Irish Gypsies

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Irish Gypsies - ABOVE: On the grassy slopes beyond where the...
ABOVE: On the grassy slopes beyond where the caravans were parked, the horses grazed with the tiny bay and town of Bantry down ' b e l o w . ABOVE CENTER: The caravan as it arrived at Bantry. RIGHT: Laundry day, with the harness also being dried out at the rear of the "house on wheels." BELOW: A tidy line, the caravans parked for the day in Bantry, with the horses pastured on a hill beyond. Caravaning Across Ireland BANTRY, County Cork, Ireland It may surprise you to find that there are gypsies in Ireland. Not the Romany type we all know, but genuine genuine gypsies nevertheless -Irish -Irish gypsies. They travel in gaily decorated decorated caravans, dress with the usual abandon of color, and cleanliness, and stop where and when they feel like it, usually under some trees off the side of the road. Today we have been on a rather unique hunt. We have been searching for a group of tourists who want to be gypsies for a holiday. There are eight horse- drawn caravans, also gaily painted and canvas-topped. In fact, exact replicas of the real thing. They travel in a relaxed, leisurely manner manner behind a horse who knows the route far better than they do, and they are all having a good time. I talked to a Mr. and Mrs. Bacon and their two daughters, daughters, from England. After finding that they were all enjoying themselves, I asked Mr. Bacon how they happened to hear of it. "It was in a small pamphlet pamphlet at our travel agent's office," he said. "It was called 'Unusual Vacations', and had things that were different from the usual tour -- like houseboats, pony - trekking, and these caravans." Mrs. Bacon was enthusiastic enthusiastic about it. She was knitting knitting a gray sock, and she showed it to me and laughed; "I am making these for my father-in-law. I had meant to make two pairs because I thought I'd just sit in the caravan all . day with nothing to do, but I haven't even finished one. There's so much to see I like to sit up front in the wagon and I like to take my turn driving the horse, too." She added that they go along slowly and that she has plenty of time to look around at everything they pass. This all-day stop in Bantry is their first. Most of the days are spent slowly rolling down the scenic roads of southern Ireland. One thing she likes particularly particularly is the fact that she doesn't have to cook. There's a well-equipped mobile mobile unit travelling with, them, serving three buffet style meals every day. One of the men with this unit also helps and advises them about the harnessing of the horse, although they actually actually do it themselves. The Bacon family had no experience whatsoever with horses, but it was one of the things they all enjoyed the most. The animals are pastured in big green fields every night, and from the looks of them, it must be an agreeable life for them, too. I was reminded of the old song, "It's Just the Gypsy in My Soul" when I looked at the smiling group, many of whom were just returning returning from fishing. I guess they bear out the suspicion that we all have a little Gypsy in us. These caravan tours are unique and proving to. be so popular that the owner. Con Murphy of Cork, says he plans to add six new wagons for next year's season. season. If you have a lot of gypsy BY ANN MILLER PHOTOS BY JAY MILLER in your soul, you can rent a single caravan, and do your own cooking or stop in small wayside restaurants. restaurants. Murphy says the farmers are glad to pasture the horses, and willing to help in other ways too. One man who has fallen in 'love with caravan life said that everywhere they went the "locals" turned out to talk to them, offer assistance and even give dances for them. A girl who has been on two of the tours said one small town wanted to have a dance but the piano they had was in a top-small upstairs room. Moving it to a larger room downstairs means lowering the instrument by ropes out of the window. They didn't hesitate a moment, she said. They moved the piano, had the dance, and had a wonderful wonderful time. After Mrs. Bacon and I had talked for a while, I commented on the bits of laundry strung up between the wagons. That was when she told me it was their first real stop, and I knew from my own occasional laundry problems that they welcomed the day in Bantry Bantry for more than one reason. reason. Everyone was dressed in camping-type clothes; the women in slacks, the men in jeans or shorts. I noticed heavy wool sweaters too, a reminder that the uncertain uncertain weather on this island can turn damp and qold 10 minutes after the sun is shining. Most of the horses are oldtimers and they are all gentle. One, named Paddy, has been with them ever since they started this busi- ness, and he has a "great reputation for a sweet tooth. He's also a bit snobbish because because an ancestor of his, Lovely Cottage, won the Grand National. According to one woman woman whose caravan w a s pulled by Paddy, she headed headed for tie sweetshop whenever whenever they stopped, even before before she got anything for herself, just to keep him happy. At the end of the trip, she found that she had spent three and a half pounds on cream toffee for Paddy--about 10 dollars! All the horses are, I'm sure, spoiled -by the caravan caravan renters, but they don't seem the worse for it. Of course they have their little little problems, but they aren't usually the sort of thing that bothers the customers. customers. For instance, one hcrse must be the leader. He is a good leader, so that's all right, but he stubbornly refuses refuses to follow another horse in the wagon train. This trait cropped up in another another of their horses, a mare named Countess. Fortunately, Fortunately, they had just decided decided to put a space . between between the fourth and fifth, wagon so automobiles could go around them easier, so Countess could lead the second batch and be quite satisfied. We said goodbye to the Bacons and the other cara- vanners, and wished them "Good weather"--always a consideration in Ireland. They all looked so happy with what they were doing, I wished I could join them slowly riding down the roads, watching the trees, water, village people--and just being a "gypsy." The m o s t interesting place we saw on the way down here was the small fishing village of Kinsale. Small sailboats with different different colored sails dotted the harbor as well as a fifteen- boat fleet from Norway on a search for sharks. We left Kinsale and climbed the hill to an imposing imposing fort ruin overlooking overlooking the town, bay, and open sea. At one time an ancient castle fort, it was rebuilt into a garrison for Spanish soldiers who were, at that time, assisting the Irish in a war with England. The Irish lost the war, and English English troops occupied Charles Fort until 1921. Very strategically placed with a wide view of the open sea and approach to the harbor, Charles Fort today has a very modern small light house. William Penn was once clerk of the Admiralty Court of Kinsale, and his father, Admiral Penn was knighted and made Governor Governor of Kinsale. It's historical country wherever you choose to go in this area, p a s s i n g through places with such names as Inishannon, Bandon, Bandon, Ballymodan, Kilbro- gan, Ballinacariga, and tropical-looking tropical-looking Glengariffe. To highlight these, and they are but a small part of it, for instance, Inishannon Inishannon was a walled town before before 1400; Ballinacariga is the name of an ancient castle built during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1 of England; and Glengariffe is the place where George Bernard Shaw wrote much of his play, "St. Joan." ABOVE: Mrs. Bacon and her daughters enjoyed their day of loafing in Bantry., where Mrs. B caught up with the laundry laundry and . some knitting. LEFT: No, the horse isn't waiting to be fueled- up; his driver was having having lunch in the village cafe. BELOW: The picturesque picturesque harbor of Kins- dale, a village on the south coast of County Cork. On the right are some Norwegian boats, part of a fleet fishing for sharks. PAGE 21

Clipped from
  1. Tucson Daily Citizen,
  2. 09 Sep 1961, Sat,
  3. Page 20

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