John Carroll

I’m John Carroll. I was born the 24th of the 2nd, 1943, which makes me 64. I was the man who built the caravan for the Year of I’m John Carroll. I was born the 24th of the 2nd, 1943, which makes me 64. I was the man who built the caravan for the Year of Culture 2005 in Cork.

S: Testing! Tell me about the Carrolls. If I knew nothing about the Carrolls, if I came down from Mars, tell me who the Carrolls are, who they marry, where they live, what kind of work they do, who they mix with…

All I knew about the Carrolls, is, there was three brothers of them in it, in my grandfather’s side: Tom, Jack, which would be John, and Henry, which was my grandfather. Henry was in America, and he was in the American navy for 20 years, and on leave he was in West Cork where he met me grandmother Margaret Driscoll, and he decided to anchor here, and he got married. That is the only breed of the Carrolls that Iknew. I was told that they came from Dublin, but I couldn’t track any of them down in Dublin, but then I was led to believe that his brothers finished up in America. Tom –

S: Right. So, these brothers were country men?

No. They were Travellers! Tom and John.

S: They started off in Dublin? Or they started off in America?

They were from Dublin. They went to America.

S: And came back. Your grandfather came back.

My grandfather came back, yeah, but his brothers settled in America as far as I know.

S: They stayed over there.

Yeah. And I had no track of them. And the other thing I was told by my father: they had a first cousin, James Caroll, which rings a bell. And he went to England one time, and it was known that he went from there toAmerica, but he was never heard of for years, so it is obvious that he have offspring in America somewhere still, do you know? That’s about all I can tell you about him.

S: So you’ve had no contact with those people? And then when you heard from that Mr Carroll in America, did he make any link with you?

He didn’t say directly that we were related. He said that we could be related, and would I please write by return of post, and I wrote by return of post and I gave him all the info that I could, the same as I gave it to you, you know?

S: And you’re waiting for him to get back to you now?

And hopefully he’s going to get back to me now.

S: Okay. So that’s a work in progress.

That’s about the size of it, yeah. He’s a James Carroll in Oklahoma.

S: Oh! In Oklahoma! That’s a long way from North Carolina!

It’s a long ways from where you were talking about!

S: It is a long ways. Yeah! Big country! Okay. So, what kinds of work would the Carrolls be associated with?

In the olden days, I don’t know what they were at here. But of course they were all big shots, the Carrolls are, now. My nephews, now, which is Kielys I was telling you about a while ago, they’re all big contractors, you know. So hopefully all the Carrolls I have belonging to me in America, they’re all big contractors as well, I reckon! You know? [both laugh]

S: Now, the Kielys would be your sister’s children?

That’s right, my sister’s children. Yeah. They’re all big contractors.

S: Now, you’ve two sisters married to Kielys, one to a country man.

I’ve one to a country boy, yes.

So which is the big shots? Both?

No, Margaret’s. The oldest fellow, my second oldest sister Margaret. Kiely, Tommy Kiely from Offaly, he’s a Travelling bloke. His sons is big contractors.

S: And are they in Dublin?

No, Cork here. There’s one of them in Dublin.

S: Alright. Cos there’s Kielys near me in Dublin.

Henry is in Dublin, as I said to you. Them Kielys in Dublin are really first cousins of my nephews, now. Tarmacadam contractors on the site in Dublin.

S [laughs] Ah, sure, they’re all tarmacadam contractors now!

But these fellows are on the site.

S: Some of them were in Oliver’s Park, and then they moved away. Their young fellow was killed there, a few years ago. He was in a horrible car crash.

Right! Oh, yes! James Kiely’s son! That chap’s father, now, would be a first cousin –

S: He was only young. He was only about 17.

That’s right. That chap’s father would be a first cousin of my nephew’s No relation of mine, but a first cousin through the Kielys, through his father’s side.

S: Okay So, see, it’s a small world.

His father actually would be Tommy Kiely – my brother in law’s – nephew, you know what I mean?

S: What was I going to say? Yeah! Because part of your background – there was Fureys in there, there was Dunnes in there – these were entertainment people.

The Dunnes are all musicians and singers. Yes, and so is the Fureys. I come from a background on me mother’s side that was all musicians, and fairly good singers.

S: Right, You’re Driscoll on your mother’s side, is that right?

No – my mother is Furey. My grandmother was Driscoll on my father’s side, and my mother’s mother, as far as I know, was Shea. She was a country girl.

S: Yes! You did tell me that. So the Fureys – would they not be Galway? Am I wrong about that?

They would have originated from Galway. They would have, I’d say. They would have. And the McDonaghs could be related to them, as far as I know.

S: McDonaghs are related to everybody, some way or other! But there’s no McDonaghs in your tree whatsoever! Not one!

No! I don’t think so, no. But they could be far-out relations to the Fureys, as far as I know. The Fureys inGalway, which I don’t think are the same Fureys as my mother.

