14 Travellers who shot to celebrity stardom

Hughie Maughan
Hughie Maughan

DUBLIN traveller Hughie Maughan is the runaway favourite to win this year’s Big Brother when the result of the final is announced on Tuesday. Hughie entered the house after living on and off traveller sites all his life.

However, the 21-year-old insists he’s “the complete opposite of the stereotype” despite his strict Irish traveller background.

Hughie currently works as a youth worker in Dublin and lives with his parents and younger sister on a site in Ballymun.

He was single when he went into the house and only recently came out as bisexual to his family.

While in the house, Hughie struck up a romance with Ryan Ruckledge, who was evicted earlier this week.

Hughie’s mum went on to the set as a birthday treat, but while she told him she was proud of him, she did advise him to “calm things down” in his on-screen sexual antics with Ryan.

Hughie’s father, Hughie senior (44), confessed his son’s sexuality had been bothering him.

“I’m very proud of Hughie, but hurt about what I am after finding out,” he said. “If God came to me and said, ‘I can change Hughie back to the way he was, but you must lose your life’, I would do it right away. I would walk into my grave right now.

“The reason is I’m afraid for Hughie is what sort of life he has ahead of him now. I hope I can reconcile with him because I can’t sleep at night.”

Hughie is just one of a long list of famous travellers who have done the 22,000 strong community here proud and become household names.


1) Chris Doran – The Waterford man represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2004 after winning You’re A Star.

The 36-year-old first revealed his traveller roots in the Sunday World, but little has been heard from him since he departed the showbiz world several years ago.

2) Finbar Furey – With his family the Dublin 69-year-old had huge hits with the likes of When You Were Sweet Sixteen and Green Fields of France.

3) Shayne Ward – Manchester-born Shayne’s parents are both travellers from Ireland.

The 31-year-old first made it big when he won The X Factor in 2004 and had a major hit with That’s My Goal. He is now a mainstay of the Coronation Street cast.


4) Kelly Mongan McDonagh – Corkonian Kelly first shot to national fame when she finished runner-up of The Voice of Ireland in 2013, having earlier announced she was pregnant.

She and her family starred in reality series Meet the McDonaghs. She now has two children and lives with her family in a caravan near Galway city.


5) John Connors – Dubliner John has had roles in several Irish films, such as King of the Travellers, and also took part in the RTE documentary I Am Traveller.

But the 26-year-old Coolock man is best known as pipe bomber Patrick in Love/Hate.

6) Liam Heffernan – During the 1980s Glenroe’s Blackie Connors was perhaps the best-known traveller in Ireland. Liam played the roguish character, who ended up having it off with Terry Killeen.

7) Thomas Collins – Dubliner Thomas (24), played Packy in Love/Hate and has since completed several short films.


8) John Joe Nevin – Mullingar man John Joe is a two-time Olympian and the super-featherweight won silver at the Olympics in London in 2012.

In April 2014, the 28-year-old sustained a broken leg in a feud between the Quinn, McDonagh and Nevin families.

9) Francie Barrett – Galway man Francie famously carried the Irish flag at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, where he was defeated in the second round.

The 39-year-old took part in the documentary Southpaw: The Francis Barrett story, which won an American film award. He turned professional in 2000 and now fights at light welterweight out of Wembley, London.

10) Tyson Fury – World Heavyweight champion Fury’s grandparents are from Galway and Tipperary, while the Manchester-born boxer’s mother hails from Belfast. The 27-year-old was recently embroiled in controversy over sexist and homophobic remarks.

11) Andy Lee – Limerick-raised Andy (32), moved to America and England to further his boxing career. In 2014 he won the WBO belt and became the first Irish boxer to win a world title on American soil since 1934. Lee is also the first member of the traveller community to win a world title.

12) Joe Ward – Westmeath man Joe is one of our brightest Olympic hopefuls for this year’s Olympics. The 22-year-old lightweight is a former world youth gold medallist.


12) Sarah Jane Dunne –  The former Miss Kilkenny was the first member of the travelling community to take part in the Miss Ireland competition.

The 25-year-old has now gone on to receive a Professional Diploma in Education from Trinity College Dublin.


Paddy Doherty – Although born in Manchester, Paddy is of Irish traveller stock and has a clear Irish accent.

He first came to prominence by starring in My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and the 57-year-old went on to win Celebrity Big Brother 8 in 2011. He was also a mentor on RTE’s Celebrity Bainisteoir.