Travellers as countercultural

Mícheál Ó hAodha

in ‘Insubordinate Irish’

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780719083044
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702437 | DOI:
Travellers as countercultural

Show Summary Details


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

Chapter.  4199 words. 

Subjects: Sociology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.