Collecting the songs and stories of Irish Travellers living in England

New Newstalk Documentary ‘Rambling Candyman’ Airs this Weekend


Rambling Candyman’ will be broadcast on Newstalk 106-108fm on Saturday July 29th 10pm, and repeated on Sunday July 30th 8am

The latest documentary from the Summer Season of Documentary on Newstalk celebrates the work of two important song collectors who deserve to be much better known.

Jim Carroll and Pat Mackenzie are an extraordinary pair who recorded the vestiges of a unique way of life before it disappeared. Their work recording the songs and stories of Irish Travellers living in England, beginning in the early 1970s is invaluable. The relative isolation of travelling life meant that, while traditional singing was in decline, it was in a better condition than in most Irish settled communities, and several ancient ballads were still in the repertoire of traveller singers that had long faded from the wider scene.

This programme charts the couple`s early interest in folk and traditional music as part of Ewan McColl`s “Critics Group” showing how they first encountered and established a relationship with Traveller and Singer “Pops” Johnny Connors who introduced them to other fine singers among the travelling community.

Although they were outsiders Jim and Pat were able to build a level of trust and friendship within the travelling community that enabled them to make recordings in a relaxed and informal manner. In particular they built a special relationship with the traveller Mikeen McCarthy, who was originally from Cahirciveen in County Kerry, and from whom they gained an abundance of wonderful material. In addition to the songs, the programme showcases stories and memories of traveller life and offers a revealing insight into Irish Traveller culture in England when it was on the cusp of change.

The programme also looks at the pair`s work recording traditional song in Clare. This began in 1973 when they met fiddle player Junior Crehan who invited them to record “a few tunes.” Eventually they moved to Clare from London where they continued to record and publish the work of several important traditional singers such as Tom Lenihan.

LISTEN LIVE: ‘Rambling Candyman’ will be broadcast on Newstalk 106-108fm on Saturday July 29th 10pm, and repeated on Sunday July 30th 8am

LISTEN LIVE ONLINE: ‘Rambling Candyman’ can also be listened to online at:

PODCAST: Podcast available at: after the broadcast.

CREDITS: "Rambling Candyman" was Produced by J.J. O`Shea and was supported by a grant from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, as part of the Sound and Vision Scheme.