Romani Cymru
Romany Wales Project

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Article © Stef Solomon Bate from the book “From the Horse’s Mouth“ published by Tina Carr and Annemarie Schone, © 2014.

clearly down to a Gypsy Scholar John Sampson along with his troop of female disciples, Dora Yates, Kish, Damaris and Eileen. The Bauro Rai was inspired as a boy by Romany Scholar George Borrow and later friend Francis Hindes Groome.

From his base as Librarian at the University College of Liverpool, Sampson religiously journeyed in to the Welsh hills, relentlessly pursuing the Woods and other Welsh Kaule, and methodically chronicling their pure Romani dialect, ancestry and old stories. He was often accompanied by Welsh artist Augustus John, who was also mesmerised by Gypsy life. Sampson joined the newly formed Gypsy Lore Society and soon gained the nav Bauro Rai given by the Gypsies.

In the 1890s Sampson met Edward and Matthew Wood and was excited by their deep Romani “as a pure Indian idiom”. The Rai began to compile a Romano-English dictionary and from 1896 spent the next 30 years badgering his linguistic teachers. The dictionary was eventually published in 1926, and an exhausted Sampson died 5 years later. Many Kaule, including from over the border, attended his funeral held on the summit of Foel Goch near Corwen. Harry “Turpin” Wood and Rosie Griffiths played the violin, accompanied by Reuben Roberts on the Welsh harp. His great friend Ithal Lee carried the wooden casket, and the Rai’s son Michael scattered the ashes in nine directions into the Cymru breeze. Finally, Ithal burned the casket and lit his pipe from the last flame. This poignant moment marks significantly in Welsh history the beginning of the end of an auspicious era when the secret way of life of the Walshenenge Kaule was about to disappear. By the 1960s it was virtually all over.

Fifty years on, and the Kaulengo cheriklo (Gypsy wagtail) still bobbles along in Cymru and so do many of the Kaule descendants scattered about the hill and cwms. They may no longer live in tents and roast shoshoi (rabbit) on stick fires, but

most are still proud of their Welsh Romani roots and carry the original Kaule family names such as Wood, Boswell, Lovell, Lock, Herne, Jones, Ingram, Roberts, Price, Florence, Lee, Taylor, Smith and Burton. You can find a Lee in Australia, a Roberts in Canada, and a Lovell in America, for there are no boundaries today.

Whatever image a person’s mind conjures up when the word Gypsy is mentioned - good or bad - at least the Walshenenge Kaule successfully lived by Man’s ancient birthright – our freedom to roam.

In 2006 Romani Cymru was established by Cultural Director Stef Solomon Bate as Wales’ first archival and interactive research initiative about the historic Romani tribes of Wales. This informative project digitally records, conserves and promotes what remains of our Welsh Gypsy heritage and language, and brings a clearer picture of what the Kaule people of Wales, past and present, are about, enlightening the general public of their rich history and dispelling the popular myths surrounding their culture.

Stef and Myra with Kaule family and friends - Cymru                               © ValleyStream Media