OUR BIG REAL GYPSY LIVES BIGGER. TRUER. HAPPIER
Introduction This book offers a rare glimpse into the culture, heritage and traditions of Lincolnshire’s Gypsy and Traveller community. From June 2012 to February 2013 we travelled across Lincolnshire’s landscape meeting with a wide cross-section of the county’s Gypsies and Travellers. It was an exhilarating journey. Hours were spent sharing stories and talking, among other things, about reading online Ofsted reports to find the best school for your children; the state of the economy; Appleby and Stow Fairs; holidays; food; marriage; retaining traditions; Gypsies fighting at the Somme; what it’s like being a nine-year-old Gypsy boy in the 21st century; how to become a professional writer; being one of a small band of Europeans, which includes Sir Winston Churchill, who have been given the highest honour awarded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the US, that of Kentucky Colonel; cooking hedgehog; gorjas, chockers Teggees and muskras; and, of course, family. In many instances the stories we were told have never been heard outside their tellers’ own family circle. Many Gypsies and Travellers in other parts of Lincolnshire have never heard some of these tales. Everyone who has been part of this project appreciates the trust and welcome we were offered as we harvested the memories and stories which can now be conserved for generations to come. We would like to thank the community for welcoming us into their homes over the period of this important project, for showing us their family photographs, sharing their precious family stories and – most importantly – trusting us.
Amira, Molly, Sheila, Naomi, Liam, Linda, Demi Lea, Thomas, Fred, Nicole, Martin, Charlie, Sean, Shady, Charlotte, Lottie, Katie, Samantha, Paul, Sue, David and Leanne
COntents Young Stories
Molly Boswell - Artist Profile
Charlotte Ansell - Artist Profile
Older Stories Linda - School
Cilla’s Family Tree
Annie - Life
Hughie - Food
Maggie and Teresa - Childhood
Gordon Boswell - Culture and Tradition
Katie Smith - Artist Profile and Images
Project Aims Creative Team
Young Stories And baby Dean is screaming. The horse is snorting, The washing on the line is billowing, While the wind is whistling The chickens are clucking, The pigeons are flapping, The go-kart is roaring, The van is rumbling, The telly is talking But the lamp-post is lighting silently And really it’s quiet up and down here.
Romany words You say me, I say mandy, You say good, I say kushty, You wear shoes, I wear chockers, You have a nose, I have a noccer. You’re a child, I’m a tichner, Your mum tells you shush, mine tells me keka, You eat chicken, we eat carnies, We catch shushis, canigras and utchies.
Liam & Sean Me Mam says…
I pick rushnies, you buy flowers. But I’ve got to go, it’s getting late
Me Mam says when I go on the bus to school to be good, Me Dad says keep your friends close and your enemies closer, Me Mam says don’t scream like a gorja to the baby, Me Mam and Dad say don’t tell tales on people or you’ll get killed And if you ain’t got a penny, don’t let them know, Go out and try and get it.
I’m lelling to woodres, So I’ll say taraties. Amira & Liam Traveller T is for trailer R is for Romany A is for the animals we keep V is for vardo E is for earning money at fairs L is for living our own way and L is also for learning E is for eating bacon puddin cooked in a pot on the fire R is for respect for family Amira, Liam & Sean Where we live The fields are whispering, The hedges are struggling, The gate is banging against the pole. The grass is murmuring, The shed lock is catching,
we get treated like tramps.
Rocker is our word for talking Our reputation is important Mush is our word for man but it’s been chorred by the widos A is for arrangements to shift out every year Nixies means nothing Yocks is our eyes.
But we are nice people and not ignorant, We can go out and make a living by ourselves And we don’t need big fancy jobs.
Fred, Demi Lea, Naomi, Martin & Charlie
But take time to get to know us instead Of just judging what you see, You can’t judge a book by its cover And you never judge your own kind So don’t judge me!
Gypsies G is for Gorjas being different to us, Y is for yocks, they’re your eyes, P is for when we pull out and go different places, S is for Sham which is Irish for ‘hello mate’, I is for I am the best! E is for everyone hates us because we’re Gypsies (apart from the widos who want to be us) and S is for snobs who think they are better than us (but they’re not!)
Demi Lea, Thomas, Fred, Martin, Charlie & Naomi
Thomas, Demi Lea, Naomi, Shady, Fred, Martin & Charlie Gypsy
Liam, Sean & Annie (mum)
Gyspy girls, Yog, keeps you warm, Putsy, Sham, Yock.
My home is my home. My home is full of happiness and love, hate and sadness. It’s good living in a chalet because you have your own bedroom and own space ’cuz in a trailer the bedroom, the living room and the kitchen is all into one and I don’t feel like there’s no space. In a house it seems like there is too much room. I couldn’t live in a house.
Because we are Gypsies people assume We’re not respectable, decent people and they don’t bother to get to know us.
You think we are dirty pikies, You make me feel ignorant when you won’t talk to me. You act like you are better than us, In school you call me names but If I call you names back I get the blame. You treat us like we’re alright here but if we move away from Newark
Home Home is where your trailer is and your family live. Wherever you are, that’s your home but if your family isn’t there it ain’t. I hate home, it’s boring but it’s alright if you’ve got people to talk to. I don’t live in the chalet with my family, I’ve got my own trailer what me and my little brother sleep in and I like a trailer better than a chalet or a house ’cos you can always shift out instead of being in the same place for so long but when I do go I miss my granny and granddad and my cousins and I always want to come back. Demi Lea For me, where me family move to, that’s where me new home is and home is where the heart is. Charlie There’s no place like home, I sleep on the bunk next to the phone, Only thing is, there’s no light, It’s not great but it’s alright! Fred Home is home. It’s with your family. It is warm and it’s bigger and better, it’s the best. Home is like a phone because it is mobile. Martin My home is warm and it is where I live. My home is a chalet but I sleep in my trailer. My home is very important to me. My chalet is homely with white and brown inside with laminate flooring. The bedroom of my sister’s is pink and white and my Mam and Dad’s is brown and white. Naomi Home is where my Mam and Dad is, home is where your family is. There’s always a home with your family: they love you and they will always protect you. My home is where my little brother is and my big sister is and my Mam and Dad is. Your home is with the ones you love. Home is where your TV is and the hot chalet for in winter. Family is when your parents would do anything for you, and you do anything for them. Home is like a phone – family to tell information to, like the internet talking. Home is where we sleep when we’re tired. Home is where my Mam’s cream and white bedroom is and my brother’s blue and white bedroom is and when you are hungry you can go to the fridge. Thomas
I remember I remember us always fighting; me and Demi Lea, It always started over my sister Courtney and her brother Tommy, But we’re best friends now. I remember when we always used to pull off, We had to get evicted by the police And find a new ground to pull on (but it didn’t always happen) I remember when my little sister Missy was born, I was over the moon to have another sister. We used to call her fruit bat because she had such big eyes, I’ve got three sisters and one brother now. I remember playing with all the children on the site, Like hide and seek, tig, bikes or going to the park. I remember the first time I went to school, It was unusual because there were hardly any Travellers, There were a few in my class and I made friends with them Because I didn’t know nobody. I remember when I was seven going to Sundown Adventureland. There was a fairytale land With a castle and the walls smelt of liquorice. I remember when I was small we went With all my cousins to Disneyland. I remember going to Kenliworth, packed out with Travellers, Where everyone meets up and sells their stuff, Men trade horses and people sell dogs, Carpets and clothes, all stuff like that. I remember when I went to Appleby Horse Fair, There were all the horses up and down, The men racing the horses, The women selling clothes and tea sets on the stalls And all the girls prancing up and down, talking. Naomi, Nicole & Demi Lea
My School M y school was educational and high in expectations, Y our food in school was healthy and nice, S chool I found very hard coz I had a friend for six years and high school split us up, C ousins of mine were there as well, H igh school was the only way to get into the wrong crowd, O nly art and gymnastics were my favourite. O nly a couple of Gypsies were there apart from my cousins, L ife at school was very strict, but I did like it a little bit! Naomi I liked going to school it was something to do. I liked maths. It was interesting and all my friends were there. The best part was there were loads of Travellers in the school. Most people everywhere else was bullied but the school I went to liked travellers because there were loads of us in it. Demi Lea I went to three different schools. I liked the one in Newark the best because there was more Travellers in it and I had more friends. In that school they was used to Travellers because there was loads of them in there but I was always fighting over my brothers because I was protecting them. Nicole
Well, when I was little we used to pull out and we used to make a fire and sit round it while the women cooked and we used to tell stories and most of the children would play. It was nice and most times we would make new friends; we still do it now and I enjoy it. The adults would cook animals like rabbits and hedgehogs and pheasants and pigeons. I wouldn’t eat most of them but some I would, like rabbits and that. I like pulling out instead of being in the same place all the time. I like everything about my life. Demi Lea What to do with pheasants 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
First of all you shoot the pheasant. You go to big game fairs and shoot them or do it wildly by yourself without paying. Hang up the pheasant for about two days, something like that. Pluck its feathers and gut it. It’s sickly. You slit its gut straight down the middle and spill it all out into a bag. It smells like rotting flesh. The smell is terrible. Rinse it out under the tap until all the blood has gone out of it and the water runs clear. Either cook it then or put it in the freezer which will preserve it. Cook it in a soup or stew with potatoes, turnips or parsnips. Beware – it can taste a bit tough but not as tough as pigeon!
Well, I clean up and mind the children but when I’m older I would like to get a job in a hairdresser or somewhere so I would be independent and don’t have to rely on no-one else. Usually with Gypsies the women prepare to stay at home and the men go out working, doing roofing and paving.
I am a Romany Gypsy. My name is Naomi Rose Steele. The meaning of Naomi is ‘one who delights’. It is a Hebrew name. Rose is a precious flower. Steele means hard, reliable and tough as steel. I was named by my dad because my dad’s friend’s daughter was beautiful and her name was Naomi. So he decided to call me Naomi and my second name is Rose after my granny and Steele is my last name. I have blue eyes and blond hair. My age is 11 and my lucky number is 4 ’coz my birthday is on May 4th and my favourite colour is baby blue.
I would like to work in a beauty salon when I’m older so I can depend on myself to get money. Most Travellers do scrap or trees or roofing or paving; that’s what most Travelling men do and some Travelling women do, working with their husbands if they’ve got a babysitter.
