all about, is tinsmith be trade.

S: So you’re saying that your people, the Powers and the Walls, both sides, were tinsmiths? More than you did anything else?

Yeah. Every one of them. And the Wards! And the McDonaghs. And Joyce.

S: What other types of work would they have done?

Carpenters. Done painting. They done chimneysweeps – the Doyles. All chimneysweeps. That was their trade.

S: Did the Doyles do more chimneysweeping than tinsmithing?

They did! And the Wards was very good tinsmiths, every one of them. Quinn McDonaghs as we call them now, they were good tinsmiths. The Joyces was good tinsmiths, and the Walls, they were good tinsmiths, Connorses, good tinsmiths, and the Powers.

S: What about the three-card trick?

That came up with the Craigses. Not every family could do that, now.

S: Another family that came up for me with the three-card trick was the Clarkes, another of these small little names.

Charlie Clarke, and them! Old Paddy Clarke, and Old Mickey Clarke – they’re all three-card tricks. The Connors. now, was the best horse traders, and the Moorehouses, of the Travelling People. And Cashes, now. They were the horse traders.

S: And Caseys?

And Caseys. Very good horse trading men, they were.

S: Would they do that more than tinsmithing?

They would. They’d do a lot more of it, that’d be more their thing. Now, we could turn out, years ago, any of us could turn out anything out of copper, or tin. We could make anything. No matter what it is, we could put it together. [TO DAUGHTER:] Go down there and get me me old photos, till I show her something! You’ll barely see this photo, now! I used do that, there, till I gave it up. And, isn’t it funny, now? None of my sons picked it up. None of them!

S: It wasn’t bet into them!

No! Never picked it up. This trade now – can you see them at all? that’s me brother there.

S: They’re beautiful! Is that copper?

All copper!

S: Is that a photo from a newspaper?

That is. He’s dead now. He sent stuff toAmerica. They’re the Lynches. That’s Charlie Lynch there now.

S: Oh! I’ll tell him when I meet him. Pity that’s in such bad nick. What newspaper was that in?

Oh! That’s a long time back!

S: I’m just wondering if you could contact the newspaper, might be able to get an original.

I sent that here after he died, and I got it, it was years back. He was only young there, he wasn’t even married. That’s Brigid that’s married to Young Luke Power, now. That’s her father, there. my brother again. But none of my family ever picked up that trade, out of them all.

S: You see? You’re useless! It should have been bet into you!

(laughs) You’re useless! And we used to shoe horses. We used to make cars, make wheels.

S: Did you? You made wheels? I’m really impressed.

Yeah, made wheels. Even the Monganses there, that was all their trade. Monganses made wagons, built wagons, and put spokes in the wheels. The Traveller picked up one trade out of another.

S: Yeah, but I’m interested – to my way of thinking, to be a Traveller is to be able to check out a situation and say, “Aha! I know how I can make money off of that!”

That’s right. I’ll tell you about a Travelling person. A Travelling person has – not counting a local person bad – but he has a smarter mind than him.

S: Yeah, I agree with you.

He’s a smarter mind. I’ll tell you why, now. I’ll put a question to you, right? See, if you were stranded out there this minute with your kids, right, we’ll say, now, you were put out of your home –

S: I would cope. Personally, I would cope. I’m unusual.

Well, I’m going to ask you a question, simple question. Say you were evicted from your house tomorrow morning, and there’s six foot of snow out there, right, and you’re evicted from your home. Now, this is thinking. This is what the brains is all about. Nowhere to go, are you with me now? And let you have three children, or four children, small children, right? Or five children. And you were never on the roadside, never camped on the road, never done anything. If you were thrown out there on the side of the road, no place to go, what’s the first thought that would come into your head to do?

S: Shelter. And warmth.

Now! How would you build a home for the childer?

S: If there was six foot of snow I think I would do something with the snow. But if there wasn’t six foot of snow I would use whatever was to hand.

We’ll say there’s no snow. Let’s say you wanted something to move, something to bring with you from town to town with you.

S: Are you talking about immediately, or in the long term?


S: Immediately, I would walk. But if you’re talking in the long term, you’d do exactly what you just said there, work out some way of shelter that you could move with you, and then get real smart, put it on wheels.

Well, the first start what you have to do, is to go and cut a few sticks like wattles, and you get some kind of a piece of plastic or something, in this day and age now, that you’d look for a sheet of big plastic and make a camp out of it, then go and get a bale of straw and throw it into it. Well by the plastic and wattles, if you’re moving, say, from Kildare to Kilkenny, you could knock your camp, roll up your plastic and hang up your wattles and bring them with you, for the next place. Now, there’s some people, local people, would never think of it, you know what I mean? They look alive, but they mightn’t get it.

S: Here’s a question: you mentioned families that never done tinsmithing and weren’t connected with it. The two names that came up so far were Craigs and Clarkes. Would they have been Travelling People, or country people that somehow ended up mixing in with the Travelling People?

No. Travelling People. All Travelling People. Every one of them. I’ll tell you: there is Travelling People took up the trade of tinsmith. Yeah, Travellers learned them how. See, tinsmith was a trade. You’ll buy a bucket here in the town and, if I had one made here, you’d see the difference. The one you’ll buy in the town, an ordinary bucket, galvanised, you went in and bought it, and I made one out here, well, after you giving your money in here for the bucket, thirty five euro or whatever it is now, forty euro, right? Well, I’d make one, you’d see the difference in the two buckets.

S: But yours would be a work of art. That’s the difference.

Yeah. Mine would be seamed, riveted, the whole lot, where the ones up here would be only stuck together. Barely stuck together!

S: That’s right. I have a galvanised bucket for coal.

See, about making of the bucket – because It’s very simple to make one, It’s not hard to make one, so long as you have the brain.

S: Everything is easy when you know how!

When you’re making a bucket, you see, you seam left and right.

S [to children] Listen carefully!

Down, you turn it over left, then you turn back and you turn it back up. Now the other side, you turn that one the opposite way, to the left, down, and left down again. And when you roll your bucket the same as the mug there, them two seams goes in together like that, and when they’re hit down together, they’re sealed.

I’ve a young fellow here – I’ve two, as a matter of fact, one of them is in England – I’ve a little fellow here and he only twelve, and no matter what, he can draw, he can picture up anything! He can draw you, he can draw me, no matter what he sees, he can draw it. And I’ve another fellow, eighteen, can draw anything at all, no matter what he see, he can draw. No matter what kind of yoke it is: bird, horse, cow, house, river, trees, anything at all.

S: My young fellow was the same, always drawing, but he wouldn’t go in and train himself to it. You’d make that much money at it! Because there’s always call for pictures.

There was a Cawley man there, now, a Travelling man, on the television. Did you see that?

S: I did, actually! Now, when you seen that Cawley fellow, and he is very good, that was a documentary on Traveller language.

That’s right!

S: Which brings us round to that. So, you tell me about that, now!

Oh, the Gammon. Ah, yeah. Well, if I wanted to speak, we’ll say, without you knowing. Did you ever hear any of it before, did you?

S: Oh, yeah. Believe me, I’m not trying to get words from you, but I was more interested to hear what you were saying, what was it? That it was scrambled English. or something.

Scrambled English, yeah.

S: Let me hear your theories!

Right you are! Let me tell you. There’s two different languages of it. So, I’ll give you the first part of it, anyway. We’ll say if I wanted to speak, and you not to know anything about it, right? If I said the[X]- do you know what I mean, the[X]? You do. Right. If I said[X]the[X]what would I mean?

S: [X] would it?

No. If I said[X] the[X],that means look at the woman.

S: Right. It’s the same.

If I said a word there,[X]that means, don’t talk. If I said, [X] , I’d mean, a bad woman. That you’d be bad.

SON: Or where’s the [X].

If I said a{x}, that means the man, or if I said a[X],is the child, or[X]is a girl,[X]is a boy. Now, a[X]do you know what a[X]is?

S: Would that be a horse?

A horse. A[X]is a dog. Now, what’s[X]?

S: Tea.


S: Is meat.

That’s correct.

S: (laughs) Are we just showing off to each other now? Or what?


S: Dora is bread.

DAUGHTER: Do you know what [X] is?

S: Yes! (all laugh)

Do you know what[X]is?

S: Yes. [X]is your clothes.

That’s correct. Do you know what a pair of[X] is?

S: Ears,

No. Eyes! A[X]- do you know what a[X]is?

S: Yeah. Yes. I’ll [hit]yours!

(Laughs) Do you know what a[X] is?

S: [X]is a car.

SON: [X] ?

S: [X]is a house.


S: [X] is a door.

That’s correct! Di you know what a[X]is?

S: Is it a lorry?

No, field. Or[X]? That’s correct.[X]?

S: No, I don’t know that.

Straw.[X]? Fire.[X]? Milk.

S: Really?? Totally different word!

Now we go back to Donegal!

S: Because people I know would call that [X]. I never heard that one before.

Donegal Travellers, now, when they’re saying anything about us, or talking about children or anything like that, they call a woman a[X].That’s Cant.

S: It would be well worth – something that has never been done, and I’m not the person to do it, would be to talk to different people and get – like. all the words you said there, nearly all of them words, I knew, because I’d heard them before. But not all!

There’s a Guard near Newbridge who used to do it, he’s dead now. Guard Bradley. He’d books of it! We learned it him, now. He’d books that height of it. A [X],In Donegal, now, is a woman, and a[X], is the man.

S: What families would that be? McGinleys?

