Skip to comments.IRISH TRAVELERS - Experts shed light on reclusive, nomadic clans that roam the country
Posted on 09/25/2002 7:58:25 AM PDT by NYer
DALLAS (AP) _ The tearful testimonial Madelyne Gorman Toogood gave in front of glaring TV cameras after she was videotaped beating her daughter was starkly uncharacteristic of the reclusive, media-shy Irish Travelers culture to which she belongs, experts say. Toogood, who was caught beating her 4-year-old daughter, Martha, in a department store parking lot, said she is a member of the clannish, nomadic culture of Irish descendants, most of whom came to the United States as refugees during the potato famine in the 1840s. ``By nature, they're very reclusive people,'' said Joe Livingston, a South Carolina state investigator who has been tracking Travelers for nearly two decades. ``They tend to shy away from publicity.''
Some law enforcement experts who have studied the culture paint it as a secret society, fond of material wealth evidenced by gaudy jewelry and new vehicles. Police often associate Travelers with scams involving fraudulent home repair that target the elderly. They tend to use aliases, carry bogus identification cards, and avoid contact with non-Travelers, whom they call ``country folk,'' authorities said.
But professors and academics said the reclusiveness is a defense mechanism against stereotypes and the ancient persecution that has haunted nomadic peoples throughout history. Travelers, who may be Irish, English, or Scottish, have no more criminals among them than any other ethnic culture, experts said. ``If there were, they could not sustain their living,'' said Larry Otway, who began studying Irish Travelers in 1977 and has worked as a paralegal and adviser on court cases involving Scottish travelers. What the clans in the culture do share, Otway said, is a nomadic lifestyle, a language called ``Scelta'' with roots in Gaelic and Romani, an almost ``pathologic'' devotion to Catholicism, and an anti-bureaucratic form of self government that he describes as a ``consensus democracy.''
The largest Traveler settlement is a group of 3,000 in Murphy Village, S.C., experts said. Toogood is believed to belong to the Greenhorn Carrolls, a Traveler group in the Fort Worth area. Estimates of the U.S. Traveler population vary from 20,000 to 100,000. Ian F. Hancock, a professor at the University of Texas who wrote the Irish Travelers entry for the Encyclopedia of the South, said a distraught Toogood called him Thursday seeking advice. ``She was scared to turn herself in because she knows very well how the police feel about the Irish Travelers,'' said Hancock, who has a reputation as a sympathizer of the group. ``She didn't think she'd get a fair shake and she knew she'd been rough with the child.''
Toogood, who also has two young sons, remains free on a $5,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 7. If convicted, she faces up to three years in prison. She was scheduled to have a 90-minute supervised meeting with her daughter on Tuesday but the child, who is in foster care, was sick. An attorney for the state said Toogood would be allowed to see Martha on Wednesday if the girl has recovered from the flu.
Hancock and other academics said they believe Toogood's case has been sensationalized by the media because of her ethnicity. ``As bad as what she did, and it's inexcusable, I still think there's an awful lot of profiling going on,'' Hancock said. ``Very much is being made of her ethnic background. If she were German American or Italian American, would that even be an issue?''
They were really bad on the Metro. My father had a guy stick his hand in his pants pocket trying to get some money when it was really crowded on the train, but he took the guy's hand away and told him in French to stop. The guy took on the classic "I'm a victim" attitude and we got off the train at the next stop, thankfully.
If you think they are bad in Paris, go to Milan and hang around a city park. Wow. There the kids do most of the dirty work while the adults lounge around and watch for the police. They will come up to you in groups of 6-8, mostly girls about 8-10 years old, and one or two will distract you trying to point out something in a day-old newspaper or something while the others are swarming around you trying to find your pants pocket or valuables in a backpack. Then POOF! as soon as the Carrabinieri turn the corner to patrol the park the kids and adults both disappear like a mist. It's amazing. They work really hard at stealing, if they just took up a normal line of work they would probably have an easier life.
Also, I think the Travellers in this country don't bother with pesky little things like paying taxes and such. That's why the law is usually after them, aside from the con artist aspect.
Anyone who commits fraud and theft (not to mention beating her own child) yet goes to mass weekly (perhaps accepting reconciliation weekly too) is in no way a true Catholic.
Ian Hancock has way too much time on his hands, and suffering a severe case of victim envy. Meee! Meee! Profile me! Please!!!
Gypsies are the Rodney Dangerfields of ethnic groups. I mean, the gays have more exhibit space at the Holocaust museums than the Gypsies.
I have a hard time believing this. I have had a bit of contact with both Gypsies and Travellers. Their languages have distinct similarities. The pictures on the link you provided show horse drawn wagons just like the Gypsy wagons of generations ago. Both Gypsies and Travellers also used to use tents with an almost identical hoop configuration as the wagons they used.
IMO, there is ample evidence that they have a common background that split many generations ago.
This wasn't in Columbus, Ohio, was it?