Nicole Traveller life Every time we move up and down we usually make a fire and sit around it and make a stew for everyone to enjoy, all our friends and family. I wouldn’t eat animals that they put in the stew because it smells and looks horrible. They would put rabbits or pigeons or hedgehog but no way would I eat it! But I like being a Traveller because we move up and down and we have friends all over the country. Nicole
My granny’s mum and dad used to be wealthy people and me granny’s dad owned the Waltzer company for fairs because my granny was a fairground woman. She used to make the candy floss with a candy floss machine. She used to sell things and operate the rides – she used to sell things like little teddy bears and things like that and she used to do ‘crack the coconut’ where you had to crack the coconut off the sand and win another coconut or a teddy bear. You could crack plates as well and you’d get to win teddy bears. This was years ago when she was a young woman, so before I was born. They had two big oil paintings painted just for them. One of me granny and one of me Great Granddad and me Great Granddad had a big moustache like the ones you had to wax to keep the shape. Naomi
Molly (15) Artist profile
My name is Molly Boswell. I am 15 years old and live in Spalding, Lincolnshire. I am passionate about photography. I enjoy taking photographs that document my life, from the clothes that I wear to the places I visit and the people that I meet. I am never without my iPhone and am obsessed with sharing my images on Instagram. As part of this project I visited different rural locations near to my home and took a series of landscape photographs. This was a new genre of photography for me to explore and I enjoyed looking at everyday scenes in a different way. I was surprised that I could make sheds and tractors look attractive! I have also made a series of images using matchbox pinhole cameras which I made myself. I experimented taking photos that show elements of my Traveller heritage, from the bow top wagon whose cupboard I slept in when I was six to my family’s trailer and my Granddad’s Gypsy scene ornament. I feel I have learnt about lots of different aspects of photography from what makes a good POV to editing images in Photoshop. I am looking forward to learning more through taking part in the young people’s arts award and hope to study photography at college.
Charlotte Ansell Artist Profile
I began this project with a lot of excitement but also a sense of trepidation about how possible it might be to produce creative writing with a group of people who traditionally often have poor literacy skills (many Romany Gypsies/Travellers leave school by the age of 11) and who furthermore might be suspicious of ‘gorja’ outsiders coming in; worried about their identities being discovered if they were to write about themselves and who might be dubious about how such a project might be of benefit to them. It is safe to say that a lot of my fears were well-founded; I did encounter suspicion and many participants who lacked confidence in their reading and writing abilities; however those same people were time and again wonderful story-tellers who did justice to the incredibly rich oral tradition within their culture and who were generous in both their honesty and their willingness to trust me enough to share their views, their stories and indeed their lives.
to meetings being postponed or cancelled entirely was another factor that hampered my ability to deliver and the sheer scale of working with seven distinct small groups (or in some cases individuals) across the length and breadth of Lincolnshire was a huge challenge in itself. I also realised early on that unlike groups I had worked with in the past, the ‘reward’ of seeing your own work in print was not necessarily seen as a reward here and that I needed to find other ways of engaging interest or offering something back to the community for the participants to feel that what had transpired was a fair exchange. None of this would have been possible without the support of the rest of the project team and in particular Paul Boucher and Sam Turner of Lincolnshire Traveller Initiative who unstintingly gave of their precious time and facilitated introductions, enabled communication and helped enormously with many aspects of my work too numerous to mention here. By the end we were able to produce between us a body of work I feel immensely proud of; that I believe gives a fascinating insight into these extraordinary lives across generations within the Romany Gypsy community in Lincolnshire. I have learnt so much by being involved and I feel incredibly humbled and privileged to have been a part of this project.
I knew from the start that this was no ordinary creative writing project, I knew I would have to draw on all my skills in order to engage the young people and adults who had signed up to be involved and that I would have to rely on my own willingness to be versatile and to think on my feet to meet the challenges I would be faced with. The very first family I met up in the North of the county were incredibly welcoming and I had a fascinating and productive session with the younger ones which included them showing me family photos such as the eldest son cooking his first hedgehog over a fire at the age of 4-5 and a photo of their dad as a toddler with his parents, in front of a sign proclaiming “any person found guilty of tipping rubbish or other litter on this land will be liable to a fine not exceeding ten pounds under Litter Act 1958.” And underneath a further statement: “A reward of £5 will be paid for information leading to the conviction of the offenders BY ORDER” which had clearly amused the family and thus the story had been passed down the family along with the photo. We also worked on some poetry and I came away energised and thrilled that this first session had gone so well. There followed some up and downs; such as the day when I arrived to meet a new family to be told not to go on site just minutes before I was due to visit, or the young people I met who seemed keen to be involved and wrote some fantastic work, only for their parents to pull them out of the project. Obstacles not withstanding we pressed on and I learnt to gear my exercises around oral methodsrecording and transcribing stories to capture the rich vernacular of the language and to harvest stories that might not have translated so vibrantly onto the page if they had been written rather than spoken. This oral ability seemed to be something innate as I was amazed to find the young people to be just as talented story tellers as their elders. Some of the younger participants also engaged enthusiastically with poetry- acrostic poems proved particularly popular for example as did writing about memories or going out with a notebook around the sites to capture sounds and observations to form into poems about home. I tried not to be prescriptive and whatever exercises I prepared I also strove to be flexible enough to go with each group or individual’s interest; whether that was researching a family tree, talking about living off the land or the experiences of discrimination and bullying in school. Could the project aims have been achieved in a better way? Undoubtedly. It became apparent early on that to properly train and enable the young people to interview their elders was something that would take a lot more time and sensitive encouragement than we had available. The amount of time lost due
Older Stories Linda (20) – School The first school I went to was Cowbit and it was a really small school, unbelievably small. Half of the kids that was in it were Travellers. There were only two classes, about 15 in each class. I didn’t have no problems there whatsoever. All my friends, me cousins whatever was in that school, teachers were lovely, there were really nice teachers in that school. I was in Cowbit for years then me Granddad was dying so we went to Newcastle. I think I went to Bedlington, near Newcastle, then. With that school, because I was born in September, they got the dates mixed up and they put me in the year forward. A minibus used to come and take us and I knew loads of kids there because we all went from the camp – sometimes they had to bring two minibuses. It wasn’t until just before we left that they wanted to move me down a year but I didn’t want to because I’d got used to people in that class. That’s when I started not to like it. There were no Travellers in my class but they were dotted around the school. We left soon after that but you could write a book about the amount of schools I’ve been to! When we came back me mam couldn’t get us in Cowbit again because everyone wanted to get in there, so I went to a little school called Goodfellows that got closed down because there wasn’t enough kids to keep it going – there was nothing wrong with it, just not enough kids. Then I went to the school down the bottom of the road, I was probably in Year 4 by then. That school was the only one me mam took me out of, the only school I had problems in. I liked doing literacy, maths, science, English, everything, just not geography. But they used to take me out on maths and science like I was stupid and I was good at maths and science. They’d make me sit and tell me to behave and calm down but how can you when they’re giving you Biff and Chip picture books! They’d sit me with the slow kids, the dyslexic ones, the slow ones, God forgive me. When you’re on the same books as them when you can read and write, that used to aggravate me. I was one of the first Travellers in that school so they didn’t know what to do with us. They thought I’d never been to school but I’ve been going there all me life! One day the teacher tried to throw a book at me – that was horrible. They used to be yellow literacy books. I drew my initials LB on the bottom and the teacher told me I was graffiti-ing the book. I was only nine or 10 and it was tiny little letters but he said it was graffiti and chucked it at me! I walked out; I wouldn’t even just sit there. Me mam came in to see him and she could tell he was lying because he got all tongue tied, he knew he’d done wrong. He said he just slammed the book down on the table but then he said he was stood over there, so me mam said how could you have slammed it down if you was stood over there? Me mam asked to see the book and she started laughing: “Were you being serious?” because the letters were so small. The next day I was in school and the head teacher came and said ‘Linda Boswell step outside for a minute please.’ Then she said ‘You want to apologise?’ and I said ‘no’. She just stared in my face and said ‘Do we have to call your mum?’ and I said ‘Yeah, you best do’ so me mam took me out of there. The last primary school I went to was just up the road.
“Everything was fine in that school, I was in the second highest group in everything and it was perfect.” 20
There was just one problem. This school was miniature like the last one. There were 16 kids in each class. My sister was in this school and my brother Donny was in it. He was not a bright child, he couldn’t read or write. He’s training to be a personal trainer now, if you see him you can see he lives and dies in that gym. But he was one of them kids; he used to fall asleep in school. The teachers were nice to him, they never used to shout at him and he had friends in school, he was just lazy. He says he can’t read and write but when it comes to PlayStation or sending messages he can do that, just not big words. So it wasn’t me that got bullied in that school, it was me brother. He’s 10 months younger than me and at that time he was really timid. This boy and girl, two twins, used to pick on him. I didn’t know because I didn’t like to go out at playtime because I didn’t have friends there, so I’d help the teacher do photocopying. The teacher had a dog and you could take it for walks and there were hamsters you could look after. I was that sort of child, I kept out of the cold, I couldn’t be bothered. Kids in that school were alright but I’d always seemed a bit more grown up. I was nearly 12 in that school and the other Travelling girls of 12 were at home cleaning up, going down the town with their mams and I’d get back and I’m still in my school uniform and kids just want to be the same as everyone else. All kids don’t like school, so because they were doing that I felt like ‘I wanna do that’. I was still in school because we were settled here and the other kids would move on the camps then move on but even when we were travelling up and down me Mam always put us in school. Me mam never rushed me into cooking or cleaning and minding the kids. Little girls from age nine to 10 do it; lots of Travelling women make them do that but me Mam never made me. You’d see girls go and fetch the water from outside to clean the windows, lots of young Travelling girls did. I never got made to clean up. Like me cousin, she stopped going to school at nine and I’d say ‘Do you want to play stuck in the mud’ or ‘Do you want to play tig?’ but she’d say ‘No I’ve got to wash the winders’ or ‘No I’ve got to wash up’. So I often used to play with the boys, me cousins, other kids I’ve always grown up with. My Isabella, there is no way I’d take her out of school at nine because the way things are going now for men and women, they will all have to go to school, college or whatever because in the next 20 years they’ll need an education. It’s getting hard for people, especially people who can’t read or write. When me dad was little it wasn’t so hard, he could go out calling an’ that. But my kids – every one of them will learn how to do something, they’ll have to. Even maintenance on a house, you can do it now, you’ve just been learned to do it, always done it but they’ll be a law to say you’ve got to go to college to do it, it won’t be a choice. You go and knock on someone’s door now and try to sell them something they’ll turn you away. I’ve been working all me life. I used to have a little shop on the weekends selling clothes and jewellery, from about the age of 15 I’ve always had a job. But getting back to school, me brother was getting bullied because he was timid. He didn’t do anything about it, God love him. He wouldn’t tell anyone but I caught them at it this boy and girl, caught them saying ‘You’re nothing but a dirty pikey who can’t read or write, you’re stupid, you’re backward,’ all that. Your brother usually looks after you because he’s the boy but with us it was the other way round. So I had a fight with them. The teacher knew they were doing wrong but she said ‘Calm down Linda, leave it’. This young boy had me brother pinned up against the fence and you know when you hit a loose wire? Well, I’d seen red. I was one of those people who stuck up for meself, I always stuck up for meself, I had a mouth on me. The teachers were trying to grab hold of me but the teachers should have done something about it but they wasn’t. I wasn’t picking fights, it was what they were doing to me brother. They told me if I didn’t calm down I couldn’t go back in school but if I’d of gone back in it would have happened again so I went. I was in my last year then as well but I didn’t go back, I was out for about six months then. We used to go up to Appleby in the summer and then you wouldn’t want to go back to school.
