Kathleen Mongans

I’m Kathleen Mongans married to John Keenan, from Cork. I have ten children living and one dead. I have seven married, and three girls with me. I’ve eleven grandchildren and three more on the way this year.

S: I have 163 Traveller names on my list. It’s a lot! And in your whole family, and your husband’s, there’s maybe twenty. Maybe twenty. But there’s maybe five that comes back and back and back. McDonagh, Mongans, and the one Joyce marriage. Like, there it’s McDonaghs and Monganses, very tight. Very, very tight. Joyce as a one-off. Here I have Ward, another one-off.

And the Tuoheys was one off, as well.

S: No, Tuoheys was twice, because your mother’s sister married a Tuohey

Oh, that’s right, yeah!

S: That was another one I wanted to ask you about, because your mother’s sister married a Tuohey and your sister Winnie married a Tuohey and that was it, no other connections.


S: So what happened there? Why not more Tuohey marriages? Are they a small family?

No, we left then. We left when my sister Winnie got married down in Roscrea. We used to call his father old Black-haired Tuohey. His own name was Jimmy Tuohey. So then we left Roscrea and we went on to Birr because my father took [xx] down to my aunt Winnie, who married Tuohey as well.

S: And was that Tuohey that married your aunt, was he anything to your sister’s husband?

I don’t know. I don’t know anything about that Tuohey. I was only small myself when Winnie got married. Very young. Winnie was very young as well.

S: Yeah, it’s not a name I’ve come across much.

No. I’d say it is a small race, alright. A small family.

S: Killeen is another name – once. Your brother Paddy married Killeen.


S: And who are the Killeens?

Killeens is – the father was a Traveller. Over all the time in England, like. He was only inIreland when he was smaller.

S: He’s an Irish Traveller, though? Is he?

He was, from blood, yeah, from birth, an Irish Traveller. And then the mother, then, she was a Gypsy. So I’d say Cathleen’s a half and half, Gypsy and half Irish. And she was born inEngland as well.

S: So that’s where the Killeens are.

That’s where the Killeens come in.

S: And how did your brother meet up with her? Were they over here, or…?

No, they were over travelling in Wales, over in Swansea. And we were staying over there at the time. I’m sure it was… I don’t know the name of it again, now – but there was this old big place, anyway, where all the Travellers used to pull in.

S: Cat’s Hole? I’ll never forget that name! [both laugh]

No, it wasn’t the Cat’s Hole, but it was another place around there. So, they met there. And they were very young. So, they ran away. They got married then, and, still together, and still very happy, thank God. They’re finished, their family is finished now, they’re not having any more. They’ve six, like, three boys and three girls. Two married.

S: And where do they live?

Maggie is living down in Tullamore, in some site in Tullamore, I don’t know. There’s a lot of the Monganses down there, her own relations, and a lot of the Rattigans, like, her husband’s family.

S: Oh, right! That name came up once as well. Go on! Keep going!

And Martin, then, Martin then married McDonagh. Helena. She’s originally from Ennis, but she’s living here in Cork for years.

S: Oh, that’s good, you’ve people close by. Rattigan, that was another name that came up just once. Who are the Rattigans tied in with?

I haven’t a clue. I don’t know.

S: It’s an unusual name. Cos there is just a couple of names that shows up once. Killeen is one, Rattigan is another, and because it’s done in colour, they stand out. Ward is only once. Stokes! There’s interesting, now! Your father’s mother was a Stokes, and Stokes is a big family –

Big, big family!

S: Very big family, and yet none of your family married in with Stokes. How did that happen?

I haven’t a clue, Sinéad! I don’t know any of my father’s people! The only ones I know of my father’s people, of course, is the… what you call it, his brother Edward’s family.

S: They’d all be Monganses, of course.

I know all the Monganses, but none of the Stokes, Donoghues, my grandmother’s people, no. I never seened any of my grandmothers, and I just seen one grandfather, my mother’s father, John McCafferty. But he only comes up once, as well, because he’s a settled person. And my grandmother, then, was McDonagh. So!

S: Well, the McCafferty thing is interesting. That just shows how a name comes in and goes within one generation. Cos there was only two girls, and that was it. They married different names, and the name was gone, after one generation. It can happen.

Pity, though, Sinéad, isn’t it?

S: It’s interesting, though. Do you know? Because you get other names that come in, and kind of stay in.

