Girls in Ireland’s Traveller Community
A new NPR series, the Hidden World of Girls, will take a look at the young women of the Irish Traveller community. You may recognize them for their titles from the past… gypsies or tinkers.
The series will air this Thursday, April 29, as part of NPR’s Morning Edition, and it sounds as though it will provide a unique look at this segment of the Irish population that tends to go almost unnoticed by tourists.
Here’s how the program’s producers describe the show:
The Hidden World of Traveller Girls
Travellers, sometimes called the gypsies of Ireland, the people of walking. They speak of non-travellers as “the settled people.” Mistrusted for the most part and not well-understood. Nomads, moving in caravans, living in encampments on the side of the road.
They are the breeders and traders of some of Ireland’s best horses. And their tradition as “tinkers” or tinsmiths goes back hundreds of years. As times change in Ireland, and the notions of private and public space change and contract, the culture no longer accepts the Travellers on public and private lands and has begun to create “halts” where they can settle.
Helen Connors lives in Hazel Hill, a new government experiment in Traveller housing on the lower slopes of Dublin Mountain, with her husband and 2 children. She is 21. She left school at 11 because the teachers said there was no reason to waste time teaching Helen and the other Traveller girls because they marry young, have a lot of babies. She says she never really learned to read in school.
Girls are raised to dream of wedding days and dresses, some with 50 foot trains and an identically dressed mini bride as part of the procession. Their weddings are usually brokered by their fathers, with large dowries expected from the bride to the family of the groom.
We visit a settled woman and her daughter who design elaborate Traveller wedding gowns. We travel to Cahirmee Horse Fair in County Cork where young girls with long hair spilling parade and marriages are made. We listen to these young women, their stories and music and explore some of the ancient and modern Traveller rituals clinging on the edge of the Celtic Boom.
- Visit the Hidden World of Girls website
- Subscribe to the Hidden World of Girls podcast
- Note: We used the Irish/UK spelling of the word “Traveller” in this post
- Special thanks to the Kitchen Sisters for contributing to this post