So then I went up to secondary. The council came down and said do you want to try it and I was optimistic, I said I’d try it, I’ll always try something. I started half way through the first year. Margaret from the council (she’s got made redundant now), she came with me the first day to show me round and help me. Then they gave me a buddy. I made friends with this girl, Stacey or something. It was alright but I was lonely, I’d always been in little schools up ’til then. Having to change classes, I found that hard. When we were in Newcastle we went to middle school they should have those everywhere because it’s such a complete change from primary to this massive school. Most of the lessons were in one building but you had to go to other places – science and maths (and it was all different kinds of science now) was all in different rooms, German, French and Spanish was all in Portacabins. You could pick cooking, knitting, dressmaking or woodwork. I chose the knitting, learning how to sew a dress, stitch. I only chose that because I wasn’t there on the first day and I didn’t have the ingredients for cooking because you had to go and buy your own before, so instead I did sewing and it was the most boring class! I loved French, I’m good at languages, I could tell you all the colours of the rainbow, directions etc. I could tell you how to get to Peterborough all in French!
don’t realise what they’re saying, what does that mean? We’re probably cleaner than a lot of people. My husband will come back and say ‘Have you done owt today?’ but he’s good really. When I was having a baby he would wash up, he can cook and if I go away for the weekend he’ll make up all the beds and leave the trailer tidy. Am I proud of being a Gypsy? Yes and no. You know by people’s attitudes if you bring it up, sometimes you feel awkward and you don’t want people to know. Sometimes you keep it to yourself – I don’t care what anyone says – it’s not that you’re not proud, you just don’t know what people’s reactions will be. You walk into some places, fancy shops, and people get talking and they’re buying designer shoes and so are you. They think because you live in a caravan you’ve got no money but it’s not like that, it’s your choice.
So I get in this school and there’s girls smoking behind the hedge where there’s no cameras; half the time I don’t think it was even a cigarette they were smoking to tell the truth. Then there was these young girls and they had their school uniforms especially made for them to fit their bellies! Bellies out here! I’d never seen anything like it and it wasn’t just one of them, there were four or five of them at least. Then there were all these problems, whispers, gossiping like ‘you know she slept with him’ and I didn’t even know what that meant – I’d never heard it before, my face dropped! I was about 13 by then. I had quite a lot of time out. I stopped hanging around with the girls then because it was all this ‘have you tried this before, have you tried that? I’ve been out with him and with him an I don’t know whether to dump him’ all that. I don’t like speaking about it really, I don’t talk about it. They would be saying stuff, vulgar stuff, saying words to me I didn’t know but I knew it was bad. I never had a secluded life but I’d had a Traveller’s life. It was just after I left school I met me boyfriend, I married me first boyfriend! It was awkward in school like with your cousin who’s a boy and you’re with the other girls and they’re talking about sex and your cousin always sticks up for you ‘What are you saying in front of these young girls. You shouldn’t say it in front of me cousin, she’s only a young girl!’ I was 14! No one wants to speak to you after that. You had different things to them. The complete opposite. The girl says ‘Me boyfriend touched me bum’ and you’ d say ‘You’re disgusting’ and it’d cause an argument but I didn’t know any different, I’d only been around young Travelling girls. I’d say ‘Does your mother and father know?’ and they’d call me an old woman! They’d say they’d take their boyfriends home to meet their parents at 14 – are you serious?! I met my husband through friends. I hated him when I met him and he stalked me for two months. I wouldn’t talk to him. I was too much! You don’t play hard to get – well you do! I never had a boyfriend before in me life – friends had boyfriends so it was peer pressure, that’s all it was. I was always the fifth wheel, the gooseberry all the time, because my girls would never leave me. You weren’t allowed a boyfriend so we had to go all together with our friends, to the cinema or something. In Spalding everyone is related, so you had to go out with someone from somewhere else. My husband is from Cambridge but he was living in Brighton when I met him – we met in Peterborough.
“I wish I’d stayed in school. In September I was going to go back to college but then we moved.” I’m glad I’m a Gypsy. A lot of people have very strong views on them from where they’ve been through a rough time. The way I’ve been brought up is to speak me mind, stand up for whatever you believe in, when people call you a dirty Gypsy and things like that, you can ask them ‘You calling me dirty?’ They
Cilla (28) – Family My Dad’s Gran, Harriet Webb, came over with her dad Sydney Webb from Australia. She met Granddad Webb here. Sydney Webb gave Harriet a choice: either stay and marry Granddad Webb or go back to Australia with him. She chose to stay. There doesn’t seem to be a connection between the Australian Webbs – Sydney Webb – and the English Webbs – Granddad Webb who married Granny Harriet. At least, we can’t find any connection. My Dad and Granny Harriet had a great connection. She got up every morning at 5am to start a fire and get breakfast ready for everyone else. I remember she lost a leg and then later her other leg. I remember her sitting in a wheelchair with a Welsh rug over her lap. Granddad Webb did not let Granny Harriet work. He said she did enough at home and he wanted her to live like a lady.
“My family still has a connection with Australia” Now as my sister Roseanne married an Australian, Brycey Wilson. He was a Traveller too. His parents were Scots, I think. There are Syds in both my Mum and Dad’s families, and Pemberlinas in both; you often get the same names in Travelling families. My Mam’s family took Pemberlina from my Dad’s family because they had known each other for years. There’s lots of Priscillas too; that’s how I got my name, Cilla.
One of my Dad’s sisters was Priscilla too but everyone called her Tuddles, which I think came from cuddles. My Mam’s Mam was Annie Gentle but everyone called her Noll and I think that was from her dad calling her Doll which became Noll. I didn’t want to keep the family names for my children as they sound old. My first daughter is Sienna but she had the name Pemberlina too, just not as her first name. I wanted to call Sienna Shyanne but Beanie, my husband, went around telling everyone she was Sienna so when I came to have my next daughter I said ‘I’m having Shyanne this time’. My family went nuts, saying ‘you can’t do that’ but I just always loved it so I said ‘I’m doing it’. It’s from an Indian tribe and it means ‘time to shine’. My Mam and Dad met in Scotland and my Dad said he ketched me mam running after a haggis! We didn’t know a haggis wasn’t a real animal – my Dad had us believe it was a furry animal with legs but we’ll never know the true story, he won’t tell us! My dad doesn’t know his real age as he was born in a caravan and got registered wrong but he thinks he’s a bit younger than me Mam. He always teases her about that! Me Mam and Dad’s sister Tuddles were best friends; they have been for years. I’d like to work out my family tree but years ago kids were born in trailers at the side of the road and they only got the midwives involved if there was an emergency, so lots of the births weren’t registered. We tried to trace any of the family back to my great granddad Sydney Webb in Australia and we think we found someone on Facebook – this man called Sydney Webb who looks the spit of my Dad’s brother but he didn’t want to know about any connection with a Gypsy family – he’s settled now – so we couldn’t find out if it was or not. Me and my husband we’re not that traditional. We do everything 50:50, apart from the washing up! I do all the paperwork too. My Mam’s not traditional either, she does what she wants. We’re a close family though. My sister Donna married Theodore, who is my husband Beanie’s first cousin, so my motherin-law and her father-in-law are brother and sister. I’d want my girls to be at least 30 before they get married and I’d want them to court for at least ten years, to really get to know each other first. But if they did run off with a boy I’d want them to come back and I’d rather they marry gorjas than be miserable. Happiness is the most important thing.
Annie (41) – Life If you were a Gypsy woman, you’d accept things, you made your bed you lie in it, that’s it. If you married a wrong ’un, you stuck it. But me dad always tret me mam like a queen, he’s manicured her toenails for the last 15 years since he’s been married to her. It ain’t a man’s world with Travellers anymore because the women can get very... not vicious… but the women what sticks it, the ones that take it still yeah but some of them say ‘why do I have to get beat?’ And they’ve got a good family so they go home. But some of them does sticks it because I think they think ‘I’ll go home, he’ll buy me something nice and that’ll be it’, d’ya know what I mean? But say with me daughter, the girls ’ave got an easy life now to what they had years ago. Now half the time, the mam’s situations is, we’re not going to worry about us daughters, because the reason why is you just tell ’em to keep themselves respectable, clean, as long as they know how to cook and clean and look after themselves. If a man touched my girl, even if she loved him deeply, he wouldn’t make it ’til next year, it would just be took out of her hands and that’d be the end of it. I don’t think it’s changing for Gypsy girls. The reason why is the ones that want jobs or don’t want to get married until they’re 20, some of them it is, half of them it is because they’ll do a bit of work or babysitting for their aunts but now half the aunts won’t pay ’em and there’s not a lot of work about, it ain’t like years ago and they’re ’aving to look for jobs, they’ve got to, they’ve got no choice. I’ll provide for her and her dad‘ll provide for her if she’s at home til she’s 60. As long as we’re alive she’ll get what we can give her. Other mums and dads won’t do it, if you get me meaning. I was born in a trailer, each and every one of us, there’s five of us, travelling up and down. Me Granny owned her own ground and we all lived on that when we was little ’cos it was like us owning our own place here but there was heaps of grandchildren running around and children and us own children never left us. It was unusual, me Granddad’s been dead 40-odd year and they had the ground before then. Me Granddad was an ’oss dealer. I don’t really know if he made money but he must have done to keep all the kids. Me Granny used to go out with a bag I think and when she never done that the girls went out and the boys went out selling pots and rags and things like that d’ya know what I mean? It’s different lifestyles for different times. Years ago they used to make money off it selling an ’oss for a couple of pound here and there, buying it for fifty pence because that was the money years ago, probably not in my time, it would be in the thirty pounds and ten pounds, you could buy a good ’oss for twenty pounds but it’s different things for different times. Now they do it for the look of them, the prettiness, it ain’t the money, it’s who’s got the best ’oss, it’s like who’s got the biggest house, who’s got the best car on the street, that’s who’s got the best ’oss amongst Travellers. When I was a girl I did go to school now and again, not all the time. Some days me dad’d put me in the front gate and I’d go out the back gate, to me brother. It was all right, it wasn’t too bad, I never learnt nothing and I had to beg for me milk because the teacher wouldn’t give me it. All the other children would get their milk and I’d have to wait for mine coming off the heater. Little cartons of milk they was and she’d leave mine on the heater ‘til it went sour because I was a Traveller, I can remember it, I was just a baby. Because all school then you could have milk and it was ten pence, I don’t think it was even ten pence, that’s how long it’s been ago and you could take like a handful, a few little two pences and buy little packets of crisps. A little boy would come out and stand and you could go out in the playground and you could buy a packet of crisps off him or a lollipop or something like that. But I remember I used to have to stand back and wait. I would stand there and they wouldn’t serve me. The little boy would look over, he was from a bigger class, and he’d look over and keep asking everybody else. If I went home and told me mam she’d say ‘they’re only divvy gorjas don’t bother’. But
d’ya know what it is, where you was put down so much when you was little, it ain’t so much as you think you’re better ’un them, they treat us like they’re better’un us so it’s like payback, you treat us like – I might as well say it – like horse do, all us life, you walk in a shop and they watch you the minute you walk in a shop an things like that so now it’s time, we’ve got that, we can pay for that, we’re gonna have it. I can walk in a shop an… listen, I can get up in the morning time, barely wash me face, as long as I’m half decent and we can go, when I walk in that shop I don’t want me nose cocked up at, when I’ve got five or six hundred pounds to spend on my kids, d’ya know what I mean? I don’t want them to cock their nose up at my children, my children’s as good as them.
