IN SEARCH OF ABRAM/ABRAHAM WOOD
In her book “My Gypsy Days – Recollections of a Romany Rawnie”, Dora E. Yates, for many years Secretary of the Gypsy Lore Society, recalls her travels in pursuit of Gypsies, and her desire to record their songs and stories. During her many journeys up and down the country in the early years of the 20th century, Dora states that one of her favourite haunts was the small old-world village of Little Stretton, which lies on the main route between Hereford and Shrewsbury. At that time the Romanies were welcomed for various reasons by farming folk throughout Herefordshire and Shrewsbury. They were gladly employed for hop and fruit picking, while in the small nearby villages, visits from Gypsy women who pedalled their wares and told fortunes for a shilling or two were a pleasant distraction from villagers’ routine lives.
During 1907-8, Dora and her companion Agnes Marston (fondly christened ‘Kish’ by the Gypsies), moved over the border into Wales in search of the famous Wood family. They already had accounts of previous meetings with members of the family, and below is a fascinating description of Abram or Abraham Wood the celebrated violinist, (reputed by the Gypsies to be the first person to introduce the violin into Wales), which was given by his g.grandaughter Saiforella Wood:-
“Very tall but not so very lusty, and middling thin. His complexion was very dark, with rosy cheeks. His face was round as an apple and he had a double chin and a small mouth, very small for a man. He always rode on horseback, on a blood horse and would not sleep in the open, but in barns. He wore a three-cocked hat with gold lace, a silk coat with swallow-tails, sometimes red, sometimes green, and sometimes black – and a waistcoat embroidered with green leaves. The buttons on the coat were half-crowns, those on the waistcoat shillings. His breeches were white, tied with silk ribbons, and there were bunches of ribbons at the knees. On his feet he had pumps with silver buckles and silver spurs and he wore two gold rings – only two – and a gold watch and chain”.
After many enquiries and much searching, Dora and Kish were able to establish amongst the burials for 1799, that the final resting place of - “Abram Woods, a travelling Egyptian” - was in Llangelynin churchyard in the County of Merioneth.
Abram Wood must indeed have been a memorable man!
JOHN ROBERTS (1816-1894)
John Roberts was one of more than twenty outstanding Welsh harpists belonging to the famous Wood family. In his lifetime he was awarded many honours and he and his nine sons and one daughter were all skilled musicians who played for Queen Victoria on several occasions.