Travellers are also an oppressed minority in Ireland. They have a very strong culture and have been subject to pretty bad treatment in Ireland pretty much since they "arrived". Now I'm Irish
and I always thought that their origin was from the famine
and the large number of people who were dispossessed of their land, however it seems that the travellers have been around since the 5th century (that's longer than the English
According to a time line at http://www.pitt.edu/~alkst3/Timeline.html '5th Century Itinerant Irish smiths travelled and produced ornaments and weapons for room and board'. Then in 1243
an English law was passed to control the 'wandering Irish'
(much good its had I'm living in Germany now, but I digress). That seems to have been the start of an organised oppression
which continued, from 1575 when
Sir Henry Sidney execute
d itinerants at court in Cork
, right through to today. At the moment the best way not to get a drink
in a bar
in Ireland (which is pretty damn hard it has to be said (not getting a drink I mean)), or to get refused admission into a nightclub is to be a traveller.
In the past 5 years anti discrimination legislation has come into effect and there have been many cases upholding the rights of travellers, however discrimination continues with publican refusing entry on the grounds of safety, being in fear of the bar brawls that will spontaneously erupt when travellers and settled folk mix (?).
One myth that I certainly heard of is that mixing with travellers would mean that you lost your property, they were bad luck. You see owning land is deeply rooted in the Irish psychology so losing ownership was one of the most frightening things an Irish person could be faced with. The land loosing thing was connected to the famine. This is of course complete bunkum (as an aside Irish people are still very attracted to property ownership and will build a wall about four feet high or higher around their gardens when they have a garden!)
In the 1940's through to the mid 80's the Irish government tried to "settle" the travellers. They tend to live in caravans in large family groups and, well, travel. Only in the last decade and a half, now they are recognised as an ethnic minority, have the government tried to provide them with suitable facilities, these being Halting sites where you can park your caravan, connect to electricity, clean running water and sanitary facilities. Sounds good right? Wrong. Every one wants the government to build halting sites (just some where else thank you very much!). As a result there is still a dire lack of facilities which invariably tend to be overtaxed and under resourced.
If you ever see large (small car sized) rocks on the perimeter of public parks or at the entrance to public fields in Ireland they have been placed there to prevent travellers to setting up camp. Next time you visit Ireland just look out to see how many of these there are. Yes that's right there are lots!.
Travellers are also known as itinerants, tinkers and as knackers.
The former relates to the probable fact that they are connected to the itinerant tinkers of old, the third name is an insult. Travellers area horse culture. Horses are highly valued. A knacker is someone who rends dead horses.
The travelling community is depicted (parodied?) in many films, such as Snatch, Into the west, The Field
and This is my father. Travellers are an integral part of Irish culture and to this day are an important aspect to the many fairs that happen throughout the country such as the Puck fair in Killorglin Co Kerry.