“The Travelling Tinker” by John Burr

The Travelling Tinker

The Travelling Tinker

A painting by the Scottish artist John Burr (1831-1893).  Tinkers were originally tinsmiths or “tinners”.  One of many itinerant jobs pursued by a class of casual laborers.  These were mostly skilled and specialized crafts like basket making, shoe repair, leather work, and metal work but many poorer workers were migrant farm labor picking hops and tending the market gardens during the peak harvest.  The fellow in the image above appears to be a fairly well-off repairman mending a seam in a pot.  This from a time when new items were a rare purchase.

I love deciphering images like this for the details of domestic life.  Unlike most photos, there is real intention in what the artist chose to include or not in the painting.  The house is clearly a poor one but a freshly killed chicken hangs from a nail on the wall by some dry roots.  A handmade broom leans against the wall next to a basket that has the tradesman’s coat lying across it.  The oldest daughter tends the infant while the mother stands by the laundry basin with a toddler behind.  All the children look on while the novel worker plies his trade in a waistcoat and hobnail walking shoes.

Wandering Minstral

A Wandering Minstral

A Wandering Minstrel

Here is a painting by the Scottish artist John Burr (1831-1893) of an itinerant fiddler playing for a family in a Scottish lane probably trying to make enough money to eat or maybe even receive some food for his entertainment.  I can’t help but think the father looking out has a skeptical look; possibly wondering what this will cost in the end.

Music and storytelling were a very different commodity in an age of widespread illiteracy and 24 hour media.  It’s hard to even imagine a time when all music was handmade and intimate and not an item to be mass marketed.

Tinker Family in Scotland

Tinker1920s

Tinker family. Estimated date : 1920 – 1929 ©The Wick Society,

Here’s a wonderful old photograph of a “Tinker Family in Scotland.”  It is believed to be taken sometime in the 1920s but the location was not identified.  The wagon could just about pass for a western American sheep camp.  Even thought they had the wealth to own a wagon it was still a pretty tough life, often unwanted in non-traveller (sic) communities, these people have been marginalized for centuries.

I found this one while perusing the Johnston Collection on the Document Scotland webpage.  Have a look if you are interested in great images of a beautiful country.

Banished to New York:

… an interesting historical post about the fate of traveling folk in 17th century Scotland

Scotland had draconian laws against travelling folk. Hostility towards “Egyptians” took off under King James VI, who was also famously opposed to Border Reivers, Gaelic-speaking Highlanders, alleged Witches, Protestant religious dissenters and tobacco smokers. Edinburgh, 13 May 1682: ‘His Royall Highnes his Maties heigh Comisioner and lords of privie counsel being informed by the Earl […]

Read the rest of this interesting but seldom taught piece of history by clicking the link below.

via Banished to New York: Seven Gypsies in 1682 #History #Scotland — Jardine’s Book of Martyrs

Bagpipes Gone Baroque

As if traditional bagpiping weren’t enough, here are the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards going all Pachelbel for your listening enjoyment.

A view of the amazing Scottish country of Scotland. All these photo’s were taken by friends on the Isle Of Skye.
Accompanied by the music Canon by The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
Music Available @itunes.

Sunday Music

A beautiful and sentimental song by Dougie MacLean, a Scottish artist.  If you’ve never heard of him you probably know at least one of his tunes.  MacLean’s most famous piece is probably  “The Gael”, from his 1990 album The Search, which was adapted by Trevor Jones as the main theme to The Last of the MohicansYou know: dumm dumdum dumm  dumdum dum dum dumm, dumm dumdum dumm dumdum dum dum dumm … anyway, you get the point.  Enjoy.