McGinleys kind of talks that, now. McGinleys and Dohertys.

S: And what do they call what they talk?

Broken Cant, too.

S: They call it Cant.

Yeah, Cant. That’s all Cant.

S: And what you were saying just now, would you call that Cant, too?

Cant as well, yeah.

S: A minute ago, you said Gammon.

Gammon. See, there’s two different words. In Donegal now they give Cant, and Gammon would be back up here, you know what I mean?

S: But me talking to McDonaghs and Joyces and Stokeses, they all calls it Cant, and then it’s when you go down into Wexford, they call calls it Gammon.

Gammon, yeah. You see, they have different languages on it. So if they say an [X]- you know what an[X]is?

S: No.

Town. Now, if they said[X]-

S: I should know it. I’m sorry.

That’s not to say nothing.

SON: They calls a camp a [X].

That’s in Wexford, now. See, I’ll tell you about the Cant. That’s all broken English, every bit of it. That’s all broken English.

S: Come on, tell me! This makes a change from saying it was all made up by monks! Go ahead!

Yes, it’s all broken English, every part of it. You see, I’ll tell you about it. If you put that in, let’s say, all put that into the right thing, it nearly almost it comes out the same as the Irish.

S: So you’re saying its broken Irish?

Irish, yes.

S: Not broken English. Get your stories straight here! Broken Irish, or broken English?

It’s almost the same as Irish. If you can’t speak Irish, we’ll say – and a fellow says to you, Dia’s Muïre duit. Now, what does he mean by Dia’s Muire duit?

S: Hello!

That’s correct! Now I was back in Donegal one time, I was down inConnemara, I learned a little small bit of Irish. I brought a Travelling man back toConnemaraone time, travelling. AndConnemara was very good for small ponies that time, you’d get them very cheap. And that time they’d be half giving them away, like, because there was nothing to be done with them. I brought this fellow back with me one time toConnemara, himself and his wife camping with us. He was never in Connemarain his life. It’s all a mountainy country. He looked at me. “Jesus, Golly” he says to me, “this is a very lonesome place!”

S: It is. Very.

It is lonely. But says I, if you go up that road there says I, you’ll meet a village, and there’s a lot of houses. They’re very nice people, says I.Connemara people is very nice. And they’ll have the crack, says I, with you. And so they would. They’ll have the jokes with you. You can walk into a house and you’ll see ceili house going on, and so you would, you know? Says I, lovely music, and things like that. And you’ll always get an ass or a pony then, in a house. You take that road, says I, and I’ll go this road. So begod, he went off in his pony and car, him and the wife, hawking around the country for ponies and asses and things like that, I went off this way, me and her. Well that evening, a summer’s evening, I came back to the camp, I brought back four or five ponies and six asses, that I got through the country. But he was at the fire when I came back, the outside fire, and he had nothing, you know? And I started laughing, do you see? Having the craic. And he looked at me. “God, Golly,” he said to me, “you were a decant man.” Says I, “How would I be a decent man?” “Brought me to a country,” he says, “where I wouldn’t get nothing! I wouldn’t get skin off of milk,” says he, “never mind anything else!” And I started laughing at him, you see? “How do you mean,” I says, “you couldn’t get nothing?” “Well,” he says, when I get morning, I’ll tackle up, and I’ll never see Connemara no more!” (laughs) What happened, you see, he couldn’t get a pony or an ass. “I’ll bet you, says I, if I went out tomorrow, the way you went, I’ll get asses and ponies,” says I, “all though that road.” Says he, “You’ll get nothing in it! But I’ll tell you what you will get,” he says, “as much as you can bring of them!” he says. Says I, “What’s that?” “A whole car of eels!” he says, and I started laughing. “Oh, my God,” says I, “I forgot telling you! Is that what the people were saying to you?” “That’s what they were saying. Any house I went in, ” he says, “they were giving me eels!” “No, says I, “they weren’t giving you eels. Back,” says I, “in this place here,” says I, “‘eel’ means ‘come in’. In Connemara. Do you know what I mean? When he’d knock at the door, and the man or the woman inside would say, “eel!”, that means, ‘Come in! Open the door and come in”, in Connemara. And he thought the people was giving him eels, and he got mixed up with it, you see? “John,” says I, “the people wasn’t giving you eels. They were telling you to come in! Says I, I’ll go out tomorrow with you, for the crack! So I went out next day with him, because he wasn’t used to it, and I knocked at the door of a house, the half door, you know, that time. The man said, eel! TheConnemara man. I opened the latch of the door and walked in. “By God,” he says, “I don’t know!” You see, he didn’t know their customs. So that’s where the Cant comes in, do you you see, it’s almost nearly the same thing as the Irish. Its almost the same thing.

S : Do you think that somebody sat down and broke it up?

They did.

S: Or do you think it’s just coincidence that they sound the same?


S: Do you think somebody went out to their way to invent secret words?

They invented secret words.

S: Okay.

The Traveller People done it theirselves, back in years. What happened there, now, I’ll tell you what happened there. The Travelling man picked up the Irish, years upon years ago.

S: And what did they speak before?

No! They hadn’t language before this.

S: No language at all?

Only the Irish, that we’re speaking now.

S: We’re talking English.

They could do Irish, but what happened with them with the Irish, they lost Irish, thrown away the Irish talking. Travellers could speak Irish very, very good one time, all the older people. My great grandfather, now. Great Irish speaker. But the time of the Tans – back in the Tans’ time, Troubles time – everyone knew what they were saying, same as you and me taking now. And we’ll say there’s someone there the two of you didn’t want to know what you were saying, right? And you were speaking Irish to me, and he knew Irish. So you started thinking, What am I going to do? If I speak English, they’ll still know what I’m saying. So I’ll come to a conclusion that will break it up somehow. So what they done, the older people around the fire, sat down, a few of them, they got words from one another, and they started concluding around the fire, and they spoke Irish for the fire we’ll say, right? And when they spoke the Irish for the fire, they broke that up and called it a[X].Now, no one knew what the[X]was! So when they went to the[X]they came to the[X]They broke down the man in Irish, to[X].

S: Well, I can see how fear, which is the Irish word for man, could turn to[X]. But I can’t see howtine turns into [X]. Sorry, but I just can’t.

Well that’s how they broke it down.

S: Alright!

They had to break it down because I’ll tell you why, now. When the troubled times was years back –

S: I think Traveller language existed a long, long, long time ago.

Well, it could, yeah.

S: And I don’t think it’s broke up English. I really don’t.

Maybe it went back farther than what I know about it, now. You see, a [X],now, that’s a child, in our language now.

S: Well you see, in Irish that’s páiste. It doesn’t sound anything like [X]! They’re totally different words!

Crolas,you know what[X] is?

S: I should. – No, that’s your [X]s.

[X]is a hand.[X]is your feet.[X]means you’re hungry.

S: Oh, [X]!

Donegal now, down there, has a different word for it. If you went back down to Donegal, there, and a Travelling woman, or man, you were sitting there, and the first thing they’d say, “I’m peckish”. It’s the same thing: hunger. It means:peckish, means hunger. You’ll hear a different way of pronouncing it.

S: But Donegal is always different, anyway. Don’t mind them!

Donegal is far different way of going. But I’ll tell you the truth, I’ll be honest about it. There’s a history behind Travellers, and no one ever went into it.

S: That is the truth of God!

You’ll hear they came fromAmericaas stowaways –

S: That is a brand new one on me! I thought I’d heard them all, that’s a new one!

They’re a breed of an Indian –

S: Yeah, I heard that one.

Those are Travellers coming out theirself with it. I hear that coming out now, all this. They says this thing on television. No! The Traveller was an Irish man from the first to the start of it. And he was here – the Travelling man was here, almost – I’ll tell you how far Travellers go back, now. The Travellers are almost back to the time of Our Lord.

S: How does that, then, go along with what you just said, about being evicted?

That’s what I’m trying to tell you! The Travellers are almost, nearly almost, the same time as Our Lord. Not too – maybe seventy or eighty year behind that. But they’re not too far away from it. The Traveller built their own little mud-walled houses, and they had little bits of land, things like that. And they were always on the road. Definitely on the road. The first Travelling man did start from the road, did really start on the road. He was never in a house. Now, that is the truth, because I know that from me grandfather’s side, he often told me about it, that the Traveller never was in a house. But he says, in my time, now, he says, in me father’s time, my father, he says – that was my great-grandfather – built, he says, a place, a house, on a half acre, around that time. there was people, English people, called the sheriffs, they took over that little – same as this garden here! The farmer takes it over, runs me out to the road! And he’s bulldozed this, and run this piece of ground in with his own land. And that left the Travellers on the road. And when they went on the road, then, they got never a chance to settle. And maybe they were better off not to settle! Because I never seen as much Travellers fading away and dying –

SON That’s what ruined them!

– as when they got in the sites.

S: It has had a big effect on them.

Would you ever believe what I told you, Travellers should have been never housed, or never put off of the road! Because, you know, I does a lot of going myself, there , and I goes back to the roads where Travellers used to be, oh! Every Traveller, be it Powers, Joyces, Nevins, Quinns, where I used to camp years ago.

S: Sure, there’s nothing there now only feckin’ boulders! It’s all blocked off.

