2007 - 2021

The Gypsy Traiveller “problem”

6a00e54fcf7385883401b7c7b45239970bAlistair Heather scrieves anent an ayebydand problem in landward airts o the kintrae, atween settled societie an the ‘gaun aboot fowk’ we cry Traivellers an Gypsies.

Ane o Scotland’s ain indigenous ethnic minorities is bein squeezed oot o existence afore wir een, just as wir leaders are preachin aboot keepin open the doors tae aa the cultures o the warld.

“We’ve been ettlin tae big new sites fir the traivellers,” says Peter Farrell o Heatheryfaulds traiveller site in Fife, “but ilka time, we batter intae a brick wa. The wa o Scottish politics, o local business and o the general public.” Peter warks fir Fife Cooncil at the site oot ahint Kirkcaldy.
“Oor site hasnae had a spare pitch in the twenty year syne Ah stertit here. We’ve a waitin leet as lang as yir airm.”

The brick wa Peter describes atween the guid intention o cooncil an the fouth o public ill-will agin traivellers is ane o the maist important social crises in Scotland the day. Sites fir traivellers tae bide intae oan an ad-hoc, seasonal basis just arnae appearin, an planned anes are aye whummelt by public ootrage.
But movement accordin tae season is inbiggit intae the traivellers wey o life, as Peter explains. “Whelkin is ane o the bigger industries fir Scottish traivellers. Fir whelkin ye’re needin tae stravaig up the strand wi the tides, warkin intae the beaches that are available tae be warked. Traivellers wouldnae bide intae [the traiveller site at] Kirkcaldy if the tide is up at St Andras, fir exaimple.”

This organic migration gars whelkers pull in tae unoffeicial sites sic as public parks that hae aye been seasonal staps fir traivellers, but noo host fitba pitches an the like. Fae the first meenit that the caravans stap oan the park, a fecht wi the local cooncil as weel as a stooshie wi locals lours. The traivellers are aye fashed wi the need tae flit tae some ithir body’s timetable.

Travellers_Decorated_Caravan_(6136023633)There’s nae mair nor a few thoosan Scottish Traivellers that bide in camps aa the year roon. There’s anithir thirteen thoosan wha, in Traiveller Season fae Mairch tae October poor oot o their permanent hooses in toon an tak tae the road. The infrastructure cannae thole sic a summer spate, sae traivellers big thirsels places tae camp, whiles wioot permission.

The latest sic site tae fin itsel the cause o a stooshie is ane at St Cyrus, nae far fae Montrose. The fowk there hae biggit thirsels somethin nigh oan a clachan. Wee bothies, space fir their caravans an wee waas ringin roon the hail hing like a proper suburban cul-de-sac!

It’s been at the hert o controversy fae it’s appearance three year syne. The Planning Permission rules seem no tae hae been heedit in the biggin o it. In maist cases sic a brakkin o the rules wad hae brung doon the wrath o the cooncil, wha’d’ve gard them ding doon the development. Yet the site wis gied official status bi the cooncil in April this year. Noo meenisters in Holyrood hae recaad the case, spierin intae the safety o the clachan, that sits oan a fluidplain. This threatens tae owreturn the cooncils deceision, and aince mair the fowk wha bide there are faced wi an unkent future.

How shuild we gie a toss aboot traivellers? “Pauchlin wee tinkers, so they are. Bet ye they dinnae pey a bawbee o tax.” Ye dinnae hae tae gang far or spik tae mony fowk in Scotland afore ye hear sic views as thir. The European Human Richts Comeission haes cried wir attitude tae traivellers as “the last bastion of respectable racism” in Scotland. This stress an social rejection is haein a hellish effect oan wir traivellin community. They dee younger than average, hae the warst grades at scuil by a fair auld distance, an, waur nor thon, are 20 times mair likely tae experience the daith o a bairn than the Scottish average. Sic a situation cannae continue for aye. Traivellers are stertin tae gie up the auld weys. Gin they are tae disappear, hauf a millennia o Scottish cultur will gang wi them.

How shuild we gie a toss aboot traivellers? “Pauchlin wee tinkers, so they are. Bet ye they dinnae pey a bawbee o tax.” Ye dinnae hae tae gang far or spik tae mony fowk in Scotland afore ye hear sic views as thir. The European Human Richts Comeission haes cried wir attitude tae traivellers as “the last bastion of respectable racism” in Scotland. This stress an social rejection is haein a hellish effect oan wir traivellin community.

