Category Archives: Balls

John Cooper’s family: another unexpected Irish connection

The family of Faden John Smith [B10 on the 1910 Borrow’s Gypsies family tree in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society] weren’t the only people to make their home in Ireland. (See the story about Faden John elsewhere on this blog.)

The children of Faden John’s nephew John Cooper [C21] also emigrated from England to live there but choosing Belfast rather than Dublin.

John Cooper was the son of Faden John’s sister Phoebe Smith [B12] and Tom Cooper. He was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, in about 1832. On 5 March 1865 he married Sarah Story at Fairfield parish church near Liverpool, Lancashire. She was, as the 1910 tree records, a non-Gypsy, her father being described on the marriage certificate as a ‘Tradesman’.

The couple had three known children, all daughters. Florence Cooper, the eldest, was born in England, location unknown, in about 1867.

John and Sarah then travelled to Ireland, where they gave birth to their second daughter, Agnes Nora Cooper. She was born on 17 May 1869 at Ahoghill, near Ballymena, County Antrim. It’s possible, in fact likely, that the couple at this point were travelling with the ‘Royal Epping Forest Gipsies’, the group headed by George Smith [C12] that travelled the UK and Ireland in the 1860s and 1870s, holding dances for the general public in major towns and cities.

From Country Antrim, John and Sarah headed to Scotland in the early 1870s, perhaps in the company of John’s uncle, Ambrose Smith [B8]. Ambrose was the Gypsy on whom the 19th century writer George Borrow based the character ‘Jasper Petulengro’ in his novels Lavengro and The Romany Rye.

And it was during this sojourn in Scotland that disaster struck. John Cooper died on 21 January 1872 in a tent behind Hope Terrace, Queens Park, Govan, Glasgow. According to Francis Hindes Groome writing in his In Gipsy Tents (1880), John was buried in Cathcart Cemetery in Glasgow in a grave marked by a large monument. But recent investigations seem to suggest that this stone is long gone. What does survive nearby is the grave of a relative of John Cooper: his second-cousin Logan Lee [D46], son of Leviathan Smith [C14]. Logan died in Galway, Ireland in 1873, and was brought to Cathcart for burial. (You can read more about Logan and see an illustration of his gravestone elsewhere on this blog.)

Two months after John Cooper’s death, his third daughter came into the world. Minnie Leah Cecil Cooper was born on 15 March 1872 at Moss Side, Eastwood, Renfrewshire, with John described on her birth certificate as ‘Travelling Horse Dealer (deceased)’.

So here is Sarah Cooper, a young widow with three little daughters to care for. Being a non-Gypsy, it might have been expected that Sarah would bid farewell to life on the road and return to her roots in Liverpool. But she didn’t. Instead, we find Florence and Minnie in the 1881 census in the care of their Gypsy grandmother Phoebe Cooper among a large encampment of other Gypsy relatives in Christies Field, Broughton Road, Edinburgh, Scotland. The whereabouts of Sarah Cooper herself and her daughter Agnes Nora in 1881 is, as yet, unknown.

But in the next sighting of the girls and their mother in the 1901 census they are living in Belfast. To support her family, Sarah Cooper has started out in business as a Family Grocer at 166 Newtonards Road, Belfast. Perhaps she is following in her father’s ‘Tradesman’ footsteps. Her daughter Florence Cooper has also started a career in food retailing. She is recorded as a Lady Tea Traveller. Agnes Nora – now calling herself ‘Nora’ – is working with her mother in the shop as a ‘Grocer’s Sales Assistant’. And what of Minnie? She too is in her mother’s household but by now as a married woman with children of her own.

Minnie had married Robert Balfour, a Scottish-born naval architect, at the University Road Methodist Church in Belfast on 17 January 1891. She went on to have five known children with him:

  •  Sylvia Dorothy Grantham Balfour, born 17 November 1891, in Lower Sydenham, Belfast; known as ‘Dorothy’.
  • Muriel Cecil Sydenham Balfour, born 3 January 1895, at 1 Bloomdale Terrace, Belfast.
  • Roderick Douglas Balfour, born 25 March 1896, at 1 Grampian Avenue, Belfast; known as ‘Douglas’.
  • Edna Irene Story Balfour, born 30 June 1900, at her grandmother’s house/shop – 166 Newtonards Road, Belfast. She died aged two on 11 February 1903 in Belfast.
  • Mona Elsie Story Balfour, born 1 July 1905, at 36 Dudley Drive, Kelvinside, Glasgow, Scotland; known as ‘Elsie’.

