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‘Insubordinate Irish’Travellers in the Text$
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Mícheál Ó hAodha

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780719083044

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719083044.001.0001

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Travellers as countercultural

Travellers as countercultural

(p.80) 6 Travellers as countercultural
‘Insubordinate Irish’

Mícheál Ó hAodha

Manchester University Press

Irish oral tradition had a range of beliefs concerning the existence of countercultures made up of beggars and various types of wanderers. The countercultural motifs incorporating the idea of a ‘pagan’ marriage ceremony provided a link connecting the construction of Travelling people with an imagined sexual licentiousness and a romantic concept of ‘freedom’. Apart from the Tinker Questionnaire, most of the Irish Folklore Commission (IFC) references to fighting by Travellers pertain to challenges and single combats. According to the IFC respondents, Travellers utilised two forms of secret communication. One involved a spoken language known as Cant or Gammon, and the second, a sign language that took the form of physical ‘markers’. The notion of a separate ‘Travelling society’ that was presided over by its own rulers, and which was the subject of separate and secretive practices and taboos, had very old roots in the European imaginary.

Keywords:   Irish oral tradition, Travellers, countercultural motifs, Tinker Questionnaire, Irish Folklore Commission, secret communication

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