S: That’s why I was asking. Because it’s the only other place I’ve come across the name.

I don’t think so, no, I don’t think so. There’s Fureys in Dublin, and they would be related, alright. They’re all settled and living in houses as well. He’d maintain that he would be related to them, that he was related to the Fureys, the musicians. And they’re first cousins of mine, so we’d have to be connected some way.

S: Yes, I can see that. And were the Fureys – did they specialise in music? Or dd they also do, like, horses and fairs and tinsmithing?

No! Their father did travel with a caravan one time, but he took up music at a young age, it was something that came natural to him, he was a natural musician. He never became famous, right?

S: The boys did!

They did! But he played venues and things, for to keep the young lads fed.

Right, yeah.

And it was he taught the young lads that were able to play, he taught them to play a bit of music, as you know. He more or less brought the young fellows up, professionally.

S: So was he a Travelling man?

Oh, he was, yeah!

S: He was. And what did his father before him do? Were they always musicians?

His father I didn’t know. I heard me father talking about him. He was a musician, as far as I know.

S: Okay, so that family kind of – that went down from father to son, that they were musicians, right? I was just wondering, because some families would be almost pure horses and other families would do everything, you know, so –

That’s right! That’s right. Well, my father was a horse dealer. Whatever side it came in from, I don’t know!

S: Your father was a horse dealer?

He was, yeah!

S: And where did you get the carpentry skills, then?

Well, my father used to do that as well, God rest his soul. I picked it up as a young fellow, I suppose.

S: Watching him, and…

Now you have it. Me mother was a very handy woman as well, God rest her soul.

S: Yeah?

Not only could she play music, she was good at art as well.

S: Yeah?

She could paint! It was something that came natural, I suppose. Breeding, I suppose. Breeding, basically.

S: Well it’s partly just natural born talent, but also, if you see it being done around you, you’re able to copy it.

That’s right! I’ve five sisters. Four of them is fairly good musicians. I can play. I’m not saying I’m a good musician, but I can play a couple of instruments. And there’s one of them can play nothing!

S: Right! And does she sing?

She can sing, but she’s not real good at that either.

S: Not her thing.

People are inclined to leave the bar if she starts. [both laugh] They’d be inclined to move out! Where if we were entertaining, she would join in for a song, if she’d a few drinks on her. She’s not a great singer either. But, it’s amazing how you can go!

S: Yeah! Yeah.

Four or five of us is professional. Well, we’re not professional, but we’ll pass anywhere we go, we’ll play a few tunes.

S: And have you ever played music, like, to earn a living?

No, I never, but the girls did. When they were married first to their husbands, I suppose their husbands weren’t much good, when they were young, you know? Nearly all me sisters that was married to Travellers played the towns, played the streets.

S: Did the busking.

Busking. The markets, and playing in the streets. She’d book a return ticket to Cobh in the mornings, when the kids would be at school, and she’d come back in to pick them up about half two or three o’clock, whatever it was. And she’d be playing that train up and down, she wouldn’t come off the train at all, do you see? She’d play that train up and down for 2 1/2 solid hours or 3 hours. [MUMBLE] and he explained to me. Of course, I listened. I was one of the odd ones that listened to him. He’d tell me if he was buying something in the fair. He’d call me aside and he’d tell me, when you bid, if he gives you that animal or whatever it was, for what you were giving him, take it! Eventually I was a judge in me own business, after a few years.

S: Yeah. So, you were dealing horses as well, then?

Yes, I keeps a few horses.

S: Still.

Not many. Five or six. Well, I did, I changed my profession from the horses, because it’s too hard to mind them.

S: I would imagine it’s fairly hard alright.

You’re paying for grazing out in the country, going out and seeing how they are every second day, and you’ve a lot of time wasted. I mostly deal in cars and vans. Vehicles. I buy and sell old vans and pick-ups. I go up and down the country looking for yokes every day.

S: [laughs] I know! I’ve tried to catch you, up and down the country! And have you much chance to do any kind of woodwork, these days?

I don’t do any, at the moment. I didn’t for many years.

S: That’s right, because you were talking to me before, about that – you used to do those. Over in England.

I used to! Oh, yeah! I used to build them. When I was young I used to make wagons in the summertime, I’d be able to finish it, paint it and everything, in about 2 months.

S: Take you 2 months to do that? On your own? Jesus!

Yes. Are you finished with me?

S: I’m just about finished, yeah, because I have to catch this train. Just tell me where you’ve travelled.

I travelled all Ireland, with my horse. I travelled when the transport was horses. I travelled Ireland for about 20 years of me life, until I was about 20 years of age, right? And I was in England between that, for a few years.

S: With your parents?

On me own, no, on me own. So I’d say I travelled for about 18 years of me life. Some of that I wouldn’t remember, of course, because I’d be too young.

S: Yes.

I never travelled with a motorcar. But I did travel. I never made it to cars, you know? Are you all right there?