|Posted on March 22, 2012 at 1:35 AM|
Rapparees, Tories, Outlaws?
Part 2 of The Story of the Travellers
In the first section of this story I outlined the position and attitudes of Irish people to the Travellers in our time, and how relations have deteriorated in a few generations. Now we are going to step back a couple of centuries through the 19th century, into the 18th and 17th centuries to trace the people.
An Interesting Puzzle
As we travel back further in time, say roughly 400 years, we will see that there are no signs of Travellers in Irish records. no mention of nomads wandering the country. What we do find instead is a fully functioning Irish society.
We will also see that there is no word in the Irish language denoting anyone similar to a Traveller. Hence the many bland nicknames for them throughout the centuries. So we have a puzzle. Where are they? Where did they appear from? This is the subject of this chapter.
Everybody must come from somewhere, and so if it is in the 17th and 18th centuries that they appeared, It is in those centuries we will findout why they appeared.
The 19th Century
In the 19th century there were people called Tinceiri, or Na Lucht Suil, The Walking People, who we would recognise as the ancestors of the modern Travellers. These existed before the The Great Hunger and suffered and were displaced by it along with the rest of the population.
It is from this time that we have good records of the traditions of the people of Ireland. Until the 1850's, or only four generations ago, Irish was still the majority language on the island. Before going further we should make a quick note of the traditions and lifestyle that was documented at the time as it may prove important we compare habits and attitudes in the past.
Habits and Traditions
Arriving at weddings and funerals
dealing in horses
travelling in circuits
availing of hospitality
The Lost Century
In the 18th century Ireland was on its knees, the Penal laws were in full effect and so an apartheid reigned in which a very few, ruled very many.
the hedge people
Sinéad ní Shuinéar
A complaint from the 18th century
"And Gentility, they have such an influence on the poor tenants of their own Nation and Religion by their pretended Title and, who live on those Lands, that these Tenants look on them still, though out of possession of their Estates, as a kind of landlords; maintain them after a fashion in Idleness, and entertain them in their Coshering Manner. These Vagabonds reckoned themselves great Gentlemen, and that it would be a great Disparagement to them to betake themselves to any Calling,Trade or Way of Industry."
The 17th Century
This is by far the most turbulent century in Irish history, and it is during this period between the Nine Years war in 1594-1603 and its continuation in The Confederate War against Cromwell that the first large scale disposession of Irish people took place.
who were the particular target of these laws were the nobility, the warriors those that posed the most clear threat to the new rulers.
the vagrancy laws will illustrate the clever application of onelawto differing effects in two countries. In England the law ssept up the poorest and some politiccally inconvenient people, in Ireland, it tareted the recently dispossessed, the former landholders and leaders.
the aftermath of the war was dreadful
Guerrilla soldiers at this time were called rapaire rapparees
At the same time the constant fighting not only kept armies on the move,but turned villagers into 'creaghts' - or herds of refugees with their livestock - transferring out of war-torn areas under the leadership of their local lords.
A creaght could be formed by the settled population of a districttemporarily displaced in time of war, moving as a train of refugees,or aggressive migrants, under the leadership of their own chief.
There were also certain classes within society -- landless nobles,wandering poets or mercenary soldiers -- who were accustomed to migrate from one landlord to another, with their band of followers and livestock... [A]n increase in this class of landless noblemen and the warfare associated with the Tudor reconquest combined with an existing pattern of transhumance to bring about the situation in 1610 where society in mid-Ulster was perceived as being organised in creaghts or `herds' rather than into villages."
The commissioners for the government of Ireland, "perceiving the inconveniency of permitting the Irish to live in Creaghts, after a loose and disorderly manner," issued orders for the "fixing such persons upon lands proportionable to their respective stock, and enjoining them to betake themselves to tillage and husbandry." In other words, they were to become farmers.
Refusal led to their cattle and stock being seized and sold "for the best advantage of the Commonwealth."
And so began the first attempts by central government to "settle" people percieved as vagabonds, the same people whom they had actually displaced in the first place.
Categories: The Story of the Irish Travellers