Historically, Irish travelers were a nomadic people of ethnic Irish origin. They have maintained a unique culture, language, and lifestyle. The Travelers compose a small minority of the population in Ireland with about 25,000 living in the Republic of Ireland.

Since there are no written records for the Travelers, scholars speculate that Irish Travelers may descended from a race of pre-Celtic minstrels and that their ranks were swelled by displaced farmers during Oliver Cromwell's campaigns of the 1600s, or that the Travelers are descended from people who lost their land during the great famine of the 1840's.   

Today, the numbers of Irish Travelers living a traditional, nomadic lifestyle has been reduced for a variety of reasons. The services that had provided their income; tinkering or tinsmithing (the making and mending of tinware such as pots and pans, funnels and lanterns), and seasonal agricultural labor are no longer needed.  Urbanization, the end of the need for tinware, and a decline in farming have all taken an economic toll on the Traveler community.

Today many Travelers are engaged in recycling, scrap metal collecting, and laying tarmac to earn a living.


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.

The garda tells us to move along. The buffers 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. You 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.

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