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Not everyone described as a traveller or a vagrant was a Gypsy. Not every hawker, basket maker, or chimney sweep was a Gypsy, but many were.
Gypsies have always preferred occupations that allowed them to continue their nomadic way of life
The following occupations were commonly practised by Gypsies, who provided goods and services to local communities in the course of their travels.
The terms dealer and general dealer were frequently used by Gypsies from the late 19th century, but the terms were also used to describe other traders and shopkeepers. A marine store dealer was a dealer in scrap materials.
- hawker, licensed hawker, pedlar
- basket maker, mat maker, beehive maker, brush maker, chair bottomer, sieve bottomer
- tinker, tinman, razor grinder, knife grinder
- dealer, general dealer, marine store dealer, wardrobe dealer
- peg maker, umbrella mender, chimney sweep, horse dealer
Most Gypsies were peddlers or hawkers selling what they have bought cheaply or selling what they have made themselves
One area in which the gypsies has traditionally excelled is that of metalwork. They have been known as metalworkers from the beginning of their history. They have made nails, tools, and cooking equipment. They have been skilled at plating objects with tin, embossing and engraving jewelry . The Gypsy have been experts in all forms of metalwork, whether it be as tinsmiths, coppersmiths, silversmiths, or goldsmiths.
Horses have always been part of their lives, either trading or used to draw their wagons, many were very expert in tending and curing sick horses, for this some men were known as Doc and highly thought of by farmers in need of help to cure a sick horse.
Gypsies make a specialty of attending horse fairs as they are major occasions in their lives. They are adept at pointing out advantages in their own horses, while pointing out the disadvantages of those horses they are interested in buying.
The basket weaving trade features among the oldest, widest-spread and most respected professions.
It fits the Roma in so far as Nature offers the raw materials
‘Frame’ or ‘ribbed’ baskets were originally made by gypsies who would use hedgerow materials for the construction of these beautiful baskets.
Sadly the arrival of plastic and the changing socio-economic circumstances of the 1950s and 1960s led to a steady decline in basket-weaving, and it has now disappeared
Besom is pronounced “beezum”. The word isn’t used very much now but everybody knows what a besom looks like - a witch’s broomstick. It is a simple brush, made by tying a bundle of twigs round a wooden shaft.
Besom making was one of the Gypsy trades. It was very popular in the Peak district area
A bundle of long heather was packed in the centre with smaller twigs to provide a firm bed for the shaft. The whole bundle was bound tightly with cane then the shaft was driven in. It was held firm by a strong nail. The head was trimmed with an axe and the job was done. A skilled worker could make a besom in about five minutes.
Yet another material used in making smaller brushes was horse hair
Horsehair was used for violin and other stringed instruments and bows. Another use in the art community comes from pottery and basket weaving
The most widely applied use for horsehair is in the fishing line.This was plaited to give it strength
One of the most important seasonal work opportunities in the past was hop picking and Kent being known as " The Garden of England "
It needed a large work force to pick various crops because they were known as soft fruits as soon as the were ripe they needed picking and getting to market
Gypsy Travellers were just one group out of many who undertook this work as many itinerant workers and even Irish would travel from Ireland to do the seasonal work,local people also got involved at harvest time to supplement their incomes.
They would move from farm to farm through the summer picking cherries strawberries blackcurrants peas beans, then september it was hop picking floowed by apple picking and lastly potato picking before winter months meant they then had to look for somewhere to settle
During the winter months many moved into towns and took up occupations which left them with a degree of independence, the men sometimes becoming fly drivers or coal heavers while the women continued to hawk or become char ladies.
Advances in mechanisation meant that from the 1930s onwards the seasonal workers were replaced by machines which were both quicker and cheaper. From the mid 20th century the traditional practice of scrap dealing became increasingly common and Gypsy Travellers took up new trades such as landscape gardening, tarmacing and roofing.
Today, people from the Gypsy Traveller community work in a wide variety of occupations in both the public and private sector.
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, Feb 6 2012, 5:19 PM EST
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|eal17652||The Nomadic way of life||5||Nov 24 2011, 4:19 AM EST by sandeyb|
Thread started: Nov 22 2011, 8:23 AM EST Watch
Please forgive my ignorance but I am just starting to research my ancestors. Can anyone tell me if a nomadic way of life was a deliberate choice from a love of the open road and generations of the freedom to roam at will, or enforced as result of being perceived as outsiders by settled folk who were from a different culture?
I can see benefits on both sides to having a seasonal workforce, and whilst it must have been a hard life for the Gypsies, being the only life they knew perhaps it did not seem so bad. Yet so many of the generations seem to have gradually settled down in towns and villages.
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