That’s what I’m telling you! The country’s gone lonesome since they went out. Cos I’ll tell you something about the local people, now. A lot of the local people, that’s the truth of God, farmers and poor people, used to love to see the Travellers coming around, because the Travellers was company on the road. I remember when I was young meself, we often pulled in to a road down in Galway, my family used to do a lot down in Galway, pulled in to a road one time above, and a little thatched cottage, do you know? Maybe five or six boys and girls inside in it. Now, they’d be local people. We’d pull down the road there, made our tent, light a fire. Next thing you’d see all those girls and boys coming down to you. They’d be the same as yourself in a way, do you know? They’d come down there, they’d listen to the stories round the fire. They’d play skittles out on the road, hide and go seek, tig, hopscotch – you remember all that, do you?

S: I do, yeah. Believe it or not, yes, I do.

Well, believe it or not, that was the grandest life that a Traveller ever had. And them was grand local people.

S: So you remember doing that yourself, as a child?

I remember doing that meself.

S: So you remember mixing with the country people?

I remember mixing with the country people. All them girls and boys the same. This is what I’m trying to tell you: that’s a gap that is never going to be filled. See, it’s not the Travelling People or it’s not the childer’s fault today, or the younger generation. It’s the older people, do you know what I mean, now? I blame the older people. There’s a gap between local people and it’s never going to be filled, between Travellers and local people. You’re never going to block that gap.

S: How long are you in this house here?

I’m nine and a half year here altogether

S: Okay. So your kids didn’t actually grow up here.

No, they travelled.

S: No, but the question is – and this is personal, and you don’t have to record it if you don’t want to –

No, I ‘ll tell you now –

S: But you’re here in this house now for the best part of ten years. So how much contact do you have with your – I know your house is kind of in on its own, you don’t have a whole lot of close neighbours – but do you – are you on okay terms with your neighbours?

Great! Great with the neighbours. And that’s what I’m trying to explain to you.

SON: We don’t mix.

S: That’s what I mean. Do you mix?

No, no! Don’t mix. No.

S: Okay,. So you don’t go for a drink with any of the neighbours?

No. I don’t drink meself, now.

S: Okay. But, whatever you do –

No. We do it on our own.

S: And you do it with other Travellers?

Yes. I remember growing up with the local people, I do, honest to God. And, believe it or not, I found the local people to be better when I was young, nicer, than they are today, now. And I’ll tell you why. I seen the local people back when I was young, a lot different, you know what I mean?

S: Sure, everybody was different. Life was, in a lot of ways, simpler.

When you were a young girl that time, and a brother of yours, and we would be on the road, let it be me, McDonagh, Joyce, Nevin, and if you seen us camped on the road, you and your brothers, you’d mix in. You’d come down there and you’d play with us, you’d have he crack out of us, you know what I mean?

S: I’ll bet it would depend on the family though. I’ll bet not every country child’s parents would be happy to have their kids mixing in.

That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Some of the people, then, we might think – you know, my father and mother might think, or we might think – well, don’t go playing with the kids out of that house, because the man or the woman don’t want you! But there’s a lot of them would want you. And there’s a lot of them wouldn’t want you. You’ll never get the gap, we’ll say, fixed. And in my point of view about it, there’s no difference between a local man, Traveller, black or white or green. There’s no difference in this world. Never will be or never won’t. The Chinese is the same as us, the black man is the same as us, any race is the same as us. We only live from day to day and we only get the one thing, let you be a millionaire, let you be, not a penny with you, you’ll only get a six foot grave (both laugh) Am I right? If you ownded Dublin, you won’t bring it with you. I won’t. No one, right? Let you drive what you like, let you drive an aeroplane! Or jet! You still won’t bring it down there.

S: People forget that, though.

See, what’s wrong – it’s all greed, today.

S: I agree with you! So we could agree about that until hell freezes over, about the younger generations.

The government, now, I do blame for it.

SON: The government ruined this country!

The government ruined the Travellers!

S: How?

They took away our culture. They have it all now that we, that I, can’t pull out on the road. Travel the road.

S: That’s right. They will take your trailer.

Take your trailer. They say this is a free country. It’s not! You’re a prisoner in your own country. Now, you’re the same way in your house, with the government

S: The difference being that my culture doesn’t tell me, Jeez, I’ve got to get out of here and get on the road. But yours does. You’re suffering over it, I’m not. That’s the difference.

The government will never cop theirself on! You get up on top of that there [= television set] – that’s a brainwasher, what I call it.

S: Of course it is!

I was born on the side of the road in a tent. That’s where I was born. On the side of the road.

S: What part of the country, by the way?

Portlaoise, over there. Portarlington. That’s where I was born. Now, that yoke here, that television, that’s a brainwasher I call that. Children will look at that, they come out with things, the government will come up there, out with things, that’s not true, Because the government is the biggest liars in Ireland.



… Tis a very simple trade, but a good one to earn money out of it, to feed yourself out of it, and clothe yourself out of it. Do you know elders off of the ditch?

S: Yeah.

Well, there’s taws, now, and elders. You know the taws? You know the little taws hanging out of them? Little blue taws? Dark blue? Purple?

S: Oh, yeah! The elder berries, in the autumn time.

The berries! The man who first showed us how to do them, he went down along the road and he got a little peg knife, a little short knife, small little knife. He went down along the road to this cottage, and did you ever see a cribby ditch, they call them? Small little ditch, but there’s a lot of sticks out of it. They call it a cribby, right? Little straight sticks like matches. He cut a whole load of them, about that length, a little bundle of them, that height.

S: Were they elder?

No. Little cribby sticks. I’ll show you one of them now There’s a little bush out there, Martin, go on and just break her a small little bit and show her what it is. You know the little cribby one? Over there by the yoke?

SON: Where?

See the little cribby sticks over there, Martin? Just bring me in the stick and show her what it was! See there? Just break me one of the sticks.

S: Is it a particular type of plant?

Yeah, it’s a little hedge ditch. So he cut all those little sticks, not as thick as a match, about as big as a match, and they’re all about that length, about that height. And he rolled them up with a bit of twine, put them under his arm, brought them over. Now, watch this. He went on to this elder ditch – you hear me? And he brought on me father, me grandfather, and four or five of those Quinn McDonaghs and a few Monganses. Me father looked at him. “What are you going to do with them, John?” “I’ll show you!” So he went on and he cut off all the berries first, big bunches of berries. “Hold all them,” he says. You’ve all the berries in me father’s hand now, and me grandfather’s. “Hold all them bunches of berries now.” But he cut the sticks of them about that thick. See about that thick? And cut a good load of them that time, cut them all that length. And he had a big bundle of them about that height back. “Now watch this.” he says. So he peels off all the skin of them – there you are! See it? That’s a cribby stick. Now! He pared off all the sticks, the big thick ones, he pared off all the skin, right? When he’d all the skin off, that left only a white stick. So he got his knife, and he started doing this with it, see? And he made a big flower about that size, out of all the shavings that were hanging out of the stick. He got a burner, an old tin, right? Put water into it, he got his berries, and bruised them in up with his hand and heated it on a fire, lukewarm water. He dipped his flower into it, and he made it purple! And he put them up on it for handles. And sold them for flowers. And that’s how that trade started out. Me father and me grandfather, and the Quinns. That would be the Quinn McDonaghs, now. There’s a very old –

S: What age was your father this time?

My father would be about, in his late twenties, that time. He was only a young man. And me grandfather could be about in his fifties, sixties, mark, you know? And there’s an old man, he was the longest-living Travelling man I knew about, and if you’re ever in Offaly, I’ll tell you, there’s a pub. You can write down what I’m telling you now about this man, and go in to this pub that I’m telling you, and just ask the name, and trace him back, and the man in the pub will tell you about hes grandfather and his father, keeping every year, a birthday for him. A birthday, you see, for this Travelling fellow.

S: What’s the name of the pub?

I’ll tell you: Rafters.

S: Rafters pub in…?

Tullamore, County Offaly. In thesquareof Tullamore. Right facing the chapel there. you can’t miss it, right? And ask for, there’s a man there now called Tom Rafftery, the youngest brother, and he has the whole history about this man I’m going to tell you about, And his name was Old Christy Quinn. He was called Moustache, that’s the nickname he used to go by. And his father and grandfather used to keep birthdays for him. He lived to – you’re not going to believe what I’m going to tell you! You’re going to make a laugh of me! – he lived to a hundred and thirty five years of age.

S: Jesus!

Now, listen to this! He was a hundred and thirty five . And he could remember from the first day whatever he’d done. As a matter of fact, he camped with me when he was ninety nine years of age.

S: DId he stay on the road until he died at a hundred and thirty five ?

He stayed on the road till the day he died. And the only thing ever phased him, he was about that height, now. I remember – he was ninety nine this time, he was straight as a rush, he was in the English army. He was about that height over me, and he was that straight, at that age. The only thing ever phased him, at a hundred and thirty five years of age, was his eyesight.

S: Right!

But his memory, his walk – he could walk from here toDublin, even at that age.

S: Jesus!

