THE GYPSY LORE SOCIETY
The Gypsy Lore Society was founded in May 1888 by a group of eleven scholars who were interested in the songs, stories and language of Romany Gypsies, “with the object of investigating the Gypsy question in as thorough manner as possible”. The results of their efforts were then published in a quarterly journal, with David MacRitchie as Secretary, MacRitchie of the opinion that the primary duty of the Society should be to publish the rich store of knowledge that had already been collected by John Sampson. The first series of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society ran from 1888-1892.
In 1907, Robert A.S. Macfie was persuaded by a group of scholars and Gypsiologists, which included John Sampson and David MacRitchie, to revive the Society. Based in Liverpool between 1907-1973, many of its most active members were closely associated with the city and the University, in particular John Sampson (1862-1931), R.A. Scott Macfie (1868-1935) and Dora Yates (1879-1974), after whose death the GLS was dissolved. The quarterly Journal was published July 1888-April 1892 (Old series, vols 1-3); July 1907-1916 (New series, vols 1-9); 1922-1973 (3rd series, vols 1-52); 1974-1982 (4th series, vols 1-2).
The collections held at Liverpool University comprise the archive of the Gypsy Lore Society - over 10,000 letters and administrative files relating chiefly to members' Gypsy research and the publication of the journals, plus the Scott Macfie Gypsy Collection - books, manuscripts, photographs, illustrations and press cuttings made by Macfie and other GLS members. The main historical focus of the collections is mid-19th to mid-20th century.
The Gypsy Lore Society, North American Chapter was founded in the United States in 1977, and since 1989 continued as the Gypsy Lore Society. This revived Society has published since 1991, the 5th series of the Journal, which was renamed Romani Studies from 2000.
Wagtail emblem of the Gypsy Lore Society in Welsh Romani
A VISIT TO LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY - by Mary Horner (nee Hearn)
As neither of us had previously visited the collections at Liverpool University, one day in March 1996 as I headed up the M1 bound for Liverpool for the first time with Janet Keet-Black, Editor and Secretary of the Romany & Traveller Family History Society, we were both in high spirits!
After locating our smart waterfront hotel near the newly re-vamped Albert Dock, we had supper and an early night to prepare for an early start next day. Over the next three days, in the relaxed atmosphere of the Sydney Jones Library, we worked our way through box after box of manuscripts and notes collected and recorded by members of the Gypsy Lore Society.
I was fascinated by hand-written reports of actual interviews with old Gypsy familes, Lees', Bucklands', Boswells', Greys', Smiths', Youngs' etc., they were all there - and among them many wonderful encounters with "Hearns'". What thrilled me most were the descriptions of their physical appearance, together with wonderful snippets of information, much of which confirms stories my Dad remembered with pride:-
Letter from T.W. Thompson to Winstedt (c.1902)
"Called them gentlemen Hearns', said they were just like two old-fashioned gentlemen, with long black curls hanging down on their shoulders. Came from London and did not travel much as a rule"
From Josh. Gray to T.W.Thompson - 8.3.1914
"The old Hearns' were a race of giants, black, flat-nosed, thick lipped, square and angular, but wonderfully hard and muscular and they'd know anything. Males outnumbered females by 10-1. The men got all the good looking and clever girls and they would travel miles and miles to find their wives. Wonderful prodigal people - but woe betide the men that married their women folk!"
From Zachariah Lock (Alias Harry Boswell) 8.3.1914
"Do you know what the old Hernes used to give for a wedding present to the men that married one of their girls? - a new halter - and then he had to go and steal a horse to put in it!"
But I suppose one of my favourites, undated and author unknown, has to be:-
"Mary is the round-faced, rather short, rather stout, Hearn type - and an excellent talker (nothing changes!). All the family are dark, two of them are unmistakeable Hearns. Travel all over the Midlands, Lancs, Yorks, Oxford, Reading and London, etc., She is a wonderful genealogist and one could, I think, get a lot from her!"
Reference to much of this information is now much easier to locate as the collection has now been catalogued and computerised. Sadly time passes too quickly, and despite working at a frenzied pace those first three days, when we eventually tore ourselves away, we had frustratingly only scratched the surface of the material at our disposal. I brought back a carrier-bag full of fragments of invaluable and unique Hearn information that filled me with excitement and pleasure. Later, as I re-read everything at my leisure, I realised just what a treasure trove I had been delving into, and in the process it was very satisfying to be able to pass on to other friends, a few interesting tit-bits that related to families they are researching.
Well worth a visit!!
Members of the Gypsy Lore Society