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Introduction: Gypsies and Travellers

Many people have looked at Brian Hatton’s paintings and seen an empathy with Gypsies and Travellers.  He himself had a secure middle-class life and probably saw their life as romantic and colourful and maybe they represented the freedom of the open road.  Whilst Brian may have seen them as romantic subjects, he drew them honestly. He drew broken boots and tattered shawls and showed the harshness of their lives and the poverty that was common amongst many people who worked the land.  See the link below to a drawing held in the British Museum that shows the exhaustion on the faces of the itinerant workers.

Brian clearly found Gypsies and Travellers interesting models for his work as he chose to draw them so often.  It may also have been a shared love of horses that inspired Brian to work with the travelling community.

Gypsy and Traveller History

Romany Gypsies originated in India and it is believed that they left there between 1000-1200 AD.  Gypsies travelled from India through the Middle East to Egypt. The term Gypsy is believed to be a corruption of the word Egyptian. Gypsy culture evolved during their migration from Asia and across Europe. The arrival of Gypsies in Britain was first recorded in1505 in Scotland and 1514 in England. The Romany language is of Indo-Iranian origin.

In 1530, the Egyptians Act was passed in England, this aimed to rid the country of all Gypsies by banning immigration and requiring Gypsies who were already in England, to leave the country within sixteen days. In 1554, this Act was amended and imposed the death penalty for Gypsies already in England if they did not leave within a month. In 1783, a second Egyptians Act repealed these previous acts against Gypsies. However, throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries other acts continued to impact upon Gypsy culture and lifestyle. Even today, legislation is generated that targets Gypsies and Travellers and impacts upon their lives.

There are many types of Gypsies and Travellers - UK Irish Travellers, Scots Travellers (Nachins), Welsh Gypsies and Travellers (Kale) and English Gypsies and Travellers (Romanichals).

Other types of Gypsy and Travellers include Travelling Showpeople (Fairground Travellers), Boat Dwellers (Bargees) and Circus Travellers. In addition, there are New Travellers or New Age Travellers, often defined as people who have made a conscious decision to adopt an alternative lifestyle.

Planning law defines Gypsies and Irish Travellers as people with a nomadic way of life. 90% of Gypsy and Traveller planning permission applications are initially rejected compared to 20% overall (1997 research).Gypsies and Irish Travellers living on local authority or privately-owned sites pay rates, rent, gas, electricity and all other associated charges, measured and charged in the same way as neighbouring houses.

Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are now all recognised as having protection under the Race Relations Act as they have been finally recognised as minority ethnic communities in law. Many Gypsies and Travellers are subject to racist attacks and name-calling, the withdrawal of services and refusal of admission to shops and pubs and so on. This is despite the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000, which has made all these things illegal.

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