Friday, February 09, 2024


By Caroline Clemmons

In THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, the heroine, Cenora O’Neill, and her family were among those turned off their land by an English landlord. Rather than starve, they joined a band of Irish Travellers. How did they end up trekking across the U.S.? You’ll have to read the book to learn the answer.

Cenora O'Neill

Recently, I was the guest speaker at the Irish-American Society of Dallas TX. I discussed my book, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, which some members had read beforehand. In my talk, I spent a few minutes talking about Irish Travellers because they play a prominent role in the story.

 Many scholars believe Irish Travellers' language is descended from medieval minstrels and poets who traveled Ireland in the 13th century telling myths and stories. Those medieval entertainers were respected and learned. That ancient language crops up in the Irish Travellers’ language called Shelta, a mixture of English and Irish grammar. Their dialect, or Cant, allows them to speak freely in front of what they call the  “settled people,” "buffers," or the non-travellers. They are careful that no non-traveller learn Shelta.

 At the time of English occupation, many Irish families were turned out of their homes. Since it was illegal for Irish to learn to read and write—only the English could attend schools and universities—the homeless Irish were ill equipped to fend for themselves. Some attended what were called hedgerow schools, where a person who knew how to read and write taught with only sticks and dirt as writing tools. Doesn't it make you angry that a group of people were denied education?

Photo from 1954, but times have changed.

Many homeless Irish families drifted into accompanying the traveling minstrels and other entertainers. Eventually, they became the Irish Travellers. At first they camped in fields. Later, they acquired tents, then the colorful wagons that resemble gypsy wagons.

They are not gypsies, though. Gypsies are Romani and are thought to have originated in India. Their religion is Rom. Travellers are of Irish origin, although they have now spread throughout the Western world. Legislation in Ireland has set aside special camping places for the Travelers. Much controversy exists over whether the children should be forced to attend school or not. In the U.S., they are supposed to attend school. Fortunately, more and more are graduating from high school and some are going on to university and to additional training.

On 1 March 2017, the Irish state recognized Irish Travellers as a distinct ethnic group. An ethnic group is defined as one whose members identify with each other, usually the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestryl Ethnic identity is also marked by the recognition from others of a group's distinctiveness and by common cultural, linguistics, religious, behavioral or biological traits.  

Generalizing, most of the families are Roman Catholic and in general, the wives attend mass. They were/are also called Tinkers because there was usually one among them who repaired pots and pans and metal wares. In one of Louis L’Amour’s books, a Tinker makes a large knife for Tell Sackett, the description of which resembles that of a Bowie knife.

Irish Travellers and Irish-American Travellers face discrimination and racial hatred. Their children are the target for bullies at school and the adults are the target of the type of law enforcement members who like to throw around their weight.  As with any group, Travelers include good and bad citizens. Most earn an honest  living working in various forms of construction or carnival concessions. Unfortunately, those who are dishonest often ply one of the construction trades such as roofing, house painting, or paving. The tricksters get half the money up front or a down payment—supposedly for supplies—and are never seen again. Please don’t think I’m bashing the Irish. I’m of Scot-Irish descent and love anything to do with Ireland!.

 By the way, if you haven’t read, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, why wait? Here is the buy link at Amazon, where you’ll find e-book and print.

The book is also available in Kindle Unlimited.

While you’re at Amazon, please click the Follow button by my name/bio. 

Stay safe and keep reading!


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