That’s the truth! I’ll tell you what kind of man he was. At ninety five, right? with a pony and wagon, the time I used to stay out with him – now, this is true! With friends of his own, there’s Quinns in Tullamore, now, he’d be their granduncle, a lot of them. If he was here chatting me and you, right, outside there, we’d have an outside fire then, and he was ninety nine years of age, right, and he’d have his pony and wagon. And he’d one son with him, he was about seventy five years of age, Jimmy was his name. He’s dead now too! He lived to ninety two, the other lad! But at ninety nine, he’d be chatting you at the fire, and he’d look at you, and he was going to leave there next morning. Well, he’d say to you – a big red moustache he had, out like that – well, whatever your name, let it be Mary, Maureen, Theresa, whatever, “I’ll have to bid you good morning now, he’d say, “because you won’t be up when I’m leaving.” Will I tell you why? Because he’d be gone at four o’clock in the morning! He’d be gone on that road with his pony and wagon, at that age! At four o’clock in the morning. He wouldn’t pull in – wait and I tell you what he’d do – he wouldn’t pull in, he’d go maybe from here to Kildare. He’d pull in there, then. Camp there. Now! There was one good thing in him, right, an old man like him: he’d kill you, kill me – he’d pull in where you were, and you didn’t do what I’m telling you, he’d break your back in two halfs. Now I’ll tell you, there’s two things he’d break your back over. My father was the same way, and me grandfather. They’d break the drum of your ear if they seen you were doing it. Listen! Number one, if he didn’t see you getting up and – let a Mass be from here to Dublin, the only chapel from here toDublin, well, if you had to walk, you may go! Cos he’d do it. He’d pull you out in the morning, at dark, and you may go on toMass.

S: I take it we’re only talking Sunday here, not seven days a week?

No, Sunday. Wait and I tell you! If he ever got you heating water, washing yourself – my father was the same way, me grandfather, that old man I’m telling you about – if he caught us heating water – the frost could be there, snow, that height, you may wash yourself in cold water. Never believed in hot water.

DAUGHTER: Or cursing!

Or cursing! My father’d break your ear into pieces over it. That old man was the same way. If me and you gave ever a curse here, he’d give you a look over that way, he’d break the drum of your ear over it. Or, there’s another thing my father wouldn’t allow you, wouldn’t hear tell of you doing it, even me, my age, if he was alive this minute – we’ll say an older person than me comes in there, a man we’ll say seventy five years of age, or eighty. Well if my father was here this minute, and if that man said something, and I thought to contradict him, he’d break the drum of your ear out of it. And don’t speak, he’d say, until you’re spoken to.

DAUGHTER: Aged people, as we would call them, old people – sit down and listen.

S: [to daughter] And that is why you will be a wise person!

But that old man, he died at a hundred and thirty five years of age, Old Christy Quinn, Moustache they used to call him. And if you’re ever in Tullamore, go in to Rafter’s pub and there’s a man there called Michael, young Michael Rafter, now, is in it, right? Now, his father and grandfather used to throw birthdays for him.

S: I’m surprised that name didn’t come up yet, because I did a great family tree, a huge one –

Now, would you believe, I’d say the younger youth didn’t know –

S: No, the people I spoke to were very – almostas good as you, but not quite as good – Golly, you are the best!

I’ll tell you now, that old man, that old Christy fellow, listen to how far he went back with me one time. Now, this is the truth. He used pal around with me. He told me a lot of things about what happened and didn’t happen, you know? Matter of fact, he told me a fierce lot of things. And he told me things that I seen happening here. Now, he’s dead now a long time – years on top of years, long before it could ever happen. But if you’re ever in Rafter’s they’ll tell you his whole life story. HIs grandfather was in the war with him, now. Rafter’s grandfather, Old Michael Rafter was in the war with him.

S: Understood. So that’s how they knew each other!

And that’s how they used to keep his birthday every year for him, in the pub. It’s a wonder the Quinns never told you about him.

S: Well, unless they had another name on him? Isn’t it odd! There’s something else I wanted to ask you about. The Powers and the Paors, are two different families.

Two different families!

S: Tell me about them!

I’ll tell you now. A lot of people got mixed up with them, now. I’m not codding you. See, the Paors came from Meath,County Meath. That’s where the Paors came from. They came from a place called Moate. Did you ever know Moate? That’s where all the Paors was reared, around that country. Now, I heard a lot of people coming on and asking me about that: ye’re all the one people, Powers and Paors. No, I says. See, there’s Powers, and Paors.

SON: Different breed! [laughs]

Different breed altogether! They’re not even one – they’re not that size related! And they were never married in to one another.

S: Yeah, I know that.

Isn’t that funny, now? There was never a Power married in to them. Now, there’s people comes on there – I went to, I’ll make you laugh! The Paors came from the Gavin side. The Paors marry back in to the Gavins, all Gavins. That’s how the Gavins and the Paors is born first cousins, and uncles and aunts, and things like that. There’s all the Paors related back into the Gavins. The only one of the Paors married out of their race was Brieny Paor, the man we were talking about earlier. He married a West, from Athlone.

S: That’s an unusual name, again, I haven’t met any of them.

Well, they’re in Athlone, now, in a place called theWhite City. They lives there now, in houses. An unusual name! Not very many of them now either. There’s only about, what? I’d say about – there’s only about three families of the Westes in Athlone. That’s all that’s in it. They came down, me grandfather told me about it, believe it or not, and I’m going back to me grandfather’s time, and me father: that the Westes was local people. There was a woman called Ann West, an old man and woman, Old Ann West, and John West, and she was a Dunne before she married this West fellow. And me grandfather often told me, don’t ever, he said, get it wrong. The Westes is local people! And I asked him, “Where did the Westes,” says I, “ever come from?” I’ll tell you now.

SON: [mumbles]

Not! That’s where you are wrong! Listen now! If you’re ever asked about a true history!


No, they did not!


The Westes came fromDublin!


Dublin! On the north side ofDublin!

S: But are you saying that the Wests, then, were country people who married in?

Local people.

S: Okay, they were local people who married in.

No! They never married in to Travellers! This is the thing! Old John West married a Dunne woman. Dunne was her name, right? Dunnes. And they’re from Athlone.

S: Travelling Dunnes?

No! Local woman! I’ll tell you what happened there, now.

SON: They were on the road,withTravellers.

There you have it, now. Old John West came from the north side ofDublin when he was a young man. There wasn’t very many – I think there was two brothers and one sister, and I think the one sister, I heard me grandfather say, she died. She was never married. And the other brother got drownded. But Old John West left his house, and he went back down along there, and he married a woman, a local woman, right?

S: Okay. So, not one of the Traveller Dunnes either.

She was living with her father and mother in the house, between Mountmellick and Tullamore, that’s where the Dunnes lived, right? And her father didn’t like Travelling People, do you know what I mean, now? He couldn’t agree with them. And he thought he was a Traveller, on account of being on the road, but he wasn’t! West was a local man himself! But me grandfather often told me, he told her father, the Dunne man, I’m not a Travelling man, he says, I’m a Dublin man, he says, never, he says, travelled in me life! Well, he says, I think you’re a Travelling man. He wasn’t. He was a local man. He says, You’re not staying, he says, with my daughter in the house, so, he says, you may take to the road. So he went to the road! Do you follow me now? And they came on Travellers!

S: Okay. So they would have been local people who kind of ended up –

They came on Travellers. The Dunne woman and this man West, outside of Moate, they came in with Gavins, Travellers, right? On the side of the road. And they were dying with the hunger, and nowhere to sleep. And so the Gavins looked at them, knew they were local people, that they weren’t Travellers. So West looked at the Travelling People. “Can you help me at all?” he says. “I don’t know how to get on. We’ve nowhere to sleep.” So they put them into the tent and left them there at night, do you see? And they showed them a bit of the rules, what they could do for theirselves. So West never went back to a house, for years after it, a younger generation. He stayed on the road. They were never Travellers.

DAUGHTER: The best people that you’d ever talk to is the Barretts.

Ah, yeah. They’reGalwaypeople.

S: I haven’t talked direct to the Barretts, but I’ve talked to cousins.

DAUGHTER: Nevinses.

S: Nevinses, yes.

Yeah, they’re fromGalway. Nevin and Joyce is two born first cousins.

SON: They’re all the one race.

They’re all brother and sisters’ childer, all them.

SON: And McDonaghs! The Quinn McDonaghs is married back into them.

Stokeses. All them is related, Every one of them is related.

DAUGHTER: Did you talk to McGinleys?

S: Yes, in Donegal.

Rooneys! Were you ever with the Rooneys?

S: No! I haven’t met any Rooneys.

Have you not? Dan Rooney, and all them. They came from Cavan.

SON: Dohertys?

S: Dohertys, yes.


S: I’m looking for Learys.

I’ll tell you where there’s families of Learys!

SON: In Carlow!

Yeah, I know! I’ll tell the girl, now.

S: Wait, wait, wait! We were going to do Powers and Paors! I have heard other people explaining the difference between Powers and Paors as that one of them, and I forget which, but probably Paors, was a bit like that Mr West fellow that you said there: that they were local people that kind of ended up kind of mixing in with Travellers, and then, never went back.

The Paors?

S: The Paors.

Yeah, I believe it, yeah. Me father often said the same thing. That the Paors came from Navan side, down there.

SON: Is there many of them in there?

Ah, there is! A lot of Paors, yeah! There is a good lot of them. You don’t know them. I tell you, if you want to go in and meet the Paors, go down to Ballymahon, there’s a lot of the Paors there.

SON: John Powers? [sic]

Aye, John Powers [sic]. The Ballymahon Powers [sic]. They’re all first cousins of mine. They’re not from there.

SON: The Longford Powers.

S: The Longford Powers I have heard of.

They’re not from –

SON: They’re called the Ballymahon Powers [sic].

Let me explain that to you now in a minute. Mullingar there, Moate, Navan, Trim, is all full of Paors. There’s a Paor man, I hear, took to the road years ago. Me grandfather was talking to him. A man, an ordinary man. And he married, and that’s how –

S: Who did he marry?

He married a Travelling woman.

S: What was her name?

