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This project is an excellent example of libraries engaging meaningfully with different ethnic groups, developing and strengthening relationships between the library service and the Travelling community. In 2018 Cork County Library collaborated with Traveller’s North Cork (T.N.C.) and Dr. Nicola Bessel, Department of Speech and Hearing Science U.C.C. to produce a book called Maggie May’s Day.
In 2017 the Children’s Librarian Rachel Burke met with T.N.C. who were keen to undertake a piece of written work, suitable for young children.
The dearth of Children’s literature with which a traveller child can identify has always been an issue for parents, librarians and teachers.
It was also timely to include cant language given the formal recognition for Travellers as a distinct ethnic group in 2017 and in advance of the 2019 Year of Indigenous Languages.
Maggie May’s Day is a day in the life of a four year old Traveller girl living in a trailer in her grandparent’s yard in Fermoy. It incorporates the Traveller Cant language as Maggie May’s life moves between the Traveller community and the settled community. It is her story, in her own words.
Her grandmother, Kathleen McDonagh provided the Cant translations for key words which were used hoping to revive the language among younger travellers. Illustrations are by Jim Mellis, Romany artist based in Fermoy.
At the book launch in Fermoy library, Maggie May’s mother Noreen read the story toMaggie May and her sister in front of an audience of settled and travelling people. Three generations of the McDonagh family were involved in the project, affording a fantastic opportunity for the library to engage with the Travelling community in North Cork.
The County Childcare Committee distributed the book to preschools in North Cork. Funding was from Creative Ireland, UCC Plus and T.N.C.
In 2017 I met with Pauline – Health Support worker with TNC when I was looking for agencies in Cork County who might be interested in engaging with the library services. The aim – to develop a project which would lead to meanginGful engagement between Travellers and library service.
“The wheel represents the uniqueness of Traveller identity and culture and the harp asserts our Irishness and the role we have played and will continue to play in Irish society.” The library provides a supportive, neutral environment for all, so we had a lot of opportunities and common ground to work on.
family literacy has been used to describe literacy development work that focuses on how literacy is developed at home, and education courses that support and develop this dimension of literacy development. Readiness to learn at the heart of the family – a programme that benefits both adult and child. A good FL project is INCLUSIVE, ACCESSIBLE, PERSONALISED, CULTURALLY AND LINGUISTICALLY SENSITIVE.
Also helps with positioning the library – increased credibility and visibility in the wider community.
Integration Children will embrace a language when it’s presented in a positive light – this is something that Kathleen wanted to instil in the young traveller children – that CANT was a proud part of their heritage. Inclusion Empowerment
Irish Travellers account for approximately 0.6% of the Irish population, consisting of between 29,000 – 40,000 individuals. (www.rcsi.ie, February 2017). Dearth of children’s literature which a traveller child can identify with has always been a problem for parents, librarians and teachers. In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages to raise awareness of the crucial role languages play in people's daily lives.
An insight into Traveller culture is central to the book – MM’s lives between both the settled and traveller world.
The way in which Kathleen McDonagh related her account of a typical day spent with her beloved Maggie May – a lovely, warm insight into their very close relationship.
Maggie May's Day tells the story of a day in the life of a four year old Traveller girl who lives in a trailer in her grandparent’s yard and who is attending Preschool with her younger sister. The story incorporates the use of the Traveller Cant language as Maggie May’s life moves between the Traveller community and the settled community. This is Maggie May's story, in her own words.
This is Maggie May’s story in her own words. The first born pup was named after it’s mother – following very much in the Traveller tradition. Children are more likely to b e engaged by a narrative that they can relate to – the ponies and puppies that are so central to the story would appeal to all children
Fantastic opportunity for engaging with parents & families in the library setting Achieving library’s objective of supporting literacy & community engagement – R2R programme. It also contributed to preserving oral tradition and highlighting ethnic identity for the Travelling community.
The relationships built during this project has led other projects and also helped to sustain other areas of programming during the year ensuring repeat visits by families to other events. This example of how a participatory approach strengthens creativity and delivers results. ACTIVE INCLUSION The synergy between different agencies/institutions contributes to richer, literate environments.
Family learning projects can be fantastic drivers for change – empowering families and encouraging lifelong learning. I recently heard FL advocate Margaret Donovan speak of her experience as a traveller accessing Further Education and Training as an adult – describing of being on the inside looking out for the first time in her life.
This project was a genuine, meaningful engagement between all parties and has a grown spectacularly into something much greater than we could have imagined. What started out as a project to produce a piece of written work for children, referencing the Cant language has blossomed into something much bigger.
Maggie May's Day- A Collaboration between Cork County Library & Travellers North Cork (TNC) Rachel Burke
Maggie May’s Daypresented by Rachel Burke
A Collaborative Project:
Cork County Library
Travellers North Cork (T.N.C.)
Pauline O’Grady-Noonan, Community Health Development Worker,T.N.C .
Dr. Nicola Bessel, Dept. Of Speech & Hearing Science, U.C.C.
Rachel Burke, Cork County Library & Arts Service
In the Beginning...
Cork County Library
Supporting & empowering communities, inclusive
spaces for all.
Traveller’s Of North Cork
Resourcing & celebrating Traveller identity & culture.
Travellers as a
group, March 1st,
Family Learning Values
Respects diversity & values
Inclusive, accessible, personalised
Culturally & Linguistically sensitive
A driver for change – empowering
& catalyst for Lifelong Learning
Benefits to the Library
Increases understanding of the values of support
Encourages positive attitudes & further participation
Engages hard-to-reach families – develops
Fosters a positive, stimulating family-learning
Aim - a piece of written work for
young children, including the Cant
Maggie May’s Day is the story of a
day in the life of a Traveller girl.
Her Grandmother constructed the
story & provided the Cant
Illustrated by Jim Mellis, a Romany
Gypsy Artist from Fermoy.
Book launch, Fermoy Library May
Funding from Creative Ireland &
Very old language, spoken by
Also known as Gammon or Shelta
Some words are similar to Irish
The number of speakers in
estimated at 6,000
Falling out of usage – ethnicity
encouraged a revival.
Back at home Maggie May
plays with her little dog Lily.
Lily has three puppies
called Lily, Dodger and
Komra ~ Dog
Komog ~ Puppy
Launch Day May 2018
Demonstrated the library as a
community hub for all – settled and
Celebration of integration &
Empowering for three generations
of McDonagh family
Showcased the Traveller’s great
Maggie May’s mother Noreen read
the story aloud – this was recorded
and shared on T.N.C.’s social
Maggie May’s Day in
Initial print run of 1,000 copies
Electronic version hosted on Cork
County Library’s website.
PDF forwarded to Cork County
Childcare Committee for sharing
with pre-schools in Cork County.
Possibility of additional print-run to
distribute to other Childcare
Maggie May’s Day as a
classroom/teaching resource that is
Traveller-centred & child-centred
Travellers in the Curriculum
Maggie May’s Day is being introduced as a module in the
Professional Master in Education (PME) course (UCC)
40 minute module will be delivered by TCAT* tutors - TCAT
is Traveller led.
Traveller-centred context for use of book in education &
training – developing insight into Traveller culture.
Multicultural Education: making students aware of issues &
challenges facing Travellers in the classroom.
*Traveller Culture Awareness Training
Possible interest from Mary I, Maynooth & Marino as
locations for TCAT presentations
PDST may look at developing resource pack
U.C.C. Early Years & Childhood Studies dept exploring
developing story sack with materials/artefacts around the