Romany was the UK’s first wildlife presenter, and he fronted a long-running radio series. It was called ‘Out with Romany’ and was broadcast at teatime on BBC Children’s Hour. The series ran for 11 successful years from 1932 to '43. Initially, it was only heard on BBC Northern, but it went out nationally from 1938 and gathered an audience of over 13 million. His young listeners included future naturalists David Attenborough and David Bellamy and humanitarian Terry Waite.
His mother was a true Gypsy, born in a caravan. His uncle, Rodney Smith, began life in a bender tent in Epping Forest but became "Gypsy Smith", the famous preacher and gospel-singer who travelled throughout the world.
Romany was born George Bramwell Evens in 1884. George spent his childhood in Hull and Liverpool, then attended Epworth College, a Methodist boarding school in Rhyl, at the end of the 19th century. At the start of each term, he released a homing pigeon back to his parents to announce his safe arrival. George was a star pupil, becoming captain of the football and cricket teams and eventually Head Boy.
After college George followed in the footsteps of his parents and uncle, who were Methodists, and was ordained in the Methodist Church. He was a popular minister and preacher, serving in Cumbria, Huddersfield and Halifax before retiring to Cheshire in 1939.
George inherited the Gypsy’s love of the open road. In 1921 he bought a Gypsy caravan for £75 at Brough Hill Fair in Cumbria and began writing nature articles for local newspapers, sometimes using the pen-name ‘The Tramp’. By 1932 The Tramp was taken up by the BBC, adopted the name ‘Romany’ from his daughter, and started presenting the radio series ‘Out with Romany’ which made him famous.
Romany wrote the scripts as ‘real-life’ rambles from his Gypsy waggon. He was accompanied by young friends Doris and Muriel, Raq the spaniel and Comma the horse – so called because she never came to a complete full stop! The broadcasts went out briefly rehearsed, often improvised and live on air, and many people were surprised to discover they were actually recorded in the BBC studios at Manchester.
Romany also wrote many books and articles about wildlife. They were very popular and some were used as school textbooks. Terry Waite bought all the books and even named his spaniel Raq after Romany’s dog.
Romany kept recording for the radio right up to his death in November 1943. A memorial to him is erected in his favourite Cumbrian hills, and his Gypsy caravan, which featured in the radio programmes, can be seen in the Romany Memorial Garden in Wilmslow, Cheshire.
Now available: collector's rare CD
special limited release - buy a copy here! Featuring the last and only remaining recording of 'Out with Romany', originally broadcast in October 1943. Available to buy online.
The Romany Society has more information on Romany at http://www.romanysociety.org.uk. Terry Waite is the Society's Patron, and Mrs Romany Watt (Romany's daughter) its President.
See below for an article on Romany's CD by Jim Montgomery, copyright The North Wales Weekly News.