3. Mikeen McCarthy
Michael (Mikeen) McCarthy was born on the Fairgreen in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry on April 3rd, 1931. His father was Michael McCarthy, a traveller originally from Co. Clare who lived in the Cahersiveen area for many years and his mother was Anne Jane Coffey from Valentia Island, Co. Kerry. Michael senior was a well-respected tinsmith and a very good singer, musician and storyteller. The McCarthy family were well known and liked in Cahersiveen and during the winter months they regularly rented an empty house where they prepared tinware for sale when they returned to the road in Spring. Mikeen received a rudimentary education, he was able to read but his writing skills were limited. However, blessed with a wonderful memory, he quickly built up a very large repertoire of songs and stories, collected from his father and many others of the travelling community. He married Nonie Dooley in 1950 and they decided to move to England where they remained for the rest of their lives with only an occasional visit back to Ireland. Nonie died in 2002, Mikeen two years later, leaving behind a large family of 6 boys and 6 girls and many grandchildren. They are both buried in West Drayton outside London.
The life, stories and songs of Mikeen and many other members of the travelling community, would surely be lost were it not for the trojan work of Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie. They were members of the Critics Group in London formed by Ewan McColl and in the early 1970s they began to record Irish Travellers in and around London, which spread throughout England, Scotland and Ireland, leading to one of the largest private collections of songs and stories. They have generously donated copies of their collection to the Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA), the Clare County Library, the British Library and many other organizations. They became close friends of Mikeen and Nonie McCarthy and over a period of 30 years they recorded a wealth of songs, stories and folklore from him. A selection of Mikeen’s songs, along with those of his daughter Jean “Sauce” Driscoll and of his sister Peggy Delaney, can be found in the wonderful double CD of songs of the Irish Travellers in England called “From Puck to Appleby”, recorded by Jim and Pat and released by Rod Stradling on Musical Traditions Records.
Knowing of my interest in storytelling and the McCarthy’s family history with strong Kerry roots, Jim and Pat have most generously shared with me all of their files (interviews, photographs etc) on Mikeen, from which I selected the following stories told in his own voice.
1. The Tinker and the Landlord
2. Go For The Water
3. Mikeen And The County Home
4. The Mirror
5. The Mermaid Of Filemore