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” Happy Boz'll^ 

 

Lying below the minster-crowned hill at Lincoln are several large commons, one of which, known as the ' Carholme,' is renowned as the scene of the Lincolnshire Handicap. Another of these grassy stretches, locally designated the 'Cow Paddle,' is used at fair-times by Gypsies and travelling folk of all grades and shades. Here, on April 24, 1911, while picking up pedigrees and pisoms among the numerous vardos, I came upon grave old Tom Boyling ^ and his facetious son Walter, by whose fire, when the day's last glow was tinting the city towers, I took

down a few characteristic legends of that queer old Miinchausen of the English Romanicels ” Happy Boz'll.

 

But first a word as to the Boylings and their connexion with Happy Boz'll. ^

(1. 2 Cf. Groome, Gypsy Folk- Tales, pp. 129-130; In Gypsy Tents, pp. 160-161. ^ )

Tom Boyling married Hari'iet, daughter of Will Wilshaw (Wilshire, Welcher, etc.). Their son Walter married Emily, daughter of Sam Elliot.

 The Boylings, I now learn for the first time, are a Lincolnshire family, hailing originally from Nettleham, a village near Lincoln. They are

Gdje horsedealers, who have mixed a good deal with the Gypsies, travelling in the Eastern counties ; yet, an East Anglian myself, and a fairly inquisitive one at that, I have never before this year so much as heard of the Boylings. Tom Boyling (now about eighty years of age) tells me that his father, George Boyling, had two wives : ” (1) a Boswell ^ who had a big son of her own named Absalom (Abbi, 'Hippy'), when George married her ; and (2) Joyce Tanzy (Tom's mother), sister of Bill Tanzy, the husband of Jack Gray's sister Esther. Thus Happy was

brought up by George Boyling, and eventually took a Gypsy wife, and had a daughter named Trenit, who mated with a Sherrif of the Midlands, so at least I am informed by my friend Laias Boswell, the lame fiddler of Derby. According to Tom Boyling, Happy, who has been dead these many years, was 'jist the rummist ole liar azivver walked Gawd's earth.' He was always the hero of his own lying tales, and bore a variety of names, such as Uncle Happy, Happy Jack, Happy Boyling, and HajDpy Boz'll. Subjoined are a few tales obtained from the

Boylings at Lincoln Fair.

 

' Happy Boz'll nivver had no wagon. He an' his wife Becky travelled all their lives wi' a pack donkey an' tent. One night their tent got afire, an' everythink they had wuz burnt to ashes. They had nuthink left in the hull wurld 'cep'n' the ole dickey an' his blinkers. Nex' mornin' when they crep' out from under the hedge, Happy sez to his missus, "Now, my Becky, «e's gotten to mdng hard all dis blessid day." An' by the time as evening come roun' they'd actilly gotten a new fit-out altogither. Under the hedge wuz rigged up the beautifullest tent you ivver see. New blankits, there wuz, an' new beddin' an' new everythink. " Well, my Becky," sez Happy, " How do yer like it ? " Sez Becky, " We's not done so werry bad arter all, my Happy ; we's gotten a better tan an' a better hoben nor we had last night." Sez Happy, laffin' soft-like, "An' I's thinkin', my Becky, 'at it's wunnerful like gitten married agen." '

' Wunst Happy wuz goin' along a road ower the Peak o' Darby. He hadn't gone far afore he see a cart full o' the werry best chiney, all coloured an' gilt it wuz, rale delicate stuS", an' 'twix' the shaft's stood a fine hoss wi' silver-plated harness. There they wuz onto the gress, an' nobody whatsoevver wi' 'em. Happy lit his pipe an' waited a bit to see if anybody 'ud come along. But nobody come. So he ups an' leads the hoss an' cart to an inn jus' roun' the bend o' the road, an' axes the landlord if he knows who's the owner, which to be sure he duzn't know nuthink o' the kind. So on an' on goes Happy, up hill an' down dale, inquisitin' at ivery willage an' farmhouse fer the owner o' that 'ere hoss an' pot-cart, but he nivver could light on the gentleman nowhores, though he come werry nigh to breakin' his pore ole heart wi' anseriety in tryin' his best to find

him.'

 

'Wun time Happy had a grindin'-barrow made outen a hull block o' silver, an' wheniver he wur thirsty he 'd nobbut to chop ofl' a lump o' silver an' go to the nearest public to get as much drink azivver he could carry. Li course o' time his barrow shrinkt to a little teeny thing, an' at last Happy hadn't no barrow left at all.'

'Happy wuz wunst walkin' beside a hedge, crackin* nuts. He'd pockits an' pockits full of 'em, an' he happen-like to fling a nut-shell ower the hedge, an' it hit a werry fine hare, an' killed it. Wuz'n't that strange, now ? ' "Nuther time Happy wuz crossin' a field, an' he see a sack full o' somethink, he didn't know what, lyin' on its side. So he up an' dispected it, an', there, if it wurn't full o' heggs. He picked up the sack and carried it away on his back, an' nivver crackt none of 'em.' Georgk Hall. ^ I am at present unable to place genealogically this female Boswell.

 

 A Gypsy's Note-book.

