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CURRENT THEMES IRISH TRAVELLERS: A CONTRIBUTION DENIED NIALL CROWLEY a popular ballad celebrates the musical skills of an Irish Traveller, John Cash: “My name is Cash the piper / And I’m seen at race and fair / I’m known to all the jolly souls / From Wicklow to Kildare.” Born in 1832, Cash was renowned for his uileann pipe playing. The Cashs from Wexford and the Dorans from Wicklow are two Traveller families that have contributed much to the development of a distinct Traveller style of piping which has had a great inXuence on many well-known pipers from the settled community . This contribution was recently acknowledged in an exhibition in Dublin entitled “Pavee Pipers and Players” highlighting the signiWcant impact the Travellers, a small minority in Ireland, have had on Irish traditional music. It celebrates the singing skills of Margaret Barry and the Pecker Dunne. It tells of Jack Cash, son of John Cash, who was renowned for his ability to play any tune using nothing more than an ivy leaf. It reveals how the Docherties brought the Wddle to Donegal in the late eighteenth century. As commercial nomads, as a people with a long tradition of craftsmanship, and as musicians, Travellers have made a central contribution to the development of the Irish musical tradition. The Wddle was an expensive instrument, so the Traveller’s ability to make tin Wddles made this instrument much more broadly accessible. Travellers also made such instruments as Uilleann pipes of the highest quality. Another important service provided by the Travellers was the repair of instruments. Settled musicians, often isolated in a small town, depended on the arrival of the Travellers to bring new songs, techniques, and styles. Travellers down through the years have been passing on their musical expertise and tunes as they went from town to town. They have been both bearers and custodians of culture. This contribution remains largely unacknowledged by the general public owing to the predominance of many negative stereotypes about Travellers. Travellers also Wnd themselves in a situation of crisis where IRISH TRAVELLERS: A CONTRIBUTION DENIED 147 obstacles are placed in the way of their ongoing contribution. Nomadism, an important element of the Traveller way of life, is blocked. Traditional camping spots are covered over and policies promote forced settlement. Previously an outdoor activity, most music sessions now take place indoors and, thus, are no longer accessible to Travellers owing to discrimination . This lack of an outlet for musical skills has contributed to their decline in the Traveller community. “Pavee Pipers and Players” is one response to this situation from the Dublin Travellers Education Development Group (DTEDG). The group is made up of Travellers and settled people who came together at a time of intense public hostility to Travellers, in 1983, to develop new responses to the predicament of the Travellers. Since that time, the group has grown to take on a national role as a resource for Travellers, groups working with Travellers, and for policy-makers. The DTEDG has also developed its own premises—a converted church called Pavee Point. Pavee Point has become an important focus for cultural regeneration. It plays host to the National Traveller Arts Festival which provides a national platform for emerging and established Traveller artists. Folklore collections provide Travellers with the space and resources to explore their history, traditions, and identity. Pavee Point also hosts a range of training programs for Travellers. These aim to address the broad exclusion experienced by Travellers through promoting a positive sense of Traveller identity and through giving Travellers access to the skills they need to respond to their own situation. A central principle of the work is that the Travellers must be active participants in changing their situation if that change is to be relevant—without this, change continues to be an imposition from the outside. Likewise Pavee Point is also a resource to the settled majority . This is important as it is the settled majority who are challenged to change if the situation of Travellers is to improve. Hostility and misunderstanding characterize many of the responses of settled people to Travellers . Pavee Point seeks to promote new analysis and understanding of Travellers and to challenge the...


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pp. 147-155
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