“We went on the bus the other day and they tret me like a divvy” This woman said why should we stop at this stop – no, you’re taking liberties us stopping at this bus stop. But my boys was washed, done, all done, I’m rough and ready an normal but it’s right – they were the roughest of roughest, making a mess and everything and I thought to meself, ‘oh my God and you’ve got the cheek to call me’, d’ya know what I mean? Listen, I’m rough on the top half but me food cupboards an’ that is clean, d’ya get me meaning? They could never even know what a piece of bleach is to run round the toilet or anything like that, you know what I’m saying don’t ya, it’s just hard work to tell you the truth sometimes. But do you know something, there’s clean and dirty amongst all of us, I’m just rough and ready an normal. Babies do what they want and I clean up behind ’em. I’m probably the roughest lady I’ve ever been to tell you the truth since I’ve started work but it’s part of life, there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t know to tell you the truth, I don’t know. So when I was little we stopped at me granny’s and me dad used to take us to a site and in the summer time he’d take us away to the strawberries and potatoes picking and things like that. But me dad wouldn’t move up an down because the reason why is, he had all girls, well there was me and me sister (I was a lot younger) an me mam and for the sake of going to the toilet an things like that. When we was little we wasn’t allowed, me dad fetched us up with respect, we wasn’t allowed to go to the toilet just anywhere or just walk off anywhere and we was always used to a bath, ’coz me mam used to have a twin tub washing machine and she used to warm the water in the washing machine and he used to have a big box top that come off of ’em big lorries and she’d warm the water up in the washing machine, and she’d scoop it out or if it was a drainer it’d drain out straight into the bath, the big tin bath, and being all girls we’d all dive in it one after an other then me mam’d get in, get a nice bath and me dad’d say ‘save that water for me’ and he’d get in it. Then they built the sheds on there with a bath, it was luxury then! I was about six. We did sometimes have a shift up and down but not being dragged up and down roadsides. Me dad never did like that kind of life; he was too busy doing his work to leave us on a roadside so that’s why he was always settled. If we went away he’d go and find a farmyard for us to pull in so we had electric and water or a big generator. We did stop for two year on a lay-by with more Gypsies - it was the hardest two year of our life, put it that way, but we still had a big generator, a toilet, things like that but still not to what we was used to. We’d be all up and down but it was a different way of life, d’ya know what I mean? When I met me husband, when I first married him, I’d wait all day ’til he come home, I’d sit there patiently so he could take me to the toilet because there was no toilets when we was on the sides of the roads. These days people is a lot better off ain’t they? The reason why is if they don’t do no good the Government would help you out, so you’re never gonna starve, you’re never ever gonna starve in these days but when I was little I never knew the emanation – I knew how to work – pick strawberries, pick taters, pick apples, plums. I went out a few times with a bag selling swag, lace an things like that. You could sell gold charms, but it was pegs and little brushes
an that – not heather though because there’s no such thing as a piece of material being lucky. Or a flower, there’s no such thing as them things being lucky! I never thought but I had to work, it was just ‘oh get up, we gotta go to work today’. Me dad fetched us up not that we had to do anything, none of us had to do it. I had a funny bringing up, we had the best dad in the world. We didn’t have to do nothing – wash, keep yourself clean, keep your hair combed, keep yourself nice, keep your place clean. I went with me dad because me brothers got married, I was at home and I used to go out working with me dad. I loved working with me dad but then I’d go out at night-time an get meself taters, big bags of taters to sell for me own money. Then I’d work in a factory, riddling carrots, anything. Anything I could find to do, I’d do. I’d put me age up and go in the factories, so I’d be 14, working in a factory. I don’t know much about me great grannies and granddads, I’ve never really been interested. I know it sounds bad! I know me Granny and Granddad, well I never knew me Granddad because he died, I never knowed me dad’s parents, he was fetched up by his Granny and Granddad – I can’t remember I think they died before…? Me dad’s people was all in the Army. Me dad’s uncle was a guard in the whatever it was, he’d stand in front of the door like a soldier, war medals after war medals me dad’s family had. They were still Travellers but settled down. Me mam’s side would travel up and down. I think me mam’s dad; I think he was wealthy, to tell you the truth, but still a Traveller. People talk about real Gypsies but these days I think some of the boys is married out to gorja girls because the reason why is I think there’s some older people, I can remember me dad saying some of the old down Gypsies, I wouldn’t think they was gonna be watered down Gypsies unless the boys is married to a gorja girl, the younger end and probably some of the older ones and that way. I don’t know many of them round here but I think a few of thems married into the gorja girls. Some of the girls are marrying gorja’s too – it wouldn’t be me wish for me girl but there you go. I’d like me boys to marry gorja girls because the Gypsy girls just rips their eyes out of their ’eds. It wouldn’t bother me if they fetched a gorja girl back but me girl, if she did they’d torment him a bit more than what they do a gorja girl because they’d say he’s a divvy old gorja. They always torture him a bit more, the Gypsy community does. But she’d still have to have respect for herself the way she would if she married a Gypsy boy. On one site I lived on there was a few what was gorjas, come out of houses and lived on there, d’ya know what I mean? Because what they do and they still do it now – the has-beens – they’ve got a different word for it now, you know when they get the lowest of low in council estates and they can’t control ’em, they’ve got nowhere else to go but if they’ve been kicked out of a council estate for fighting and killing each other or being very abusive to anybody and they can’t get back in a house and they’ve put ’em on a site or they’ve turned up outside of a site with three or four little children and towing a trailer or they’ve seen ’em on a lay-by down the road and they’ve got nowhere else to go? They’ll tow ’em on the site and the Travellers would mek ’em welcome, if you get me meaning. That’s what they’d do because there only just normal rough and ready people but nobody don’t want ’em round ’em but at the end of the day they’ve got rights to be somewhere. Either the council would put ’em on a site with us or they’d put ’em on a lay-by years ago and they’d be left. But they was wannabees. They was hippies but as long as they didn’t give us all lice or things like that – people had rights to be somewhere. Some of them got a few plots on there an some of them are still there, believe it or not. My kids have got none of the old Gypsy ways, that’s gone. But, put it this way, say if I woke up this morning and I never had shopping in my cupboard and I never had money, I could put a basket or a bag on my ’and and I’d walk to every one of them house doors and I’d beg shopping. I’d say I haven’t come for money but would you give me a loaf of bread or some food for my kids, I need food. I could beg, I could beg like the next person. I wouldn’t beg for money. Gypsies get taught to beg but I was
never fetched up to beg. I think it’s a nature what’s inside of you because I asked the dressmaker could she do me clothes and she said no but by the time I finished with her she said yes! Because I told her what I wanted and made her to believe in me. It’s no good if I go in and say would you do me some clothes and she says no – oh ok.
Give it another 20 year and they’ll be no such things. There will, but it’ll be very watered down. There’ll be the name Gypsy, we’ll still live in trailers but it’ll be watered down that bad. There’ll just be one big thing and that’ll be it – there won’t be nothing special about it.
Most Travellers are quite boisterous I’d say, which is a good thing to a certain limit if you know when to hold your tongue because your tongue can get you in a lot of trouble. D’ya know something? If I died tomorra, my husband could fetch each and every one of my kids up, washed, and do his best in the place and go to work.
“I know if he died tomorra, I could tek up where’s he’s left off. I probably couldn’t do the work bit as good as ’im but I could do it.” I know in my heart, my children wouldn’t go hungry and I’d learn each and every one of them to work and I’d try and give them the best if I could. And I’d mek ’em work with me, not as much as he would because he lays back a bit, but I’d mek them work to help me. And d’ya know something else… the Romany language is getting lost. The gorjas have got more respect for theirselves than what we’ve got because we’ve lost it. Let me tell you something, it’s gone. The only thing I can learn my children is to have respect for themselves, respect for other people, try not to do nowt wrong they don’t have to, go out to work, whatever they can’t get, they can’t get, as long as they’ve had a good try and tried to get it and that’s the main thing. Can’t do more than fetch them up the best way, but the culture’s gone, it’s finished. Take 20 children, Gypsy children, and put ’em in a room and ask ’em what they know. They’ll know ‘course a dog’, that’s all they’ll know, they won’t know what an hedgehog is and they’ll know what a catapult is, a shot, and that’s it. There’s very far and few in between. They’ll know keck, simple things, but they don’t know actually real words – borraca – borraca is a shop. If I looked at my children and said ‘let’s go to the borraca and get some moro for when your dad comes home from grafting all day’, they don’t know what that is. They know words like muskra but that’s every day, London people knows those. If I say to you muskra you’ll know, keck, chor, you’ll know, but if I looked at you and said borraca – borraca’s shop. Go to the borraca and get some mas or go and get some uries for when your dad comes home or have we got any down there with the chickens or we could say cannies, things like that. It’s just different ways of going on but half the children don’t know what it means. See I only know from me mum. Me dad’s a proper Gypsy man, he says things but he’s not a man to shove ‘you’re a Gypsy’ down your neck, it’s just a natural thing. You don’t ’ave to have it shoved down your neck, you are what you are. But me mam is old fashioned, she’ll sit and tell you the meanation of things, she’s just a different person, if you get me meaning. These days the bookshelves is full of books about Gypsies. I think it’s good on some things but it ain’t on others because the reason why is, the gorja culture knows more about us than what we know about ourself now, so we’ve got nothing hidden whereas before, years ago, nobody knowed what me mam’s mam and dad said because they probably talked fluent, nobody’d know what that meant but now, if I walk in a shop… We went somewhere the other day looking for material and we drove past the sunbed shop and everyone in the sunbed stared at us because they knowed we was a Gypsy. They know what we are. They know how you walk, they know your reactions. Me oldest boy, if he walked in a village everyone would know what he was from a million miles away – he goes to the gym, stick him in the gym and take pictures, you’d pick him out, the Gypsy boy out of the ring, that’s it, there’s no hiding him. But we’ve lost it now, it’s gone.