He married to a Cawley. That’s the first Paor, was married to a Cawley. The second generation then, off of him, his family we’ll say, they married in to – oh! Manie Collins. One of them, the next generation, married to one of the Collins. But you are right – the Paors was local people.

S: It’s not a question of being right! It’s just something I heard.

No, but you are right! The Paors was a local family first, and now – same as Thomas’ father and grandfather, there. They’re local –

S: The Foleys! Exactly! That’s how the name came in.

They’re local men, from Skibbereen. Fishermen, they were.

S: And the other question I wanted to ask you was, you said you were born in County Laois.

That’s right!

S: And here you are now in County KiIkenny, and that you travelled the whole country. But what part of the country would you think of as home? Or do you?

Er – no. I takes no county for home. No, no, no.

SON: [mumbles]

[TO SON:] No! there’s where you’re wrong again! You’re still – you’ll never learn! I’ll tell you what you have to do: you’ve a lot of training to do. And if I could write a book, I’d give it to you, and learn you.

SON: I’d write me own book! (laughs)

Barney! I’ll tell you about a Travelling man, Barney! A pure bred Irish Travelling man! There’s no home for him. Every place is his home. Where he build his camp is his home.

SON: There is! The roadside is his home!

Yeah, that’s all.

S: Well, here’s the next question, then. Is there a particular place where your people are buried?

Oh, there is, yeah. My wife’s burying ground, and all me father’s people, isWaterford. My burying ground, now, would be here [sic] inWaterford. My place, now: I have a burying ground bought here in Ross. You know Ross?

S: Ross, in Wexford?

Wexford. New Ross.

S: Is there any Powers in New Ross?

No me grandfather is in there. My mother’s father is buried in Ross.

S: So that’s the Walls.

The Walls, yes. And there’s Powers in Ross. A granduncle of mine is buried there. Grandaunt of mine is buried there. And out, say, third or fourth cousins, is buried there. And relations of the Connorses is in there, too, called the Wall Connorses, that’s what they calls them. Did you ever hear that, did you?

S: No, I didn’t! No! But Wall is a much smaller name than Connors, I suppose.

The Walls didn’t live for that big of an age, now. They died out young, the Walls.

S: There seems to be at least two different Wall families, as well.

Would you ever believe if I told you, Missus? Do you see them Walls, now, they’re related to me!

S: See, I don’t know them at all! But I know different Walls again, and they’re the nicest human beings you will ever meet, decent –

If I told you the truth, they’re related to me, them fellows that you’re talking about now. This minute I could bring you to where their father is buried.

SON: Grandfather!

Their grandfather is Big John Wall, do you hear me? They were the nicest people that you ever could – I’ll tell you about their great grandfather, Old Micky Wall, was my mother’s uncle, right? Now listen! I remember a time growing up when old Micky Wall – Johnny, now, their grandfather, great grandfather! – if you dropped that, and you didn’t see it, even. Old Micky Wall wouldn’t let any of his family pick up that. If he could follow you from here to Dublin, he’d give it back to you. Wouldn’t allow nothing to go wrong.

S: I know Walls married in to Flynns, and the are the most nicest people – decent! Wonderful!

Yeah. Them is me – you’re talking about Martin Wall, now.

S: Well, I’m talking about Walls that are over in England, years in England, but some of them are back here now.

That’s right. Martin Wall, now, and Gerry Wall. You know them all, Missus.

S: No, I don’t!

Did you ever know any of the English Travellers, the Tailors and the Greys?

S: No. I know Dunnes.

Were you inEngland? You were? What part ofEnglandwere you in?

S: Well, I haven’t travelled England much, but I’d know a few people in around London.

SON: There’s an awful lot of Travellers over there. There’s an awful lot ofIrishTravellers over there. Wards is a plentiful as back here.

But the government put a stop to the Travellers. Took the life out of Travellers. They did! Took the life out of Traveller.

SON: They took the spirit.

They took the spirit out of the Traveller.

S: You’ll get no argument from me there.

No, they did now. They did. Because they’re crippled, the local people is the same as the Traveller. You know what I mean? They are. But the Traveller, he was always for the road. His life was the road, Missus, that is the truth, now. Don’t let anyone ever tell you. And it goes here, now, the same way.

SON: That’s why they’re dropping like flies!

But sooner or later –

S: Well I’ve often said it to people. I’ve talked to an awful lot of Travellers all over the country, and I’m still waiting to meet one that says, “Thank God I moved into a house! I’m so much healthier!”

Would you ever believe it? No! If I told you –

SON: You might as well be in prison!

If I told you the truth now, and I’m telling you here today, that every Traveller lost their health going in to a house.

S: Everyone says that. Everyone!

They die at a young age. And I’ll tell you the truth: they came different people. They came different people, a fierce lot of them, now. I’ll tell you what our life was, my life on the road, in years to come, me father’s life, and me grandfather’s, me great grandfather. If we pulled in to a back road there, we’d light a big fire outside, that’s what we used to do me. We had our own –

SON: [mumbles]

I never seen one of them in me life! The first time I ever see one of them is the battery one, and I got afraid of it, I’ll tell you the honest truth. Never had a wireless or nothing like that. Never believed in that. No. We’d play sport: skittles, crates, horseshoes, or hide and go seek, or hopscotch, skipping, something like that, now. That was our life that time. Or we’d go down there to a crossroads, there’d maybe be a ceili out at the crossroads. And tell stories, and all this crack. There was no any other thing.

S: I remember this as well! You tell them that and they laugh at you! They think you’re making it up!

They’d laugh at you, that’s the truth. That time I pulled – I pulled, I worked with Travellers. I pulled beet at £2.50 an acre for the same money. An acre of beet. I thinned drills of beet.

S: Give me a list of all the different types of work you’ve done, over the course of your life. And, first question, I haven’t asked you this, and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to: what age are you?

I am fifty eight years of age.

S: Alright, so that’s your lifetime. You tell me what work you’ve done in your fifty eight years. Quick list, now.

Quick list, I was a tinsmith through me lifetime, chimneysweep. I thinned beet, pulled beet, crowned beet, footed turf, made hay, cocked straw, I milked a hundred and sixty cattle for seven shillings six pence a week, In old money! A hundred and sixty cattle! I drove bullocks in the front of me, from here to Tullamore, walking, into fairs. I walked from the Co. Kildare, one side of Dublin, one side of Galway, one side of – up Kerry, Cork I hunted cattle in the front of me for farmers, to the fairs, into Tullamore and all. Walked them. Maybe a hundred head of bullocks, And you know how much I got for it? One half crown. And you might have to stay all day in the fair!

S: This was before we heard the word, “exploitation”!

I went toEngland in me youth days, and I tarmacked in it, I built there, I was a subcontractor, I put up walls, built houses with them. I slated houses with them.

S: Did you do slating as well?

Yeah! I dug trenches back here inIreland, I dug drains back here inIreland, I stubbed furze –

S: Stubbed furze?

Yeah, I’ll tell you what it is, now. Did you ever get a pick?

S: No, that’s not girl stuff.

Well, a pickaxe, right? And you have to dig the ground and pick up the root of the furze.

S: And what were you doing that for?

The way the furze wouldn’t grow back there no more. I picked potatoes, strawed potatoes, I spreaded dung, had all hard work! I ploughed with two horses one time –

S: Did you really? Wow!

I picked stones out of fields, six pence a day you’d get that time, six pence in one day that is the truth!

S: What age were you that time? And already bringing a shilling home to your mother!

I was only nine. Between nine and ten year old. And I went toEnglandat fifteen years of age, and I worked there with the Murphys, the Kennedys, over there.

S: Doing what?

Tarmacking, digging.

S: Murphys and Kennedys would be Travellers?

No! No, they’d be local people. Big subcontractors.

S: You took a job with them.

A job with them. Tarmacking, digging trenches for them, putting in laneways, building walls for them – they’d do every kind of a job, they would. And I’ll tell you, when I look back on it now – do you know something? I went out to pull twenty acres of beet one time!

S: My back hurts even thinking about it.

You know that brother of mine you see there on the photo a while ago? Me and him went out one morning to pull twenty acres of beet, and I’ll tell you the truth, this is a long, long time back, and we hadn’t a cut of bread in our body. And we pulled six acres of beet in three days without eating. That’s the truth! For £2.50. For £2.50, in me bare feet, had no boots, hadn’t the price of them.

S: Ah, but it built character.

Aye, it built character. And we used to run in the stony road in our bare feet, run into town, when we’d get a penny or a ha’penny, in our bare feet. Wouldn’t have no boots. Wouldn’t have the price of them, as a matter of fact. Mr father wouldn’t have the price of them! Me mother, I remember me mother –

S: When you went over to England at fifteen, did you go over on your own or did you go over with ..?

I went on me own. I stowed away. One morning I thoughtEngland was a great place, I thought I’d make the world of meself. I’ll make you laugh! I was up above in Kildare, I was fifteen, I’ll never forget it. But I heard a lot of people talk about England. And the way I took it, the way they were talking about England, I was like Paddy the Irishman, I thought I’d find money on the street! Are you with me now? So I said to meself – I stowed away on the boat! – if I ever could get to England, says I, I’d earn my right living. So begod, I’ll never forget it: this Monday morning me father took me up the road after his ponies, I went down after the ponies but I didn’t return. I went straight on to Naas, and I went on in to Dublin. I was enquiring where was the North Wall boat, andDun Laoghaireboat. But I stowed away on theDun Laoghaire boat. I stowed into it. Do you know the little boats that would be inside? I covered meself up in one of them and I got in to Holyhead, and I jumped off, and one of the sailors damn near caught me. And I jumped off onto the docks and ran away, do you see? But I thumbed me way up, up intoLondon. Never was inLondon before in me life. Didn’t know what to do. Middle of a big city, and didn’t know what to do. And it was already in the day when I was there, but it started falling night . I had nowhere to sleep –

S: Your parents!! What a thing to do to your parents!

