“The Congress has come to us”— A Traveller’s perspective
It’s drizzling rain. The blue, green, red and orange welcome flags of the IEC2012 flutter in the wind. Fr. Santosh, from the Poona diocese in India, and I are sheltering from the rain in a traditional Traveller tent that is part of the Living History Project created by the Navan Travellers Workshop Limited.
Mr. Michael McDonagh is one of the exhibitors with the workshop, and he is busy protecting his exhibition from the rain, tending to the caravan and other artefacts at the campsite.
We are joined by a second pilgrim who chats sociably, followed by Fr. Rajesh, also from Poona. Both the priests have been hearing confessions throughout the morning, and Fr. Santosh comments on the importance of reconciling people to God.
Michael explains that the part of the tent where we are standing is not waterproof and that eventually water will seep in. But the section of the tent covered with green tarpaulin is waterproof, and it is here that Michael carefully places his pots, pans, kettles and coal buckets, which are composed of copper and tin and are made by a tinsmith.
Michael tells me that the purpose of the exhibition is to show Travellers in a historical context. He points out that since the 1960s to the present day, there has been a shift in Traveller culture from being a nomadic people in the 1960s to being mostly a settled people today.
Michael also points to a photographic exhibition at the project, which shows Travellers in different historical contexts. He brings to my attention one particular photograph, which depicts his great-grandfather, who was a Connaught Ranger, which was a unit in the British Army in the First World War. His great-grandfather was based in India for a while.
Michael notes that he hasn’t been able to visit many of the other exhibitions at the Congress because of his commitment to the Living History Project. But he says, “The Congress has come to us,” and smiles broadly as he tells me that, at one point this week, there were four bishops standing around his turf fire!
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