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Irish Tinkers On the Road in the 1970s

Janine Wiedel | Ireland

"We're queer ways travelling people. One night we'll stay and one night we'll not and we'll have the whole camp gone up and thrown into a cart. Cocks and roosters and goats and all the crockery and the kettle bar and all your belongings heaped together on the back of the cart....'

A selection from: "IRISH TINKERS, A Portrait of Irish Travellers in the 1970's". The book was originally published in 1976 and the hard copy is now out of print.

Through photographs by Janine Wiedel and transcripts by Martina O'Fearadhaigh, the book documents this resilient nomadic subculture and it's battle in the 1970s to survive independently and to remain unfettered by persuasions of education, television and the authorities to conform. A way of life based on basic survival and extraordinarily close family ties. A community in transition.

The iBook is available on the ibook store:


Please note: The transcripts alongside the photographs are not the words spoken by the people depicted in the particular photograph. They are however accurate transcriptions by Martina O'Fearadhaigh of the words of Irish Tinker interviewed.

In the early 1970's, I spent five years traveling back and forth to Ireland visiting and photographing the Irish Tinkers (now called Travellers).  I was fascinated by their nomadic lifestyle and their ability to survive and live independently despite the efforts of society and the authorities to force them into permanent campsite or houses.

It was a way of life based on extrordinarily close family ties, a resistance to acquisition of material possessions and an honest philosophy of making do: using other peoples spare change, trees as washing lines, a farmers field for grazing ponies, scrap tin for making pots and pans.   Children were taught to live by their wits; accepting death and trouble with the same fatalism as they would storms and bad weather.

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