Romani Cymru
Romany Wales Project

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border constructed superb Romani verde, embellished with 24 ct gold leaf dragon-heads, bosh fiddles, harps, and grapes almost fit to eat. Only recently I discovered an unknown Welsh verdo-builder, and this is as good a place as any to mention him - J. Holly of Abergavenny. We came upon his relic van in a dire state high up on the hillside around Buxton. It was owned by the late waggon Rai Tom Clarke and was propping up a knackered dry stone wall. Unfortunately, it was too far gone to save, so we yoged (fired) the flat-packed caravan in memory of the travellers who once inhabited it. All these horse-drawn vehicles were used over time by our Welsh Kaule along with their traditional zigairi (bender tents, also called beehive tents) or the more stately cottage tent.

In North and Mid Wales journeying was always harder, with fewer larger waggons on the ground due to the harsh mountainous terrain. The heavier full size wooden verde were seldom used and only seen along the coastal roadways or down in valley bottoms, provided the road was level enough. The mountainous windy ways were horse-killers, and only a brave Romani navigator or dinilo manush (foolish old man) would have attempted to horse a full-size, fully loaded Burton van over the Horseshoe near Llangollen or up n over the Crimea pass to Cwm Prysor. I travelled a light waggon with one of the Welsh Griffiths over the last wilderness - Denbigh Moors - in the early 1980s, and that was a gnat-bitten challenge n half.

Again, as in the South, in earlier times the mokhio (donkey) and

Interior of Mandylion            © ValleyStream Media

the zigaira or tan (tent) were the preferred way to jal in the North, also two- or four-wheeled carts and waggons with or without accommodation tops were favoured, and from around the 1850s bowtops were used in many places, much the same as in the hilly country of Northern England. The odd simple kite caravan descended Llanberis Pass, and near Corwen an accommodation top over a four-wheeled Bill Wright pot waggon was regularly used by the Gypsy Parson George Hall. You may have caught a glimpse of a gilted Dunton Reading van passing within the walls of Conwy Castle or a Bolton ledge built by Tong seen at Bangor. I believe the Boswells travelled the coastal roads and on to Ynys Mon, Anglesey with a large bulbous verdo, and the Lancashire Taylors were often seen around St Asaph well into the 1960s with a beautifully scrolled-out bowtop. The Wood tribe could be seen around Corwen, Bala and Newtown with painted bowtops and flat carts; a favourite achimasko tan (stopping place) was a blue slate quarry up in the hills around Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant.

The occasional hawker’s cart would have been seen in the villages, and we must not forget the knife grinder’s barrow like the one Matthew Wood used, with “Glass n China neatly repaired” scrolled across the signboard – clearly a manush of many skills.

Esmeralda Lock, the most famous of the Romani juvia (women), used to encamp at Talacre beach, Prestatyn in a small kite waggon (without a mollicroft), which we have recently identified to be a very early Stubbs of Barrowden. She regularly horsed the green and yellow van along the coast road and over to Chester way, as did her pal (brother) Doovel and his Romni Carnation Boswell

Harry Turpin Wood                        © F Shaw