(laughs) Me father didn’t knowwhereI went.

S: But of course he didn’t!

I slept on a bench in a park. And I going like that with the cold, I’ll never forget it. And this old man came on to me, and he looked at me, old English fellow, in the morning about six o’clock, he walking a little dog. And he shook me. And I freezing! Hey, he said, you’ll die there! An English fellow he was. He was from Scotland. He put his hand in his pocket, and he gave me a shilling. An English shilling, I’ll never forget it. Go over there, he says, and you’ll get a cup of tea out of that, and a sandwich. And so you would, that time. And I went over this cafe and got the sandwich, and I come out –



… So I went on then and I picked up with the Kennedys, and I started tarmacking, and it’s a heavy, hard job. Spreading tarmack, digging, levelling, trowelling, the whole lot. And that was only £5 a week that time. Well, I gave two year inEngland, working hard. And I came back – me father thought I was dead.

S: I’ll bet he did!

I went over the two year. And he looked at me, he says, “Golly,” he says, “where did you go? Or whatever happened? I’ll tell you the truth, I thought you were dead! I reported you to the Guards, to the Irish Guards,” he says, “and they couldn’t find you. I thought you were dead and gone. But,” he says, “I’ll tell you, Golly,” he says – he told me the truth, too – “I’ll give you one lesson.” Says I, “What’s that then?” “You should never step,” he says, “out of your own box. Never!” he says. “Because if you can’t earn it here,” he says,” you’ll hardly earn it over there. You know nothing about England,” he says – he was right, you know. “Now that you’re back here,” he says, “you’ll manage some way.” But inEnglandyou could be arrested that time for loitering, or anything like that. Oh,Englandis not as good as – even today,Englandis very hard. To buy a house, or rent a house –

S: My son is over there.

Is he? What part is he in?

S: London.

I was inNottingham. Were you ever inNottingham?

S: I have been to Nottingham. I likeNottingham!

Yeah. Nottingham is nice, a nice town, yeah.

DAUGHTER {XX}Rochester?

That’s the far side ofWalesthere, going up toManchester. And I worked inScotland.

S: And this in the two years that you were over there?

Yeah. I done all that. I was inBirmingham,Scotland, Nottingham, I travelled intoWales-

S: So when you were over there – you went over as a fifteen-year-old, on your own –

On me own!

S: For God’s sake! The idea! But, you went over on your own, and you knew nobody –

Knew no one. Didn’t knowEngland, even. Couldn’t read or write. And I had to survive.

S: And how you survived: did you link up with any – you didn’t have any relatives? Just went off completely on your own?

Just on me own. Just on me own, Missus. And I went back in toWalesand all before I came home.

S: So you did the three –

Scotland, Wales, England, the whole lot. I come on then, I got back toDublin. Then I got back to me father.

S: And where was your father that time?

Me father was here, in theCountyKildare, that time.

S: And how did you find him?

Searched the roads for him. I used to know the camps where we – We used to leave trail marks, years ago, and I’ll tell you now, the way we used to do it. That’s what I’m trying to tell you: we never used a map, cos we wouldn’t know how to look at a map. We’ll say that you’re one of us, right? And you were gone on before me, do you know what I mean, now? And say you came to a four cross roads, or a three cross roads, or a two cross roads. And say you wanted to take the road to the left, and you wanted to leave me know. Do you know what I mean? This is a sign for us, now, the way we used to do it. And you’d say, Golly will be on after me, so I’ll have to mark here to show him that I’m gone this road. But what you’d do, when you’d be a Traveller like me, you’d pull three tufts of grass up in your hand, and you’d leave one there, and one here, and one down the other road. And I’d know the road you were gone and that’s how I’d find you. Or I’d nearly know, we’ll say, a month ahead, if I came that time, even today, if my father was camped here a month ago, well, all I’d have to do is come to the fire, where the fire is, and feel the fire. I’d know, sure, he’s only a month out. You know what I mean, now?

S: You could tell the difference between a week old fire and a month old fire? Am I to believe that, now?

Well, that is the truth. The track of the horse is the same way. You’d know.

S: Track I can understand. But –

The fire, you see, I’ll tell you about the month-old fire.

DAUGHTER: It’s warm.

S: Not after a month it isn’t!

You go down the ashes with your hand, to the ground. Hear me? Cos if you burn a fire constantly, if you’re there, maybe stay a month, six weeks, in the one place, maybe a couple of months, and you’d be constant burning the fire in the one place. Well, the fire kind of digs down in the dirt, you know what I mean?

S: Okay, understood.

Now, when you come there to them ashes, the top ashes and all is cold. The middle ashes is cold. But you shove your hand well down in the dirt, do you hear me? And you’ll get almost the heat there.

S: Okay. I believe you. I didn’t at first.

That’s the way you do it, Missus. And if you come to straw, the same way. You’d know by the straw, you’ll get the tracks of the straw where the tent, where the camp, was. And you’d know the straw was about a month put down. By the colour of it.

S: That wouldn’t tell you how long ago they’dleft. It would tell you how long ago they gotthere.

So you’d keep following up then with the tracks of the fire and the tracks on the road. And you come to the freshest one, you come to a fire maybe a fortnight old. You come to the one a week old. Then you come to the one a day, two days. And the next one, then, that’s where you find them. So, that’s the way we used to do it, years ago. We often tracked horses at night! And that’s a very, very hard thing to do. And I’ll tell you about the Guards one time. The Guards wouldn’t leave us twenty four hours in a camp. Might be snowing or hailing, you’d have to get out of bed, out of a tent, the Guards would come along and knock it down on top of us. That’s how half of the Travellers got no schooling. Cos they weren’t let go to it. People will tell you about Travellers not going to school, and missing going to school: they never got the chance!

S: It doesn’t seem to have done you any harm!

Ah, I dunno, I dunno!

S: You seem to be coping.

I tells a lot of the local people –

DAUGHTER: I left school at eleven and a half. Now I’m studying for my junior cert.

I tell the local people, or the Guards, when they’d come to me, No, I never went to school, but I met the scholars coming home! (laughs)

S: Of all the jobs you were talking about, there, that you did, one thing you did not mention was markets. Have you ever done the markets?

No, never done the markets.

S: Isn’t that funny?

She [= daughter] done it. Would you believe me, I have no interest in the markets.

S [to daughter, Lilyanne]: If he couldn’t teach you how to do the markets, how did you learn? Or did you just do it yourself?

DAUGHTER: Me sister in law.

S: Who is…?

Donoghue.I’d never have the taste for a market, now. I’d sooner make something, or do something like that, now.

S: Creative.

Create it [sic] meself. The only thing I could do, now, years ago, – it takes a smart man to do it – you’re going to laugh at this! That’s what I’m telling you, Travellers were smart people years ago.

S: I agree with you! Travellers are still smart.

They were! They were brainy, now! Because I’ll tell you why, now. Now, you listen to what I’m going to tell you now, and you’re going to laugh at it, and you’re going to ask me how is it done, and I’ll show you how it’s done. I could bring your husband or yourself an ass with no top teeth, and I could sell you the ass, with top teeth, for a four-year-old ass.

S (laughs) Don’t tell me you make dentures as well!

No. I could hold me hand, you see that? I could put me fingers all together like that, and get the ass’s mouth that way, see that way?

S: The way you held it!

And I could put them, and lift his lip, and you’d imagine they’re the teeth when I’m done.

S: Of course. – That would be dishonest! You would neverdo that!

I’m only telling you! Oh yeah, yeah. I could strip a three year old horse, or an ass, make a four year old of it. Say you were looking for a four-year old one. And his teeth tells you. I can tell the age of a horse up to thirty years old, by his teeth. And we’ll say if you were looking for a four year old, and I had a three year old, well, if I wanted to sell him to you –

S: Strip the gums back.

I could strip the – I know the age of ever animal that was ever

DAUGHTER: What part of an animal never grows?

Any animal! A cow or a horse! Even a cow, or a sheep! Anything!

… Shinbone won’t grow.

S: Is that true?

That is true. A shin bone of a horse or a cow won’t grow. It’s the one length from the day he was born.

S: Oh! I never knew that. Well, that explains how they look when they’re newborn! Sticks, with little bodies on the top!

I’ll tell you one thing: the Travellers were brainy people, if they had to work theirself right!

S: Travellers are very brainy people, because Travellers are reared to look at things, and work it out for themselves.

They can work it out for theirselves. You just take in to yourself, now. It’s a hard thing to tell you, but, if you met me on the road – you’re a top scholar, let’s say. You’d know a map and all this crack, you know what I mean? You wouldknow a map.

S: Yeah, I would.

Now, if you got in that van with me, and you said to me, “Barney,” you bring me to – we’ll go this country, right? I was never in it, you were never in it, right? And you don’t tell me off of the map, don’t read no signs. Isn’t it funny to tell you, that I’ll go to that country?

S: Sure, I know Travellers who can’t read or write – English, let alone other languages, who will get into a van and – I know people who drive to Poland, and pick up cheap furniture!

