ACERT is very grateful to the family of the late Kathleen Cunningham for allowing us to make Jell Akai Chavvies available to download from our website. Originally published in 2004, this beautiful collection of nursery rhymes was written for Kathleen’s grandchildren, who helped her with the illustrations. The recordings were made by Kathleen, by members of the Cambridgeshire Traveller Education Team and by schools in the Fenland area where Kathleen lived. Included is a fascinating glossary of Romany words. The resource is ideal for children in early years settings but can be enjoyed by people of any age.
Kathleen Cunningham was first and foremost a poet. Her collection “A Moving Way of Life” 1997 was dedicated to her grandchildren. In the foreword she wrote “so that they will always remember their Romany ancestors and in in memory of my father, Esau Carman without whose foresight in sending me to school they would not have been written”. In “The Great Romany Showman” 2007, illustrated with family photos and with poetry, she remembered the life and travels of her grandfather.
In 2008 Kathleen’s granddaughter, Rose Wilson, coordinated a national project and published Reminiscence a book of photographs to celebrate the first Gypsy Roma Traveller History month.
In her foreword to this collection she wrote: “My Granny, Kathleen Cunningham, lost her long battle with cancer and passed away on 23 October 2008 peacefully at home with her family at her side. She was a truly inspirational person who taught me to believe in myself and others, which can be particularly hard when you’re looked upon as “them Travellers” or “the Gypsies”. She taught me to be proud of who I am, as indeed she was, and to celebrate and not hide the fact that I am a Romany Gypsy. She even researched our family trees, which date back to the 1800’s. This is why I think it is important to celebrate our culture and heritage. Other cultures do this, so why not Gypsies and Travellers?”
Why the moon travels is a haunting collection of twenty tales rooted in the oral tradition of the Irish Traveller community. Brave vixens, prophetic owls and stalwart horses live alongside the human characters as guides, protectors, friends and foes while spirits, giants and fairies blur the lines between this world and the otherworld. Collected by Oein DeBhairduin throughout his childhood, retold in his lyrical style, and beautifully illustrated by Leanne McDonagh. Why the moon travels won both the Judges’ Special Award and the Eilís Dillon Award at the 2021 KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Awards.
Oein DeBhairduin is a creative soul with a passion for poetry, folk herbalism and preserving the beauty of Traveller tales, sayings, retellings and historic exchanges. He is the manager of an education centre and a long-time board member of several Mincéirí community groups, including having had the honour of being vice-chair of the Irish Traveller Movement and a council member of Mincéir Whidden. He seeks to pair community activism with cultural celebration, recalling old tales with fresh modern connections and, most of all, he wishes to rekindle the hearth fires of a shared kinship.
The book is available in hardback, e-book and audiobook from the publisher Skein Press, which was established in June 2017 to foster and publish writers whose work is fresh and thought-provoking and features outlooks and experiences not often represented in Irish publishing. It also publishes Unsettled, essays by Rosaleen McDonagh, an Irish Traveller writing from a feminist perspective, which “explores racism, ableism, abuse and resistance as well as the bonds of community, family and friendship.”
New book for young readers with fairground context
Nestled quietly by the railway and the river, in the Showman’s Yard, a treasure trove can be found … but only by those who really look, and really listen.’
Follow Mary Ann and her travelling Showmen family as they defend their yard from developers. The generations work together to help everyone understand that Grandad Henry is right: ‘not all treasure glistens’.