Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Toughest Traveller in Teesside

June 2nd, 2009 · 1 Comment


Two weeks ago, we posted about a pub kerfuffle in Ireland that appeared to stem from anti-Traveller prejudice (mixed in, perhaps, with some randy behavior by the Travellers themselves). We’ve since kept our eyes peeled for Traveller-related news, seeing as how we only scratched the surface of the community’s history and contemporary situation.

The news, alas, hasn’t disappointed. A harness race in northern England was recently marred by a nasty case of apparent Traveller-on-Traveller violence. And it involved a man of rather wide renown—such renown, in fact, that he has earned a most un-PC accolade from his fellow Travellers:

A bare-knuckle fighter known as the King of the Gypsies has suffered multiple stab wounds after being attacked by several men wielding knives.

Louis Welch, from Darlington, is expected to make a full recovery after the incident at a harness racing event in Appleby, Cumbria. It is believed a rival group of travellers may have been responsible for the stabbing…

The title King of the Gypsies is usually claimed by the best boxer in the traveller community.

The unfortunate incident at the horse fair brought to mind the documentary above, which chronicles the career of the late Bartley Gorman. As the BBC bio of Gorman makes clear, there’s at least one eerie similarity between his life and Welch’s—Gorman also survived an attempt on his life at a horse race.

The faith-based encyclopedia includes a surprisingly detailed rundown of everyone who’s laid claim to the King of the Gypsies title (though Welch isn’t included). And here’s an in-depth discussion on whether the word gypsy is so pejorative that it should be retired altogether—even when referring to people like Welch, who apparently embraces the term.

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