And isn’t it a funny thing to tell you, Missus, I passed me test, and isn’t it funny to tell you, the man who was in with me, thought I was a scholar!

S: Yeah. He never realised you couldn’t read.

Wait and I tell you now! When I was done with him, he looked at me, “Mr Power,” he says, “I’ll tell you,” he says, “I’ve had a lot of drivers in me lifetime,. But you’re the carefullest driver,” he says, “and as good a driver, as I ever got in with. And knows the rules of the road.” Well, I started laughing to meself, you know. “I tell you one thing,” he says, “you must study the book well.” And I started laughing! Says I, “Would you like the truth?” says I. “What is it,” says he. Says I, “I can’t read.” He gave an eye at me that way, sideways. “Barney,” he says, “you can, you can read.” “I can’t read,” I said, “I can’t write me name,” says I. “I can’t spell me name.” “And why do you know,” says he, “everything to do on the road?” Says I, “Because I’m constant on the road! (laughs) I was reared o the road,” says I. I” know the dangers and the bad part of it.” “Well Mr Power,” he said, “it’s a pity you can’t read, you’d know more than meself.” See, there’s a way of doing things.

S: Of course there is!

There’s people who could tell you it can’t be done: this can’t be done, that can’t be done. Well, you sit down and think about it: itcanbe done.

S: Yes! The trick is, every time somebody tells you you can’t do something, to say, Well, there’s a challenge!

A thing that happened to me a long time ago, and I’m going to tell you a story about it. I was told there I was going to die.

S: How long ago?

There about twenty six, twenty seven, twenty eight year ago.

S: Okay! Yeah?

And me own surgeon came to me and he says, Barney he says – I went for an operation at four stone weight.

S: Youwhat?

I stood an operation at four stone weight.

S: You were four stone weight?!

I was.

S: You were a grown-up man at four stone weight?

No, I stood an operation at it. At four stone weight.

S: What I mean is, you were an adult man, and didn’t weigh more than four stone. Sure, this person here [the infant] nearly weighs four stone.

Me surgeon told me that I was going to die.

S: At four stone, I would have thought so, yeah.

“Mr Power,” he said, “you’re not going to make it. You’re going to die,” he said. So I looked at him. Now, I barely could hear him. “If you can understand me, put your hand up,” he says. “But I will stand the operation on you. If you don’t die here, you’ll die in intensive care.” And I looked, and I started thinking what he was telling me. But I went for the operation, Missus. After the operation I was in a bad, bad state, I’ll be honest, and I heard everyone telling me this and telling me that. Thank God no one knew. And I fought that, and I got up and walked. I signed meself out of the hospital after standing the operation.

S: At four stone???

Signed meself out! In snow that height! I was slit from there to there!

S: Wait a sec. Your stomach was split open because you’d been operated?

Operated! I had cancer. Now! I signed myself out, that is true, in snow that height. And I took it in me head that I would beat it, and I did.

[tape switched off while he deals with a visitor]

S: Fire away.

Now, for the mistake that’s in the Travelling People, right? The first thing is that they’re going around collecting information. That’s good for Travelling People, cos there is a lot of young youths that’ll never know where they came from or what they lost. And why that is, I’ll tell you why it is. It’s like a settled girl living here, or reared up in this house, here in the CountyKilkenny. But I’m not from thecountyKilkenny. Do you understand what I mean?


So if the older people could go back in with their generations, and tell them where their grandparents, great-grandparents, or their great-great-grandparents started up, they’d get their own county. That’s the main point of Travellers, right? Take for instance, the Quinn-McDonaghs there in Tullamore. Now, if you went down there this minute and asked them to sit down, the same as you are with me, here, and you talked to them, and you put down Tullamore, because they wouldn’t need to tell you – but their county is the County Galway. They’re Galway! That’sGalway! Joyce is from Mullingar. The Powers is fromWaterford. Now, you’ll get Powers down in Ballymahon this minute –

What county is that?

Ballymahon, down past Longford, there. Now, if you were talking to the Powers in Longford this minute, and you’d go in and ask them Powers from Ballymahon – they’re not! They all hail from theCountyWaterford! Are you with me now?


And why that is, I’ll explain it to you. That they travelled away, broke away, do you hear me? They broke away, and reared children down there. Now, their children never follied back their own generations, from where they started up, because they don’t know where their great grandfathers came from. Now! The Hartys is the same way, the Donoghues is the same way, the Reillys is the same way. Now take the Hartys, take the Kinearneys, take the Reillys: they’re all born first cousins, every one of them. And they comes from the CountyTipperary. AllTipperary. All the Cartys comes fromTipperary, the Reillys comes fromTipperary, the Kinearneys comes from Tipperary. Now, you take, we’ll say, you go over here to the corners of Wexford. The Wallses, that’s me mother’s people: they’re from the CountyWicklow. Bred, born and reared in theCountyWicklow, all the Walls. You go up here, we’ll say, to theDublin side: you get McDonaghs up there, and then you realise, that’s how some of the children is mixed up. Because they’ll never go back into the generation where they come from. And if you went to, same as you came to me, here, and if I told you where I started from first. me great-grandfather’s people, me mother’s people, well you’d know then yourself where they started from. But by me telling you that I’m from the CountyKilkenny, and me family –

Sure, you’re only blow-ins! [laughs]

Now! You see? Same as you’re fromGalwayyourself. Now, your family would be reared in Dublin, and through time we’ll say, your family will get married, and have more family. Are you with me now? And when your family is gone, and yourself, and me, you know, everyone, and grandchildren left there, and someone walks up to your grandchild and say to them, Well, who is your grandmother? They’ll start telling, you know? Now, they don’t know where you came from!

S: Yeah. They’ll say Dublin.

They’ll sayDublin. Now, you’re not fromDublin! Now your husband is the same way, if he’s from Kilkenny or –

S: He’s actually from Kilkenny, yeah.

Your grandchildren will say, if someone is asking like yourself, there, where is your grandfather? Oh, he’s fromDublin. Now, there’s no trace of him inDublin! Do you know what I mean? He’s only a blow-in, the same as meself here! Do you know what I mean now? But that’s where Travelling People goes from, do you see? That’s where all the Travelling People goes from. I’ll tell you about it – the Travellers made their own mistakes, I’ll be honest about it now, they made their own mistakes cos I’ll tell you why now. To go off the road, they made one. Now! The day they went off the road, that’s the biggest mistake they ever made.

S: But they didn’t go off. They were pushed!

Yes, but they shouldn’t have going off the road, because they had no rule, concept really, about – and believe it or not, I’m going to tell you something here now about the local people. I’m not codding you. I’m after travelling through a lot of Irelandmeself, travelled a lot of England, and I do talk to the local people. And there is some good and bad in every, you know what I mean? Travellers is the same way, there’s good and bad, same way with the locals. But I was talking to a lot of old people, and they often said to me, the roads is lonesome. Well I’d know well what he’d mean, but I’d ax him. And I often said to him, “Why is that, sir?” – I wouldn’t know his right name, “Well,” he’d say to me, “I often seened your people,” he says, “fifty camps down along that road there: waggons, tents, horses, asses, and fires down along there. That was the homeliest time,” he says, “we ever had. Because we were so used to ye coming and going.” It was the biggest mistake – the Traveller lost his health when he went into the house. A Traveller was never meant to be bounded, you know. Now, I’m telling you, a Traveller was never meant – same as a wild rabbit, you go catch a wild rabbit and put him into a cage – that’s the only way you’ll hold him, that’s the only way he’ll stay with you. Well, that rabbit will fret, and he’ll keep on fretting, and that rabbit will die. Because he’s not used to it. I’m in a house, and I’m not used to it, I’ll be honest. I was in several houses, I’m still not used to them. I always builds a fire outside in the summertime, you know. I don’t like being in the house at all. I wouldn’t give one bit of fresh air for ten houses! That’s the way you’re brought up, do you know? We were brought up that way. But the government did ruin the Travellers. See, they were telling everyone, and they told everyone, that the Travellers were doing this, the Travellers was doing that. Sure, the Travellers take up no space at all, do you know what I mean? (laughs) For the space the Travellers taken up, was nothing, do you know? But that’s where the Travellers was wrong: they’re giving counties where they’re not from.

S: So if you were ruler of the world, and it was up to you to teach history to Traveller kids –

Well, I’d teach them the history of the road. Now, that’s the truth. What I’d tell them, I’d advise them to go back on the road.

S: That’s the future. What would you tell them about the past?

About the past, I’d tell them about the past, I would, We hadn’t a good time in the past either, and I’ll tell you why. I remember the time that we’d be camped on the road, and that’s how I got no schooling myself. But the best schooling you ever got is the ones I’m going to tell you about now. We often was camped on the side of an old road, and not me alone, a thousand and one Travellers, different names, McDonaghs, Joyces, Nevins, everyone! Everyone got the same treatment as I got. And you could be lying down there in that tent, with small childer, that time, you could be lying in an old camp beside the road, when the Guards would come out, let there be snow that high, let it be teeming rain, they’d pull down that tent and move you on from here, maybe, to near Dublin. And you’d be no sooner there when you’d be moved on back again. I mean, that was the Travellers’ life. And no time ago.

S: Which is why people ended up in houses, because it was the one way of not being harassed all the time.

