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Author Topic: Irish Travelers and Romani Gypsies
Askia K. Hale
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I live in South Carolina, not too far down the road from where the Irish Travelers live in Murphy Village. All I know from gypsies and Travelers is what I see on TV -- I was wondering if anyone knew how much of the criminal activity is actually attributable to these ethnic groups, and how much might simply be modern ULs spinning out of control.



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mwg1234
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I, too, live in SC, in fact about 10 miles from Murphy Village. For those of you unfamiliar, the Travelers are a group of folks that live in (at least in this area) a part of North Augusta, SC known as Murphy Village. The neighborhoods are pretty much closed off to the rest of the world. There are no street addresses or mailboxes, and rarely is a window open where you can see. And you never see people out in the neighborhoods.

A lot has been made of the Travelers custom of marrying off the VERY young girls to other members. I can't say for certain if that is true. I can say that many of the Traveler girls are dressed up like little Jon Benets. Kinda sick.

The majority of the crime that I know of that is committed locally involves the women and children, and it usually revolves around skipping out on restaurant bills. Anyone in this area can spot a group of Travelers a mile away. They pull it off by creating mass confusion. I remember sitting at a restaurant when about 20 of them managed to run circles around two high school waiters, creating such confusion that the waiters couldn't get a handle on things until they had all managed to leave.

The crimes linked to the men are usually well out of the area (as far away as Ohio, from what I've heard), although on occasion occur here. Generally, they go on long trips out of town and scam (usually) elderly people with shoddy handywork. There are several Travelers in prison in other states for such crimes. (No, I don't have the specifics. But if anyone would like, I would be happy to dig up some info.)

I got to know them extensively when I was a reporter here in town. I even went on a pre-dawn raid with the Sheriff's Office. (You may have seen it on Dateline.) Most of the warrants being served were in regard to parents keeping the kids out of school. (Personally, I think the whole raid was done to show off for Dateline. All charges were dismissed. Dateline didn't cover that exciting part.)

So, no, I don't think the stories are urban legends. I think they do make a living out of scamming people. However, there are some people in town who swear by their work. I know a local business owner who had them do all of the renovations on his business. It was a lot cheaper, and he didn't have to hassle with those messy contractor licenses. Granted, when his roof falls in a few months, he may be singing a different tune...


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rebecca
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Here's a couple of very good links to get you started.
http://www.romnews.com/
http://www.romani.org/

Happy reading!
rebecca


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Mosherette
Deck the Malls


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Not wanting to perpetuate stereotypes, but when we had a group of "real" travellers living near to a shop I used to work in, the amount of goods lost to shoplifting went WAAAY up. I'm not saying it was they travellers who did it - just a curious coincidence....
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ladykat
The Red and the Green Stamps


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"Irish Travellers?" New expression to me. Is this just a local thing?

(When I was in Ireland, the local waggoned population were referred to as "tinkers," btw.)

As far as the tired stereotype of "all gypsies being scam artists..." oh please.

I knew a lovely Gypsy family in my old hometown. Yeah, the mom was a palmist, a cliche, I know... but the family was very affluent, very private, painstakingly moral. I had a HUGE crush on the eldest son; and from the way he'd look at me he rather fancied me as well... but he wasn't allowed to even speak to me alone. The girls, until both were well in their 20s and married, were not allowed out of their parents' sight and I never once saw any of them in casual wear, or even in slacks. Reminded me a lot more of fundamentalists than anything else. They were wonderfully kind and friendly people, but very private.

Funny, in all the years I knew them, I never saw them dress up in scarves and gold hoop earrings, never saw them break a law or fleece a customer or call anyone "gaucho" or "outsider." They must not have been "real" gypsies.

- lady "caught red-handed getting my palm read" kat


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mwg1234
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Irish Travelers is what they are known as around here, so that may be local coinage. If memory serves, most of the people who settled in that community were Irish immigrants who came over here decades ago. While locals refer to them as both Travelers and Gypsies, the two are not one in the same. I have never seen any of the Travelers with the stereotypical scarves or hoop earrings, although their dress-style (at least for the females) is easily identifiable.
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Askia K. Hale
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Not to go too far OT (but heck, I started this thread, so..) but I find it fascinating that even at the height of PC policing I would rarely hear a peep in protest in the ethnic or cultural stereotyping of Southerners and gypsies. One's dumb and the others are thieves. Wonder why that is.
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sam
The Red and the Green Stamps


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This link IRISH would indicate that Irish Travellers are quite distinct from the Roma/Gypsies that are the basis for the stereotype the world over.

Now going looking for why the group in SC might be called/or actually are "Irish Travellers."


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sam
The Red and the Green Stamps


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...and here it is.

http://www.travellersrest.org/Controversy990601.htm

Makes damn fine reading.