They had a son, there. They had a little brother, and he died. There was just three sisters.

S: There was three sisters? There was a third sister? Did she not live to marry?

Peggy. She did live, but I’m not sure who she married. I’m sure it was a McDonagh. But we didn’t ever get a chance of seeing her. I didn’t. My family… no. Don’t know much about her. Which is really sad. Tis really sad.

S: Life is…!

Because I don’t even know my own grandmother’s name! My mother’s mother, I don’t know her. I know she’s McDonagh, alright, but…

S: There are so many McDonaghs. I suppose if I was to ask who married McCafferty, I might find out who she is. I can ask! So, anyway, the names there are Mongans, Delaney, McDonagh.

Yeah. They’re the most popular. The Joyce, now, as well. The Joyce hasn’t a lot of connection either.

S: My guess, would be, but I’m only guessing, that once you married in with McDonaghs you had Joyce connections. That would be my guess, because McDonaghs are married in with Joyces. Oh! Cawley’s another one that only showed up once. Just once. And a brother and sister.

That’s right, married a brother and sister again.

S: But of course, it’s Maguire, is the father’s name, so the Maguires might have had the connections with the Cawleys.

Oh, yeah. They married Nellie Keenan’s son and daughter, wasn’t it?

S Yeah. But the point is, the children had the Maguire surname. And then the – and the Faulkers, that’s another unusual name. But they married O’Reillys. But Faulkners is a different breed altogether, aren’t they?

Yeah, different people. Yeah. It’s amazing how they all connect in at the end of the day. They do really all connect, don’t they?

S: Well, no! What I think is interesting is that they don’t, because the, for example the names on that, the colours on that, which are Keenans marrying in with Maguires and – what have we got? one Maguire and one Faulkner, right? Look at the colours on the bottom there. They’re completely different from these colours here, that the Monganses marry in with. Totally different! They’re not the same! So, from this it seems that Maguires and Faulkners marry completely different people from what Monganses do. Do you know what I’m saying?

Mmm. They do, yeah.

S: Put it this way: you’ve got a Faulkner there married to a Keenan, but that’s because the mother was a Keenan.

That’s right, yeah.

S: And apart from that you’ve got a Faulkner married to O’Reilly and Sherlock, and another Faulkner who’s a first cousin. With the Maguires you’ve got Cawley, which doesn’t come in any other time, and then another Keenan, which is another first cousin on the mother’s side. So it seems to be different breeds altogether. That’s what’s interesting. How did these Donovans get there? We’ve got four Donovans there, not tied in any way except they marry in very tight. How did they get in there?

Well, the Donovans’ mother would be the Faulkner’s sister.

S: Ah! You never told me that!

Didn’t I?

S: No!

I should have.

S: So, I’ll make a note of that. The Donovans’ mother…?

Knowles. Her name is Nora, but everybody used to call her Knowles, like Sonny Knowles, for a nickname.

S: And she’s Julia’s sister?

Julia’s aunt. Michael Faulkner’s sister. Michael and Annie. That’s how that came in.

S: That explains that. That does make sense, because Michael is married to Ann Keenan, who is a sister to –

My husband John. But Knowles’ husband Paddy Donovan has no connection.

S: Yeah, but I though they should tie in some way, because it’s not coincidence that you get four of them there, you know what I mean?

And then Sweeney – oh, no, sorry, Sweeney and Higgins, that was a once off as well. See, but, those are the only times those names show up! There’s no other Sweeneys.

No other Sweeneys.

S: None at all. And here’s another thing. I know from those photos there’s McCarthys, definitely, in Ennis, you grew up with McCarthys, and Molloys, but there’s no marriage with them.


S: Why?

Hang on there a minute! Molloys and McCarthys –

S: And Sherlocks.

My first cousin Christy Mongans, he married a Carthy. My first cousin Martin Mongans, Edward’s sons, they married McCarthy.

S: Did they?

Yeah. And Molloy – did any of the Molloys…? No. No connection with the Molloys.

S: Or the Sherlocks.


S: Okay. Now, think about this: why not? I mean, you grew up with them! You mixed with them!

Yeah! [pause] I don’t know, Sinéad.

S: I know this is delicate, now. I know that it’s delicate! But, was there, when you were growing up, was there any families that your parents said to you, don’t play with them, don’t mix with them…?

