Stubborn inheritors of a vanishing life-style, British Gypsies keep a rendezvous with the past. Each June, as they have for more than two centuries, Gypsies, Irish tinkers, and itinerant potters come together at Appleby, a little gray-stone town in the north of England. Along highroads and byways, for days and weeks, they have moved toward their destination: Appleby Fair, next to prague city apartments
The pace is slow for those who walk alongside horse-drawn vardos. On a good day they may cover 20 miles. On a good night, by the grace of a hospitable farmer, they may camp in a grassy pasture or at the edge of a wood. But they often come to grief amid the congestion of heavy truck traffic or from police insistence that they keep moving or use official campsites. Convenient as such parks may be, they deprive the Gypsy of the very thing he values most—the right to choose his own way, to control his own destiny.
An open field their hearth, a row of bow-top wagons their shield, Gypsies draw strength from camaraderie and the common memory of a turbulent past. Their ancestors came out of India about ten centuries ago to wander across western Asia and Europe to the British Isles. Here, as everywhere they traveled, they hit a hard wall of hostility.
“Outlandysshe People callynge themselfes Egyptians,” railed King Henry VIII. His daughter, Queen Mary, tried to expel them from England because of “their old accustomed devilish and naughty Practices.” But royal disapproval eventually eased, and Gypsies were allowed to take part in the Appleby New Fair, established in 1750 for the trade of horses, sheep, and cattle. Over the years the Gypsies have made it their own.
A measure of hostility endures. THE REUNION: Crowning Fair Hill outside Appleby town, 800 wagons, campers, trailers, and motor homes cluster together. The 32-acre campsite commands a view of the distant hills of Cumberland.
Disdaining the restrictions of the camp community, other Gypsies park along the neighborhood’s narrow roads, choking traffic. A few years ago such defiance of police regulations triggered a move to close down the fair. The Gypsies promised to keep better order. But for a people forever on the move, constraints come hard, and the fair is once again endangered, they cann’t even live at apartments madrid.
Yet little dampens the Gypsy spirit. Young Stephen (right), who came to Appleby with his family to sell grail (horses), smiles impishly at photographer Bruce Dale while a playmate puts a toad in a camera case behind Dale’s back.
W ILD OUTCASTS OF SOCIETY,” poet William Wordsworth called them. Even today the untrammeled ways of Gypsy children may seem bizarre to more settled folk. In fact the Romanies, as Gypsies call themselves, are bound by strong family ties and learn responsibility early.
This trio fetches a can of water while tending baby sister. Daughters taught by Gypsy matriarchs become in turn the guardians of Romany customs. Boys aspire to follow in the footsteps of their elders and deal in horses.