For five hunner year the traivellers hae flittit aa owre Scotland, mixin wi ilka type o fowk, takkin on words and tales fae the Gaelic, the Scots an the English. Thanks tae this the traivellers hae aye been kists for the gowd o Scots. They’re creditit wi carryin owre the Scots Ballads fae ae generation tae the neist, as weel’s gien a virr an smeddum tae the oral culture o Scotland. The indispensable Scots word ‘gadgie’ fir example seems tae hae meldit intae wir ain leid fae the Traivellers Cant. Same fir ‘nash’, as in tae ging awa, ‘peeve’ fir bevvy, an ‘hirey’ fir yir money.

Gypsies seem tae hae cam tae Scotland aroon 1500. The anes wha show in the records were kiddin aabdy oan that they were the deposed royalty o Egypt, or else were guid hertit Christian gadgies oan pilgrimage. By sic like means they won thir wey intae walth an poseition, as gien shelter tae pilgrims wis aa the rage for fowk in thae days. King James V gied a gypsy king an his follayers ludgins an a personal letter o introduction tae the king o Denmark, as weel as a pooch fu o hireys.

The lies wir debreeked an exposed in the 16th century. Afore lang we hae laws bannin ‘the idl fowk cryin thirsels Egyptians’ fae Scotland aathegither. Obviously they didnae nash, an we hae record o lawfu reprisels in ilka airt. Ae traiveller wifey in Fife hud her lug nailed tae a post fir a full quarter o an hour for bein a tinker. There were droonins an hangins galore.

Toonie/traiveller relations hae aye chynged wi the years but aulder readers o Bella will mind a time nae lang syne when the tinkers comin tae toon wis a source o fun an fascination. But noo they are a persecuted minority. Their treatment is pruif that we arnae some idyllic wee country whaur we’re aa Jock Tamson’s Bairns. In this regaird, we are a nation o hypocrites. Oan ae haun we are welcomin refugees, as we should, an gien them breid, barley-bree and paintit room as the sang says. Oan the ithir haun we’re forcin the traivellers oot o existence aathegither. Its time we tyned wir auld-farrant hatreds. Kindness cannae wait till independence. Kindness cannae be selective, it maun be universal.

See also the Proud Gypsy Traveller Project at Travellers’ Times here.

***

Alistair Heather is a student o Historie, French an Gaelic atween Geneva an Aiberdeen Universities.
@Historic_Ally

Comments (21)

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  1. Alan McManus says:

    Weel sayd an weel scrievit, Alistair! Ah mind wurking in a gie pan bried senior schule in Glaesga whaur thi traivellin weans wur sae used tae bein insultit they hud goat tae jist thole it. Aa thi high hied yins (speshally thi Headie) wur that busy wi mock parliaments wi meenisters thit they didnae want tae ken thi extent o this verbal abuse o weans wi naebdy tae ston up fur theym. Aa telt thi ither weans tae stoap bit Aa wis chucked oot fur cheek lang syne, sae wha kens hou they weans fae Whiteinch ur noo.

    1. Ally says:

      Thats it in a nutshell Alan.

  2. Mrs Tee says:

    “Its time we tyned wir auld-farrant hatreds. Kindness cannae wait till independence. Kindness cannae be selective, it maun be universal.” Aye.

  3. Ellen Paasch says:

    Oor family moved fae Govan, Glesga tae Drumchapel in 1956. Travelers lived doon at the Red Canyon near Peel Glen, an idyllic spot wi plenty o’ privacy. Sadly, we wains suddenly found oor selves wi a’ this country side tae explore we eventually caused them tae move away.
    A remember, that same year a gypsy wumin sitting at the entrance tae oor pathway that lead tae oor close wi some wains. Even then, at the age o’ nine a knew she wiz being displaced.
    The tinkers, travelers and show people all visited and lived aroon Govan. They all contribute tae oor economy. Ma mammy hid her scissors an knives sharpened an pots mended cheaply. It wiz a win/win fur all.
    Show wains attend Broomloan School wi me. A don’t recall abuse tae them. We were a’in the same boat.
    Ta fur the article.

  4. Peter Shepheard says:

    A good article but it is a pity to see the statement “for five hunner year the traivellers hae flittit aa wore Scotland” that implies the Scots travellers are to be equated with the historical migration and arrival in Scotland of gypsies from Europe. The ethnic group that we refer to as travellers may well have been in Scotland and Ireland since time immemorial – an ancient Celtic or pre Celtic group for all we may know.

