TV star Ardal O’Hanlon had told how spending time with a family of Travellers on his new offbeat travel series dispelled his stereotypical image of the community.

The comedian shines a light on superstitions, stereotypes and our national identity is a new three-part travel series on what makes Ireland tick.

The Channel 4 series takes it cues from Victorian guidebooks discovered by the Irish comedian written by travel writers Mr & Mrs S C Hall to tempt the English over to Ireland in the 1800s.

O’Hanlon used them to set his route and find out how much different life in Ireland is in the 21st century.

But he said his biggest surprise was his time spent among the Travelling community. He said: “I loved every day on the road. I was probably most out of my comfort zone with a family of Travellers, in their little community down in Co Clare. I don’t really know a lot about the Travelling community, I would share a lot of preconceptions about the Travelling community.

“I would always have thought of them as very anti-social, or would have been slightly afraid of them.

“And so, spending some extended quality time with a Travelling family was a real eye-opener for me.

“It was interesting to hear from their own mouths their concerns, their history, their culture. It was a fascinating experience.”

To mark the centenary, he joins the painting of a post box from green to red and green again to symbolise the 1916 uprising.

“They were red one morning, and then the next morning they were all green. This was a very effective and visible way of showing we were different. But I think the character has always been different. We’re a Celtic country.”

He also explores hurling.

“When the Irish State was founded, there was a specific move to revive the Irish language, which has taken root to some extent.

“And when football and rugby were becoming big organised sports in Victorian Britain, the Irish consciously decided to revive old Gaelic sports, Gaelic football and hurling. Also, things like Irish dancing and Irish music were promoted.”

The new Channel 4 series sees him roaming from small towns to idiosyncratic attractions, detour from pulpit to pub and rejoice in the unique festivities and characters only found in Ireland.

Ireland with Ardal O’Hanlon will be shown on More 4 tonight at 9pm.


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