John Joe Scanlon and the Knackers

John Joe Scanlon is a septagenarian living on the road between two small villages in rural County Clare in the west of Ireland. He has a very soft voice, and in that area is well-known for lilting, a kind of old-timey, percussive singing that mimics the sound of traditional Irish instruments. My friend Paddy O’Donohue told me this story, as told by John Joe, about the time knackers broke into his house. Knacker is a slur for Travellers (itinerant Irish people frequently associated with social problems), many of whom live in trailer parks all over the country. This is not a respectful word, but I use it because it was used in the account I heard. Additionally, “hob” means stovetop.

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