Gypsies, Roma & Travellers

Essential reading for those who want to develop greater knowledge and awareness of the history, culture and lifestyles of GRT people.

A much needed and most valuable exposition of the vibrant culture and shameful abuses suffered by one of Britain’s most marginalised and disadvantaged minorities.

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

There are many misconceptions about the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community here in Britain. Little is understood of their culture and they are often marginalized by society. This book aims to dispel many of the myths and gives a compassionate and empathetic view of the daily struggles they face including discrimination, racism and poverty. It also reviews criticisms directed at them and determines whether these are justified. Services are analysed to establish what works and what is weak. Packed with expert opinions from professionals working in the field and case studies/vignettes, garnered from personal interviews by the author with GRT people.

Drawing from a wide range of perspectives from both inside and outside the community, this book provides readers with all the key elements required to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of these remarkable communities and their cultures.

Case Study from book:

Ricky’s Story

There is good and bad in every community. I was brought up to have traditional values and to respect people. My father always said, ‘show me your manners and I will show you mine’. We look after each other in the community. If somebody messes with one of us, they mess with us all. Once anyone crosses us, they are out. Loyalty is expected. My parents always gave me good advice, guidance, and support. I know the difference between right and wrong. My father told me to never hit a woman. I was brought up to be honest and was never a kid who went to shops and stole. School was okay for me, but some kids expected me to be tough because of my background which meant I was often challenged into fights. It was a case of other lads thinking that if they beat me in a fight, this would be good for their ego.

I would say that seventy per cent of English Gypsies are still traditionalists with good morals living honest lives. They will not see their families go without. But there is the other thirty per cent who get involved in thieving, violence and other criminal activities and end up in prison. Gypsies try their best to look after their families and carve out an honest living. Historically, they have not been afraid of going out and looking for work such as scrap metal dealing, fruit picking and the like. Many families work together and build up business together in construction and patio paving. There is an honour in the family name, so you work hard to achieve. My grandfather’s motto which he passed down to my father and which my father passed down to me was that as a family you are working for the ‘one pot’ which means that everything you work for is yours and will be your children’s one day too.

But times are changing now. It is very different to my grandfather’s time when he lived in a wagon. Granddad always said his horse was a companion who pulled his wagon and that his dog was a friend who helped him put food on the table after they went out shooting pheasants. Most Gypsies now live in houses but we are still keen horse people. Even to this day children are encouraged to ride horses from an early age. Gypsies still marry second cousins although several marry outside the community because this is now less frowned upon. If the person has a head on them and has good morals, they are accepted. There is more emphasis on marrying someone decent, because as my father told my sister, if you don’t marry a bum and be left with their baby, you can marry whoever you like. Abortion is still frowned upon especially in church-going families. Nobody wants social services to get involved because it damages the family reputation. Nobody wants to be seen as someone who cannot take care of their children. People do not get married as young as they used to or have as many children as before. In my grandfather’s time, he was married and had three children by the time he was 22. This applies equally to men and women. Sex outside marriage was not a big deal in my family. Whenever I told my dad I fancied a girl, he would joke with me and say ‘Go – you get in there boy!’. Customs have always been important to Gypsies. We are very clean people and often remark about non-Gypsies and their hygiene practices around animals. For us, animals are not allowed near your living quarters so therefore dogs are never allowed inside. We do not like cats because they lick themselves and it is thought they spread germs this way. Family gatherings are still large in number whether this is weddings, funerals, or baptisms. We put aside differences at these events and there is never any conflict although sometimes people who have had disagreements tend to avoid each other. Funerals are big affairs. Gypsies are usually buried together in a section of a cemetery which is favoured by the community.


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As a writer, I try to incorporate both sides of humanity into my writing, having learned that life is far from grim and that there is enough kindness, compassion, love and humour to overcome life’s obstacles, regardless of how much misery, abuse, or injustice exists.
Written by Declan Henry


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