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The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 1999-2004 » 2001 (January-June) » Irish speaking community in North Carolina,USA « Previous Next »

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Maureen Connelly (12.88.106.115)
Posted on Thursday, April 12, 2001 - 11:15 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I have heard that there is an Irish speaking community in North Carolina. It is in the town of Murphy, in the county of Cherokee,in The Great Smokey Mountains. Does anyone have any information about this community? I beleive that they speak Gaeilge there not Gáidhlig.

Máirín

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Liam O Briain (pad-cache1-1.cache.telstra.net - 165.228.129.11)
Posted on Thursday, April 12, 2001 - 11:16 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

This is absolutely wonderful news. Welsh is spoken in Gauman,Patagonia in Argentina by 6000 people while Scots Gaelic is spoken in Mabou and St.Anne's on Cape Breton Island,Nova Scotia in Canada by approx 4000 people. I had often wondered why with so many Irish people abroad that they did not keep their language. What should happen now is that an udaras na gaeltachta be set up and the irish government provide financial support in the way of irish teachers, a raidio na gaeltachta studio, a tg4 studio, students from all over the USA to come on summer courses there, the setting up of irish medium schools, exchanges with people from the irish speaking area's of Ireland, the publication of irish newspaper amongst other things.This would be such a boost to the language to have an irish speaking area oversea's and would be a great boost to Murphys tourism.

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Seosamh (1cust41.tnt9.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.23.128.41)
Posted on Thursday, April 12, 2001 - 11:45 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Murphy rings a bell. I thought the traveler community is based in somewhere in Georgia, but maybe it's Murphy. They settled in the South and are still there. They were noted for keeping the Irish language (and the Catholic religion)but I doubt whether any still speak it today.

A five-county area of North Carolina in the hill country was settled by the Scots and Gaelic was the dominant language. It was passed on from generation to generation and African slaves learned it. It was used in formal contexts like courts and sometimes in newspapers until about the 1820s. It would of course have been spoken for much longer and a friend of mine in the 1980s told me there were still a few families who had kept it. Although he is one of the most informed people I know on linguistic and related subjects, I doubted it. Still, if Gaelic was the dominant language in the 1820s, there's no particular reason why a trace of the language could not still exist.

Much information on groups like the Welsh in Patagonia and Scots in Canada is outdated. There was an article on Welsh recently by someone who went there. The language had virtually died out when the Welsh started to fund teachers, etc. According to the article, there has been a genuine revival with people becoming fluent and Welsh being spoken on the radio. The usual estimates for Nova Scotia these days give about one thousand native or seminative Gaelic speakers, half of them passive, and almost none younger than their fifties. There is a Gaelic-language playgroup for children and classes for adults now, some of whom have become fluent.

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Maureen Connelly (12.88.120.97)
Posted on Friday, April 13, 2001 - 02:25 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I think that town of Murphy in NC may have been setteled by travelers. There was a documentry about this community on television some time ago. Although the people themselves refused to be interviewed, there where people who no longer lived there who were interviewed. They said that the ways of the travelers were still practised their in businesses, such as home repairs and roofing and siding and such. The men go on the road in the good weather to do their business affairs and the women and children stay at home. It was said that they still use Irish in everyday life and keep the Catholic Faith.
The church and some of the homes were shown and they looked very prosperous.

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Liam O Briain (pad-cache1-1.cache.telstra.net - 165.228.129.11)
Posted on Friday, April 13, 2001 - 11:07 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I have accessed the US census for 1990 for the town of Murphy NC and found that english was spoken by 1,433 with a bit of spanish and creole also but irish was not.

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Seosamh Mac Bhl. (2cust95.tnt11.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.23.133.223)
Posted on Saturday, April 14, 2001 - 08:05 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

So it was North Carolina, then. Did you see the television report on the Travelers a couple of years ago? Two people who study the community were interviewed, one a law-enforcement official whose interest seemed to be largely in home-improvement scams, the other an anthropologist. They had completely different views on them. Mar shampla, the anthropologist said they often go back to Ireland while the officer said they had been assimilated and rarely, if ever, went back.

The community is obviously one that is very self-protective. I would guess that the anthropologist was the one who was in part accepted and the officer who was not. It would be extremely interesting if they have maintained the Irish language. The census figures could be explained by the community's stong sense of privacy. Still, I think it is more likely that any rumor about the language being alive there is based on published statements about their loyalty to the language in earlier generations.

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Liam O Briain (pad-cache1-1.cache.telstra.net - 165.228.129.11)
Posted on Saturday, April 14, 2001 - 10:21 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Anyone in North Carolina interested in visiting this community to ascertain if indeed they still speak Irish there?