Hughie (39) – Food
“At Christmas time we go off looking for hedgehogs.” We don’t go find them and eat them because we’re starving to death but because my granddad showed my dad and my dad showed me and I showed my son and all Travellers can do that. What they do in the winter time is they go round looking for hedgehogs like a round heap of straw like a football for instance, to cover the straw in the hedge bottom and in the winter the hedgehog hibernates, so they go and get the hedgehog and roll it out of the nest and bring it home. It don’t sound very nice like but you press your foot on its back until its head comes out, hit it with a stick and it’s dead. Get a really, really sharp knife and shave its bristles all off it – singe it – it’s got hair on its belly so you’ve gotta mek a fire, put a stick in its mouth and hold it over a fire til it singes all the hair. Keep scraping with the knife and you’ve got like a round football with no hair on it, no bristles on it. Then you can cut it from its head to its tail, open it all up so you can tek its insides all out coz you don’t eat all its guts, all its offal, all the bits you don’t want, if you know what I mean. Then you can wash it and boil it or roast it over a fire. That business of putting clay round a hedgehog, that’s rubbish that, you don’t do that. If you rolled a hedgehog in clay, for instance, and you put it on a fire, the first thing it’d do is it would swell up and bust because if I got you and blocked your mouth and your backside up and put you in a fire you’d swell up from the gas and you’d explode, wouldn’t yer? Well, that’s what’d happen to an ’edgehog it would just go bang! inside. There’d be nothing to eat – can you imagine cooking it with all its insides in? I’ll go to the butchers, while I’m hedghogging, get meself some liver, some sausages for the kids, so then when I’m mekking the fire they sit round and they’re roasting their sausages and their little bits of meat what they’ve got while the hedgehog’s cooking. We’ll have a fire and sit out round it in the summer. I’ve packed it away now but normally me pan’s out here, you’ve seen it in the garden, it’s normally down where this bus is somewhere but in the winter time it’s cold, you don’t feel like coming out. Summertime in the evenings I’ll come outside, mek a stick fire, the wife’ll bring say a coupla pound of belly pork back, say some lamb chops, pork chops, coupla bits of liver for ’em, bring it back, we’ll go in there bring a big loaf of bread out, they don’t even go in there for bread, they’ll all stand out here, we’re off! Half the camp comes. I’ll normally get a pan out or I’ll go off trout fishing and get 30, 40 trout. I’ll bring ’em all back, gut ’em, tek the scales off ’em, cut the tails off, tek the fins off ’em, wash ’em in some salt and water, put a dear little bit of fat in the pan, drop it Shish! Shish! then cut me a bit of bread – boof gone! Feed probably about ten of ’em in minutes! Sometimes in the wintertime like, sometime on New Year’s Day or say Boxing Day, traditional Gypsy people, I don’t mean some of them you see, they’ve never really been off hedgehogging, living off the wildlife, they’ve never done that so they don’t teach their sons to do that therefore its growing out. So if I see people like Travelling people and I said ‘lets go off hedgehogging’ they’d go with yer but they wouldn’t know where to find ’em. You have to be learned, like anything really. I could walk along hedge bottom and I’ve had Traveller lads saying ‘oh I can find hedgehogs’ and I’ve walked along and said ‘There’s hedgehog’ and they’ve said to me ‘Where?’ ‘ There. Look.’ ‘Where?’ ‘Here look’ and I’ve pulled it out, d’ya know what I mean? But what puts you off, years ago you had thousands of hedgehogs but what puts me off a bit, you find hedgehogs near council houses where there’s big council estates usually – now God knows what they eat, I’ve seen some weird things chucked up and down where these hedgehogs have been, so it worries yer and not only that, they put slug pellets down to kill slugs so if you eat an hedgehog that’s
eaten slug pellets, poisons, you wouldn’t know really would yer? It puts yer off. When you’re young you don’t realise. When I was young about ten, 11, 12, 13, I’d eat two or three hedgehogs one after another, it wouldn’t bother me. Me brother et one once raw! Me dad fetched it back, shaved it, cleaned it, washed it, put it in a bowl to soak, he’s gone off wherever he’s gone – me brother’s come back, no light on, got this hedgehog ripped it to bits! Me dad’s going ‘where’s that hedgehog gone off there?’ ‘ I et it,’ me brother’s said and me dad’s gone, ‘I ain’t even cooked it yet!’ Because it had been over the fire, you see, and he’d scraped it and it had singed all the ’air off the outside of it you see made it all black and it being dark, he’s just ripped it to bits and et it! I’ve actually got photos somewhere of me going off finding a hedgehog, bringing it back, shaving it then step by step of me cleaning it and roasting it. There’s not really much on ’em, unless you had seven or eight of ’em, you couldn’t feed your family on ’em. It’s more of a traditional sort of thing. But years ago when the war was on and there was no food and people were starving, Gypsies could go off snaring rabbits, they’d go off finding hedgehogs. I know certain mushrooms, blue-stalks – I show my girls different mushrooms you can eat. The bluestalks are the slimy ones, I don’t really like ’em but I eat ’em and I mek the kids eat ’em because they’re very, very good for you, they put iron in your body. You can also get them big ’uns, them horse mushrooms, but I don’t like them; the last time I had them was about 20 years ago and I felt very, very sick after. I wouldn’t eat ’em again. The best ones though is blue stalks and you get them out of the wood, you just barely lift the leaves up and you can see- any blue stalk when you pick it up and look at the stem of it it’ll have little bits of blue on it. In the summer time we go off trout fishing at Matlock and we don’t use a fishing rod, we get in there and tickle a trout. We don’t bother with fishing rods. But with fishing and things, we’ll go to a river, see trout in it, chuck a brick in it and they’ll all go hide underneath the bank. Then I’ll just get in, put me hands underneath the bank until I can feel the fish, go along with me hand nice and steady, get me thumb and me finger straight in its gills and pull it out – I’ve had one in each hand sometimes. I go sometimes with lettuce and tomaters, I’ll go into a shop and get a few salads and some fresh bread – go up to Matlock and I’ll say to me wife drive up into Bakewell or somewhere nice and drive up to a nice big fresh stream, pull up at the side of it, put a blanket out, let the kids run up and down let ’em all play in the water and next minute I’ve pulled five or six trout out – barbecue on the river bank! Then there’s jugged hare as well – that’s where you are supposed to hang a hare. I wouldn’t fancy it – me mam’s done it, she’s cooked it when I was younger and we all et it but as I’ve got older I wouldn’t fancy the idea of scraping maggots off it. Because with jugged hare what you’re supposed to do is, when a fly lays its eggs onto the meat, obviously it’s not maggots is it? It’s fly blows – they’re like little white things like eggs and they turn to maggots. Jugged hare is where they’ve left the ’are hanging and hanging and hanging until it gets all fly blows all over it and maggots start covering it then you’re s’posed to skin it and clean it and get all the fly blows and maggots what’s in it out of it, then cook it in red wine and it tenderises the meat but I couldn’t stomach scraping all the maggots off of it to eat it sort of thing. But I’ll have a go at anything as long as its fresh – providing it’s not a rat. I wouldn’t fancy eating a rat. I’ve et thousands of rabbits and pheasants and hares, I’ve lived on them all me life really. Some people will eat blackbirds and when I was little we’d suck blackbirds’ eggs. We’d go off hunting some times, four or five boys, I’d tek me girls with me sometimes with catapults, no dogs, no guns, just a catapult each and we’d go along the hedge bottom and see a wood pigeon. Bang! We’d shoot it off the nest, go a bit further on we’d see a blackbird – bang we’d shoot that! Go a bit further on we’d see a rat, shoot that. Bit further we’d see a rabbit – bang we’d shoot that then we’d mek a fire, skin the rabbit, pluck our blackbird, pluck our pigeon or whatever we had and we’d roast ’em on the fire. And as we was walking we’d get the blackbirds nest, get the eggs and crack one open and it’s just yoke and
we’d drink out of it, we’d eat them as we were going along, have our packed lunch as we were going along really from place to place. I’ve et thousands of eggs. If my girls got a pigeon’s egg I’d break the top off it and it’s fresh, you can see there’s no chick in it, it’s just a normal egg really, and drink it. Now elderflowers – I’ve picked them once. Me brother reckoned he could mek himself a millionaire out of them but I said not necessarily. He said well I was talking to a man who’ll buy elderflowers for so much a kilo providing it’s just the flowers. But I said yes but elderflowers are very, very light and fluffy, you’d have to pick a hell of a lot to get a kilo, what you’re on about. Yeah he says but he’s on about giving 35, 40 quid a kilo. They’re easy to pick off the trees he says, there’s thousands of them everywhere which is right but I said feel the weight of actual elderflowers, you’ll need a hell of a lot of elderflowers but he says oh well I think it’d be alright. So I said I’m just finishing work I’ve got nothing to do, I’ll have a couple of hours with ya and I’ve got an ’edge trimmer which can tek the elderflowers off a lot quicker than you can ’em so I’ll lop ’em off the tree and you can just pick ’em up. OK then he said. So I had about four to five hours with ’im and we got probably about three bin liners full. I said I don’t want any money for ’em, you tek them, sell them, just for curiosity and you keep the money off ’em. I think he made about 45 quid. Now I said there’s been me and you there, for three or four hours , that’s not really profitable is it? I tek your point he said! We eat paunches sometimes too. Not a lot of people eat them, it’s the sheep’s insides, they call it tripe. If you go to a butcher’s shop now you say can I have some tripe, it’s white, it’s sort of like a fluffy effect. But what tripe actually is – if you imagine your belly, as we’d call it, that’s shaped like a big round balloon. When you eat your food that holds your food in there, d’ya understand what I mean? Then it’s waste then, comes out of your back passage sort of thing. Well, that holding area on a sheep or an hanimal it only holds grass, so whatever is in that bag what we’re talking about, it only holds grass. When they kill lambs and they go to slaughter and they pull their insides all out, pull all the livers out like they do and they tek all the offal and that goes into this thing and that goes into that thing and it’s all separate like that, d’ya know what I mean? Well, all those insides where the grass is going you stick a knife in like that, cut it open and turn it inside out like that, shake the grass out of it, looks like fresh grass really like your lawnmower, what the sheep’s et, tip it out of it like that then you swill in some water, you jet wash it then you chuck it in a drum. Top restaurants buy ’em and things like that. What they are, they’re called paunches and what I do I go and buy ’em; they go for about 25p, 20p each, sometimes they’d just give ’em to you. Years ago they’d go for about 5p each now I think they go for about 25, 30p each and I’d bring ’em back, get a sharp knife, get some water, get some salt, scrape it underneath the tap, keep washing it and scrape it scrape it, scrape it then tek it out of there, get a separate bowl, get it more clean then scrape it some more in that bowl then get it in another bowl and scrape it again. I must’ve done it about six or seven times until there’s nothing you can see on it that shouldn’t be on it; if there’s a bit of fat on it get it all off then what I do then is I just put it in the pot, boil it just in normal water then you get your fork and stick a fork in it so you know its soft, pull it out and let it go cold, slice it all up with a knife like strips of say like chicken and then get an onion, peel an onion, get it in the frying pan and while you’re frying it, get these little strips of paunch, put it in, fry it with the onion. You know that when you’re in hospital and you’re not very well, they give you tripe and onions you know, all hospitals do that you know because it’s very, very good for you, lots of old folk eat it. Well, I do mine but I do it a bit different. I’ve et pigs feet and onions too, you know, and chicklin, that’s the insides of a pig – what they are, they’re all like intestines sort of thing.
