“Romanichal Ponies On The River Eden” By: J.A. George AKA; The GYPSY
POSTER ART PRINT
The River Eden was known to the Romans as the Itouna, as recorded by the Greek geographer Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy) in the 2nd century AD. This name derives from the Celtic word ituna, meaning water, or rushing. Thus there is no relation to the biblical Garden of Eden.
Starting near the Scotland/England Border of Great Britain the river flows through the Eden District of Cumbria, England, on its way to the Solway Firth. For centuries the River Eden has shared it’s abundant water and wildlife with the people that live along the river including the Romanichal Gypsies who make their home along and near the river in seasonal weather.
This painting captures a moment from 1969 at the Appleby Horse Fair. The Appleby Horse Fair is billed as the biggest traditional Gypsy Fair in Europe, one that’s like a big family get together. The horses are washed and trotted up and down the flashing lane most main days. There is a market on Jimmy Winter’s Field selling a variety of goods – some traditional to the Gypsy travelling community – and a range other horse-related products.
The fair is held outside the town of Appleby where the Roman Road crosses Long Marton Road, not far from Gallows Hill, named after the public hangings that were once carried out there. In the mid 20th century the story developed that the fair originated with a royal charter to the borough of Appleby from King James II of England in 1685. However, recent research has shown that the 1685 charter, which was cancelled before it was enrolled, is of no relevance. Appleby’s medieval borough fair, held at Whitsuntide, ceased in 1885. The ‘New Fair’, held in early June on Gallows Hill, which was then unenclosed land outside the borough boundary, began in 1775 for sheep and cattle drovers and horse dealers to sell their stock; by the 1900s it had evolved into a major Gypsy/Traveller occasion. No-one bestowed the New Fair, no-one ever owned it, no-one was ever charged to attend it: it was and remains, a true people’s fair.
The legal status of the Fair does not depend on a charter, therefore, but on the legal concept of ‘prescriptive right’, that is to say easement by prescription or custom. Praescriptio est titulus ex usu et tempore substantiam capiens ab auctoritate legis. ‘Prescription is a title by authority of law, deriving its force from use and time.’
The fair has been cancelled twice, in 2001 due to foot-and-mouth and in 2020 due to coronavirus; the 2020 fair was held nonetheless with six participants, in response to a Traveler belief that the fair would be lost if it did not occur. As many as a hundred spectators also defied the ban. The horse fair, also known as Appleby New Fair, is held each year in early June. It attracts about 10,000 Gypsies and Travelers, about 1000 caravans, several hundred horse-drawn vehicles, and about 30,000 visitors. The Gypsy and Traveler attendees include British Romanichal, Irish Travelers, Scottish Gypsy and Traveler groups, Kale (Welsh Romanies), and more.
This painting was inspired from a photograph by Bruce Dale in National Geographic’s book “Gypsies: Wanderers Of The World”. My intent for this painting is to capture the peace and serenity that Gypsies experience through their relationship with the natural world. They are one with the earth and the earth is one with them.
-The GYPSY: March 4, 2021-
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