She didn’t feel like an outsider in Trinity but learned that ignorance is everywhere: “It was after finishing a lecture with a group of students from my class in Trinity one morning, and we went to grab a cup of coffee. We were all sitting around, in a group, discussing our teaching practice and how we were finding the course.
I must add that I didn’t really know this group as I had not spent much time with them. One of the girls who was sitting at the table across from me began a tirade about how it annoyed her that ‘traveller children get everything handed to them’. She began a discussion about a traveller girl that was in her class, and how this child was getting help from all angles, and she really seemed upset and disgusted at this.
She went on about the ‘special treatment’ that this child was receiving and how outraged she was at it for a few minutes and when she finished I spoke to her and said, ‘Wow, that is terrible, isn’t it?’, she nodded in agreement, and I went on to state that ‘I am a member of the travelling community and I can assure you that I have never had anything “handed to me”, in fact I have worked extremely hard to get where I am today’. I made my point and expressed my upset at her statement, the whole group sat in discomfort and what had just unfolded! This girls jaw had literally dropped and she made some redundant comment about how she just felt that ‘everyone should be treated equal’! At this point I just got up and left the table. I had made my point and I wasn’t going to sit there and entertain this ignorant girl.”
And where does the Pecker’s daughter plan to go from here? “I plan to travel, I really want to see the world and now I finally have my degree I can make my plans. Since finishing secondary school I have been putting myself through college and only recently completed my Higher Diploma in Education where I secured an Honours Degree from Trinity College Dublin. I am now a qualified English and Religion secondary school teacher. I am hoping to secure some work so I can save up and go off on my journey.”
The Travelling community is fully behind her; delighted that one of their own has made it. “I have received really positive messages from those who have contacted me since I began receiving media attention. I met two lovely travelling women from Kilkenny on the train back from Dublin recently and they were so proud of me, they praised me for how well-spoken I was on ‘Saturday Night with Miriam’ and gave me some words of encouragement. I have received countless messages on Facebook from members of the Travelling community who have all expressed their happiness at my success. I couldn’t see anyone looking down on me for going to college, and if there are people out there who do then that saddens me, I am sad for them.”
I asked Sarah Jane what she thought of the fact that the trade of Tinsmith is almost dead. “It is sad really, we have a beautiful copper bucket at home in Clare that was given to my dad decades ago by a tinker man. It would be great to see something in place to revive this skill among young travellers.”
It was the first time I asked a Trinity Graduate “are you wide to the gammon?”
“I am of course! My dad was a fluent speaker of Cant and I picked up some of it from him. One of my biggest regrets is not learning to speak it like he could before he passed away. It is a lovely language and a huge part of Traveller culture.”
There’s only one way for the Pecker Dunne’s daughter to go, UP.
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Below: Sarah Jane Dunne
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