Irish Travellers

Originating in Ireland more than one thousand years ago, Irish Travellers separated from their settled brethren to establish distinct communities, language, and mores. (For verisimilitude, I’ve used the Irish spelling of traveller.) An emphasis on family and community allegiance, acceptance of child marriages, resistance to structured education, and a belief that “settled folk” were designed to be fooled characterized their beliefs. Emigrating to the United States in the early 19th century, groups of families traveled in canvas-covered wagons, filled with all their worldly goods, seeking work. Known for their skills as tinkers, the men mended tinware, such as pots, kettles, and pans, while the women peddled small items, such as combs, beads, laces or paper flowers like those that Maeve crafts in Graven Images. Rightfully viewed with suspicion, travellers often absconded with residents’ belongings and left town without completing paid-for-work. Their wandering lifestyle, romanticized as freedom, is probably more fantasy than reality, I suspect.