Irish Travellers refer to themselves as Pavees, Minkiers or in Irish ‘an lucht siúil’ meaning ‘the walking people’. They are a traditionally itinerant ethnic group who maintain a set of traditions including their own secret language.
A Traveller wagon is primarily a home, not a vehicle. Travellers use a cart (sometimes called a dray) as people today would use a car. They both need to be pulled by an experienced horse or there will be trouble!
This was one of the main trades of the Irish Traveller.
Tinsmiths make and repair items such as water pitchers, forks, spoons, and candle holders made from tin and other light materials.
The Gypsy or Traveller leaves a ‘patteran’ on a vacated pitch to indicate where they are heading.
A patteran could be a hazel stick banded in a certain way.
Irish Travellers have a rich oral tradition of tales and songs that stretches back hundreds, possibly thousands of years.
As a transient community they relied on self-made entertainment, writing songs and telling stories about the Traveller way of life. Traditional Gaelic storytellers and song writers were called ‘seanachies.’
The community have played an important role in keeping many great songs in circulation and shaping Irish folk tradition as we know it. The lyrical vocal ornamentation of the Irish Traveller tradition has been compared to ‘sean nos’ or ‘old style’ Irish singing, developed by singers at the court of the kings of old Ireland.
Attending horse fairs is an important tradition for many Traveller and Gypsy families. It is a place where they can buy and sell horses, meet with friends and family and celebrate their music, history and heritage.
Traveller and Gypsy Cobs are known for their good nature and willingness to work harmoniously with their owner.
Here are some photos from a horse farir, including washing horses in the river Eden in Appleby so that they look their best before trading begins.
Many Travellers live in modern ‘trailers’ (caravans) today. However, many have moved into housing due to a lack of land or for health and education reasons.
Shelta is a language spoken by Irish Travellers. It is widely known as the Cant and De Gammon to its native speakers in Ireland. It was often spoken to exclude outsiders from understanding conversations.
Romani (or Romany) is actually several languages spoken by the Romani people. There are many varieties that are different enough to be considered languages in their own right. These include Vlax Romani and Sinte Romani.