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DkIT Hosts Celebration of Traveller and Roma Culture

24 October 2022

Dundalk Institute of Technology were delighted to host a full day experience honouring Traveller and Roma Culture on campus where members of the two communities joined in the celebrations. This jam-packed event was a collaboration between DkIT, College Connect and the Dormant Account Fund.

The day consisted of a series of enlightening events starting with the Meath Travellers Living History Exhibition which enabled both students and staff to take a step back in time to the 1950s to experience what Traveller life was like 70 years ago with the traditional Barrel Top wagon, fireside scene, tinsmith, and photography exhibition.                                      

The PJ Carrolls building on DkIT’s campus became a festival of music, song and stories for the day. These cultural treats started off with Musicantia and a lively show that packed out the room with both students and staff. Musicantia is a Roma cultural and advocacy project which runs a Music school for young Roma in Dublin. Opening the musical performances on the day was a 5-piece band of musicians under the direction of Sergiu Pruteanu who shared the richness and diversity of Roma and international music and singing which touched on the history and culture of the Roma people.

A current DkIT Roma Student said of the event

“The celebration of the Traveller and Roma culture at DkIT was a beautiful and authentic representation and presented with respect and inclusiveness which showcased the beauty of Romani culture through history and music”

The Roma music concert was followed by a celebration of the influence Irish Traveller musicians had on our musical culture. The renowned Mulligan brothers, Alphie, Neillidh and Tom Mulligan, played Uillean pipes previously owned by the famous Felix Doran Traveller piper. Neillidh started proceedings with   a very interesting talk on the history of Felix Doran’s silver pipes and the Doran’s important contribution to Uilleann Piping.

Felix who was born in 1915 and died in 1972 was an influential travelling musician. He and his brother Johnny Doran are descendants of nineteenth-century Wexford piper John Cash. Felix and John both made several very important recordings on the pipes, including Felix’s LP The Last of the Travelling Pipers, which continues to influence musicians today.  Alphie who was joined by his brother Neillidh to play the Uilleann pipes and his brother Tom, proprietor of Dublin’s famous The Cobblestone pub played the flute. Amongst the instruments used on the day were a set of pipes made by famous Dublin pipes maker Leo Rowsome especially for Felix Doran who went on to win first prize at Fleadh Ceoil na hÉireann in Mullingar in 1963. Other parts of the set of pipes at the event included a chanter made by Leo Rowsome, the drones made by John Clarke and Matt Kiernan and Donnacha Dwyer. This instrument is an example of exquisite craftsmanship and include engravings by a Traveller at a fair and details that reflect their importance. This was a unique opportunity to hear and see these beautiful and historic instruments that highlight the richness of Irish Traveller Culture and reflect how Travellers enriched the lives and culture of people in both Ireland and internationally.

There was also a fantastic opportunity to hear from Oein DeBhairduin, Traveller, Cultural Collections Officer with the National Museum of Ireland and Author. Oein who shared extracts from his book, Why the Moon Travels - a haunting collection of stories rooted in the oral tradition of the Irish Traveller community. These stories were collected by Oein throughout his childhood which he retold in his lyrical style. The book is beautifully illustrated by Leanne McDonagh.

The day concluded with a thought provoking and interesting Cant themed Workshop also delivered by Oein DeBhairduin around the traditional language of Irish Travellers.

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