Aspects of Traveller Life
The Comforts of Home
Notice the intricate ingravings on the mirrors, the polished jugs and water containers. The solid fuel stove is a common feature – look for the chimneys on the trailer roofs next time you see Traveller homes.
Painting in the Playgroup
Traveller children, like any others, enjoy having space to play and learn. Here two under 5s demonstrate their artistic prowess.
Going to a New School
All children in this country have a legal right to education. The provision for Traveller children however, varies greatly from area to area in quality and quantity. Some areas have separate units for Travellers, others have support teachers/liaison workers and integrate the children into mainstream classrooms. The frequent experience of going to a new school can be very isolating, particularly as Traveller children are often confronted with prejudice and hostility.
A Traveller girl with her Classmates
An everyday scene in an inner city school. Each child has a contribution to make from which others can learn. Recognition of Traveller children’s own skills and experience is therefore important. In addition, reading and writing skills are a positive asset given the pressures and hostility of the wider society.
Posing for the Camera
Two men and their children stand in front of their trailers and lorries. From cradle to grave kinship is of vital importance to Travellers. The most elderly members of the family are as well cared for as the very youngest.
Ilderton Road Site, Southwark, London
It should be remembered that Travellers on official sites pay rent and rates for the pitch in addition to providing their own trailers or mobile homes. Although this site appears more pleasant, it is close to railway lines and a road.
A Traveller Boy and his Dog, Bradford, Yorkshire
Many activities take pace in the limited confines of a trailer interior, so the land immediately surrounding a trailer plays an important part in the family’s working and social life. This is an unofficial stopping place.
Roadside Encampment 1940s
The Comforts of Home
Most trailer interiors are kept very clean by their proud owners. Note the quality of the fittings, ornaments, glasswork, rich embroidered cushions, Crown Derby china and beautiful carpets. Imagine the work involved in cleaning when the only place to stop is a piece of muddy wasteground.
Restricted access to the most basic needs is not readily acknowledged by many as part of every day life in a Westernised industrialised country. However, Travellers stopping in unofficial encampments often have difficulty in obtaining water. The work of fetching and storing is often done by children. A sense of community responsibility is encouraged from an early age.
This annual event is one of the many celebrations in the Traveller’s ear when families come together from all parts of the country – and further afield. Notice the large number of trailers in the background. Particular pleasure is taken in watching the horst events and races.
Many evictions from illegal encampments are less peaceful than this. Too often eviction notices are served and the bailiffs and police evict families at the crack of dawn. Evictions can sometimes be brutal, they are always demoralising. Anxiety over imminent eviction can cause parents to keep a child off school. Imagine coming home to find your family gone!
Scrap Metal Dealing
In the 1970s it was estimated that Travellers provided 60% of the scrap metal used by industry. Travellers have always been adaptable and highly skilled. Buying and selling, and seasonal work are still important sources of income. Increased mechanisation has made some traditional jobs difficult to find but labour is still needed on building sites and motorway construction. Much of the private tarmacking undertaken in towns is done by Travellers.
Posing for the Camera
Here two young women take a break from their jobs to sit in front of their chromium trailer (unofficial stopping place, Elephant & Castle, London). Young Traveller women take a large part of the responsibility for the caring of the younger children. They often marry young and with families of their own carry on the Traveller traditions.
Starting up a Generator
Great resourcefulness is required when basic amenities are not supplied. Many Travellers provide their own electricity from generators or batteries. Calor gas is often used for cooking.
Westway Site, West London
All too often when sites are provided by local authorities they are in dangerous, unhygenic places – too close to sewage plants, refuse tips, railway lines, or (as here) a busy intersection of motorways and busy highways. This permanent site has refuse collection, water and toilet facilities, but is poorly maintained and suffers from noise and aire pollution.