Miriam Meets...

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    Miriam Meets... Sunday 16 June 2013

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    Miriam meets... Michael Collins and his wife Catherine Joyce

    This week, Miriam O'Callaghan interviews actor Michael Collins and his wife, activist Catherine Joyce, both members of the travelling community.

    They recall their differing versions of how they met and reflect on the fact that they chose each other as life partners instead of having an arranged marriage. They talk about the challenges of fostering four of Catherine's siblings in the early years of their married life, the importance of family to them and the meaning of love.

    Michael explains how he became an actor as a result of doing workshops with the writer Anton O Flatharta. He describes spending six months on tour with a group of actors from the settled community while Catherine was pregnant with their first child. The biggest challenge facing Michael in those early days of his acting career was overcoming his literacy problems. Both Catherine and Michael describe their experiences of the education system. They both left school early but are proud that their eldest two children have completed their Leaving Cert and they hope that their youngest two children will complete their secondary education too.

    Both Catherine and Michael recall their parents. Michael's father was a great singer and story teller. Catherine explained that he was very good at talking to the settled community, in contrast with her own father who was terrified of the settled community. Michael explains how encouraging his mother has always been to him while Catherine recalls her mother and the tough start she had in life when her father, Catherine's grandfather, was killed.

    Michael recalls the great learning experience he had while working on Glenroe. He talks about his most recent work, The King of the Travellers. He explains that it deals with matters that are important to travellers - weddings and christenings as well as feuding. Miriam, Michael and Catherine discuss fighting and feuding; the role of women and children in traveller society and the impact of the attitude of the settled community on traveller society.

    In response to Miriam's question on the positive aspects of beinga traveller, Michael explains the pride he feels when members of his community achieve great things. Catherine explains that the traveller community has retained the extended family and feels that this is an advantage they have over settled people.

    The music they chose was 'Perfect' sung by Fairground Attraction; 'Noreen Bawn' sung by Bridie Gallagher and 'Sullivan John' performed by Pecker Dunne

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