 

Those who knew Sylvester Boswell, personally or through the numerous references in Messrs. Smart and Crofton's Dialect of the English Gypsies, may be interested in a few extracts from one of his old note-books, now in the possession of a member of his family. The book is a small duodecimo with several leaves torn and missing. The writing throughout is laboriously neat and the orthography distinctly " westerious." On the parchment cover is written " Begester Book \ of famleys allso \ favialey Memherandum \ Book January 1841 1847 | Bedgister \

Book, 1847," and a considerable portion of the small volume is filled with records of the births, marriages, and deaths of his own family, and members of the Smiths, Hemes, and Chilcotts. These entries are characterised by his usual minuteness and quasi-legal precision of phrase, e.g. " in or near a Barne," " Dover in Kent," " London, Essex," etc., etc., and the Christian era is religiously given in each case with ingenious variations : "in the year of our Lord October the 13th 1839 on Sunday." " first fryday in July the 5th in the year of our Lord 1850," "June the

5th 1842th years of our Lord," etc., etc. A pathetic entry records the death of his wife.

 

" This is the Dear | Mother of this | famaley flower or | florence Died on Thursday morning | half past 7 sep | 8th 1864 | and Was Buried on the | 11th of  sep 1864 at | East ham Essex | Died at North | Woolwich and | left 8 Dear Children  to layment for her  and her Husband |.

 Byron Mackenzie | oscar Bruce Julia I Wallis trafalgar and | Loriae the youngist Child.

" Silvester Boswell ( her Husband that | Layments for her | most Bitterley | his Dear flower .

Part of the book is devoted to accounts, kept in a rather primitive fashion :  

 

poney Cost .. 7 10 and sold to Mr. Smith of felexsolm for . . . . 9 sold the Black mare that Cost . . 3 15 toEaleyfor . . 5 10 Bought the same

poney again at .. 5 10 and sold again to Mr. Simons at Barnett fare for . . 9 Another page gives us " the Rode from Birmingham to March and the towls," and a similar entry concludes : " this distance Cost 7/ 85 | With one Horse & Cart land a loose horse i But this is the I Neearist rode and the I Best from Birmingham to peterboro."

 

Other entries seem to be the rough draft of a will :  

"allso I Desire the | old Watch to be keeped | in my own famley | as long as there is one | left and not to be | pai'ted With on aney | account this Was my farthers years Before | he died | he and old hearn died | in one second slayen By thunder and lightling | and a fire Ball at tetford | in Lincolnshire this | tyso Boswell my | farther Dyed and his Cusin | August the 5th 1831." " I Bought this fiddle at | Colchester this is an old one | allso But the age I do not I know But I Baught September 1861 its a | Emartis [Amati's] fiddle | and very valueable one | I here say that I Disire | that thay shall not | go out of my Children | Care But Be | a mong these selves | this I Crave of you | Silvester Boswell." This fiddle, however, passed into other hands.

 

The Daily Graphic of September 25, 1907, Gave a photographic view of a camp-fire concert at a Gypsy hopping-camp in Kent.

 

The Morning Leader of October 1, 1907, Contained an article by Harwood Brierley, headed ' Romany Rye,' chiefly about the Kirk Yetholm Gypsies, Queen Esther and King Charles Faa Blyth, with some remarks about Sylvester Boswell and King Charles Boswell, who was buried at Rossington. 'It was in the once romantic valley of Todmorden in Yorkshire, that Isopel Berners, the tall heroine in Sorrow's Lavengro, met "Blazing Bosvile," the big Gypsy tinker.' Extracts from the same article appeared in the Greenock Telegraph on November 16, 1907.

 

The Southend Standard, October 3, 1907, Reported the death and funeral of Henrietta Buckley, aged sixty-eight, wife of Sant Buckley, head of the Gypsy colony at Eastwood. She had over twenty children, and her grandchildren ran into three figures ; she was also a great-grandmother. At the camp a disused tramcar does duty as a place of worship. Nearly one hundred attended the funeral.

 

The Rhondda Leader (Wales) on October 12, 1907, Told how Sarah Price, a Gypsy, told a servant's fortune at Peu-y-graig, and persuaded her to hand over four shillings, and a handkerchief in which to tie them up, and to be kept till Saturday or Monday, ' to see whether my words will come true or not.'

 

The Cornishman, on September 7, 1907, Contained a report of a charge made by John Slack, horse-dealer and hawker, against Maria Grifl[iths or Boswell, with whom he had lived and travelled for eighteen years. Slack said he was not a Gypsy. Abraham Boswell, Maria's brother, gave evidence. The charge was dismissed.

 

On October 30 the Cornish Telegraph Reported that Slack had sued Griffiths for £300 deposited in the Looe branch of Barclay's Bank, and about £100 deposited in the Post Office Savings Bank, also a horse, waggon, harness, etc., worth £60, and for another horse, cart, harness, etc., worth £40, all of which he had sworn in an affidavit were his ; but when the case came on for trial, a letter written by him admitting that the affidavit was untrue was read, and the case was decided in favour of Griffiths.

 

The London correspondent of the New York Sun  Wrote an account of the original of Borrow's Jasper Petulengro (see Lavengro), whom Dr. Knapp stated Borrow's original manuscript named Ambrose Smith. 'A short time ago I was near Oulton in the tent of two Petulengroes ; the man was " Jasper's " nephew, a handsome, white-haired, grey-eyed horse-dealer, and his wife belonged to another branch of Jasper's family, and both knew Borrow. Ambrose was a horse-dealer, and often visited Norwich Castle Hill, Mousehold Heath, and Oulton, where he camped on Borrow's land. According to Lavengro he married Pekomovna Heme, but his nephew believed that Ambrose's wife was a Scotch Gypsy. Ambrose had four children, and some of them went to America, where the nephew believed their mother died. Ambrose lived to a good old age, and died in Lancashire. He generally pitched his tent on Battersea Fields, never once slept in a house, nor did he ever own a van, such as are now made for Romanies at Harleston in Norfolk, and Soham in Cambridgeshire. He was content with a two- wheeled hooded cart, and the customary " beehive " tent.'