Derrel Dunne

My name is Derrel Dunne, I was born on the 20th of August 1982, I am 24 years old. I have lived in Cork for the past 14 years or so and plan on staying here for the rest of my life. On the 14th February 2007, I married a boy from Cork, Jerry O Sullivan. I work in St. Finbarr’s Senior Traveller Training Centre in Blackpool Cork. I have been here since I was 15, I am the secretary for the last 6 or 7 year.

S: Now, Di Dunne, this is your life! Wanted to ask – okay, starting with what parts of the country your family is in. So, you said Cork for your mother’s side, and –

Dublin, for my father’s side.

And is most of your family in those two counties? Or how much of your family would be in England, or Wales, or whatever? Or is most of your family here?

Well, my Mam’s family is in Cork, my Dad’s family is in Dublin, and I have a lot of relations in England as well. I have aunts, and uncles, living in England.

That was the first question, what parts of the country. Second question – so, you’re definitely a Cork person, then?

I was born in Dublin.

Oh! Are you a Dublin person, a Cork person, or what? You’re very young, when you’re born! Where do you feel at home?


Now: I’m also asking everybody what types of work their families have been involved in, because there’s some families that would be into entertainment, music, others would be into horse-dealing, into tinsmithing and so on. So your family, what would they have been associated with?


Nowadays it’s tarmacking. And before tarmacking came in?

Scrap? Horses. That’s it really.

Fair enough. Would that be on both sides of the family?

Yeah. They were reared up together, my mam’s family and my dad’s family, were all reared together when they were young.

Where were they, then?

Between England and Ireland. This was ever before they settled in one place.

Okay! Then we’re getting back to the question I was asking before. So, if I’m getting you right, then, your dad’s family kind of settled in Dublin, and your mam‚s family kind of settled in Cork, before that they were here there and everywhere, and they were travelling together.


Okay. And I suppose the question I want to ask, but I don’t want to put words in your mouth, is… hmm… most Irish Travellers, that I’ve spoken to, when they mention Romani speakers, would think of them – or, of you – as being mostly English. Do you agree with that? Do you see yourself as English, Irish, neither, both, all of the above…?

My Dad is English. And me mam is English, I’m Irish. I’m Irish! Sure, I was born in Dublin! [laughs]

But would both of your parents think of themselves as English?

Not really, no, because they’re living here that long, you know what I mean? So they wouldn’t.

Did they spend their childhoods in England, or here?

In England.

In England. Okay.

And here as well. They’d come back here, maybe, for a few months, and then go back to England again, now.

So, if I was to ask the same question I asked you, to your parents, that is, where do you feel at home, what would your mother answer?


And what about your father?


They would both say Cork.


That’s the place in the world that they feel comfortable, even though they’ve been to lots of other places.

Yeah. See, we’re living here for ten years, If not more.

And what if you were to go back a generation again? I’m just trying to see are the Dunnes an Irish family, an English family, or a family that is in both places the same?

Both places, I’d say.

When you go over to England, do you feel, Oh my God, these are all English? Or…?

No, I don’t. No. I class all as one, really.

That’s among your relatives?

But same with anybody, really, do you know?

…. No. Talk to me! Explain to me.

I class everybody as the same, There’s nobody different. Well, they are different, in their own way, but… No matter what you are, whether you’re English or whether you’re Irish, you’re still human.

Oh, yeah. Well, that’s kind of basic. We take that one as read, we don’t even bother talking about that, because it goes without saying.

Ehm – do you know how long there have been Dunnes – do Dunnes feel that they are an Irish family, or a British family, or does it not matter? Am I asking a stupid question?

Well, it doesn’t matter, but, they’re Irish.

They’re Irish, okay. And have always been Irish.


Okay. Because I told you I’ve a really good friend over in England, Sylvia Dunne, and that she heard that her grandfather was Irish, even though she’s English.

No. They’re all – Dunne isn’t an English name.

No, it isn’t.

It’s Irish. Maybe they would have lived in England for a long time.

There are very few Irish families that haven’t got a lot of English connections, so you can’t really draw a line there. In the end, the line is kind of in your own head, where you feel you belong. Are there other Romani-speaking families here that also would consider themselves to be Irish more than they would anything else? Besides the Dunnes?

Maybe my grandparents would. Loveridges. Blackburns. Lees. But they’re all English but have Irish connections.