    1. Ally says:

      Hi Peter,
      Ah did read a wee bitty anent hou the traivellers are decendit fae an ancient celtic band o metalworkers wha follaed armies, sherpenin dirks an makkin wappins an that. But ma ainly source wis a few sentences in a Stanely Robertson buik. The lave o ma sources gied the history as screivit abuin.
      Gin ye can gie us a link tae a mair solid bit o evidence, Ah’d be totally keen tae ken mair oan it.

  5. Willie says:

    Name herm take travellers as youse wid say. But there does seem to be some michty clearts amongst thaim. They fair leave some shite behind.

    1. Ally says:

      Aye Willie, yir nae wrang. But could we no gie them mair official halts wi cooncil waste disposal like aabdy else gets?

    2. Graeme Purves says:

      Fan A warked fur Grampian Regional Cooncil in the ‘Echties, the traivellers sites were ey trig an weel managed.

      A’m prood ti be desceded frae Kirk Yetholm gypsies.

    3. Graeme Purves says:

      Fan A warked fur Grampian Regional Cooncil in the ‘Echties, the traivellers sites were ey trig an weel managed.

      A’m prood ti be descended frae Kirk Yetholm gypsies.

  6. Shehanne Moore says:

    Weel sayd oh michty scibe whithir there’s clearts amang them or no

  7. Willie says:

    Weel talkin aboot traivelers, yon Kezia wan is certainly wan who can move. Efter giving Jeremy Corbyn abuse last week aboot nae being onie guid, she now says that she can support him. Mair faces than a clock tower thon yin methinks. Whit a bunch chanty wrastlers

    1. John B Dick says:

      You made my day.

      We get too high a proportion of new words and concepts from American culture.

      As an enrichment of the English language of far greater utility than any of them is ‘Chanty wrastler’, so aptly applied to NewLabour Authoritarian Followers https://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/.

  8. Layla says:

    Another grand wee article sir!

  9. J P Stone says:

    Reading this tripe I couldn’t help but cringe. Now, I know that Scots Traveller Community are an indigenous ethnic minority, and I even agree that we should look after our own minority groups before those from other countries, but having deciphered this drivel I cannot see how it would do anything to serve their cause or highlight their plight.

    As for the Scots Travellers, they come with a reputation of leaving a mess wherever they go. If they acted more responsibly and cleaned up after themselves, then they would be accepted by more and more people in this day and age where all ‘minorities’ are favourably championed by the quasi-socialist elites and the ‘rent-a-cause’ types.

    1. Ally says:

      Cheer fir the input JP,
      Ah maun correct ye but. Ah didnae say that we should look efter wir ain minority groups BEFORE those fae ithir airts. Thats sortae missing the point aye?

      As fir highlichtin the ‘plight’ as ye pit it… It’s mair aboot acceptin that we arnae gien the Traivellers space tae be. Its mair aboot us than them, ken?

      Scottish Traivellers dinnae come wi a reputation for makin a midden o thir camp sites. Mind an mak a deliniation atween the Scottish Traivellers, wha are the subject o this airticle, an traivellers fae ithir airts. Ah ken an concede that maist cooncils hae tae spend tens o thoosans reddin up the middens left ahint certain groups o traivellers. Gien them halts wi facilities may weel help.

    2. Willie says:

      One man’s tripe is another’s gastronomic delight. Lighten up man. Alternative lifestyles are not a crime. And yes we all ken only too well that some (new age travellers perchance from down souff ?) leave a fair midden behind.

    3. Graeme Purves says:

      Weel duin fur tryin tho’, J.P.! Ye’ll suin get the hang o it!

    4. NotASnob says:

      Well said.

  10. Caroline Macafee says:

    Mony tradeetional weys o leevin haes become impossible in the modren warld. This is juist yin. The descendants o smaa fairmers an cottars cud say they hae a richt tae a peasant wey o life, an stert cultivatin ony bit o lan that wisnae weel defendit agin thaim. Whit wey no?

  11. Liz says:

    I always felt I did not belong to my family in Poland. I was different, my father also told me so. My mother seemed like she had something to hide.
    I approached Ancestry and their analysis was central European and possibly Middle Eastern. Finally I approached a psychic about my uncertainty. Her answer was that my mother was Romani who adopted me out at birth. This seemed to make sense at last. How could I trace her? This was over 50 yrs ago.

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