Who’s interested in this site? WordPress’s review of 2011

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,700 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


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Death of Sylvester Boswell, 1890

From the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, Old Series, Vol. II, p191 (1890-1891)

DEATH of a well-known English Gypsy

Sylvester Boswell (“Westaaros”), famous for his deep Romines (1), died April 8 and was buried April 24 in Flaybrick Hill Cemetery, in the same tomb with his two sons Byron and Bruce. He died in Walton Workhouse, where he had been placed by his family about four years ago, when his mind began to fail. He was seventy-nine years of age, but most of the Gypsies here believe him to be much older; his nephew, J. Gray, insisting that he was at least 100. Upon his giving up tent-life, his goods were divided among his surviving sons and relatives, and as his subsequent death did not actually occur on the camping-ground, the usual Gypsy custom of destroying the deceased’s effects was not in this case followed. He is, however, said to have himself made away with a number of small valuables before his retirement. I remember, after that event took place, the ground underneath and around his small tent was dug up to a considerable depth, in the hope of finding some of the articles, which he is believed to have somewhere secreted.

(1) Vide Bath, Smart and Crofton’s Dialect of  the English Gypsies; Groome’s In Gipsy Tents; and Morwood’s Our Gypsies in City, Van and Tent

Sylvester Boswell – often known as ‘Wester’ – was baptised on 23 August 1812 at St Mary’s, Dover, Kent, the son of Tysa Boswell and Sophia (nee Heron). His father was allegedly serving in the Army at the time and so was stationed on the Kent coast. As many Gypsy historians know, Tysa (aka Tyso/Taiso) was killed by lightning at Tetford, Lincolnshire, in 1831, as was Edward Heron. The two men were buried together in the churchyard there under a large monument. Sylvester’s mother Sophia died in Brindle, Lancashire, in 1861, reputedly aged 100, and is buried in the churchyard of St James, Brindle.

It’s believed that Sylvester had three partners. The first – according to the oral history – was Mary aka Moll Smith [B1 in the Borrow’s Gypsies tree of 1910]. There were no children and Mary then went on to become the partner of Golden Hope and had a large family with him.

The second partner was Sarah Heron by whom – so the story goes – Sylvester had one child. Perhaps it’s this one, found in the baptismal register of West Keal, Lincolnshire, dated 16 July 1832: Sempronius Boemea, son of Sylvester and Sarah Boswell, occupation potter. (He was known later in life as ‘Bui’.)

And partner No. 3 was Florence Chilcott, the maternal aunt of the Corlinda Lee – wife of George Smith [C12] – who you’ll find mentioned many times elsewhere on this site. The children of Sylvester and Florence were: Byron (born 1839), Mackenzie (born 1842), Oscar (born 1844), Bruce (born 1847), Julia (born 1850), Wallace  (born 1853), Laura (born 1859) and Trafalgar (born 1856).

In 1878 Trafalgar Boswell married Athaliah Whatnell, daughter of Adelaide Smith [C6] and James Whatnell. Their son Silvester Gordon Boswell (born in the Gypsy encampment at South Shore, Blackpool, Lancashire, in 1895) not only inherited his grandfather’s name but his literary talent too. Old Wester was well-known as a scholar Gypsy with his own extensive library and a deep knowledge of the Anglo-Romani language that he shared with George Borrow. And young Silvester Gordon – in turn – became the first British Gypsy to have his autography published by a major publisher when his Book of Boswell: Autobiography of a Gypsy appeared in 1970.

An overgrown monument at Flaybrick Cemetery commemorates Sylvester Boswell and three other people: his son Byrom [spelt thus, rather than ‘Byron’] who died or was buried 23 May 1883; his son Bruce died/buried 23 April 1886; and an infant named Burns Boswell died/buried 11 March 1873. Research in other sources shows that the latter is a grandson of Sylvester, being the child of Mackenzie Boswell and his partner Lureni Young, baptised 3 February 1873, Tranmere, Cheshire with the parents’ names recorded as ‘McKinzie’ and ‘Loraine’. Mackenzie himself is buried under his own fine monument nearby, as described in another entry on this site.

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Buried at Flaybrick Cemetery, Birkenhead, Cheshire: No. 3 – Mackenzie Boswell

This is the third of three items on this site about the Gypsy monuments visited by the Gypsiologist Robert Scott Macfie on 11 October 1909 at Flaybrick Cemetery in Birkenhead, Cheshire. He saw this one commemorating Mackenzie Boswell, another for the Smiths and one for the Chilcot/ts.

Here’s part of the inscription he took from Mackenzie’s tomb, now preserved in a document at the Gypsy Collections at the University of Liverpool Library:

In loving memory of Mackenzie Boswell the well known Horse Dealer, who died 25th March 1906 | Aged 66 years

Scott Macfie is rather dismissive in his description of the grave. He wrote: “A pointed arch headstone of grey granite: letters gilded. Granite curb enclosing white gravel. An expensive but common looking monument.”

