A tiny accommodation, side entry single horse style. It is documented that the adults with this style wagon generally slept outdoors except in very bad weather. It was a good way to confine the children and the valuables.This is part of a series of images, mostly Romany, Irish and Scottish Travellers collected from around the internet. Many of these historic images found on the web are without citation. When a clear link to a source is found, I try to include it. If a source is known, please pass it on and I will gladly include it or remove it if necessary.
Travellers in Europe and Britain have always been associated with a style tent called a bender. This comes from the construction technique of cutting saplings and bending them into a dome, elongated dome, or half cylinder shape, These frameworks were then covered with tarps and made watertight in the temperate damp. The origins of this design are lost in the mists of time and are believed by archaeologists to be one of the earliest style of recognizable tent structure used by humans.
Even after a certain level of affluence allowed some Romany and other Travelling folk to own living wagons, the bender continued (and continues) to be a way to extend the living space without the need for a lot more gear.
The fact that a tent becomes the subject for a Blackpool post card shows the ongoing fascination with “Gypsy Culture,” especially in the British Isles where Travellers are simultaneously suspect and romanticized.
If you have family that me be Romany, Traveller, or Fairground folk in Britain or just want to learn more, check out the Romany & Traveller Family History Society at http://rtfhs.org.uk/.
Here’s another excellent photo of a pack of vardos (caravans) in the wild. It looks like everyone came out and maybe even spruced themselves up for the photo. I couldn’t find any metadata on this one but it looks fairly early, probably late nineteenth century. These appear to be high-end models in great condition still.
Nomads are not loners. In fact, humans do not do well alone in any setting. We have always been communal people, depending upon one another for help and support. Many hands make light work and it is essential to be near others you can depend on.
I have been collecting images of Traveller communities for many years and I really enjoy the gritty, homespun feel of the old encampments with peeling paint and makeshift tarpaulin shelters. I’m sure this image was not welcome in settled communities around Europe and the shiftless nature of these wanderers led to many suspicions, both unfounded and real.
The vardos bear many differences but within fairly tight physical contraints of size, weight, needs, and technology. It’s important to remember as well that historic travellers of most varieties didn’t design or build their own accommodations but often modified or improved that which they acquired.
We are at our best and worst in groups, whether that is family or friends. Humans are social animals.
So, a vardo is a small space, especially when living with a dog.
The old dog loved sleeping under the rig as she took her guard duties seriously but unfortunately, she is no longer with us. The youngster, on the other hand, has no interest in that sort of nonsense and only wants to be by my side as much as possible. She loves enclosed spaces so the vardo is a big attraction for her. She spends much of her time under the main bed, hidden away, and often forgotten about until she decides to get under foot. I even lost her for the better part of a day when she snuck in while I wasn’t looking, slipped into her bed, and was locked in for several hours. When I found her, she looked content enough and came out stretching like a sleepy child.
Much of 2016-2017 I was lucky enough to spend many nights camped in the gypsy wagon with just my dog for company. She doesn’t get on furniture inside the house but the dog has decided the floor or her bed are not good enough when she’s in the vardo. Since she knows she not really supposed to sneak into the bed, the (too small) bench seat is often her compromise in the wagon. She doesn’t really fit but I guess it makes her feel like one of the family.
A couple years ago I learned to be extra careful when sliding out of bed, especially in the dark, as she often plants herself on her favorite felted rug; right under my feet. In this case, it also happens to be in front of the ceramic heater on a chilly morning.
Even while getting ready to go to work, she seems to manage a photo-bomb; always lurking nearby and not wanting to be left behind. Just because it’s a small space, there is still plenty of room for a dog; sort of.
This is a beautiful photo of Travellers in Britain, 1950. I came across it a while back while searching out vardo images for my own inspiration. This one has some great details and has a distinctive Scottish feel.
There’s a flag of the Scottish Caravan Club flying on the roof and some great signage on the walls as well as the typical harness brass horse shoe on the door. I would love to find out more about this one. Comments? Thoughts?
I would like to re-share this older post I wrote about a caravaner, scholar, and philosopher I am quite intrigued by – Dugald Semple
Dugald Semple was a Scottish philosopher of the early 20th Century and an advocate for simple living. After becoming and engineer he took to the woods and, for a period, a life on the road, living in a tent and in various caravans in order to write and travel and avoid the enslavement of increasingly urban society.
His major question was always “How ought we to live?” an ancient subject for thinkers the world-over and a very important topic in Asian philosophy as well. His teachings are interesting and he still has a serious following of vegans, fruitarians, and Christian Phlosophers around the world. He apparently never ate meat, eggs, or cheese, and subsisted on a mostly fruit diet. It clearly worked well-enough, as he died at the age of 79 in 1964. Not bad, but think of all the bacon he missed!
Of course, my interest in Dugald lies primarily in his simple lifestyle and his fondness for caravans and living in the open. He married well. Cathie, his wife was a widow who was independently wealthy, owning a large house and grounds. This certainly contributed to the success of the life-long experiment in simple living. Even as he settled down, he still philosophized and associated with his old friends who roamed the countryside and set up guilds of craftsmen (Nerrissa Wilson, Gypsies and Gentlemen). He envisioned a new generation of skilled travelers who could pack up their trades and families and move to where the work was, thus alleviating some of the new stress of urban life.
I love this camp. This wagon seems perfectly suited for summertime use with the fully opening sides. Too bad his dream didn’t catch on, but he admitted that life on road could be stressful and difficult. At least we can give it a try; even if in a limited capacity.
As an end note, here’s a quote he is well known for on his philosophy of a vegan lifestyle:
Personally, I began rather drastically over 50 years ago by cutting out not only all meat or flesh foods, but milk, eggs, butter, tea and coffee. Cheese I have never eaten; indeed I hate the very smell of this decayed milk. Next, I adopted a diet of nuts, fruit, cereals and vegetables. On this Edenic fare I lived for some ten years, and found that my health and strength were greatly improved. Probably this was also because I lived more in the fresh air and closer to Nature. (Emphasis added by the ed.).
I just don’t know if I can fully trust a man who won’t eat cheese…
Looking for an attention-getting color scheme for your vardo or caravan? Look no further than this fine little burro-powered wagon from Pakistan.
A most cherished traditional dessert from Lahore, Pakistan, known as Kulfi, which is made with condensed milk, almonds, cardamom, and sugar is served from these little hand-built carts. The ice cream is then poured into the cone shaped moulds then and placed into traditional-styled ice containers.
The cart is decorated and painted in vibrant colors and with traditional motifs and with names of Allah and the Sufi Saints. The emergency brake is engaged in this photo (see rock under left tire) while the motor idles.
If you would like to make this delicious treat for yourself, look for it here:
Working away on a weekend day a little while back. Enjoying time on the prairie in my little rolling home; coffee, a banjo, and connection to a HotSpot so I can get some work done. The best of all worlds.
I don’t remember for sure but I suspect there is a dog or two laying on the floor or, more likely, under the wagon keeping an eye out for wildlife. I’m itching to get back out on the road.