Authors: Gloria Whelan
Megan spends her summers traveling around the Irish countryside with her family. They move from place to place, hauling their caravan (camper) behind their old car, never staying very long in any one location. But Megan and her family aren't on vacation. This is their way of life. Megan and her family are Irish Travelers; people who do not have permanent homes and who move from place to place, often following work opportunities.
As part of their summer life, Megan's father works odd jobs, from field work to roofing houses to cleaning chimneys or stables. Despite the hard work and rough living, Megan loves her life and the freedom that comes from traveling the open road.
But at summer's end, when there's no more work to be had, it's time for the family to move to the city of Dublin. The caravan is parked and they move into a cramped house. Megan and her siblings attend the local school as their parents struggle to make ends meet. And as the seasons pass, Megan counts down the days until she can return to her summer life.
Through the voice of a young girl, award-winning author Gloria Whelan captures the life and spirit of the people known as Travelers.
An Irish Traveler's Story
Written by Gloria Whelan and Illusrated by Beth Peck
Tales of the World
Sleeping Bear Press
To Eva Nolan
For Emma and Anna Rose
here are two of me, the winter Megan Brady and the summer Megan Brady It's summer in Ireland now and we live in a house that travels with us. When winter comes we'll live in a
a house that stays in one place.
When I complain that my life is too mixed up, Daddy points to the swallows, arrowing back and forth in the sky.
“Megan,” he says, “the swallows are Travelers like we are. They are here all summer, and then like us they fly away when winter comes.”
Do the swallows like it here or where they go in the winter? I think of a swallow shut up in a school, beating its wings against the window.
For longer than anyone can remember our folks have wandered the roads of Ireland. When Daddy was a boy he lived in a barrel wagon drawn by a horse. I'd like that better than our old caravan that breaks down all the time.
tells us to move along. The
laugh at us and call us tinkers. “Tinkers” is a name they give us because we Travelers used to go from village to village to repair tin kettles and buckets.
Like me, Daddy is happiest on the road.
know all about the place where you are, but what's ahead can be anything you want it to be, so there's never any bad in it.
Today we park in Mr. O'Connor's field. Daddy will give O'Connor a hand with cultivating the potato field like he did last year. My sisters and brothers and I tumble out of the dusty caravan and run for O'Connor's pond, our dog, Willie, at our heels.
We're hot from being shut up all day We jump in the pond. Nine-year-old Maeve slips through the water like an otter. Mary is five and stays where it's shallow. I'm ten. I turn on my back and float. I look up at the sky and watch the clouds turn into sheep. Tim and Jimmy are twins. They're twelve and busy ducking each other and splashing us. Willie is in the pond and then out, shaking off the water.
When we get back to the caravan, wet and shivering, Daddy and Mammy are waiting for us. Mammy says, “Get yourselves dried off and into your clothes. We're moving on.”
“O'Connor got himself a machine to cultivate his crops,” Daddy says. “He's no need of me.” Jimmy and Tim beg to stay on for another day but Daddy uses his angry voice to tell them to hurry up. “We're not staying where we're not wanted,” he says, climbing into the caravan and slamming the door.
There's more and more places we can't go. One of them is the Gormans' farm where Daddy used to dig turf and stack it for the winter to feed their fireplace. Last year Mr. Gorman and his neighbors bought themselves a machine to do the work.
It's dark when Daddy finally pulls into a campground. Mammy's happy because it's got a water faucet and I'm happy because it's got an outhouse and I don't have to go in the field.
There's two other Travelers' caravans parked nearby We hear a fiddle and pipes. It's a party for sure. We head for their campfire. Travelers are happiest when they are with other Travelers. We trust one another more than we trust
I smell something delicious. Pig roasting. There'll be food for us because Travelers are never strangers to one another. Mammy and Daddy are sure to find they are related to someone. That's the way with Travelers.
The fiddler and piper play There's singing, some of the words in
which is our Travelers' secret language. We never tell anyone what a
word means unless they are one of us. There are songs and stories of the old days.
Travelers don't have history books but we have our songs and stories.
My favorite stories are ghost stories. There's plenty of ghost stories this night and my sisters and I all sleep tight together.