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  © Copyright  Romanygenes 2007--2020 Design and Web Layout  © 2007-2020 S.J.Day All Rights Reserved


Copyright RomanyGenes 2007-2020 Design and Web Layout S.J.Day All Rights Reserved

Romany Singers Past & Present

I must of course first mention a local Dorset singer Caroline Hughes here is a extract from Folktrax.org  where you can order the CD.(Caroline and John Hughes (John was actually a Cooper) pictured top left .

"Carolyne Hughes (1902-1971) was the most regal of English gypsies. 7 Classic Ballads, 16 traveller songs, dance-tunes, & some down-to-earth talk provide a vivid picture of this "Queen of the Romany Gypsies". These are some of the tracks from a memorable stereo recording by Peter Kennedy, made in her caravan near Blandford in 1968, during which the farmer, over-laced with cider, tried unsuccessfully with the aid of his two sons & two tractors, to tow her caravan out of the field. Carolyne paid no attention, but just carried on singing." Carolyne HUGHES(1902-71), a gypsy queen from Dorset, sings 7 ballads & 16 songs and does some 'tuning up' (mouth-music for dancing) - and gives a vivid picture of Romany life. She is joined by husband, John, and her two daughters, Celia & Carrie Warren.
































The Brazill  family and many other singers including Wiggy Smith are pictured and mentioned on the wesite http://mustrad.org.uk/ many thanks to Rod for his permission to use this extract and pictures of the artist's.

 Wiggy (Wisdom) Smith:

Wiggy was born on 3rd July 1926 in a covered wagon parked on the fields of Filton Common near Bristol - the area now covered by Filton aerodrome.

As the first boy to be born in his family, he was named after his father, Wisdom, but was nicknamed Wiggy to distinguish him from his father.  In a similar manner, Wiggy's eldest son, also Wisdom, is nicknamed 'Figgy'.  In his early years the family travelled, mostly around the Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and West Midland areas, sometimes living in tents, but mostly in covered wagons - the horse-drawn caravans they call 'barrel-tops'. His father was the eldest of the brothers: Jim, Jabez, Denny, Artie and Bertie.  The girls were Tinia, Moselley, Georgina, Sarah Ann and Lavinia and the family as a whole stuck together, travelling in the same area for much of the time (photo below: 10 November 1950: the family camped at Coomb Hill with the 'kitchen tent' behind them - a very short distance from where Wiggy lives today). Wiggy's two brothers, Sid and Hiram, live around the Pershore area, and his youngest brother, Job, was killed in the war.

The family as a whole had originally come from the New Forest area, which may go towards accounting for the difference in accent between Wiggy and his father and uncles. Early in the century, many fairs had 'boxing booths' which would offer a cash prize if a challenger could knock out the professional boxer. Wisdom was a big man, with big hands - "one of his hands was a big as my two are" - and was feared at fairs throughout the West Country as someone who could always knock out the 'boxing booth' champion.  He was known as the King of the Gypsies. (A thinly disguised portrait of Wisdom can be found in John Moore's romantic novel September Moon, set during the hop-picking season near the Vale of Evesham). For the Full article click link above.
























                                       Wiggy Smith


 The Brazill family have a long history with singing, and many members of the family still sing, here are details of the laatest CDS available the earlier ones have been digitally remastered from the old originals of the 1960s/70s.

The Family:(Full article and much more on the website click here:-     http://mustrad.org.uk/articles/brazils.htm


There were 15 brothers and sisters in that generation of the Brazil family of which the younger members were recorded.  Their parents were William Brazil, born in Devonshire, and Pricscilla Webb, born in Cornwall.  The family had lived in London for some time, then travelled in southern England and Lemmie was born "outside Southampton in Devonshire", following which they spent some 27 years travelling in Ireland, where most of the younger children were born, before returning to England and settling in Gloucester in 1919.


 The Children: (compiled by Peter Shepheard in 1968) Those in bold can be heard on these CDs.

Bill (William) d: 1940.

Omie (Naomi) age 78 (Mrs Evans, Wales).

Lemmie (Lementina) b: near Southampton age 77.

Tom (Thomas) d: 1967 (Newent).

Beccy (Rebecca) d: ?? (Mrs Thomas - wife of a Welsh collier).

Priscilla (Mrs Thomas - wife of a Welsh collier, brother of the above).

