Lovely photos of family stopping in South Yorkshire in 1971 come to light
Kieron Farrow recently contacted the Travellers' Times with this stunning collection of photographs taken of a Traveller family in the Barnsley, South Yorkshire area in 1971. The retired photographer would like his photos and story to reach the family. Please help us by sharing this photo collection far and wide! You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1971 I was living in my home town of Barnsley, South Yorkshire married with two young children. I was 22 years old and worked as an Industrial photographer at a textile engineers. We lived in a mid-terrace house, two up and two down, no bathroom, with a shared outside toilet.......writes Kieron Farrow.
One winters day I was walking through the foundry on my way home for lunch and as I turned to go up the yard to the terrace where I lived I heard a rumble of wheels on the cobbles. To my surprise, a woman in a flowery smock was pulling a milk churn on a trolly round the corner to the street. We both exchanged greetings. What struck me was her healthy complexion in contrast to most local people especially that time of year.
I watch her continue across the road to where a number of caravans were parked on land which had recently been cleared of terrace houses. Hundreds of houses had been demolished. This land was now destined to be a car park.
When I got home my wife told me she had just helped fill the milk churn with tap water for the woman I had just seen. We had both been brought up to never refuse water to anyone who came to the door.
So each day for the next week this woman, who was a Traveller, came to our back door with the churn which we filled with fresh water. We used a length of hose from the cold tap, the sink was next to the wall under the back window so it was fairly easy to fill the churn.
I asked her why they were parked on the waste ground and she told me that there was no site in Barnsley that they could go to which had water so they had to rely on the goodwill of people. They had also been told to move on. I believe they were in the area collecting scrap and doing odd jobs.
Anyway, we struck up a friendship so much so that when I asked if I could photograph the families in the caravans I was welcome with open arms. I felt so privileged to have the chance to be introduced into the Travellers private space.
Photographing the families was a pleasure because everyone seemed so happy with their life. The youngest little girl was such a delight it still makes me smile looking at her photograph in her swing chair which her Dad had set up in their caravan.
The Travellers were proud and dignified. Their lives were truly self-sufficient, organised, industrious and purposeful.
The interiors of the caravans I visited were amazingly homely, comfortable, clean and tidy and with many fine pieces of pottery and cut glass. In one there was a stove burning wood and coal, this kept the caravan very cosy and warm. The sense of style with the fabrics, seating, cushions, curtains, bedding etc was refreshing and exciting to see. Compared to the rather drab
Surroundings outside with snow and slush on the ground and the muck from the foundry. It was a tonic to see the inside of these homes. 50 years on I still feel inspired by the happy friendly people I met and got to know for such a short precious time.
In the conversations, I had with one of the young women who was in her early twenties I found out that their life was harder than it need be because of the prejudice people had towards Travellers and Gypsies. Also, there were so few places in Britain where proper sites existed. Both police and local authorities were generally unhelpful. I remember well what I was being told, I was so shocked, it must have shown on my face that the young women said “ you do care don’t you?” And yes I did care.
I guess I was young and naive at the time, I don’t think I had come across prejudice on such a scale. My view was that difference meant something special, new, inspiring, and thought-provoking and to be celebrated. It was therefore hard for me to get my head around the prejudice attitude that pervaded society.
I have wanted to find a way of sharing both my story and the photographs from that time 50 years ago when I was welcomed by such lovely people. It has stayed with me all these years, I feel both blessed and honored that I was treated with such kindness and without judgment. Throughout life, we all need an aide-memoire, especially for important events. In return for little water, I got a lesson about tolerance and resilience and some great black and white photographs to treasure.
Main image: Father and son, a young girl, two teenagers, and a young woman. early in 1971. Barnsley, South Yorkshire. All photographs (c) Kieron Farrow