A century later – in April 2008 – the tomb was found to be still there behind iron railings, although fallen and broken. A number of other family members were commemorated on it after Macfie’s 1909 visit. They are: Lily, described as the daughter of Mackenzie, who died 9 October 1912 aged 46; Harold his son, died 12 January 1915 aged 30; and Ethel ‘his youngest daughter’ who died 10 April 1921 aged 37.

On top of their stone, another small tablet has been laid, possibly by the Cemetery officials. This commemorates Helen Ida Hamilton, described as ‘the wife of David Hamilton FRCS Edin, born 1850, died 1903’. But it’s not yet known if Helen has any relation to Mackenzie. To be investigated!

The death certificate of Mackenzie confirms that he died on 25 March 1906 aged 66. His place of death was a field in Albany Road, Walton, Liverpool. His occupation is given as Horse Dealer. Cause of death is Influenza, Bronchitis and Cardiac Failure. Guswell Boswell, a grandson, present at the death, is the informant. Guswell gives the same address as his grandfather.

Mackenzie’s father – the famous Sylvester Boswell (1812-1890) – plus his brothers Byron (recorded as ‘Byrom’) and Bruce Boswell are buried nearby in Flaybrick under an overgrown gravestone. That tomb also contains the remains of a child of Mackenzie and his partner Lureni Young, named ‘Burns Boswell’, who was born and died in 1873. You can read more about the death of Sylvester in another entry on this site.

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Buried at Flaybrick Cemetery, Birkenhead, Cheshire: No. 2 – the Smiths

This is the second of three items on this site about the Gypsy monuments visited by the Gypsiologist Robert Scott Macfie on 11 October 1909 at Flaybrick Cemetery in Birkenhead, Cheshire. He saw this one commemorating the Smiths, another for the Chilcot/ts and one for Mackenzie Boswell.

Here’s part of the inscription Scott Macfie took from the Smith tomb, now preserved in a document at the Gypsy Collections at the University of Liverpool Library: To the memory of | Elizabeth Smith | who died 5th January 1883 Aged 76 years  Charles Henry Smith | Born January 20th 1864 Departed this life January 12th 1897 [Here Scott Macfie has sketched a freemason’s mark that he saw cut into the stone] Also of Frederick Grandson of Elizabeth Smith | who died at Douglas, Isle of Man, 12th Septr 1889 | Aged 23 and is here interred. Robert Scott Macfie wrote: “This grave is exactly similar  [to the Chilcott grave], and is next to it.”  The description of that tomb says: “Table tomb with gable top on the surfaces of which the inscriptions are cut. Mounted on plinth: no railing. Quiet and tasteful monument without ostentation.”  Elizabeth Smith [B9 on the Borrow’s Gypsies family tree elsewhere on this site] was the widow of Elijah Buckley. Charles Henry Smith [D40] and Frederick Smith [D41] were the sons of Elizabeth’s son George Smith [C12] and his wife Corlinda Lee.

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Buried at Flaybrick Cemetery, Birkenhead, Cheshire: No. 1 – the Chilcot/ts

On 11 October 1909, the Gypsiologist Robert Scott Macfie went to Flaybrick Cemetery in Birkenhead, Cheshire, to visit the graves of a number of Gypsies who are buried there. They belonged to the relatives of some of the families he was well acquainted with and called friends in his home city of Liverpool.

Fortunately for today’s researchers, Scott Macfie recorded the event by writing some notes that are now held in the Gypsy Collections at the University of Liverpool Library. These include transcriptions of the inscriptions on three monuments, an outline sketch of one of them plus one-liner descriptions of their appearance. There is this one for the Chilcot/s, one for the Smiths and one for Mackenzie Boswell.

Here’s part of the inscription Scott Macfie took from the Chilcot/t tomb:

To the memory of Charles Chilcot | a Gipsy Horsedealer | who departed this life 5th November 1865 | aged 58 years

Also | Ruth Chilcot | Mother of | Charles Chilcot | who departed this life | 15th March 1866 | aged 78 years

Also | Union Lee | Sister of | Charles Chilcot | who departed this life | 1st April 1883 | aged 69 years

Scott Macfie described the monument like this: “Table tomb with gable top on the surfaces of which the inscriptions are cut. Mounted on plinth: no railing. Quiet and tasteful monument without ostentation.” 

You can read a newspaper account about the death of Ruth Chilcot/t elsewhere on this site.

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Deliah Smith and Pooley Mace star in US newspaper photos

Deliah Mace (nee Smith), the wife of Pooley Mace

Pooley Mace

Violet and Berthelma Middleton, the twin granddaughters of Pooley and Deliah, wrongly ascribed by the newspaper as ‘Mace’. Their parents are Madonna Mace, Pooley and Deliah’s daughter, and Gus Middleton

American newspapers were just as fascinated about  Gypsy life and culture as British ones were in times past – as this article from the Newark Daily Advocate goes to prove. The big bonus here is the inclusion of photos of the English Romany family the reporter met and interviewed in New York City in 1907.

