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The Gypsy Shawl

Travelers Resting William Thayer (1787-1879)

Scottish Travellers Days

Jun 19

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Frae the hame o' the coorie-doo,
Whaur the roddin sways,
In the licht o' the high white moon
The tinkler's sang I'll raise.
A sang for the roaming folk,
Wi' their tents on the upland braes,
A sang for the wanderin' tribe,
Wha's road is the auld time ways."

~ The Flyting o' Life an' Daith, Hamish Henderson (1919-2002)

This jig for 4 couples (and its many variants) starts with a fun winding scarf-like figure where the ladies join hands and dance under a single arch in a spiraling figure, hands still joined! Gypsy shawls, also known as "traveler shawls" or "Romani shawls," have a rich history and cultural significance and are often worn during special occasions, festivals, and dances. With origins in the Romani communities of Eastern Europe, their use and styles have spread across Europe and even to the Americas, adapting to local cultures and fashions. Gypsy shawls are renowned for their vibrant colors and intricate patterns. Scottish Travelers, often referred to as "Nawkins" or "Nawken," are a distinct ethnic group with a rich cultural heritage in Scotland. Their history dates back to the early 16th century, when they were first documented in Scottish records. Renowned for their itinerant lifestyle, Scottish Travelers traditionally worked as tinsmiths, basket weavers, horse dealers, and entertainers, providing essential services and entertainment to rural communities! 🧶 🤎

The Gypsy Shawl

In the past, the term "tinker" was commonly used to refer to Irish or Scottish Gypsies. Scottish Travellers, loosely termed gypsies or tinkers, comprise several diverse and unrelated communities, each with unique languages, dialects, customs, histories, and traditions.


June marks Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller History Month (GRTHM), celebrating the diversity, history, culture, and language of Gypsy, Traveller, and Roma communities, as well as other Travelling communities such as Showmen and Boaters.


The Romani in Europe were the first group widely known among English-speaking people by the exonym Gypsies (or Gipsies), a term now considered pejorative by some. Interestingly, "Gypsies" has also become a modern term for professional chorus dancers in Broadway musicals, who refer to themselves as ‘Gypsies.’


In Scotland, there are four distinct communities that identify as Gypsies or Travellers: Indigenous Highland Travellers, Funfair Travellers or Showmen, Romanichals (a subgroup of the Romani people), and Lowland Gypsies.


For more on International Romani Day, click the portrait of Robert Hope's (1869-1936), "A Tinker Lass."

The Gypsy Shawl

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

The Gypsy Shawl

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