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odaiwai
The Red and the Green Stamps


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A brief explanation of what or who Travellers are:
There's a large social (and some say ethnic) minority in Ireland who live a nomadic lifestyle. They appear to be descended from travelling labourers (or Spailpin Fanach, as Gaeilge) dating from at least the Famine (1840s) and possibly much further back. They generally live in caravans at halting sites around the countryside, although there are a few occasions when there are large gatherings, once or twice a year.
With the nomadic lifestyle comes a low level of education and distrust of the settled. Literacy rates are lower, life expectancy is short, families are larger and alcohol abuse is rampant. At least, that's the common perception.
Itinerants, as they are known in Ireland, and the settled community rarely get on. The settled make all the usual noises about property values, crime, violence, etc whenever a band of Travellers moves into the area. This antagonism is probably one of the seeds of the current wave of racism sweeping Ireland.
dave "Go! Move! Shift!"

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Fac429
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I just got back from Rome, and let me tell ya, they DEFINITELY think the Gypsies are out to rob everybody. We were with a tour guide when two gypsy girls walked down the street. The tour guide watched them, then as they passed us, told us to turn around and watch them until they walked away. He wouldn't continue until they were way out of sight.

In the meantime, I took the tour guide's wallet

Fac "just kidding about the wallet thing (really!) 429


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bblady
The Red and the Green Stamps


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When I was in law school, one summer I interned with the Harris County Consumer Fraud Division in Houston, Texas. The city has several large gypsy (Romani) clans or families, and a number of their members (always women) operated as psychics or fortune tellers. During my stint with the division, I learned quite a lot about the various scams that some (but certainly not all) of these fortune tellers pull in order to separate their clients from their fortunes. A lot of people who go to these women are lonely and desperate-the elderly, especially widows, are particular targets for these schemes. Usually, the fortune teller informs the client that he or she may be cursed, which is why the client is depressed, lonely, sick, or otherwise unhappy. Then the fortune teller convinces the client to do something rather silly (if the client agrees, then the fortune teller knows she has hooked a sucker). My favorite was the egg scam; the fortune teller takes a fresh egg and, in the view of the client, puts it in a small box. The client is then told to perform some act with the egg (walk around a cemetery at midnight, rub the egg over his or her naked body, etc.) and then replace the in egg in the box and sleep with the egg under his or her bed or pillow. At a set time, the client brings back the egg and the fortune teller breaks it open in front of the client. There, inside the egg, is a spider or snake, indicating the client is indeed cursed and must undergo an expensive "de-cursing." The trick is that the fortune teller has concealed a small plastic spider or snake in her hands and when she breaks open the egg, she simply pushes the toy creepy-crawly through the egg innards, so that it mysteriously appears to have been inside the egg.

Some Romani clans in Houston adopted English surnames. There was one clan who used, let's say for libel prevention purposes, the surname "Bob." We were told in the division that if we got any complaints regarding a fortune teller named "Mother Bob", "Sister Bob," or the like, we should tell the division chief. He would contact the family head (let's call him, "Father Bob") and tell him how much money was involved; within a day Father Bob would appear with that amount and the offending fortune teller suddenly went out of business. The Bob clan was one of the oldest groups in Houston and strove for respectability. Many of their family members sent their children to school, held jobs in the community, and were considered good, if somewhat private neighbors (as Romani, they tended not to socialize with non-Romani--there is a term for non-Romani, but I forgot it). The other clans varied from extremely law abiding to shady. Two of the clans did not get along and constantly feuded. They would call the police and accuse each others' members of various criminal acts, little of which panned out. Basically(as in any group of people), there were a few Romani that engaged in criminal acts, but there were a lot of honest ones too.

However, most of the problems occurred not with Romani from the settled clans, but with Romani groups that traveled through the city. In addition to fortune telling scams, some of these groups ran theft rings. They usually used diversion tactics--for example, a large group would enter a store and suddenly the women and children would start running around the store, pulling things off the shelves or surrounding the employees and shouting, generally causing a lot of confusion. Then suddenly, everyone was gone, along with a goodly amount of merchandise. However, not all Romani groups pulled such scams, and some who did engage in these illegal activities were not even Romani.

Dr. Ian Hancock, a linguistics professor here at the University of Texas at Austin, is Romani and a world-renown fighter for Romani rights. Some Romani consider him a hero, while other think he is simply a traitor for mixing with the non-Romani and working within the system. There is an interesting book, "Bury Me Standing," by Isabel Fonseca. She spent years visiting Romani communities in Eastern Europe. She documents the tremendous amount of mindless prejudice and hatred directed against the Romani by their neighbors, which leaves the Romani marginalized and often unable to find legitimate employment. However, she also describes how this suspicion is mutual and the Romani's isolationism and chauvinism not only fuels these hatreds, but robs the Romani of the ability to protect their rights. Attempts by modern Romani, such as Professor Hancock, to unite the scattered Romani is stymied not only by isolation, poverty, and lack of education, but also by self-proclaimed "Gypsy kings" who dominate their people like a medieval lord controlled his fiefdom, interested more in power and wealth then the rights of those they claim to represent. I really recommend this book.

