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JGLS Snippets


Notes & Queries JGLS

Gypsy Marriage


To the kindness of Mr. William A. Cragg, of Treekingham House, near

Folkingham, Lincolnshire, we owe the following extract from the Lincoln Gazetteer newspaper of July 29, 1785 : —


" Saturday last was married at St. Margaret's Church in Leicester, Phamix, a

youth belonging to Boswell's gang of Gypsies [now hutted in Humberstone-field], to Miss Boswfll, daughter of Mr. Boswell, King of this fraternity. His Gypsean Majesty attended the ceremony. Miss Charlotte Boswell was bridesmaid, and 10 or 12 of the gang likewise attended. They presented the clergyman who performed the ceremony with half-a-guinea, and to the ringers 15s., with a good dinner and drink in great plenty.


We understand that a marriage ceremony amongst this tribe of people is always celebrated with great merriment, and the feasting lasts for 14 days ; indeed it is impossible to conceive a happier set of people than they appeared to be on this occasion. The consummation of the nuptial rights was intended to be in Humberstone- field ; where perhaps Phoenix and his enamoured Princess, upon a green sod, with the canopy of heaven their only covering, may taste as much real felicity as those of a higher order in their beds of down

with pillows of thorns. . . .


' Phoenix' trade is that of a tinker — his wife is a dealer in palmistry. . . .


' We learn that in a few days, at or near Holwell-mouth, by Melton Mowbray,

there will be a general meeting of Gypsies from Leicestershire and the neigh-

bouring counties, to celebrate the nuptials of Phoenix with the King's daughter.


' The Gypsies have undoubtedly a form of government amongst themselves, and to their King pay the most implicit obedience ; to this submission we may fairly attribute their apparent happiness. They have no false honour amongst them, and they look upon shame as the most grievous punishment in the world.'


It is interesting to notice, as Mr. John Sampson points out, that while, at the

beginning, the writer is evidently describing a real Gypsy wedding, yet when he

goes on to give an account of Gypsy government and punishment by degradation, which if true would be immensely important, he is quoting almost verbally from Fielding's Tom Jones, book xii. chap. 12.



Notes and Queries Vol. 9 2nd S. (228) May 12 1860 Page 359


Being in Belbroughton Churchyard Worcestershire is a fine Tombstone to the memory of Paradise Buckler (who died in 1815),the daughter of a Gypsy King. the pomp that attended her funeral is well remembered by many of the inhabitants. One of my relatives said how the Gipsies borrowed

from her a dozen of the finest damask napkins(for the coffin handles)_ none but those of the very best quality being accepted for the purpose-- and that they were duly returned,beautifully "got up" and scented. the king and his family were encamped in a lane near to my relative's house, and his daughter a young girl of fifteen died in the camp.  Cuthbert Bede.


In the summer of 1910 I met Eldorai,^ the eldest of 'Taw's'

children. A little squarely built, grey-headed old woman, she

seized my hand and danced up and down in delighted welcome

the second time I visited her; on the first occasion I was of

course greeted cautiously, with reserve befitting the reception of

a stranger.


' I want to be out on de roads again ; 1 feel it inside me, here,

. . . dere are none of de old Kale left now, we are all mixed up

wid de gadje.^ Look at my childer, see her,' and she pointed to

one of her daughters, a depressed looking young woman who sat

sulkily in a distant corner, ' why, she does not know as much

Romani as you do . . . de old people wouldn't let no gadje come

anear dem.


' De marriage over de broom ? You ask me 'bout dat ?

'member I never seed it done myself, but I 've heer'd my mother

talk 'bout it. De old gran'father, he held de stick, dis way one

end resting on the ground], den de "bride's girl" jumped over it,

an' den de bridegroom, den de bride, an' last de " bridegroom's


See Matthew Wood's pedigree, loc. fit.


•' Eldorai is herself a prime offender. Married successively to a Welshman and

an Irishman, I believe that the greater part of her life has been passed in a house, out of hearing of the Human tongue



Old Customs :-


Although Oli Lee and his wife, who are living in a tent at Newport, Men.,

awaiting the completion of a new waggon, are only about thirty years old, they

keep up the ancient Gypsy customs. Mrs. Lee told me that she had her own

cups, etc., when chiv'd to wodrus, and that after the month's quarantine they were broken : and she added that her mother invariably took the additional precaution of wearing gloves.


Again, whilst apologising for the lack of butter in some cake, she said that her

husband never ate butter in any form, asking — 'How long is it, Oli, since you had butter ? ' He answered quite roughly, ' How should I know, woman ? ' Then she lowered her voice and told me that their little daughter who died had been very fond of bread and butter.


Also, when I had twice corrected Oli, who referred to Cinderella Lovell (in

Way's No. 74", which I was reading) as ' Charlotte,' she told me that the child's

name was Cinderella, and that he was unwilling to pronounce it,

I asked whether they would eat from a plate which a dog had licked — Lazzie

Smith allows his dog to eat from his plate ; — and Oli, pointing to the old kettle,

replied with emjjhasis, — ' If that kettle was to fall into the clothes' water, we 'd

smash it up.' It is pleasant to think that these customs will not die away for at least another generation. (John Myers).


JGLS Snippets