Now! You see, you’ll get a Travelling person, and – I can’t read myself, I definitely can’t read, but the best education you ever got is street education, or road education, and I’m going to tell you why now. I sees it now this minute, there’s high educated children, there’s no jobs out there, and that’s the truth. If you send your daughter to college this minute, there’s no future for your daughter, there’s nothing that’ll come out of that college. Yes, she might get a job there and then, when she leaves it, maybe, it might last for a year, it might last for two; there’s no future there, though. That job could just go like that! (snaps fingers) She has no promise of nothing behind it, and you after spending maybe thousands of pounds, hundreds of pounds, sending her out to college, for no reason. Just for no reason! Take instance from me, now. There’ll be two different things, we’ll say, for your child, and one of mine. If your child this minute got, we’ll say, was homeless, she wouldn’t have the brain to live on the side of the road.

S: [to his nineteen year old daughter]: Would you, Lilyanne? Would you cope?

I would indeed! I’d get six wattles and I’d cover them over with plastic and I’d make a bed of straw.

Now! Let me ask you! If you were homeless this minute yourself, you had no money, you had nothing –

You asked me this before, and I said I thought I would cope because Im unusual.

This is a different thing I’m going to tell you about. See, there’s one way of living, and there’s one way of living a different way. If you were thrown out of your home tomorrow morning, you and your husband, your children, no money, nothing, not the price of a biscuit and no way of getting it: what would you do?


No! Other than beg. But what would you do, to live on the road?

S: To make a living?

To eat! What would you do, to eat?

[lots of laughter]

Go out in the fields, get wild garlic. Skin a rabbit!

S: Oh, I wouldn’t do that. No. I’d be way too soft for that. … I suppose I would beg. In the short term, you’d have to beg. If you’d no skills, or you’d nothing to sell.

Well, say you wanted to make a skill for yourself, what would you do?


S: That would be a man’s job, I’d say!

If you wanted to make a skill for yourself, for a woman, what would you do?

S: Begging is a skill! I would not be good at it.

No, a skill to sell things. What would you do?

S: I would probably go to markets and watch people selling stuff. And try to pick it up off them. Because it is a skill. Having something to sell is one thing, being able to sell it is another. I watch Eastenders and I go to Moore Street. “Ah, come here, darling! Special offer today!” you know?

What you could do, you could go – a woman can do this herself – you can cut sticks of elders about that thick, and you can get a knife –

S: Make flowers.

And dye them.

And that’s a skill for a woman. Now! Another skill what a woman can do, is cut sallies and make baskets.

S: You would have to learn the skill off somebody!

No, it’s very easy! Very easy to make baskets!

S: Well, I think it’s very easy when you know how!

It’s very easy altogether.

S: You’d have to learn it off someone.

You wouldn’t, no, missus. No.

S: You reckon someone who’d never made a basket before could –

They’d make a basket. The person never made a basket in his life, right? I never made one – I never made a basket till years ago, but I’d know how to do it.

S: But you must have seen somebody do it.

No! I seened them made, full. Meself and me brother Michael one time, we were out travelling here, we were only young, we were only about, what? About twelve, this time. There was a man down in a house, and he used to make baskets. But we’d never see him making them, do you know what I mean? He’d have them made and ready to take with him for sale, for fair, now, or market. So he was blackguarding us one day at the gate, and he says to us, “Ye wouldn’t know how to do that,” he says. And I looked at him. Says I, “I’d make a very good job of them.” Says I, “I would make one. That’s not to say that I would make a better one, but I would make one.” “You’ll make one of them? You’re codding me,” he says. “No, I’m not codding you. I’ll make one of them.” “Well, I’ll tell you what I’ll do with you,” he says. “Ye’re staying on the road,” he says. “If you bring me up any kind of a basket,” he says, “good or bad” – and at that time a half a crown was a lot of money – “You make one,” he says, “out of your own hands” – now, he’s a professional at it, because this is his trade – “You make me a basket,” he says, “let it be good or bad, the thing is to make it, and you’ll get half a crown for yourself.” Says I, “I’ll make you one, a good one.” “Right you are,” he says. Now I come back along to me father, the Lord have mercy on him, and me brother Mick, he’s older than me. “Daddy,” he says, “Golly says he’s going to make a basket for the man above up on the road.” So me father never made them either, you know? And he looked at me, he says, “Golly,” he says, “did you ever see a basket made?” he says. “No, says I, “I see your man above does them. ” Well,” he says, “I’ll tell you something. I did, now,” he says, ‘but I’m not going to show you,” he says. “You gave the man an agreement but they’re not,” he says, “an easy thing to get around.”

Your own father admitted it! Go on!

“Well,” he says, “it’s not easy, but I’d like to see you making one. I’d like to see you finish a basket, let it be good or bad, the thing,” he says, “is to try it out.” “I’ll do it, Daddy,” says I. “I won’t say I’ll do it as good as your man, but I’ll still put a basket together.” “Well,” he says, “you know what kind of sticks goes into it?” “I do,” says I, “sallies.” “Well, he says, “let you do it yourself, then. I’m not gong to show you. I can do it,” he says, “but I won’t show you.” Now, my father could make baskets, and very good at them, but I didn’t know! So I went off along the road next day, brought a knife with me, went down along beside the river, cut all those white sallies, cut a whole big bunch of them about that high. So my daddy was watching me – he wouldn’t tell me nothing, you know what I mean? So I came back up, I started peeling the sallies, he never said if I was doing wrong or bad, he just kept looking. So I went to this level piece of ground – now, I never seen this done before in me life! This is what you have to do: piece of ground like that, pure level, and all me sticks level, me sallies, sunk them right along, and come along me old sallies and start plaiting them, plaiting them, plaiting them, till I came to the bottom, and plaited it. And pulled them up out of the ground, So you get them and you plait them back down. Ha, ha ha!

S: Ah! That was your bottom, then! Isn’t he clever!? That’s how you done it.

I made a good basket!

S: You done the sides, and ended up with the top!

The top was the bottom. So, I turned it over, I plaited two handles each side of it as well. “Golly,” he says, “I never showed you. I wouldn’t do that on the man above, cause that’s his trade, you know. But that is a good basket,” he says. “Bring it up to your man,” he says. He offered me a job, your man! To work with him. “No,” says I. We wouldn’t stay at all. We’d be moving on again, you know? “Well,” he says “for a young fellow that never made a basket in your life, you have some brain! Your father,” he said “is up here with me, he told me that he can make them, and he never showed you how to do that one. He showed you how to make buckets,” he says, “but he wouldn’t show you the basket. He said, ‘That’s another man’s trade.'” You see, we wouldn’t take another man’s trade. Do you follow me now? That was our rule: I’d be making buckets, and you’d be making baskets, and I wouldn’t take your trade, cos, see, I wouldn’t put you out, I’d give you a chance , that was a thing we used to do ourself.

[daughter says something unclear]

No! You will do anything if you leave your mind down to it.

Anything is possible.

Anything at all!

S: It’s all a challenge.

You can cure yourself from your own mind.

S: Yes, you explained about that. How you did that. You told me how you came back up from four stone

Well that is true. I’ll tell you who you’ll ask about that, now, because you don’t believe me.

S: I do believe you! Why would I not believe you?

You don’t believe me about that, now.

Well, Sinéad did you ever hear the saying about the Powers?

S: What’s the saying about the Powers?

Well, you see, with all the high education – I’m not putting down the locals – with all the high education that’s going on, the local people is going too fast, and I’ll tell you why, now. The local people thinks they’ll never have enough. They’ll never have enough! And they’re voting theirselfs and they’re passing theirself out, and they don’t know it. Because I’ll tell you why, now, because all the local people see all those changes, now they know theirself. See, I’ll tell you something. It was prophesised! The pope is after – I heard it forty year ago, forty five as a matter of fact, we were going to have a black pope.

S: That would be interesting!

Well, that is true! Remember what I’m telling you! We’ll have a black pope, and we’re going to have a black president in America! Them is two things has to come! And at the end of the world, I’ll tell you now, there is going to be another war here in the world, and it’s going to be the last one. Now, that is the truth. And the yellow race will rule the world.

S: There’s a lot of them, that’s for sure!

Well, the yellow race will rule the world, here in Ireland. You see, I’ll tell you something. The people in the country is going wrong. It’s not the country, it’s the people. It’s all the people, it’s down to the people at this moment. They couldn’t leave the sky alone: they’d have to go to the moon. They couldn’t leave it alone. So, man is beating himself, no matter which way he goes. They took away everything grandeur out of the country: the trees, the old trees, the old houses. Anything that was any good, they took it out of it. They’re building all new cement places. There in Dublin, now: half ofDublinis not there at all! It’s all new, modern places. The best ofDublinis gone.GalwayCityis the same way. I remember places inGalwaythere, old buildings, I suppose you knew them yourself. They knocked them down there and built all new buildings.

S: But quite a lot of the old buildings that I remember lying in ruins are back up. Down along the quays there.

Yeah, they should do. They’re lovely, yeah. But you see the worst is, they’re putting new things in between where the old ones is. They’re taking the look off the street –

S: Yeah, I agree with you.

Mixing them up. And it doesn’t suit, now, be no way. Take Kilkenny, John’s Bridge. That’s a very old street, and there’s a lot of old buildings. The one mistake they made there, and I’ll tell you what it is, and you could see it sticking out, a mile out: they put a brand new hotel right across.

S: Where is that?

John’s Bridge. You know John’s Bridge?

S: In Kilkenny City?

InKilkenny City, yeah. There was an old building there, I don’t know what it was. They knocked it there a good few year back. Now they’ve a brand new hotel there. That completely took the look off Kilkenny. Dublin, now, is the same way.


[look at watch -time to run for bus.- end of interview]