Sharon "Cross My Palm With A Coin" Weintraub


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mwg1234
The Red and the Green Stamps


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On Tuesday, on PBS, at 10 p.m. EST, there is a special called "American Gypsy: A Stranger in Everybody's Land." According to EW: "In this edition of P.O.V., filmmaker Jasmine Delilal examines the secret society of Romany culture with the help of an outcast seeking his own brand of Gypsy justice."

So there you go...


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Bob McClenon
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I don't have anything to add about the Irish Travellers. I only have one comment to add to the various comments about legends and facts about the Romani.

There may have been many wrongs committed by the Romani from time to time. There have also been wrongs committed against the Romani, and one which is greater than all the wrongs that may have been committed by them.
The Romani (Gypsies) were the only ethnic group in Nazi-controlled territory of whom a greater percentage were killed in the Holocaust (Shoah) than of Jews. There were hundreds of thousands of Romani killed in the Holocaust, and millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust, because there were originally hundreds of thousands of Romani in Nazi Europe and millions of Jews in Nazi Europe.

One of the counts of the indictment against Adolf Eichmann was that he and others were responsible for the deportation of tens of thousands of Romani with the intention of murdering them.

In recent decades there have been clashes between police and Romani in certain parts of Europe, especially Italy. The countries and regions in which post-WW-II conflict continues between police (or local population) and Romani are those which were not occupied by Nazi Germany, in which the Romani population was exterminated.

Many of the reports about the behavior of some Romani may be true. However, two wrongs do not make a right. Civilized human beings must remember that human beings who do not live according to civilized norms are still human beings, and must also remember that racial and ethnic hatred target both guilty and innocent human beings alike.

- - Bob McClenon

[This message has been edited by Bob McClenon (edited 08-29-2000).]


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Elfant
The Red and the Green Stamps


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My sister and I were just discussing this very topic. We had just watched the new version of the Parent Trap with our young cousin, and I was surprised to hear the word "gyped" used. I remember being told not to say that when I was small, and I have always thought of it as unPC. My sister said she thought that a gypsy by definition was one who rips people off, and therefore the phrase is valid and not offensive. I'll have to forward her this thread.
Slightly OT, though, while my young cousin (9) was staying at our house for the weekend, she said more than a couple of things that made our mouths drop, most notably wondering whether "pakky dots" would be covered at the Science Centre's Grossology display (it covered topics like zits, B.O., farting, etc) She obviously had no idea that the things she was saying could be offensive to anyone, but we felt torn between whether we should say that we don't speak that way in our house, which we felt we had a right to say, but that would have involved a more detailed explanation than we wanted to get into, or just to ignore it and let her mother take it up with her if she chose to the next time she said it. what do you think?

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Bob McClenon
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Elfant:
My sister and I were just discussing this very topic. We had just watched the new version of the Parent Trap with our young cousin, and I was surprised to hear the word "gyped" used. I remember being told not to say that when I was small, and I have always thought of it as unPC. My sister said she thought that a gypsy by definition was one who rips people off, and therefore the phrase is valid and not offensive.

No. The implication of your sister's statement is that the word gypsy either is derived from the word gyp or means a person who steals or cheats. That is not correct. The word gyp is derived from the word gypsy. The word Gypsy strictly means a member of the Romani ethnic group, and is in turn derived from Egypt, which was thought by some Europeans to be their origin. That is, the word Gypsy, as a name for the Romani, is a corruption of Egyptian. The word 'gyp', to cheat or rip off, is derived from the word Gypsy, because the Romani have been commonly accused of that. Those accusations probably have some truth, but perpetuating them with a word that is an ethnic insult is not useful -- and is the sort of low-level racism which can precede the high-level racism that culminated in the Holocaust. Two wrongs do not make right, but little wrongs can grow into great wrongs.

The word 'gyp' really is an ethnic insult, and it isn't even accurate, since there is no evidence that the Romani came from Egypt.

Does this answer anything?

- - Bob McClenon


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Elfant
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Bob McClenon:
The word 'gyp', to cheat or rip off, is derived from the word Gypsy

I think my sister was fully aware that gyp came from gypsy rather than the other way around, and I hope it didn't sound like she was being ignorant or offensive about it. She (and I as well) was just unsure whether "gypsy" denotes a race of people or an occupation, and that if it did in fact imply an occupation, the word "gyp" should have the same validity and acceptance as "She nursed me back to health". The fact that it made us both uncomfortable to hear it said in a children's movie, and that it did spark a rather lengthy discussion between the two of us as to the meaning and acceptance of the word, made us both in the long run lean towards it not being an acceptable word. Your reply was certainly informative, Bob, and I'm sure she will be equally interested to have some more definitive answers than the ones we were able to come up with on our own. Thanks!


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noreen
We Three Blings


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She (and I as well) was just unsure whether "gypsy" denotes a race of people or an occupation, and that if it did in fact imply an occupation, the word "gyp" should have the same validity and acceptance as "She nursed me back to health".

I have heard and used the word 'gypped' all my life, and it never occurred to me that it had any relation to Gypsies.


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