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'Tinkers'Synge and the Cultural History of the Irish Traveller$

Mary Burke

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199566464

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199566464.001.0001

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(p.279) Appendix: Biographical Notes

(p.279) Appendix: Biographical Notes

Oxford University Press

The following biographical notes detailing the more obscure figures considered, as well as the unexamined interest in the tinker of certain better‐known individuals, are offered in acknowledgment of the diverse range of writers and commentators mentioned in this study.

Arden, John (1930–), major post‐war British playwright. Live Like Pigs (1958), an early play produced by London's Royal Court Theatre, deals with the tension that erupts between a forcibly‐settled nomadic family and their neighbours. Arden moved to Galway in the late 1960s with his Irish wife and collaborator, Margaretta D’Arcy, and the couple turned their attention to local issues. They produced a series of collaborative street dramas during the 1970s, one of which, No Room at the Inn, considered Traveller‐sedentary clashes.

Borrow, George (1803–81), author, Gypsy expert, and linguist. The Victorian literary fad for romanticized Gypsies was initiated by Borrow's imprecisely located picaresques, which consisted of semi‐autobiographical narratives of his escapades with Romanies, tramps, and tinkers such as The Zincali (1841), a huge seller in Britain and overseas, and The Bible in Spain (1843).

Bulfin, William (1862–1910), Offaly‐born author of the travel book, Rambles in Eirinn (1907). Bulfin emigrated to Argentina in his teens and returned to Ireland in 1902. A vigorous defender of Catholic rights and a friend of Arthur Griffith, Bulfin's antipathy to the Anglo‐Irish Abbey Theatre playwrights and their perceived appropriation of the tinker is much on display in his travel narrative.

Campbell, Joseph (1879–1944), Belfast poet associated with the Ulster Literary Theatre.

Carney, John Francis (Frank) (1904–77), a dramatist born in County Galway and educated in St Jartlath's Tuam and at the National University, Carney was a civil servant in the Old Age Pensions Department of the Free State government. The Abbey produced three of his plays: They Went by Bus (1939), Peeping To m (1940), and The Righteous Are Bold (1946). The third of his National Theatre productions concerns the possession of an Irish woman by the violent two‐hundred‐year‐old spirit of a Spanish Gypsy. The play was a considerable success, and continues to enjoy amateur productions in Ireland and the United States.

(p.280) Casey, Juanita (1925–), novelist and poet. Casey was born in England and raised by an adoptive family with ties to the Mills‐Fossett Circus, from whom she received a boarding‐school education. She later spent many years travelling as a circus animal trainer. Until she was in her seventies and discovered otherwise, she believed her biological parents to have been an Irish Traveller mother and an English Romany father. Casey emerged onto the literary scene in 1971 with the novel The Horse of Selene, and has published two novels, two poetry collections, and one book of short stories. She currently resides in Devon, where she has been breeding horses.

Colum, Pádraic (1881–1972), the son of a workhouse master, Colum selfconsciously cultivated a ‘tramp’ persona in his autobiographical writing. His play, The Fidder's House (1907), and his much‐anthologized poem, ‘An Old Woman of the Roads’ (1905), valorized peoples of the road.

Coffey, Charles (1700?–1745), Dublin‐born dramatist and author of The Beggar's Wedding (1729), a version of Gay's Beggar's Opera set in his home city which made comic use of the motif of inverted beggar ritual.

Crofton, Henry Thomas (b.1848), Manchester‐based Gypsylorist and author of seminal papers on Shelta. Crofton was a member of an extensive family descended from John Crofton of Ballymurry, Co. Roscommon, Queen Elizabeth's Escheator‐General of Ireland. He consolidated Romani as a subject of scholarly interest with Dialect of the English Gypsies (1875), which he co‐ authored with Bath Charles Smart. Crofton served as president of the Gypsy Lore Society from 1908 to 1909.

D'Arcy, Margaretta (1934–), Irish actress and wife and sometime collaborator of British playwright John Arden.