Florence Cooper and her sister Nora remained spinsters throughout their lives. In the 1911 census, they are still living with their mother in her grocer’s shop in Newtonards Road. Sarah continues to be recorded as a Grocer. Florence is now a Baker & Confectioner. Nora has no occupation. Sarah Cooper dies on 17 March  1916 at 44 University Street, Belfast, although her usual address is given as 166 Newtonards Road. Florence Cooper dies on 31 December 1937 at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Nora lives on until 1947, when she dies at the City Hospital, Belfast.

And in 1911, Minnie and husband Robert Balfour are in Scotland and still living at 36 Dudley Drive, Kelvinside, the place of birth of their last known child, Mona. By now, Dorothy is a student teacher and the younger Balfour children are still at school. The continuing history of this family group has yet to be traced.

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Faden John Smith’s mystery family make their home in Ireland

On Borrow’s Gypsies family tree, published in 1910 in the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, there’s a small knot of people at the bottom of one page with no details attached to them.

They are Bertram [C15 in the tree], Herbert [C16], Beatrice [C17], Norah [C18] and Ambrose Smith [C19], the children of Faden John Smith [B10] and his partner Alice, a non-Gypsy whose surname, according to the tree, is ‘Penden’. Faden John Smith himself is the brother of Ambrose Smith [B8], the ‘Jasper Petulengro’ of the novels of George Borrow.

As far as I’m aware, little or no work has ever been done to trace Faden John’s family or identify the people in it. Until now, that is. For research into Faden John, Alice and the children has revealed that they left England in the late-1860s to make their home in Ireland and that they never returned to live permanently in England again. Perhaps this is the reason why their Smith relatives based in England couldn’t provide T.W. Thompson with any useful information about them when he was compiling the family tree.

John Farthing Smith – to give him the name that he is invariably recorded by in the historic documents discovered so far – married Alice Penn (rather than ‘Penden’) in Hatcham, South London, on 24 October 1857. Alice was indeed a non-Gypsy, born in a street close to Liverpool Street Station in the City of London in 1837, the daughter of a merchant’s clerk.

By the time of the 1861 census, we find the couple camped in caravans at Mile End, Bow, London. They now have one child, recorded in the census as a daughter called Bertha, aged 10 months. But a birth certificate shows that the child was in fact a son, Bertram Farthing Smith, who was born in 1860 in Old Ford Road, Bow. With John and Alice in 1861 are two more adults: John’s sister Elizabeth Smith [B9], the widow of Elijah Buckley, and her son William Smith [C13]. William gives his age as 25 and his birthplace as Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.  Both John and William give their occupations as horse dealers.

Two more children arrive in the family before they leave London: Herbert, who was baptised at St Mary’s, Stratford Le Bow, London, in 1862; and in 1864, Beatrice Alice, born in a house at 1 North Street, Poplar, London.

And then, off go the family to Ireland, possibly as adherents of the ball-giving group of Gypsies led by John’s nephew George Smith [C12], who you can read about elsewhere on this blog. George is the other son of the Elizabeth Smith mentioned above and therefore the brother of William.

In Ireland, John and Alice add two more children to their family. Leonora Eugenie Smith was born on 3 March 1869 in Strabane, County Tyrone. Ambrose – recorded as Lewis William Ambrose Smith – was baptised in Killeshin, County Carlow, on 19 June 1876.

It appears that John and his nephew William Smith may well have gone into business together as horse dealers in the Irish city in which they all eventually settled, Dublin. Either that or the two brothers William and George started up a business, perhaps with John’s help, but with George’s involvement being rather remote: he was living in Scotland in 1891 and 1901 and in Wales in 1911.

John Farthing Smith died in Dublin on 11 June 1896, according to a reference in the Irish calendar of wills. Here he was described as a ‘gentleman’ of 29 Nelson Street, Dublin. Unfortunately, most Irish wills were destroyed by fire in the early 20th century so this index reference is tantalisingly all that survives. More than that, the Irish General Register Office have been unable to trace a death certificate for a John Smith in Dublin in 1896 among their records so we have no more details about his death.