No! My father and mother, they never kept us apart. They wanted us to be carefree, with everybody. Just, bad company, now, definitely , any wild ones or anything, they’d say no.

S: Right.

You’re not allowed to go out with them, or mix with them, like. Keep away from them. Other little ones, the ones that wouldn’t be as wild, and keep out of trouble and that, we would be allowed, now, to mix with those. The Carthys, now, they were very quiet! They weren’t wild, like!

S: So if I’m hearing you right, it was just, like, whether the child was wild, or not. It wasn’t on the basis of a name, that you were told to not…

Oh, no!

S: It was just purely whether that one child was wild, but they didn’t say, no, he’s one of the so-and-so’s, you’re not to –

Oh, no no no no! All the Travellers, at that time, when we were all growing up, if they knew there was a little wild girl, all the mothers – not my mother alone – all the mothers would say, ‘Well, lookit, don’t bother, now, going around with her, because you know the name she has, and if you’re seen with her, you’re going to be put down as bad. So just keep away from her, play with the rest of the little girls.’ So that would be it!

S: And did you do what you were told? [laughs] Cos mine doesn’t!

Not really! [both laugh]

S: So, just to get back to this thing about who marries who, and why: the Monganses marry McDonaghs, and Keenans. Right? Mostly?

Mostly, yeah.

S: Why? Why is it good to marry Keenans? Put it this way: you marry somebody you hope to God you’re going to get on with, and be able to stay with for the rest of your life. That’s kind of the general idea. So what is it about McDonaghs and Keenans that makes them near enough to Monganses that you have a chance of staying together?

Travellers don’t look into that, now, Sinéad, about staying together. They just fall in love, they think they fall in love, and they think they know all about marriage and they just say, get married, and that’s it. There’s no saying Well I’m going to marry a Keenan, I’m going to marry a McDonagh, because we’re going to be very happy and we’re going to be very rich and we’re going to love each other for the rest of our lives, and we’re going to live together. No! It’s nothing like that there! it’s just, like everyone else, you just take a chance, getting married.

S: But you don’t take a wild chance! Cos those show that you don’t take a wild chance. You don’t take a wild chance! You stick pretty close. There’s very few people there took wild chances.

Yeah, some of them stuck out together. A lot of them.

S: Most of them! Very, very few of them took wild chances. We’ve got one married to a Rattigan, one married to a Killeen. These are names that only come up once. Apart from that, it’s the same names coming up over and over again.

Coming up all the time. Yeah.

S: So –

It’s just mostly living near each another, I think.

S: But, see, you didn’t marry Molloys or Sherlocks, and you were living near Molloys and Sherlocks

No. Well –

S: What was Danny? What was his surname?

Danny was MacDonald, but he goes as McDonagh. He says he’s McDonagh, he goes as McDonagh.

S: See, you didn’t marry any of them. They were neighbours. Do you know what I’m saying?

No, but my sister’s son married Danny McDonagh’s daughter.

S: Oh, did he? So there was some. Right.

And Danny’s son Michael, then, he married a Mongans girl as well, he got married to my first cousin Michael’s daughter.

S: Right. I have them down as McDonagh, as well.

They never call themselves MacDonald. Because they’ve mixed with McDonaghs for years, and they wanted to be McDonagh. So there is really no connection there. I can’t feel that there is a connection there, saying that ‘I’m going to marry a McDonagh’, or ‘I’m going to marry a Keenan’. No! I don’t think so. It’s just that if – you know that person is right for you. And you like him enough that if he asks you to get married, or go out with him, you’ll go out with him.

S: Were you allowed date? Were you allowed go out?!

No! No way, not in my time!

S: No, no!

No way! We’d be killed! But the boys and girls now is a way different! They won’t go out together before they’re engaged. But, like, they see each other a lot, but we don’t know anything about it.

S: Yes.

They hide it all. So then he he has … the stomach, then, to come up and ask for to get married, and get engaged –

[interrupted by mobile ringing, tape switched off]

S: Yeah, cos your own kids married in fairly close as well, didn’t they?

Yeah! Though my daughter Kathleen, now, she’s married to Ward.

S: Yeah. That’s another one off.

And he was only down for a holiday, three year ago! Passing through! And his family has never been down since! And she just met up with him, and she went away with him, and they got married.

S: They ran away, did they?

They ran away and they got married with Father Cox.

