This text attempts to analyse the various similarities and differences between Irish traveller Diasporas in Great Britain and the United States with the original Irish travellers in Ireland. …
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The common heritage will be explored first in order to discern the connection between these geographically distinct groups. A comparison across cultures will be made for various cultural aspects such as language, religion, society etc. This will aid in discerning how well preserved the Diaspora cultures are in respect to the original culture.
HISTORICAL CONNECTION AND ORIGINS
The origins of the Irish Travellers have been mired in mystery. Myriad theories and ideas exist as to the origin of the travellers. (Helleiner, 2003) Most scholars hold that the Travellers descended from landowners and labourers who were persecuted by Oliver Cromwell during his military campaign in Ireland. The numbers are speculated to have increased as the famines of the 1840’s forced more settled Irish people to join the ranks of the travellers. Another alternative theory sees the Travellers as a mix of Scottish Travellers and certain other gypsies from England from somewhere around the 1600’s. An even older view persists that the Irish Travellers are derivatives of nomadic groups that roamed Ireland as far back as the 5th century. By the 12th century these nomads assumed the names of “Tynkler” and “Tynker”. (O Riain, 2008) A unified social system is seen to have emerged but the exact details of such a social system remain sketchy. The Irish Travellers were not and are not a highly learned group so historical records are neither stored nor transmitted. Gaps in each of the theories presented above indicate that no theory can be seen as a culmination of the origins. Instead, the Travellers can be seen as a dynamically changing social group. Various influences such as the ones presented above have impacted the group’s cultural outlook. Changes in transport aided the Travellers in crossing regular geographical boundaries. Consequently the travellers continued to move to Britain and North America till immigration laws allowed. The resulting groups in various geographical boundaries offer commonly shared and unique perspectives that are analysed below in context of a common culture. Baseline Irish Traveller Culture The Irish Travellers are not ethnically distinct from the Irish people. Instead, the Irish Travellers are actually derived from the Irish people. However, the culture of the Irish Travellers is distinct and distinguished from regular Irish culture. The cultural development of the Irish Travellers has more or less occurred in isolation from popular Irish culture. There are streaks of some other cultural influences as listed above. These cultural influences include Christianity, Roma gypsies and localised influences on the Irish Traveller Diaspora. (O hAodha & Acton, 2007) An overview of common cultural traits of the Irish Travellers are provided below which will be used as a baseline to evaluate newer cultural developments of the Diaspora. Profession As mentioned before, the Irish Travellers were known as “Tynkers” which represents the prime profession of the travellers. The travellers were traditionally repairmen for tin pots and pans. Given that pot repair is not a regular function, the travellers would move about the countryside from settlement to settlement to repair utensils. This tendency produced a nomadic character while the profession became the identity of the travellers. The travellers became distinguished tin smiths but the dearth of work in one place caused them to be on the move. It is also mused that the travellers would purchase animals, often old ones in order to fulfil their nourishments needs. Thus they were also known as “knackers” in relation to their animal purchases. (Okely, 1983) Dealing in horses was a speciality of the Travellers. They
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