Written by Tom Gilrane
My little story is not about the Tinkers of today. I am not sure if there are any Tinkers left in Ireland. The ones that I am talking about are the old time Tinkers of the late thirties and forties.
They came every so often to Ballinaglera and the road that I remember them on is the Slievenakilla Rd. Just off the Dowra to Drumshambo cut off. There are a few reasons why they picked this spot to camp on, first it was close to the stores Rynn’s and Mulveys, second there is a wide grassy area from the road to the shough, (you know what the shough is) this wide grassy area gave them enough room to pitch their tents without blocking the road.
They traveled three or four families together, and horses and carts or wagons were their means of transportation. They pitched their tents in that wide grassy area and there was more that one tent to a family, they had an open tent for the fire to cook in like a lean to. The horses were let loose to graze on the side of the road (no expense there). The younger horses had to be hobbled to keep them from running away, this was done with a chain it was called the fetters and it was attached to one front leg and one rear leg, it could also be done with a piece of rap and this was called a strampien.
These families always had a lot of children. The men were tin smiths and were good at their trade, they made tin cans and pongers ,a ponger is larger than a big cup and has a handle, the tin can were also large and hold two to three gallons. The men went around the countryside selling their wares and were helpful if you needed something fixed. The women and children went around usually begging, they would ask for bread, potatoes, and eggs and without a doubt money. It happened some times while a few women were at the front door, others were in the hen house getting eggs. The children did not attend school as they were always traveling the education they received was home schooling.
They cooked their meals on the open fire made from firewood they collected. Their water supply was from the nearest brook or small stream. Their nights were noisy ,like a party every night a few pints from Rynn’s or Mulvey’s might have helped.
Then one day they were gone leaving some garbage to be cleaned up.
There is a little rhyme about tinkers – it goes:
If ifs and ands
Were pots and pans?
There’d be no need