Hyram (Harold) age 76?, Gloucester.

      Daughter Joan Taylor.

Alice (Mrs Webb, Tewkesbury Common).

      Son - name presently unknown to us.

Janey (Jane) d: ?? (Mrs T Swan, Gloucester).

Florence (Mrs Bill Sparrow, Frampton).

Harry and wife Dolly b: 1 March 1901 in Ireland, Gloucester.

      Son Charlie, daughter Doris, married to Gilbert Davies, daughters Debbie and Pennie.

Danny and wife Betty b: in Ireland, Gloucester.

      Daughters Doris married to Riley Stephens, Alice married to Connor Smith.  Son Billy in Ireland.

Pat b: in Ireland.

Weenie (Selphinus) and wife Ethel. b: in Ireland, travelled in Scotland, d: 1966 (Scotland).

      Son Albert.  Daughters Maudie, Angela, married to Jimmy Winston.

Peter b: 1907? in Ireland, age 61 living near Newent.

The last surviving member of this generation (as far as we know) was Danny, who died in September 2003.


The Brazil family were intermarried with many other traveller families in the area.  Harry's daughter Doris was married into the Davies family and it was she who Peter Shepheard first met at Eastington where they were on a site alongside varous members of the Davies, Penfold and Bridges families.  Doris's daughters Pennie and Debbie were recorded for Topic 12TS395, issued in 1985.

Danny's daughter Alice is married to Connor Smith, son of Biggun Smith and nephew of Denny Smith - both fine singers (see MTCD307 Band of Gold) - and another daughter, Doris, is married to Riley Stephens.  Riley was not himself a singer but was keen for Peter to meet his grandfather, and travelled with him to Bristol in May 1966 to meet both his grandfather Tom (Chappie) Stephens and uncle Mark Stephens (d.1973), from both of whom he recorded songs.


Joan Taylor is the daughter of Hyram Brazil.  She was born in Swindon in 1933, lived in Gloucester in a caravan, and travelled in the summer.  In about 1969 she and her husband, another traveller, settled into a house in Gloucester.  She remembers well her father singing the old traditional repertoire, but she did not learn any of those songs from him.  When younger, she did a variety of different jobs around the Evesham area; fruit picking, hop picking, selling pegs from door to door, and so on.  She even worked on a threshing machine at one time.  She has fond memories of the family and their singing and step dancing.  She sometimes used to provide the mouth music, or 'tuning' as she calls it, for her uncles Danny and Harry to dance to.


Weenie's family were camped on the berryfields of Blairgowrie during the July/August berrypicking season of 1955, when both he and his daughter Angela were recorded by Hamish Henderson for the School of Scottish Studies

below photo's of the Brazil family thanks to :-http://mustrad.org.uk/articles/brazils.htm Brazil Family Copyright.

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                  Tom, Jean and Ashley Orchard

 The Orchards are one of the best known Gypsy families in the West Country and through marrage they are related to other local families including the Birches, the Crockers, the Roberts and the Sanders. Tom, Jean and Ashley play, sing and stepdance in a style which is true to their Gypsy roots. While their repertoire has been gathered over the years from many sources, much has also been handed down through their family networks. Theirs is a robust and important tradition which they are now keen to share with a wider audience and in their hands long may it continue!

£12.99 incl. UK P+P  

Tracks (click on the title to see the words of each song /tune and /or read notes about it)

1. Holsworthy Fair (2.31)

2. Over Yonder's Hill - Song (2.55)

3. Dorsetshire Hornpipe - Stepdance (0.51)

4. Bonny Dundee /The Rock & the Wee Pickle Tow (2.35)

5. Do You Remember - Song (2.09)

6. Uncle Jim's (1.24)

7. Sixteen Come Sunday - Song (4.17)

8. Gypsy Waltz (3.35)

9. Smash the Windows - Stepdance (1.21)

10. I'll Never Stop Wanting You - Song (2.04)

11. Ladies’ Stepdance /Pigeon on the Gate (1.35)

12. Mexican Tune (2.11)

13. Dark Eyed Gypsy - Song (4.21)

14. Sean South by Garryowen /Maggy May /Irish Rover (3.09)

15. Nelson's Tune - Stepdance (1.17)

16. A Wager, A Wager - Song (2.59)




Romany Singers Past & Present