There’s things what you’d say to me, ‘Ooh I wouldn’t fancy eating that’ but I can cook things, fetch it in here to ya and say ‘What d’ya think to this? I’m not gonna tell you what it is’ and you’d eat it and say ‘That was nice.’ It doesn’t look sometimes as you’d think it would look, as you’d imagine it would look. You see people eat with their eyes. They say ‘I don’t like the looks of that’ and they won’t eat it, or they smell something and say ‘I don’t like the smell of that’ but I eat with smell really. If something smells nice I’ll eat it but if it don’t smell very nice I wouldn’t fancy eating it. If you’ve got some meat, I wouldn’t eat like if you go down the main road and pick a pheasant off the main road. I wouldn’t bring it home and eat it because it could have been knocked over, hit, internal bleeding, all the meat’s all black, probably been there three or four days… but if I go off at night time and I’ve got permission where I go and shoot pheasants I know Bang, I’ve shot it, I know it was eating grass ten minutes ago. I don’t like eating it straight away. You know if you kill something now and bring it back and you’ve et it, tonight you’d have the runs. It’s fresh meat, that’s why if they shoot a cow they don’t eat it tomorra they hang it up for two month in cold storage. They hang the meat because the longer you keep beef the more tender it is but if you killed something today and you’d et it today you’d have the runs tonight because with it being fresh it goes straight through ya. That’s why I always hang them up for a couple of days. As long as it’s cold, you can’t hang something outside and it’s red hot weather because as soon as you hang it outside the next day you’d smell it and say oh I wouldn’t fancy eating that, chuck it in the bin. But I’ve seen me dog go off hunting, killed an hare and fetched it back, I know you’re not s’posed to kill ’ares but you’re not s’posed to do a lot of things we do do, I mean I’ve done it all me life. I’ve rared up on ’ares; when I was a little boy me dad’d say ‘alright my lad go out an skin an hare’. Me brother would be holding its legs and I’d be there Whoa! ripping the skin off it. Now I can get it with one hand and rip the skin off it but then he used to hold its legs and I’d have the full body weight of it and I’d be there ripping its skin off it, d’ya know what I mean? I’ve got seven brothers and four sisters, big family really, so that’s what we lived on – hares, pheasants. I’d go off shooting three or four pheasants, hares, bring ’em back mek a big pot of stew and I would get an ’are sometimes, two ’ares, boil ’em, take all the meat all off, take the bone out, put an onion in it, a carrot in it, some pearl barley, thicken it all up and then me mam, she’d put some pastry over it, mek a big pie and all sorts we used to do, you know what I mean?
“Me mam would go down the shop and get oxtails, not a lot of people would eat them. Have you ever had oxtail?”
some and get some bread, dip it in to it and eat it. Save some in the pot, put a lid on it, and the next day do yourself some chips, and get that and put some over your chips and you eat that! You know because its marinated overnight? It tastes three times better! With oxtail though, what it is, can you imagine your vertebrae that runs down your back, imagine you’re looking at your spine like that and you’re top bit you’ve got your ribcage coming off it? Well it’s that bit what runs down your flank there, and it runs all the way down on an hanimal to the end of its tail, so it’s like from the top of its tail like that thick, to a tip what’s that thick an what they do, they skin its tail so it’s a piece probably that length and that round and they cut it all into slices so it looks like, imagine a neck of lamb, what that looks like, like a lamb chop with rings. Last time you were here you seen I was making steak and kidney pies. The wife can cook but I like cooking as well, so I do it and I can mek better pastry than her! I like making all the things she can’t be bothered doing! Christmas time I mek all caramelised pears and any sort of food you can mention! Me dad can cook, it’s good to cook really in’t it? Even me dad come back once, killed an ’are. Me dad would get the ’are, hang it up, cut its head off and get a jug to catch all the blood in it, in the cup and then when he made all his soup, he’d tip it back into the soup then and it’d be like, you know an Oxo cube that you get today? Well an Oxo cube is just a cow’s blood, nothing else. All it is is a cow’s throat cut, poured into a container, set, all the little bits of herbs put in it and its set and cut into blocks, that’s exactly what Oxo cube is, ox’s blood. If you get black pudding what that is, is pig’s blood. Believe it or not I know everything about food, what you can eat about it, what you can’t eat about it, what’s the best part of it to eat and where it comes from. People buy a piece of meat and they don’t even understand where that piece of meat comes from on a cow. They don’t know if it’s a piece of beef, pork, lamb or what it is they’re eating! If I didn’t know what part of an animal it comes from I wouldn’t fancy eating it. I’ve never known anyone eating badger, I wouldn’t fancy eating it… probably in foreign countries they would. Or a fox, but it’d be close on eating a dog wouldn’t it, eating fox? I et a deer once. That big black dog over there, he caught a deer, big red stag that high and I don’t like venison. I remember last time of eating it, it was very strong, like eating hare, too rich and the kids didn’t like it so I just gave it away, it was a strong taste. They eat dogs in China, Korea and places but it’s their thing to eat that, like if you said to me, ‘I wouldn’t fancy eating hedgehog,’ I’d say
‘I wouldn’t fancy eating a dog!’ But I could cook you a hedgehog and you wouldn’t know what you was eating!
I don’t mean from a tin. Well, go to Morrisons and look on the shelves where all the meat orders is, all the beef and that and you’ll see oxtail. Years ago, we’re talking 15, 20 years ago, folk wouldn’t eat it, you never saw it on the shelf for sale but because of the credit crunch and over the last four or five years folks got no money, they’ve started to eat offal. But what they fail to realise, this waste they’d call it, is not really waste, it’s nice, it’s the best of it. So if you go into Morrisons to get oxtail you might get two or three pieces like that for two pound fifty. Bring it back, put it in the pot, cook it by itself for say an hour, just on a simmer by itself, bit of salt and pepper on it then put yourself a bit of pearl barley in it, a carrot, don’t put no onions in but a leek or… a parsnip, a bit of swede in it, and let it cook until your vegetables are cooked, peel yourself some taters, cut them straight in half and put your taters in and as soon as you can stick your fork in your tatey and know its cooked, get a bit of cornflour, mix it up, thicken it with a bit of milk and tip it in to it, keep stirring it like a stew. Have some of that, eat yourself
Maggie (43) and Teresa (39) – Childhood Paul Boucher from Lincolnshire Traveller Initiative took the project’s writer Charlotte Ansell to meet Maggie and Teresa, parents of some of the children she had been working with, to find out more about their lives as Traveller women so Charlotte could help the young people to document their elders’ memories of life in the Gypsy and Traveller community. Here Charlotte describes what happened...
Teresa added: “I remember waking up in the caravan on cold days and seeing me granddad had got a fire going outside and wanting to go out to it because it would be warm.” Paul asked what their Christmases were like? “Oh don’t go there! Christmases were always terrible, always. We had our presents the evening before and we didn’t want for anything but on Christmas Day it was awful. Our mam and dad rowed every year,” Teresa laughed, shaking her head.
We met them in a town. They had asked not to be picked up from their site, as they didn’t want others to ask questions about what they were doing. They were a little bit worried about talking, were keen to preserve their anonymity and weren’t sure what they would feel ok talking about. We reassured them that their names would be changed. They seemed like they were trying to reassure each other. “But we’re not doing anything wrong are we?” “No, we’re not doing anything wrong. Who’s going to know? It will just be for schools won’t it, no other Travellers reading it?”
What did they row about? “The pub! Our dad’d always go to the pub Christmas Eve and he’d say a time he would come back and he wouldn’t come and then they would fight about it. Every year soon as we had lunch me mum would tear everything down, throw it outside on the step and that was it, all over til the next year. Then by New Year’s Eve she would chuck him out, finish him, every year she did, always. Then eventually she’d tek him back. Every year without fail there would be awful rows between them. It would just be miserable.
Maggie said she had been brought up by her mum and Teresa by their grandmother. I asked if they were sisters and they told me they were.
“I’m the same now, I want it over with straight after, I get like me mum, I can’t get it out of me head, how it was, I ruin it,” Teresa told us, looking sad but with the ghost of a smile. I wondered if it was like a Christmas tradition and we all laughed. “Yeah, it was really,” Teresa agreed.
