When We Were Kings and Queens of the Road: Leanne McDonagh

“We never knew when daddy would come to pick us up from school with the horse and sulky cart but when he did there was fierce excitement for the journey home.  I remember getting to the gates of the school and looking to spot the big blue HiAce van and trying to identify if it was our HiAce van or if it was my cousins!  This of course was never an issue on the days that daddy was waiting for us with the horse and cart.  He could be spotted a mile away.  The clattering of the horses’ hooves in tandem with the reverberation of its steel shoes, the jingle of the harness and the neighing of the horse were all in perfect rhythm and creating the most familiar sound which could be heard way off in the distance. 

An original artwork by Leanne McDonagh

This of course was the coolest thing ever and I remember my settled friends being amazed by the sight of it all and we knew that it would be the talk of the school tomorrow.  One by one myself and my siblings would climb upon the sulky hoping to get to the side seat first because we all knew to be sitting the edge was the most thrilling place to be.  Only to be topped by the chance of holding the reigns and taking the lead, on the journey home to the site.”

Leanne McDonagh is an artist and young Traveller woman born in 1990 and the 5th child of ten children. At school she excelled at art and was strongly encouraged by her teachers to fulfill her potential. Leanne began practicing art at Crawford College of Art & Design in 2007 and five years later she graduated with an Honours Degree in Fine Art as well as a Higher Diploma in Art & Design Education. As a visual artist she feels she has a unique opportunity to represent and record her community from within.

On behalf of the Museum of Childhood Ireland and Robert Burns, we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of our wonderful participants for their time and their stories. We are thrilled to be presenting this project and we hope you will enjoy following along with us in the coming weeks.

Have a story on this topic and want to get involved? Contact us on our social media sites, or email us at cbrowne@museumofchildhood.ie – we would love to hear from you!

By Chloe Browne

Chloe Browne is an Irish writer, curator and Art Historian, with a keen interest in objects and social history.