John’s widow Alice continued to live in Dublin. We find her in the 1901 census with her children Bertram, Beatrice, Leonora and Ambros [sic] living at 41 Granby Lane, Dublin. In the 1911 census she and her daughter Leonora are living alone at 12 Emor Street, Dublin. She died in 1920 in Sandford Avenue, Dublin, and the administration of her estate was granted to her son Bertram Smith, described in the calendar of wills as a ‘merchant’.

And what became of the children? Here’s a potted biography for each of them:

Bertram Smith
He became a notable horse dealer in Ireland and is recorded in newspaper reports in the late 1800s attending horse fairs and possibly owning race horses. He travelled back to England to marry, wedding Eleanor Rimmer, daughter of a joiner from Liverpool, in Egremont, Cheshire, in 1901, By the time of the 1911 census, he was back in Dublin and had two children: Bertram, born in Dublin in 1903; and Eleanor, known as Nellie, born 1909, again in Dublin. Bertram’s wife Eleanor died in 1920 in Dublin. Bertram then married for a second time, to a Jane Jenkins, a farmer’s daughter, in 1923 at St Stephen’s, Dublin. His address then is given as Lad Lane, Lower Baggot Street. It’s not known if he and Jane had any children. Bertram’s death has not yet been traced.

Beatrice Smith
She married a Londoner called William Thompson Mackey, a designer of machinery, in 1901, in Dublin North Registration District. In the 1911 census, the couple are living in Fulham, London, with no children of their own but with a niece called Alice Elizabeth Smith, aged 5, born in Dublin. But Beatrice seems to have returned to live in Ireland at some point after that. Her death, as Beatrice Alice Mackey, is recorded in Dublin South in 1945.

Herbert Smith
No reference has been found for Herbert after his 1862 baptism at St Mary’s, Stratford Le Bow, London. Perhaps he died young.

Leonora Smith – the ‘Norah’ of the family tree
Leonora didn’t marry. She continued to live with her mother Alice until Alice’s death in 1920. Her own death is recorded on 20 June 1929 at Adelaide House, Dublin, possibly a hospital, aged 60.

Ambrose Smith
Ambrose followed the profession of horse dealer like his father and cousins. He married Bridget Behan, daughter of a steward, on 22 January 1904 at St Mary’s, Dublin. Within two years, he was dead. His death is recorded on 4 June 1906 at 41 Granby Place, Dublin. It’s not known whether he and Bridget had any children but perhaps the Alice Elizabeth Smith who is living with Beatrice in London in 1911 belongs to him: she was born in about 1906.

 

 

 

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Walter Smith: a different ‘king’ and leader for the ball-giving Gypsies?

George Smith, the self-styled ‘King of the Gypsies’, seems to have a usurper.

Walter Smith, seated, with his son-in-law Stephen Hewitt. Stephen is the husband of Walter's daughter Pamela Smith.

Walter Smith, seated, with his son-in-law Stephen Hewitt. Stephen is the husband of Walter’s daughter Pamela Smith.

As you can read elsewhere on this blog, George Smith [C12 in the Borrow’s Gypsies family tree of 1910] always claimed that he was the one who came up with the ingenious money-making idea of leading his Smith, Young, Chilcott and Lee relatives on a grand tour of Great Britain and Ireland from the 1860s onwards. In major towns and cities along the way, George invited the public to visit their encampment to see how real Romany Gypsies lived and to have their fortunes told by his wife Kurlinda/Corlinda Lee and his daughters or other female members of the community. In the evenings, they held dances – advertising them as ‘The Royal Epping Forest Gypsy Balls’ – held either within the encampment or in public halls nearby. Here George brought in local caterers to serve refreshments and professional musicians to provide music. Kurlinda/Corlinda and George were usually in attendance, under the guise of  ‘The King and Queen of the Gypsies’.

But this newspaper report of 1871 seems to suggest that another member of George’s family had claimed the crown. This is Walter Smith [C3 in the 1910 tree, born 1841, died 1921], first cousin to George. His ‘queen’ is his wife Matilda, nee Gaskin. And it is interesting to see the mention of the Mullinger and Whatnell families. As far as we know, this is the first known contemporary reference to them as adherents of the ball-giving group.