Dugdale, Richard (1842–83), prison reformer and author of The Jukes (1877), a foundational text of Eugenic Family Studies, a slew of investigations of the perpetuation of deviance within white rural families produced by researchers affiliated with the US Eugenics Record Office. Dugdale was born in Paris to English parents who later moved to New York. At the age of 27, he became a member of the executive committee of the Prison Association of New York, and formulated his study while acting as a prison inspector during 1874.

Gmelch, George, a contemporary American anthropologist who, with collaborator Sharon Bohn Gmelch, produced an enormous body of work on Travellers throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, at a time when the minority was of little interest to Irish academics. Their theories that Traveller culture (p.281) is primarily rural and that a Traveller population of archaic origin absorbed dropouts from sedentary culture were extremely influential.

Gmelch, Sharon Bohn, see George Gmelch.

Grellmann, Heinrich (1753–1804), ethnographer and historian based at Göttingen University. Grellmann collated Historischer Versuch über die Zigeuner/Dissertation on the Gipsies (1783), a study that purported to expose the Indian origins of European Gypsies through linguistic detective work. The earliest ‘standard work’ on Gypsies, its significance lies in its crystallization of dispersed stereotypes gleaned from earlier commentaries. Gypsy studies in the following centuries often unashamedly paraphrased it.

Gwynn, Stephen (1864–1950), Donegal‐raised nationalist, soldier, and man of letters. Gwynn's The Fair Hills of Ireland (1906) drew upon Irish mytho‐ historic and folk traditions centred on the putative contemporary survivals of pre‐Celtic peoples, population traces that were more explicitly named as modern Travellers by Eóin MacNeill.

Hackett, William, a mid‐nineteenth‐century amateur antiquarian and Irish language enthusiast from Midleton, Co. Cork, and a member of the Ossianic Society from its foundation. His portrait of the Irish tramp as a member of a highly‐organized secret brotherhood in an early 1860s article for the Ulster Journal of Archeology obviously draws upon English rogue literature precedents.

Hanna, Charles A., American author of The Scotch‐Irish (1902), a refutation of contemporaneous attempts to reclaim the Scots‐Irish (Ulster‐Scots) for a broad Irish‐American identity.

Henry, Paul (1876–1958), Belfast‐born artist. Inspired by Synge's writings on Aran, Henry lived on the Mayo island of Achill for seven years, beginning in 1912.

Hoyland, John, Quaker activist and author of the influential and Grellmann‐ inspired Historical Survey of the Customs, Habits, and Present State of the Gypsies (1816), which was based on the results of a questionnaire on Gypsies and tinklers circulated to the Sheriff of every county of Scotland.

John, Augustus (1878–1961), Welsh artist and leading light of the British bohemian scene. John was avidly interested in the subjects of Gypsies and tinkers, and was elected Gypsy Lore Society President in 1936.

Joyce, Nan (1940–), Travellers' rights representative and memoirist of Traveller life. Joyce was born in Tipperary, but moved to Belfast as a 3‐year‐old. She (p.282) became extremely well known for her activism during the 1970s and 1980s, and eventually stood as a candidate in national elections.

Keating, Geoffrey (Seathrún Céitinn) (c.1580–c.1644), Hiberno‐Norman poet and the last significant pseudo‐historian writing in Irish, Keating was ordained as a priest in Ireland in 1603 before receiving his education in France. Foras Feasa air Éirinn / History of Ireland (1634), a composite of antiquarianism and Gaelic mytho‐historiography, underlined Ireland's Oriental links.

Lawless, Emily (1845–1913), Irish novelist. Her sentimental Grania: The Story of an Island (1892) is set on Inishmaan and takes the side of the tough island heroine against the males of Aran.

Leland, Charles Godfrey (1824–1903), Philadelphia‐born translator, scholar of Gypsy culture, and author. Leland claimed to have ‘discovered’ Shelta, the Irish ‘tinkers’ language’, in Bath in 1880, when he was already a well‐ known scholar of Romany culture. A graduate of Princeton, Leland lived and studied in continental Europe during the 1840s. Today his extensive work on Romany culture and language is largely forgotten, although his reputation as the author of ‘Hans Breitmann's Ballads’, humorous verses centred on European immigrants, survives in the United States.

Linehan, John. C., Irish‐American author of The Irish Scots and the ‘Scotch‐ Irish’, (1902), an explicit attempt to re‐Hibernicize the Scots‐Irish.