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richard white (03-127.035.popsite.net - 216.126.171.127)
Posted on Sunday, April 15, 2001 - 01:29 pm:   Edit Post Print Post


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Rick Tobin (dyn-187-211-114.btitelecom.net - 216.187.211.114)
Posted on Tuesday, April 17, 2001 - 08:40 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I live near Raleigh and am planning a trip to Asheville soon. It will probably be sometime within the next month or so. Murphy is about 100 miles south of Asheville, if it's the same Murphy you're thinking of.

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Seosamh (1cust148.tnt14.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.23.142.148)
Posted on Tuesday, April 17, 2001 - 11:46 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Thanks, Richard, for the interesting links. If the following is true, they are the envy of the Traveler's back in Ireland:

"The Irish Travelers are a community of about 2,000 who are descended from 19th-century Irish peddlers.

They live in lavish homes and mobile homes on either side of U.S. Highway 25, between Aiken and Edgefield counties."

It also says that "Some have reputations as scam artists."
Which explains why there is such a thing as the "South Carolina Irish Traveler Crime Task Force." It mentions the TV program I saw: Dateline NBC, sometime in 1996.

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Richard White (05-041.035.popsite.net - 216.126.172.41)
Posted on Tuesday, April 17, 2001 - 06:10 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

And I should have posted the following link, which gives the other side of the story by one of the Travelers in question , on a RealAudio interview with both the Traveler and a member of a Romani rights group in which they're talking about media bias in general, and the Dateline story specifically.

http://www.webactive.com/cspin/cspin980424.html

Also, apparently by a Traveler

http://www.travellersrest.org/

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Maureen Connelly (12.88.104.177)
Posted on Thursday, April 19, 2001 - 06:09 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I realize that I was mistaken about the Town of Murphy NC.
The right place is in SC outside of Aiken on route 25. I just spoke to cousin who lives there in Aiken. He confirmed that is where the Travelers are a little place called Murphyville. Unfortunitely he said that they are not to be trusted on home repairs and such. They go some where they are not well knowen. People from Aiken wouldnot hire them.He
would not say that all of them are scam artists. But he said beware of any one who comes to your door and offers to paint your house or mend your roof for a good price or special offer because they are just opening a branch of business in your area.
He said if you dirve through their town every one knows that you do not belong there. They will keep a good eye on you.
One strange practice he mentioned, was they build a big home and cover the windows with tin foil for a year, to keep evil spirits out. Then move in and take the foil off the windows.I guess the bad spirits are gone after a year

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Richard (213.190.128.201)
Posted on Friday, April 20, 2001 - 04:52 am:   Edit Post Print Post

If these people are decendants of Irish travellers, is it not more likely that they were speaking Cant/Gammon/Shelta and not Irish?

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Seosamh (2cust35.tnt12.nyc3.da.uu.net - 63.23.137.35)
Posted on Friday, April 20, 2001 - 01:14 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Shelta is a kind of jargon. Similar kinds of language limited to small in-groups were spoken in Ireland: the language of the stonemasons, for example. (The language of the Romany, though, is a full-blown language, comparable to English, Irish or whatever - it's closely related to Hindi). But there is no question that they are of Irish origin and that they spoke Irish when they came here and for sometime after.

The Travelers and the Romany are not related to each other, but both traditionally had similar lifestyles. And both are traditionally accused of the many of the same types of antisocial activities. Between having to live by their wits and general hostility from others, it's not surprising. The treatment of young girls is appalling, if what I hear is true. But we can respect the individual and the group while acknowledging the problems. At any rate, this group has learned to live by their wits rather nicely.

I might post something separately in a day or two on the language of the stonemasons. Thanks for the interesting info.

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james (host2165.scotlandhealth.org - 207.59.152.165)
Posted on Friday, November 09, 2001 - 04:14 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I visited one of the traveller sites listed in Richard's message. There were some phrases, evidently phonetically spelled, that don't sound Irish at all. Was wondering if you more seasoned types might be able to draw a connection.

"yoordjeele's soonee-in munya, soobya, mishlee too this wrank" Allegedly translates to a "welcome to this site" phrase.

"Monkeri Hantel" is translated as "People of the country" but I don't pull "Tir" out of any part of it so I doubt any true Irish connection.

Mishlee, thoaber and thoari are found in a poem on the same web site but are without translation. While they sound more Irish than the first set of words, I still can't get any translatable connection. Mishlee----muise??

I'm too much a beginner to be able to give this more than a cursory effort. You guy's see anything Irish in any of it?

I live about 4 or 5 hours from the area in question and would be willing to make a trip if there's a true linguistic connection. From what I've seen and heard, however, they are very "clannish" and don't take to outsiders at all. If there's any rapport to be made by an outsider, it would be via the language.

Curious as to your take on this.

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