North Wales Chronicle, Saturday 11 November 1871

“A GIPSY BALL.– Whether or not many people go a gipsying in the present day, it is pretty certain that no inconsiderable number go to gipsy balls. This was evident at the Masonic-hall, Scotland-road, Liverpool, on Monday night, when the “King and Queen” of the Gipsies gave a ball. The Zingari tribe of gipsies – they maintain that they are the only genuine tribe – are at present in camp in the neighbourhood of Everton, and they embrace the families of the Mullingers, Smiths and Whatnells. Their home is Epping Forest, but they have been in these parts some time.

The king rejoices in the common name of Smith – Walter Smith, that of his Queen being Matilda Smith. They speak the gipsy language, marry only amongst their own tribe, but consummate their matrimonial alliances in Protestant places of worship. They would appear to depend a good deal on the support of “externs”, making money wherever they are, and getting a living in quite a different style to the old, pastoral style of their ancestors. The ball was one means of replenishing their exchequer, and judging from the members who attended, it was pretty successful. The prices of admission, moreover, were low, and the opportunity of seeing and dancing with their majesties was thus within reach of all.

The King, Queen, and other members of the tribe, together with their children, graced the occasion with their presence, and entered thoroughly into the spirit of the dance. Her Majesty the Queen (Mrs. Smith) was dressed in blue silk, with a rather pretty head-dress which has no Parisian or other name. The rest of the female members of the tribe were for the most part attired in white, with glaring red trimmings, and red Garibaldi jackets. The costume of his Majesty (Mr. Smith) is perhaps best described as being a compound between the dress of a gamekeeper and a groom.

Perhaps the most innocent feature of the affair was the children of the gipsies, with their jet-black hair and piercing eyes, merrily capering amongst the throng of adult dancers. So far as we could observe the ball was well conducted, and will result in a goodly sum being netted by the Zingari tribe.”

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Champion boxer Jem Mace parades with ball-giving group, 1865

Jem Mace might have been known as ‘The Swaffham Gipsy” but – by his own admission – this world champion pugilist didn’t have a drop of Gypsy blood running in his veins. His nickname more probably stems from his close association with “Borrow’s Gypsies”, forged via his nephew Pooley Mace.

Pooley joined the Borrow’s Gypsies’ clan as the husband of Delaia Smith [C8], the daughter of Ambrose Smith [B8] and Sanspirella Heron. He was the son of Jem Mace’s brother Barney and his Gypsy wife, Lurina Heron. Pooley was a skilled boxer himself and travelled the world with his famous uncle. And perhaps it was this Pooley connection that led Jem Mace to agree to take part in an extraordinary event in Manchester in 1865 with members of the Smith family. Here’s how it was advertised in The Manchester Guardian on 29 August 1865:

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ROYAL OAK. – The King and Queen of the Gipsies from Epping Forest, and several of their tribe, will form a Procession This Day, (Tuesday). The band carriage, drawn by four greys, with 12 musicians, will take the lead; four carriages of gipsies, each drawn by a pair of greys, will follow; Jem Mace, champion of England, and the proprietor will come next; and the renowned Gladiateur, the champion of donkeys, who won the prize at the Islington Show, will be driven by his owner. Several parties having promised to join the procession in vehicles, the proprietor hopes they will follow in proper order. Route:– The procession will leave from the Royal Oak at half-past ten a.m. punctually, wet or dry, pass along Oldham Road to the Infirmary, down Market-street, over Victoria Bridge, along Chapel-street, Salford, to the Grapes Inn, up Cross Lane and Liverpool Road to Peter-street, along Oxford Road to Donley’s Wellington Hotel, Didsbury, where a halt will be made; thence to Mrs. Glover’s George Hotel, Cheadle, where the party will dine. After dinner the procession will proceed to Mr. Hunt’s, Bowdon; thence to Hardy’s Hotel, Altrincham; returning to town by Stretford Road, Deansgate, Long Millgate, and Shudehill, calling at Bill Lang’s to fill the champion cup, and thence home to the encampment at the Royal Oak.

The ‘King and Queen of the Gipsies’ referred to here are undoubtedly George Smith [C12] and Corlinda Lee, his wife. In his autobiography Incidents in a Gipsy’s Life published in 1886 (and re-published by the Romany and Traveller Family History Society in 2001), George recalls this visit to Manchester in the company of his extended family. This was the group that travelled the UK and Ireland in the 1860s and 1870s and organised dances for the public in the many towns and cities they stopped in along the way. This is the only occasion where I’ve found Jem Mace with them.

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