Liszt, Franz (1811–86), experimental Hungarian composer of the Romantic period. He described his lengthy delineation of the Gypsy influence in Hungarian music, Des Bohémiens et de leur Musique en Hongrie (1859), translated as The Gipsy in Music in 1926, as an ‘overgrown preface’, whose aim was to elucidate the Rhapsodies Hongroise.

Lynd, Robert (1879–1949), Irish journalist, travel writer, and nationalist. Lynd was the son of a Belfast Presbyterian minister and a graduate of Queen's University Belfast. He is the author of Home Life in Ireland (1909) and the tramping narrative, Rambles in Ireland (1912).

Macalister, R. Alexander Stewart (1870–1950), first Professor of Celtic Archaeology at UCD (1909–43), member of the Gypsy Lore Society, and erstwhile President of both the Royal Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Irish Academy. His archaeological research interests included Israel, Palestine, and Ireland, on which he published a number of studies, but he is equally remembered for his 1937 study of Traveller Cant, The Secret Languages of Ireland. The text was based on John Sampson's unpublished research, and remains the only full‐length Irish publication on the subject.

(p.283) McDonagh, Rosaleen (b. 1967), Sligo‐born contemporary human rights activist and playwright of Irish Traveller heritage. McDonagh was a 2002 Seanad Éireann (Irish Senate) candidate. Her critically acclaimed and award‐ winning one‐woman play, The Baby Doll Project (2002), explores the realities of Traveller and disabled women's lives. Her most recent play, Stuck, also on the Traveller theme, was staged in Dublin in late 2007.

McDonagh, Michael, contemporary Irish Traveller activist and spokesperson.

McGinley, Peter Toner (a.k.a. Peadar MacFhionnghaile or MacFhionnlaoich, 1857–1940), a Donegal civil servant, erstwhile Gaelic League President, and dramatist. His play, Eilís agus an Bhean Déirce (first performance 1901; translated as Lizzie and the Tinker in 1970), is most likely the earliest utilization of the tinker figure in twentieth‐century Irish‐language theatre.

MacFirbis, Duald (Dubhaltach Mac Fhir Bhisigh) (?1600–1671), compiler of Gaelic mytho‐history, Sir James Ware's amanuensis, and the last of the line of the learned Mac Fhir Bhisigh family. His Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions), a compilation of medieval narratives recounting Gaelic mytho‐history from Creation onward, chronicles the pre‐Milesian (pre‐Celtic) inhabitants of Ireland of whom Travellers were later posited as survivals.

MacGréine, Pádraig (a.k.a. Patrick Greene and Master Greene, 1900– 2007), Longford schoolteacher, folklorist, and author of seminal articles on Traveller Cant for the bilingual journal Béaloideas during the 1930s, a period during which the minority's culture was of little interest to most Irish scholars. MacGréine remained interested in the topic throughout his life, and was still teaching Cant to Irish Traveller adolescents one evening a week at the age of 104.

MacNamara, Gerald (pseudonym of Harry C. Morrow, 1865–1938), a dramatist of the Ulster Literary Theatre in Belfast. The Mist That Does Be on The Bog, MacNamara's satire targeting Synge's perceived fetishization of the tramp, played to a full house at the Abbey Theatre in 1909.

MacNeill, Eóin (1867–1945), born in county Antrim, studied at St Malachy's College, Belfast, and the Royal University. MacNeill was first Professor of Early Irish History at University College Dublin, a founder of the Gaelic League, and served as Chief of Staff of the Irish Volunteers, a paramilitary organization founded by nationalists in 1913 to implement the imminent Home Rule Act. MacNeill also served as Minister for Education in the first Irish Free State government. In Phases of Irish History (1919), MacNeill's study of the peoples inhabiting Ireland from the prehistoric to the post‐Norman period, he deduces (p.284) a genetic connection between contemporary Travellers and the settlers of pre‐ Celtic Ireland.

MacRitchie, David (1861–1925), Edinburgh University‐educated accountant and son of a surgeon in the East India Company. MacRitchie founded the Gypsy Lore Society in 1889, and published extensively on British ancient history and on the pre‐historic peoples of Scotland.