“They came from a small family. I wondered if that was unusual in the Gypsy community not to have a large family” They said not so much. Teresa said their grandparents had both had big families though – there were 30 in her granddad’s family if you included step and half siblings. Their own mother had chosen not to have so many children but they had both had lots of children each. Both women were born in Yorkshire. Paul reminded Teresa of a previous conversation when she had described her granddad to him as a kettle watcher. “Kettle boiler,” Teresa corrected. “The women used to go out to work while the men stayed at home watching the kettle boil!” She clarified this by saying that they would all go out in the van and her granddad would stay in it making pegs and flowers while the women went hawking at the doors: “He made them from wood, the pegs from willow and the flowers from elder. You can still get them at some of the fairs – Stow, for example. I probably first went out hawking with my Grannie and the other women from about the age of seven, by 12 I’d be knocking on the doors on me own,” Teresa told us. Paul asked if the women thought having a young girl with them might encourage people to buy from them? “Mebbe,” Teresa nodded. “They would sell all sorts of ‘swag’, like nail brushes, flowers, pegs, lace, charms, tea towels, tooth brushes. “My Grannie went out from the age of 11 – she was a strong woman, she always worked, she went out every back end potato picking and in the summer it would be fruit – strawberries, apples, plums and that. On the weekends she would go out hawking. She’d go out begging for clothes too; me mam was never very good at it but Grannie really had that skill, and she might take stuff to exchange sometimes, to barter for things. She got baby clothes for all the grandchildren when they were born.” I wondered if she had got a good reception? “Yeah, she had regular families she would always go to. She was always working. ‘I can’t lie down or I’ll die’. That’s what she used to say,” Teresa recalled. . “She never stopped did she?” Maggie confirmed. “She was always on the go, working, busy. She used to cook on a fire outside the trailer all her life and she thought our mam very modern not to. There was a big difference between them, Grannie and mam, the old ways and the new.”
Paul wanted to know how Teresa had met her husband but Maggie started to answer for her: “She was up near York, staying with me mam’s people, and I called her to say ‘there’s someone here I think you’ll like’. She came back pretty sharpish after that.” “Yeah. I remember I was going out to get me mum’s fags and he was there on the corner. He was visiting a friend and he said ‘hello’ and I said hello back and it went on from there really,” Teresa smiled sheepishly.
“I asked if it was harder then to meet someone. Were their parents strict about them talking to men?” “You just met someone in the normal way really but they were stricter. I never kissed me husband in front of me dad or me Granddad, never, ’cept maybe a peck on my wedding day, and I never saw me Granddad kiss me Grannie, never,” Maggie said. Paul wondered if there a lot of what they call ‘jumping the broom’* back then? “It did happen, it did yeah. Still does now. That’s what our grandparents did, did you know that Paul? They took off and they had nothing. I asked me Grannie where they slept and she said under a bush! They went off with just a bicycle, that was all they had. Eventually they got a bender tent, you know made with willows, and they worked and saved and saved until they could afford a wagon. £80 it cost and me Grannie saved it all to get it.” I wondered if they worked their way up from nothing? “Yeah they did, they did,” Maggie nodded. How had they met? “I don’t really know but he was a very handsome man me Granddad, everyone said it, and he had his eye on all the girls, so really he was stringing me Grannie along at first. He would talk to her but she wasn’t the only one, he liked the women. But I think maybe his friends said to settle down with her and he did.” Paul asked if things are better or worse than they used to be and Teresa thought for a moment before answering: “Worse I think, yeah worse really I’d say. I mean, having the sites is better, don’t get me
wrong, but it used to be much friendlier, used to be people would help you out, no one would see you go hungry. It’s not like that now.” Paul queried whether she was referring to other Travellers or saying that the gorjas would be more friendly? “No, among the Travellers. You don’t know people like you used to. We used to know everyone and people you didn’t know would come and stop but they wouldn’t stop long. Now they stay and it’s not the same. Mind, if they were wrong ’uns they wouldn’t last long, no-one would put up with it,” Teresa said, as Maggie nodded her agreement. “But the sites are better, definitely,” Maggie added. “I remember when we had to take the pram to the petrol station or wherever we could to get water. We had to always get that no matter what and it was hard work. We used public toilets because there weren’t none on the sites. When we got hot water and baths it was so much better then.” “It would be good travelling. I miss that but pulling onto the side of the road you didn’t have nothing you needed. It was hard,” Teresa said wistfully. We went on to ask about school. Did they both go, and did they like it? Maggie remembered that she had liked sewing and cooking and helping with the little ones and Teresa said she had liked all her teachers except one, and she smiled as Maggie continued: “Yeah I did like it. I didn’t really get any trouble. I did get bullied once, they called me Gypsy or pikey maybe, but I knocked one of them out and I didn’t get called it again. They were alright with me after that. We were friends.” Maggie looked like this was a happy thought. You got their respect? “Yeah must have done. I had lots of gorja friends. Our mam let ’em come to the site and we would go to their houses sometimes. I stayed with a friend once,” said Maggie. “Yeah I stayed at me friend’s house but I got scared in the night and I wanted to go home,” Teresa joined in, laughing. Did they mind, growing up as Gypsies? Did they feel like they were missing out?
“I always wanted to go to like Brownies and that sort of thing. We never did,” said Maggie wistfully. “Me granddad would never take you to the beach or the park even, never anything like that, we never went anywhere or did stuff. We amused ourselves really. We made dilly dens and things like that.” Dilly dens? “They were doll’s houses. I did feel kept out of things but school took me to places I never thought I’d go, like to London. I never wanted to leave small school but I did leave at that point.” The conversation turned to the children, to what life is for them, whether things have improved or if they have more freedom than their parents? “They don’t have to do anything these days. They get told to keep themselves washed and learn how to clean and help out but if they don’t do it we don’t force them, do we Maggie? I don’t anyway, do you?” Teresa asked and Maggie shook her head, continuing for her: “And we didn’t say anything. If you got told to do something you did it, you wouldn’t have to be asked twice. Our mum was strict, much
stricter than we are now, and when we were young we had to say auntie and uncle to everyone, that’s polite. Even if they aren’t family you called ’em auntie and uncle, to show respect. And it used to be that when anyone came round to visit, the children would get told to make them a cup of tea then you had to go. Me Grannie used to say ‘Pigs have got big ears, what do you want to be listening to adults talking for?’ “It’s not like that anymore. The kids are always about, don’t get sent off. Our mam wouldn’t let us out of her sight either. We had to stay by the trailer all the time didn’t we? Well, she said if she couldn’t hear us we had to be where she could see us, didn’t we Teresa?” “We did but we did used to run off sometimes. Mind I keep mine where I can see them. I don’t want them going off, although they still do if they get the chance,” Teresa added.
sometimes give her an egg and she would make a hole in it and suck out the contents. “I wouldn’t do that now mind,” she added, making a face. I wanted to know if the Romany language was still used and whether the children knew it. Teresa said: “They do because in my house we use it every day but the gorjas know a lot of the words now. They’re using it more, it’s not the same, it’s not really right! They know what you’re saying, it’s not private anymore. My kids know bits of words, odd bits, but not really and my grandchildren a bit but
yours don’t, do they Maggie?”
I wondered what they were worried about. “Well you never know who is about do you?” Teresa said.
“My children know a few words but not my grandchildren no, it’s dying out really,” said Maggie. “Yeah that’s what I meant, your grandkids don’t know,” Teresa clarified.
We went on to talk about the TV. Teresa said in the old days if anyone was kissing on TV or if it was something about childbirth or anything like that her granddad would turn it off but they can’t do that with their kids now. They would if they could but they would be up and down turning it on and off all the time.
Paul suggested it was getting watered down until there’s nothing left. “Yeah it’s getting like that, yeah it is,” Teresa agreed. He then asked if the culture is dying out? “In a way things are changing, we’re losing respect for the older ways,” Maggie said.
“You’d never watch anything because there is just so much of it.” Teresa said there is a lot more on TV now than there used to be and she doesn’t like to let her kids watch it. She confessed that when she was pregnant, she couldn’t tell her dad. She told her mum and her dad just guessed when she started to show but he never said a word about it. She was so ashamed and embarrassed in front of her dad she would try to hide it, hold her arms over her stomach all the time. Maggie said she did the same. Teresa said when she gave birth, her dad came to the hospital and took a peek in the cot and said, “You’ve got a good one there,” and that was it – then he went.
What’s it like for the women? Did it used to be bad for them with their husbands?
I asked whether their husbands were at any of the births, to hold their hands or help out? “No, none of that! You’d just get a phone call – have you had it yet? What did you have? That was all you got! And we never told the kids where they came from, we told them we saved up and bought them.” Teresa laughed and recalled that you couldn’t enter her grandparents’ trailer barefoot. If you did that you’d get sent out again – and anyone who had a child that hadn’t been blessed in church wouldn’t be allowed through the door. “To our grandparents, if you had bare feet you might as well be undressed, it was as good as. My whole life I never saw my granddad barefoot, not once, and only me Grannie once when she was washing,” Teresa remembered.
“Have things got better for women now?” “Oh yes! Men were more in charge in the old days and, well, it was bad. Me Granddad was a good man but he was cruel. Me Grannie didn’t want for nothing but he could be harsh with her. Me dad too although he was a good dad, even my marriage was like that, a bit. Me Granddad ruled me Grannie, like if she was sitting there and she wanted to go out for a fag and he wouldn’t let her, she wouldn’t go. She could be gasping for one but she wouldn’t go out. She used to smoke roll ups – Old Holborn. But it’s the same for me, if my husband didn’t want me to go to the pub, I wouldn’t go – I wouldn’t go anyway but it’s up to him. I wouldn’t be here now if he didn’t want it,” Teresa explained. The conversation ended there. Charlotte said afterwards she felt privileged to have been given a glimpse into Maggie and Teresa’s lives despite their misgivings. She was filled with admiration for their tough, no-nonsense way of getting on with things, which seemed to be a continuation of the attitude held by generations of Gypsy women before them. * Jumping the broom – running off with someone. Names have been changed
Paul asked how much their children know of the old ways.“Nothing really, that’s gone now,” they both agreed. And what about you, did you used to live off the land? “Yeah we did, with Grannie and Granddad we did. We would eat rabbit and hedgehog, blackbirds, that kind of thing, you know.” We had a discussion about whether hedgehogs were ever cooked in clay, as some other Gypsies have said they are to remove the spikes, but Maggie said their Granddad had not done them like this. He would burn the spikes off, cut the hedgehog down the middle then cook it in the fire. Did they ever eat anything else off the land? Teresa chuckled as she remembered her Granddad would
Gordon (70) – Culture and Tradition My name is Gordon Boswell and I run and own the Romany Museum in Spalding, Lincolnshire, with my wife Margaret. Here is a little piece of poetry that’s been written about my past people (my Great-Great Grandfather, my Great Grandfather and my Grandfather) which I hope you enjoy. It’s called Gypsy: Blue wood fires, smoking branches, to thread the Thursday air and swirl round chestnut candles, as if they were burning there. The twilight leans on gorja’s walls, and on each Vardo falls and the ghost of old Algar Boswell, good old Algar Boswell, Old Trafalgar Boswell is watching over all. Ponies droop, mist surrounded, the owls and their prey, The distant beck is full of moans, the market day away. Deals are done and truth defied, in well down pockets, wallets hide and the shade of old Tyso Boswell, cunning Tyso Boswell, Tyso no name Boswell, smiles as if satisfied. The night grows rich with star and moon, the silver horses stir, and stare into the wood as if tomorrow is in there. Missed out fire purrs contenting sleep, whilst outside prickly hedges peep. And the spirit of Westa Boswell, Famous Westa Boswell, Wise Sylvester Boswell, stands by the tatty heap. I’ve just found out where the word pikey comes from, only about a year, 18 months ago, because I’d never heard that word. I don’t like to use that word pikey, it’s nothing to do with the Romany or Gypsy people but I’ve found out where it’s come from. Years ago in the villages, especially out this way in the country, they used to keep undesirables out of the village at night time and they had a gate either side of the village and these were called turnpikes and the people they wouldn’t let through used to stop, had to sleep on the other side of that gate in tents and things, and they were known as pikeys because it was at the turnpikes and that’s where the word comes from. It’s taken me all these years to find out but I’m very pleased I have. It’s had me puzzled for years as there’s not many people such as me, Romany people, Gypsy people, who know how it came across. We don’t use the word pikey ourselves. It’s an insult if anything that other people have given to us, it’s not a very nice name to be called: pikeys.
