FAIR PLAY IN THE BOG and other fascinating people

Tony Hennessy MAGI

A few days ago, in partnership with three Traveller men, I completed three Traveller family trees.  The trees span eight generations and between them include several hundred individuals.  The principal surnames featured are Collins, Reilly, McDonagh, McDonnell, Stokes, Joyce, Ward, Rattigan, Doyle.

Julia & Bernie McDonagh Cherry Orchard 1965

As part of the research process almost two hundred photographs were gathered and added to the charts.  Among them was this striking and evocative photograph of a couple sitting at a little fire, their barrel-top wagon behind them.

I had seen the photograph before.  It was taken in 1965 in Cherry Orchard, Dublin by Alen MacWeeney, a Dublin born (1939) professional photographer living for many years in the US, and was included in his book Irish Travellers: Tinkers No More (2006).  MacWeeney had spent five years photographing and recording the stories and songs of the Travelling people around Dublin.  He subsequently donated those recordings to University College Dublin.

The couple in the photo are Bernard (Bernie) McDonagh and his wife Julia, nee Collins.  Bernie was the son of Martin McDonagh. He had been married previously to Lizzy Power who died young .  Julia was born on 11 April 1913 at Ballinacleigh Co. Leitrim. She  married Bernie in 1931 at Mullingar Cathedral when she was seventeen. Julia was one of nine children of Thomas Collins and Mary McDonagh. Thomas, a tinsmith, served ten years in the British Army, firstly with the Connacht Rangers and later with the 6th Rifle Brigade. His wife Mary, a feisty woman standing 5’ 1” high, was known by one and all as ‘Fairplay’ or ‘Fairplay in the Bog’ to give her her full title.

My thanks to my co-collaborators Michael Collins, Martin Reilly and Martin Collins.  Copies of the three family trees have been requested by the National Library of Ireland who, along with Dublin City Council, supported the project.