Okay. The question is, are there any other Romani speaking names that would think of themselves as mostly Irish? As being Irish before they’re anything else? Well, I mean, I suppose you’re Gypsy before you’re anything else, but…

Yeah. I don’t know! I don’t know.

Cos there’s that many names. There’s always names that come up, and I just –

What is it? Are they Irish or are they English?

Yeah! All those things, they’re up for grabs, and I’m sure there’s days when you’re a woman before you’re anything else, and there’s other days when you’re a Cork supporter before you’re anything else. These things change all the time, depending on who you talking to. There’s no strict once and for all type thing. But, if push comes to shove, where you feel you belong the most, I suppose, is the question I’m asking.

It’s hard to explain it.

I know! It is hard.

It’s because – I’ve an aunt, now, whose husband’s people do be in England, and her own people is here in Cork, So, she’s mixed up, So I don’t know what she’d say she would be, if she was asked whether she was English or Irish.

Well the question might just be silly anyway. I may be asking a question that doesn’t make sense to people. Do you know, that they never think about.


If somebody asked me what football team do I support, I can’t answer that question, because I don’t support any. It’s not part of my life. And if somebody said to me, but you HAVE to support a team! Well, no, I don’t, actually.


Ehm – Can you give me a quick rundown of ways that you are the same as, and ways that you are different from, Travellers who speak Cant or Gammon, as opposed to speaking Romani? Not you personally! Big, you know, cultural differences, social differences.

We’re the same: we’re all human, we all have blood, I suppose. [laughs] We’re all, when you’re cut, you bleed. Sure, as far as your being brought up, being different, then, it’s just the way you’re being brought up,

So what are some of the differences that you notice?

Ehm – well, we’d -I don’t know! I don’t know, really!

For example, I have a friend whose aunt is married to a Gypsy, whose name I can’t remember offhand. But she says – this is an Irish Traveller, right? – she says that Gypsies eat snails.

Yeah. That’s what they say. They call Gypsies snail-eaters. But it’s not just Gypsies – it’s English people, they’re called snail-eaters.

Exactly. But that would be a difference, right? And she tells me that she slags her aunt’s people. That they slag each other: “Oh, you old snail-eater”. You know. And that – it’s fun, there’s no bad feeling there, but it’s like, “you’re different from us because you eat snails,” “You’re different from us because you don’t eat snails”. Do you know what I mean? That’s one example. Can you think of any others?

I can’t, really.

[laughs] You just don’t want to commit yourself! You don’t want to say anything slaggy! But believe me, I’ve heard such – oh, my God! people open up and they slag each other so much, it’s terrible! It’s awful!

Call one another Gyppos.

Yeah. Who calls each other Gyppos?

I know people that would say, Go ‘way you Gyppo. You know, messing. That would be blackguarding, kind of a thing.

Irish Travellers would say that to you? Call you a Gyppo?

No! We’d say it to our own selves.

Alright! Okay, fair enough.

Things like that, That’s about it, really. I can’t think of any more. I’ll probably think of them all in a minute when you’re gone.

Being in Ireland, it’s kind of hard not to mix with Irish Travellers, so there has to have been some kind of a decision to keep their distance.

No, it wasn’t. It’s just that they used to keep theirselfs to theirselfs, I suppose, my mam‚s people and my Dad’s people used to just keep theirselfs to theirselfs. That was the main crowd that used to hang around with one another, like, was me mam and me dad’s people, together. That was it, really. They usen’t hardly mix with anybody else. When they were in England, then, they used to know people from when me grandmother and grandfather would be young, and their sons and daughters then, kind of married in, you know what I mean? That would be kind of old friends of the family, do you know?

Well then that goes back to the question I was asking earlier on, as to how long your family has been in Ireland. Because as I say there have been Romani speakers here since the 1400s. That doesn’t mean your family’s been here since the 1400s. So do you have any idea how long there have been Dunnes here?

I don’t know how long Dunnes – I think forever!

Yeah, go on.

Well, I know that the Loveridges must be here about 50 year, if not more. My grandfather left the yard, and they owned it 50 year that time. And they had to give it up because the new road was coming through. So, I know they’ve been here a while. Back and forth. Not staying constantly. But back and forth to England all the time.

That brings us back, like, which is home, or is either home, or is that a stupid question?

No. Cork is home.

Cork is home. Cork is the Dunne family home.

No! Not for them all. For my family.

For your family, yeah. I really wish, for Sylvia’s sake, I could find her connection here, because she’d love it.

Could you find out her grandfather’s name?

God, if I had her number on me now, I’d ring it straightaway.