Maher, Sean (1932–), Traveller memoirist. Maher was born in the County Home (workhouse) in Tullamore, and ran away from his parents and life on the road at the age of twelve, subsequently receiving a formal education. Maher's The Road to God Knows Where (1972), a record of his early years, is a foundational narrative of the Traveller memoir genre.

Marsden, William (1754–1836), an Orientalist and numismatist. Born in County Wicklow to a wealthy banker and ship‐owner, Marsden joined the East India Company in 1771, and subsequently published a History of Sumatra (1783), A Dictionary and Grammar of the Malayan Language (1812), and Numismata Orientalia (1823–5). A fellow of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta, 1784, and an original member of the Royal Irish Academy, Marsden proposed a ‘Hindostanic’ link to the Gypsy language that appeared almost simultaneously with Heinrich Grellmann's better‐known thesis on the same topic.

Mayne, Rutherford (1878–1967), pseudonym of Samuel Waddell, actor and playwright of the Ulster Literary Theatre. Mayne's The Turn of the Road (1906) centres on the struggle between sedentary and nomadic values that ensues when a musically gifted farmer's son becomes fascinated by an erudite and culturally sophisticated tramping fiddler.

Meyer, Kuno (1858–1919), celebrated German scholar of Irish who took an interest in Shelta on the basis of its perceived link to Old Irish. Meyer published articles on the subject in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society.

Millar, Ruddick (1907–52), Belfast‐born playwright and poet. Millar appropriated the Irish tinker as a figure of rural Ulster authenticity in the anti‐ development comedy, Tappytoosey (1950).

Murphy, Tom (1935–), major Tuam‐born playwright. Murphy's dramas often deploy the Traveller Cant‐derived slang of his hometown dialect to explore the social exile of those excluded by normative values.

O'Donovan, John (1806–61), renowned Irish‐language scholar and Ordnance Survey topographer. The aristocratic origin of a tinker called Mac Swyne Na Doe was described by O'Donovan in a letter from Donegal written in 1835.

(p.285) Ó Coisdealbha, Seán (1930–2006), Irish‐language dramatist and poet. Born in Indreabhán, Connemara, his poems have passed into oral tradition in the Gaeltacht, and have been included in French and English language collections of twentieth‐century Irish‐language poetry in translation. Ó Coisdealbha's comic Irish‐language drama, An Tincéara Buí /The Sallow‐Skinned Tinker, was first performed in Dublin in 1957 at the Drama Festival Championship. Ó Coisdealbha was a member of Aosdána, the prestigious Irish association of creative artists.

O'Flaherty, Liam (1896–1984), short story writer and author. As a self‐ conscious exile from mainstream sedentary and Anglophone culture due to his islander and Irish‐language heritage, O'Flaherty's work often depicts peripatetic peoples and the wandering lifestyle.

O'Kelly, Seamus (1878–1918), Revival‐era playwright and journalist. One of seven children born to a Loughrea, Co. Galway family of modest means, O'Kelly had little formal education. The Shuiler's Child (1909), a tragedy centred on the fostering of a child of a woman of the roads, was less sympathetic to the peripatetic subculture than many contemporaneous Abbey plays.

Pococke, Richard (1704–65), extensive English traveller and Anglican bishop in Ireland. Appointed Archdeacon of Dublin in 1745, and Bishop of Ossory in 1756, he was translated to the bishopric of Meath in 1765. In his influential travel narrative, A Description of the East (1743–45), Pococke suggested that the nomadic Chingani of Syria were ‘relations’ of the ‘gypsies in England’, thereby laying the imaginative groundwork for the later theory of the ‘Oriental’ links of Europe's Gypsies. Pococke's other works include the Tour in Ireland in 1752.

Richepin, Jean (1849–1926), born in Médéa, Algeria, was a prolific poet, novelist, and dramatist. Richepin's utilization of a heightened form of naturalistic language in his first book of poems, La Chanson des Gueux (The Song of the Outcasts, 1876), in which he employed underworld cant, led to the author's imprisonment for its ‘immoral’ language. Richepin's Le Chemineau (The Vagabond) was first produced at the Théâtre de l'Odéon, Paris, on 16 February 1897, where it was possibly seen by J. M. Synge.

