© National Gallery of Ireland
Alen MacWeeney, Irish, b. 1939
Title: Paddy Rourke from 'Irish Travellers' Series
Date: 1996
Medium: Silver gelatin print
Image: 40.6 x 50.8 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 2020
Object Number: NGI.2020.39
DescriptionIn 1965, MacWeeney came upon an encampment of travellers in a waste ground by the Cherry Orchard Fever Hospital outside Dublin. Then called “tinkers” and later formally labelled “Travellers” by the Irish government, they were living in richly coloured caravans, ramshackle sheds, and time-worn tents. MacWeeney was captivated by their independence, individuality and endurance, despite the bleakness of their circumstances. MacWeeney became accepted by the travellers at Cherry Orchard and began to take photographs of them. In a moving essay about days and nights among them, he writes: ‘Theirs was a bigger way of life than mine, with its daily struggle for survival, compared to my struggle to find images symbolic and representative of that life.’ Over five years he spent many evenings in the Travellers’ caravans and by their campfires, drinking tea and listening to their tales, songs and music. In his book Irish Travellers, Tinkers No More (2007), MacWeeney has created a superb record of a vanishing way of life and a photographic masterwork.