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Local Story > East Midlands > Derbyshire

Bob’s Our Uncle

Robert Dawson

The story of Britain’s Gypsy and Traveller communities has fascinated hundreds of writers and artists over the centuries, but while many may have written about us, few have done so much FOR us as Robert Dawson.

He modestly describes himself as a “writer and educationalist”, but in reality his tireless writing and activism on behalf of the community has actively preserved and celebrated Gypsy and Traveller heritage for ever.

As an educationalist he’s not only preserved the knowledge the makes up the Gypsy and Traveller community’s family silver, but provided a trophy cabinet for it and made it shine. Although not from the Gypsy or Traveller community itself, he is respected by the community in much the same way as any senior Gypsy or Traveller man would be. And the respect clearly goes both ways.

Tinkers Changing Camp

“I have the honour to be president of the Romany and Traveller Family History Society, am a member of various Romany and Traveller societies and organizations including the Essex based Gypsy Council, and last year was given a life-time achievement award at the Pride Not Prejudice conference, an honour which meant a huge amount to me.” says Bob. His website lists some of the huge collection of books, postcards, games and reports he’s written about the community.

Ryalla at ApplebyRight: Ryalla at Appleby. Picture courtesy of John McKale

For Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month 2009, Bob has distilled his great knowledge into an educational pack for youth groups and schools. From looking at the diversity of Britain’s travelling people, through relationships with the state and the church, to more recent history the pack cuts through the myths about Gypsies and Travellers like a sword. Packed with some of the beautiful pictures and illustrations he’s spent a lifetime collecting, it provides exactly the long view of Gypsy and Traveller history that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month is intended to provide.

The pack is the latest in a lifetime of publishing and part of a much longer effort by non-Gypsy people to promote understanding of the Gypsy and Traveller community. Bob first became interested in the community at the age of 11 and met Dora Yates, secretary of the Gypsy Lore Society in his teens.

Robert Dawson with Dora YatesRobert with Dora Yates

He says: “She was one of the best gorjer (non-Gypsy) pioneers and supporters and ambassadors of British Travellers. “We remained in correspondence until shortly before her death. I was for some time the youngest ever member of the Gypsy Lore Society. I admired and respected her greatly and, years later, many Gypsies spoke to me about her. She was deeply loved by British Gypsies all over, commonly called 'The Rawni' (the Lady) or 'Beebi Dora' (Aunt Dora).”

Though he’d probably be uncomfortable with any comparison, Bob Dawson’s work is now held in equally high esteem by today’s Gypsies and Travellers. So if you’re looking to share the real story about Gypsies and Travellers this Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month, Bob Dawson isn’t just you man, he’s also your uncle!

For more information, contact:

Robert Dawson, 188 Alfreton Road,
Blackwell, Alfreton, Derbys, DE55 5JH.

bob@robertdawson.co.uk
01773 812202.
www.robertdawson.co.uk

Gypsy Roma and Traveller Resources

The recently relaunched NATT+ website has an online eShop with over 250 books, DVDs, Videos and Posters - including many of Robert Dawson's publications.

www.natt.org.uk >

Though aimed at Teachers' of Travelling Children, none-the-less anyone may find the resources interesting.

Getting Involved

A guide to playing a part in GRTHM. Written specially by the IrishTraveller Movement in Britain this booklet - downloadable or available to read online - gives lots of information on getting ideas, organising events, funding and more...

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Getting involved guide >