Sampson, John (1862–1931), Cork‐born commentator on Gypsy and tinker culture. The Sampson family moved to Liverpool when John was 9 years old, but quickly fell into poverty following the death of his father. The self‐ taught Sampson, a founding member of the Gypsy Lore Society, was appointed to the newly established Liverpool University in 1892, where he befriended Kuno Meyer, the German scholar of Irish, and Gypsylorist and artist Augustus John.

(p.286) Scott, Sir Walter (1771–1832), the canonical Scottish novelist demonstrated a marked interest in the Gypsies and Hiberno‐Scottish tinklers of his country, notably in the novel Guy Mannering and in a series of articles co‐authored with Thomas Pringle that were published by Blackwood's Magazine during 1817. Scott also encouraged Walter Simson's massive survey of Scottish Gypsies, A History of the Gipsies.

Shiels, George (1886–1949), successful Abbey playwright of the 1930s and 1940s. His 1940 pro‐sedentary drama, The Rugged Path, which centres on the collision of a respectable farming family and an anarchic clan with peripatetic allies, created a record for the Abbey when it ran for eight weeks and was seen by 25,000 people.

Sigerson, George (1836–1925), Revival‐era author, nationalist, and neurologist. Dr Sigerson claimed that the pre‐Celtic settlers of Ireland had arrived on Irish shores fully evolved.

Simson, Walter, Scottish author and amateur historian. Although it was only published in 1865, Simson's influential 575‐page History of the Gipsies was collated decades earlier during the lifetime of his acquaintance and correspondent, Walter Scott. The work was edited and extensively annotated by Simson's New York‐based son, James Simson. Walter Simson's enormous volume is of interest as a collation of some hundreds of years of Scottish writings and traditions about Gypsies and tinklers.

Speakman, Harold (1888–1928), American artist and author of the combination travel book and literary guide, Here's Ireland (1925), an elegant and witty account of a Borrovian ‘tinker‐style’ journey through Ireland by ass‐cart in 1924. The spectacle caused a minor sensation, bringing Speakman to the attention of the major writers of the day.

Starkie, Walter (1894–1976), the most prolific and best‐known twentieth‐ century Irish Gypsylorist. A scholar of George Borrow's work and a lecturer in Romance Languages at Trinity College Dublin, Starkie published a number of picaresque narratives of his travels amongst Spanish Gypsies. A member of the Abbey Board from 1927 to 1942, Starkie was elected President of the Gypsy Lore Society in 1965.

Twiss, Richard (1747–1821), the wealthy elder son of an Anglo‐Dutch merchant family descended from the family of Twiss resident about 1660 at Killintierna, Co. Kerry. Author of Travels Through Portugal and Spain, in 1772 and 1773 (1775), which contains one of the earliest discussions of Spanish Gypsies in English‐language travel writing. Twiss also wrote the badly received Tour in Ireland in 1775 (1776).

(p.287) Vallancey, General Charles (1721–1812), an English‐born military surveyor and engineer of Huguenot descent who became fixated upon Irish antiquities when posted to Ireland in 1762. Founder‐member of the RIA in 1782, and founder of Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, an important journal devoted to Irish culture. A prolific author on various subjects other than Irish antiquities, Vallancey is remembered for his theories of the ‘Eastern’ origins of the ancient Irish people and language. His explicit response to Heinrich Grellmann, which suggested a proto‐Gypsy component in the ancient ‘Oriental’ Irish population, was published in 1804.

Walsh, Maurice (1879–1964), best‐selling Irish writer. Born into a farming family near Listowel, Co. Kerry, Walsh is best known for his short story, ‘The Quiet Man’, which was made into a hugely‐successful film starring John Wayne. Claimed equally by Scottish and Irish literature, Walsh began writing while working in Scotland, and his adventure novels and stories generally deployed Irish or Scottish rural settings and roving characters.

Yeats, Jack B. (1871–1957), artist and brother of poet W. B. Yeats. Yeats's childhood in rural Ireland awakened his interest in the peoples of the road, who were common subjects of his paintings and drawings. Yeats provided the line drawings for the first edition of Synge's The Aran Islands.