They are members of the Borrow’s Gypsies group. Deliah Smith is the daughter of Ambrose Smith: the ‘Jasper Petulengro’ of George Borrow’s novels, numbered as C8 in the Smith family tree that you can see elsewhere on this site. She was baptised aged 6 at Westhall, Suffolk, on 3 January 1847. Her birthday is believed to be 22 May 1840.

There is – as far as I know – only one other photo of Deliah, taken in 1878 in Scotland. So it’s great to have this second portrait of her from such an unexpected source. And while you will find many photos of her husband Pooley Mace as a younger man on boxing history websites, this one of him in his old age must be pretty rare. (And boxing historians will note that the newspaper has made a mistake in calling him the brother of Jem Mace. Pooley was in fact Jem’s first cousin.)

Pooley was born 29 January 1839 and baptised at Beeston, Norfolk, on 2 February 1839 as ‘Lippolius’. That would make him 68 at the time of this photo. He died on 21 October 1912 and was buried at Cross Creek Cemetery 2, Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA. Deliah joined him in the same cemetery following her death on 4 June 1914.

Here’s the report that accompanied the photos:

The Newark Daily Advocate, 21 February 1907 (published in Ohio, USA)

“Gypsies do not fear winter

 New York, Feb 21. – Blissfully indifferent to zero weather and snowstorms, a band of gypsies is spending a delightfully comfortable winter in New York City. Their tents, some of which are supplied with electric light and other modern conveniences, are clustered near the subway station at 174th street, in the Bronx.

 Most of them are descendants of the ancient Lovell and Smith tribes, but one among them, although forgotten for almost half a cenury [sic], was at one time a conspicuous person throughout civilization and one of the best known gypsies in the world. He is Pooley Mace, brother of “Jem” Mace, who was for many years the champion pugilist of the world, and no doubt the most widely known and most popular scientific fighter of the century.

During the great champion’s triumphs in Europe and this country, Pooley Mace travelled with him as his sparring partner, and now, when one has gained the old man’s confidence, he sits in his cosey [sic] tent, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, and with a memory of remarkable accuracy, tells of the scenes and the men forty or fifty years ago, when he and his brother were the lions of the sporting classes wherever they went.”  


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Morella Smith, widow of Ferdinand Smith, 1854 inquest

From The Ipswich Journal, 3 June 1854:


INQUISITION. By Mr. Woods Coroner. – On Thursday last, at Grundisburgh, on the body of Amaryllis Smith, widow, aged 70 years. It appears that the tribe of gipsies frequenting this and the neighbouring counties, to which she had for many years been attached, arrived at Grundisburgh on Monday last, and pitched their tents in an orchard at the back of the Half Moon Inn. One of  their women being ill Mr. Acton attended her, and on that occasion saw Mrs. Smith in good health. On Wednesday afternoon, she was heard in her tent making a rattling noise in her throat; it was shortly repeated, when her daughter rushed into the tent just in time to catch her when falling. She was unable to speak and insensible. Mr. Acton was sent for and was speedily on the spot, but she died a few minutes after his arrival. His examination being to the effect that she died of serous apoplexy, the Jury were quite satisfied that her death was from natural causes; verdict accordingly.

Morella Smith – recorded here and on her death certificate as ‘Amaryllis’ – was the wife of Ferdinand (aka Faden John) Smith [reference A2 in the Borrow’s Gypsies family tree elsewhere on this site]. The couple were married in 1803 in Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. She was the mother of Ambrose Smith, George Borrow’s ‘Jasper Petulengro’ (c1804-1878) [B8] and must have been known to Borrow, if his description of his first encounter with Jasper and his parents at Norman Cross near Peterborough is fact rather than fiction. The daughter mentioned in the newspaper report is Elizabeth Smith or Buckley who gave evidence at her mother’s inquest, where her surname is recorded in her statement as ‘Buckland’.

By a strange coincidence, the death of Ferdinand Smith was also subject to an inquest. He was tried for burglary at the Suffolk Assizes in March 1822, in the company of his son Ambrose Smith and Lewis Boswell. Ambrose was acquitted but Ferdinand and Lewis were both sentenced to transportation for life. Lewis was sent to New South Wales in October 1822, arriving in Australia in March 1823. But Ferdinand – perhaps because he was an older man – spent the next four years imprisoned in the convict hulk Captivity at Portsmouth, Hampshire. He ended his days as a result of the disease erysipelas, an acute skin infection, on 11 March 1826 in the Racoon hospital ship in Portsmouth Harbour where the convicts received medical treatment.


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