“The Romany people are the true blooded Gypsies.” The Gypsies – that name came in when they started to marry out, way before they came into England and the old people in those days were known as Romanychelles not Gypsies but the old people didn’t want them to marry out of their race, they wanted to keep the breed pure but when they did allow them
to marry out and travel on with them, the old Romanies called them Gypsies, like a sort of half breed, so that was the origin of that word. As for Travelling people, that came into it when they tried to disguise themselves because they were going from door to door, the old gentlemen gypsy or Romany if you will, and they were going from door to door years ago, selling carpets and if he said he was a gypsy, no one would buy a carpet from him. So he called himself a travelling salesman to confuse the public and that’s where the word traveller comes from. So you’ve got the Romanies, the Gypsies and the Travellers and pikey is what the gorja people called us – gorja is a word for non-Gypsy people. Didicoy is just exactly the same as pikey, that’s another name they gave us.
exactly the same with that. Before this piece of land came up for sale that piece did and we bought that. It was only an old pit, a clay pit, worth nothing in those days and we had enough room to pull some caravan trailers around the pit; then the farmer bought it off the person it belonged to and we got the pit filled up with free tipping of rubbish and hard core and things and my father and brother made the scrap yard up and that is how we came about.
“In a quaint caravan, there’s a lady they call the Gypsy. She can look at the future and drive all your fears away”
The fairground people and the Gypsy people are completely different people. The fairground people will deny being Gypsies, don’t want to be classed as Romany or Gypsy, they are a different breed again. There’s all these distinctions between the different groups. Most people who aren’t Travellers, ordinary people don’t understand all this but because we’ve been bought up with all of this, this type of life we think nothing of it but other people don’t understand. My life is normal to me like your life is normal to you. The Gypsy people often have a bad name but I always say to people there’s good and bad in all walks of life. In a family wherever you live if the father was a burglar and the boys were drug dealing, only that family would get the bad name among the gorjas but if one of our families did that we’re all seen as thieves and burglars and drug dealers. We have our own moral code; we have our own ways. I don’t know why it’s like it is, even going back to the 1500s when they first came into England and Henry VIII was on the throne, he didn’t want the Gypsies in, he was hanging them on the spot, burning their belongings. Then he deported them, picked the men and boys up and put them on ships and sent them back to America, Canada and Australia. Hitler didn’t want them, we all think about the Jews with Hitler but his first job when he came into power in 1932 was to get rid of the Gypsies and he gave his men instructions to shoot and kill men women and children on the spot and hang them and burn their belongings, which they did. So there was a lot of Gypsy people killed by Hitler before he started on the Jews then some of the Gypsies went in with them as well when that started but we never hear of that. There’s anywhere from 600,000 to a million Gypsies that were shot and killed and gassed by Hitler, which is a lot, but we never hear of that. In the old days, nearly every village there was had common land, not so much in the towns but in every village the village green was common land for people to have their ducks. There was a duck pond and there was geese and there was ducks for you, me or anyone. People could keep their livestock there and there were sheep, there were cattle grazing on there, there were horses and then the Gypsy people could come and stop on that land because it belonged to no-one, it belonged to the people and no one took any notice in those days, they expected it. Here’s something I didn’t realise – I took my children down to Beaulieu where the Marquis of Bath is, I’m going back now because I’ve been married 50 years so I’m going back 40 years. I went with a trailer caravan not with horses and I honestly thought the long green grass that ran through the village where those old cars and things were was common land. I pulled my caravan on there for a week and I never thought it was wrong because I thought it was common land but the people didn’t like it and I didn’t know why they didn’t because I’d been used to living that way and I thought ‘It’s a village green I can pull on there with my family’. I finished travelling from spot to spot 30 years ago and I’ve been in Spalding 25 years. This piece of land here, you could pull caravan trailers in here and rent it off the farmer which we did… then the farmer retired and the land came up for sale and we bought this little piece, me and my brother bought it together. Then we had the scrap yard over there, which my brother has now got running, and we did
katie smith Artist profile
Katie Smith is a social artist with a research-based approach to her creative practice. She works with a diverse range of partners including museums, galleries, schools, hospitals, day care centres and community organisations. She is currently Artist-in-Residence at the University of Lincoln within the department of contemporary lens-based media. Her aspiration for this project was to create an archive of unique photographic images to capture the essence of what it means to belong to the Gypsy and Traveller community in Lincolnshire, from everyday routines to special events. She took a twopronged approach, firstly acting as an observer documenting the project through her own photographs as it evolved and secondly working with young people to develop their photographic skills, helping them to create images that formed a strong narrative about their interests.
Glossary Borraca - Canigras - Carnies - Chockers - Chor - Chrocker - Chuma - Congrey - Dickler - Didicoy - Drum - Googli - Gorja - Jukal - Keka - Kushty - Lelling - Mandy - Mas - Moro - Mor - Mush - Muskras - Nixies - Noccer - Parne - Pikies - Pulling out - Pulling on - Putsy - Puv - Rawny - Rocker - Rushnies - Sham - Shushi -
Shop Chickens Pheasant Shoes Steal Doctor Kiss Church Scarf Derogatory word for someone half Gypsy Road Sugar Non Traveller Dog Shush Good Going Me Meat Bread Kill Man Police Nothing Nose Water Derogatory word for Gypsies Going on the road/travelling Stopping the trailer somewhere ie a site Pocket Field Posh woman Talking Flowers Hello mate (Irish) Rabbit
Strides - Taraties - Teggees - Tichner - Todivers - Tud - Urrees - Utchies or hotchy-witchy - Val - Vardo - Varta - Vastes - Widos - Woodres - Yockes -
Trousers Goodbye or ta-ra Teeth Child Today/Morning Milk Eggs
OUR BIG REAL GYPSY LIVES BIGGER. TRUER. HAPPIER The project focused on the heritage of Lincolnshire’s Gypsy and Traveller community using oral history methods to harvest unique, and in many cases, dying memories and experiences. One of the key aims of the project has been to engage with and train young members of the Gypsy and Traveller community to collect the oral histories of their family and friends.
Hedgehogs Hear Trailer Look Hands Wannabe Gypsies! Bed Eyes
From information collected before and during the project the participating Gypsy and Traveller families expressed a strong interest in collating their rich heritage. The project has provided Lincolnshire Gypsy and Traveller families a better sense of belonging within the county, while at the same time providing an opportunity to share their stories with a wider community.
NB these words were given by word of mouth.
The comprehensive programme of hands-on learning, focusing on the documentation of Lincolnshire’s rich and diverse Travelling community, is being developed and shared with schools and wider afield. The project has offered the participating young Travellers, their family and friends the opportunity to develop many of the skills to become a modern oral historian – interview techniques, recording skills, writing, transcription and ways to share the stories.
It is essential that both the settled and Travelling community develop a shared understanding of their significance within the UK’s heritage, helping to break down the extensive misunderstanding shown in the popular media and the racist experiences which are reported to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Aims of Our Big Real Gypsy Lives • • • • • • •
To give young Lincolnshire Travellers the skills and training to take part in an oral history project and how best to share what they create To empower older generations of the Traveller community to recognise the importance of their unique stories To record the shift from traditional caravans/trailers and settled homes, alongside dramatic changes in employment from primarily agricultural work towards self-employment To inform the wider Lincolnshire population of the rich and diverse heritage of the local Traveller community To produce and circulate a selection of bespoke educational resources for use at KS2 and KS3 in history, citizenship and PSHE with an aim to increase understanding between communities The creation of a publication, DVD, website, education/resource pack, archive materials and touring exhibition Provide bespoke training for teachers for the education/resource pack
The project offers a real insight into the lives of local young people from Lincolnshire’s Traveller community in the early 21st century. The project was developed to ensure a fun and creative approach to make sure the young Travellers were able to learn new skills while at the same time capturing and depicting a true reflection of the experiences of their family and friends. A film maker, photographer/social artist and writer worked with the young Travellers, and the wider Gypsy and Traveller community, to collect unique Lincolnshire Gypsy and Traveller stories. The project had the following elements: • • • • • • • •
Film Photography Creative writing Oral history Lincolnshire-based stories Young Travellers’ opinions Co-operation and insight into the Traveller and Gypsy community Recognition by Heritage Lottery Fund of the importance of capturing the Traveller and Gypsy way of life/culture
OUR BIG REAL GYPSY LIVES CREATIVE TEAM
David Lambert Paul Boucher Samantha Turner Leanne Taylor Charlotte Bill Katie Smith Charlotte Ansell Andy Farenden Sue North
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Executive Producer - www.culturalsolutions.co.uk Lincolnshire Traveller Initiative Manager, Lincolnshire Traveller Initiative Project Coordinator Film maker Social Artist/Photographer Creative Writer Graphic Design and Print Communications
The attached CD was recodred by Charlotte Ansell on behalf of Our Big Real Gypsy Lives and are some of the original interviews and oral histories of the Gypsies and Travellers who have participated in this project. Transcripts of these recordings can be found between pages 20 and 49 of this publication. More transcripts are available at www.lincolnshiretravellerinitiative.org.uk
CD Track Listing
01/ 02/ 03/ 04/
Gordon Hughie Linda Annie
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Culture and Tradition Food School Life
Traveller Initiative www.lincolnshiretravellerinitiative.org.uk
ÂŠ The Authors 2013