A 65-year-old Westmeath man has spoken out about how he was kidnapped and kept as a slave for six years by a group of Irish Travellers.
Originally from Kinnegad, County Westmeath, George Boland spent six years in captivity in Britain, where he worked for no wages seven days a week.
Eventually Boland was rescued by two men from Lithuania and the Netherlands in 2011. He now works as a volunteer at the Irish Elderly Advice Network at the London Irish Centre in Camden Square and spoke to the Irish Times during a trip to see Dublin with 30 other older Irish emigrants, as part of the The Gathering.
Having spent six years in captivity Boland believed he would never see Ireland again.
Boland’s case is reminiscent of that of the Connors family in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, who forced up to 37 men into a life of slavery at their halting site. Tommy Connors and his son have now been sentenced to 13 years in prison for their crimes. However Boland’s captors remain free.
He calmly explained, “I had a very bad experience.
“I never saw a penny of wages in six years.”
One morning, in London, in 2005, a van pulled up alongside Boland and the occupants asked if he was looking for work.
“I was, so I got in,” he said.
“But they drove 180 miles to Gloucester. I had left everything I owned behind me. I had no money to get away from them.”
He told the Times he worked seven days for the Traveller gang “cutting hedges, cutting grass, sowing daffodil bulbs. I planted thousands of daffodils.”
Boland lived in caravan year round. He said it was so cold that the water in his kettle froze at night during the winter.
He was one of seven or eight captive, who were mostly Eastern European, he was the only Irishman.
In 2011 he escaped and was living on the streets when someone told him about the Irish Elderly Advice Network.
The network coordinator Sally Mulready said, “I remember the day he walked into us. He was like someone that had walked from Belsen.”
Thankfully things have now changed for Boland thanks to help from the network. He said, “I’m getting my pension credits. I have a nice little bedsit with my television, my phone, my fridge and my shower. I was never as well off as I am now. And this is my first pint of Guinness since last October. It’s very nice too.”