S: Oh, your man! Yeah!

And they’re very happy together now, thank God. They’ve three children. And they’re living with me on the site.

S: Where? Here in Cork?


S: Right! And what part – I’m sure he’s Galway, is he?

No. His parents – They were mostly from Offaly, now, as well. And up in Newbridge, now.

S: Newbridge, Kildare?


S: And when you were growing up, was there no matches being made in Ennis?

Oh, my wedding was a match! Yeah! It was all matches that time!

S: I would have thought so, yeah.

Sure, it’s only for the, what? About the past ten years that there’s engagement type rings. Sure, we never got engagement rings! We’d barely get the wedding ring, and that was it! [both laugh] We were lucky to have it!

S: Okay. So, you were matched, and all your brothers and sisters were matched.

Yeah! All of them.

S: And then none of your kids were?

No. None of my kids were matched. No. Sinéad, you know, I was often saying, it would be lovely if you could go and pick out your sons’ wives, and your daughters’ husbands. I’d love it!

S: And yet they still married fairly close in, at the same time.


S: They did. In fact, you’ve only, of your five married children, one married out –

That’s all, yeah.

S: One married a first cousin, two married –

Third cousins or second cousins.

S: Martin would be – Margaret and Bernie’s father Martin is their second cousin, because Mary is your first cousin.

That’s right.

S: And then Lisa again married a second cousin. So it’s fairly tight!

Fairly tight.

S: But you didn’t make any, kind of – you didn’t push them towards these people? They made up their own minds?

No. It was their own idea! – My break time is nearly gone.

S: I’m sorry! I took up all your time. Just before you – because I meant to ask this as well – I’m going to ask everybody these questions: when you were growing up, where did you travel around? Or did you have a base? Were you always in Ennis?

Oh, God, no! I was in Tipperary, Roscrea, Kerry, I was in Listowel, now, and Tralee and all those places, I went to school for about two year in Listowel. And Offaly, Galway, Birr, and Limerick, I think it was Limerick, as well. All those places

S: And did you travel Wales and England when you were small?

No. No. Just when I got married.

S: And the other question was: what did the Monganses do for a living? How did they work?

My father was a tinsmith. All the Monganses was all tinsmiths.

S: And is that the only thing he did? Or did he do horses as well?

No, he did carpentry. My father could build waggons, cars, flats – all of those. And the tinsmithing. My mother used to sell all the tinsmith for him. He’d make people cars, [sideways?] cars, flats and the whole lot, and sell those. And he was selling and swapping horses as well. Yeah.

S: Right. And did he do any scrap?

Not that time. Maybe he did the odd scrap, now. There wasn’t a lot of scrap out that time.

S: Or what about the fairs? Or did he ever do chimneysweeping?

My father did a bit of chimneysweeping, yeah.

S: Cos I remember Danny had all the chimneysweeping gear.

Not a lot of it, now, he’d just do a little bit now and again. But he’d go around, and he’d mend a lot of pots for people, a lot of big baths for them as well, and that’s what he used to do before the dole came out. But when the dole came out then again, he used to still keep at it. It was only when he really – He only stopped it, really, you know, when we came to Ennis, my father. When we got the site there in Beechpark.

S: There was nothing to, like – that market was finished anyway.

It was. And it’s a pity. I think it’s ridiculous.

S: Well I think – it’s just me, now – I think that people need to do something with their hands.


S: Women are always doing something with their hands –

Always! The cleaning, and cooking –

S: So at least you’ve that: “I made a meal”, do you know? Men, if they don’t do something with their hands, I think they go mad. So I think it’s a pity the tinsmithing went because – it kept them sane! [laughs] A little bit! Oh, and, the fairs – did he ever do, like – I remember being at the fairs and sometimes there would be people with big wheels and card tricks and things like that. Did he ever do anything like that?

Cards? No.

S: What families did do the cards?

Well, the only families that I know did cards was the Clarkes, from Limerick.

S: Right! I met them.

Charlie Clarke.

S: Yes! I met one of his daughters.

They’re the only family I ever heard of doing cards at the markets.

S: I actually met one of the Clarkes. Doll, I think, is her name.

I don’t know them. I just – I knew Old Charlie, he’d a long – he used to have his hair dyed blond. It’s pure white now, but it’s still long! Two little ringlets. Are you getting a cup of tea?

S: Thank you!