Harriet Hayward interviews Fred, part 2
What is your earliest memory?
I was 8, maybe 10, when we moved into a caravan. We lived at Trevarth, for quite a few years. Then we moved to Lanner hill. We stayed there for 22 years. We fetched all our own water, in 10 gallon, aluminium churns. The TV worked off a battery. We used to carry the battery down to the garage to charge, which cost 50p each time.
Saturdays were the best, my dad used to love the wrestling. We had to be quiet, otherwise he’d get rather upset.
I started work at the age of 15, for Bernard Kemp. Before that I was a milk boy. I used to get up at 4.30am, mum would get me up. Then I worked on the roads. I’ve never looked back. Kept going. Always worked. Brought up 3 children. We are short of nothing, food on the table, a clean bed and our bellies are full.
2.23 So you’ve always lived in caravans then?
Yes, Up until I was err, I was married at 22, we were in caravans, up Lanner hill for 22 years. My mum and dad would travel around. My eldest brother, when he wasn’t very old, fell down between the horses feet, but the horse never moved, didn’t kick him, very lucky.
Mum and dad used to do firewood. Then he worked at Perranporth holiday park doing security, Mum used to work, and keep us four and dad fed and watered. It was a good life, but a hard life.
People talk about a hard winter, but they don’t know what a hard winter is, compared to what we had.
3min 55 sec Did you have a strict upbringing?
Yes, But it didn’t hurt us. My children are the same now, they are as good as gold, but I never put my hand to them. With a hard bring up you tend to respect life. Better you don’t have everything held to you on a plate. My dad used to say £5 of your money is better than £50 of anybody else’s.
When I was 16 I was drinking with my brother, I had to be back in by 11 o’clock every night if not, I was grounded for a month, not 3 weeks and 4 days, 1 solid month. One night I didn’t bother to come home, I was courting at the time, My dad was waiting for me when I got home. The rest is history. He kept me in for a solid month. They were a good mum and dad, I don’t half miss them. Mum’s been gone about 18 years, dad’s been gone 12. They’re your best people. If you were in trouble, you could always turn to mum. Now there is no-one. I’m fine, I’ve got a good job now, and a good missus, and we do what we want to do.
You come from quite a big family.
On my mum’s side, there’s 22 of them. 8 still living, some are 76 and 78, they are the lucky ones. They didn’t work as hard as my mum, mum put herself in the grave. I still call them uncles and aunties now, which is respect. I’ve got an uncle who is 2 years older than me, my youngest uncle.
I’ve got 2 girls and 1 boy, my boy is 6ft 8. He’s 36 and got 2 handsome boys. My eldest maid’s 34 and she’s got 2 boys and 1 girl, and my Mary, she’s 32 coming, she got 2 girls and a boy. And I’ve got step children, but I don’t class them as step children, I class them as my own. 2 of them weren’t very old when I took them on. They are all lovely children.
People say they had a hard upbringing, but they don’t know what a hard upbringing is. If my dad said to we 4 boys don’t do something, then we don’t do it. We used to do Donkey Derbies, he’d say “we’re going to a dinner and dance, don’t move off your seat until me or mum tell you to,” and we didn’t. You don’t get a lot of that now. They’ve no respect. There’s loads of them now, they do not respect their elders.
9 min 27 sec You said early about working quite a lot when you were younger. Did you go to school?
I never missed a day of school in my life. I loved it. My father tried to get me to stay home sometimes, but I wouldn’t.
We used to walk to school. They gave us bus fare, but we used to spend it on fags (cigarettes).
Fags were cheap back then, we used to work at the garage when we had a bit of snow on the ground, sweeping the forecourt, keeping the place clean.
We went to a school called Trewirgie, in Redruth, where my grandchildren are going. I left school at 15 and never looked back, kept going.
10 min 37 Did you ever get treated differently at school because you were a Gypsy.
No. Maybe a couple of times, but that was soon sorted out. I’ve still got quite a few mates now, still close. We never had that problem ‘oh, you’re Gypsies’ My mum was the real deal, a real Traveller. People say Pikeys and Gypsies, and that’s horrible. People say what they like, but you don’t try to disrespect people. Speak to people how you like to be spoken to.
They were good days, lovely days. Time has just gallops. We go to Bridgewater Gypsy fayre every year, you see different areas, it’s lovely. We went to Bridgewater carnival last year, that was good.
My missus is proud of what I am, and I’m proud of what I am. We can go anywhere, eat and drink as good as the rest of them. You can always manage to make a quid, and don’t rely on other people, go out and earn your own money. In my entire life I was 2 years out of work. That’s not bad in 58 years. My brothers are the same, there’s 4 of us.
13 min 22 sec Did you travel a lot? As a child do you remember travelling?
I didn’t travel a lot, we were basically static in caravans. Mum and dad used to travel around in a Gypsy Bow wagon, lay-by to lay-by. My eldest brother didn’t travel long that way. Then they went into caravans. After lots of years on that site Mum went into a flat, dad didn’t like it, he stayed up in the caravan on his own. He’s not going to have me tell him what to do. He was up there 12 months on his own. I was close with him. I got 1 older brother, 2 younger, no girls, it was a shame, we’d have loved to have a little sister but it wasn’t meant to be.
15 min 5 sec I know you love your horses, but I’m not sure what other animals you had when you were younger?
We had allsorts, chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats, donkeys, mules. All of us have had horses all our lives. Dad was a good man on horses. We know which way to break them in and do it right. We used to go to horse sales – Holsworthy, 5 Lanes, Helston Harvest, in November, or December.
I wouldn’t change it. If I had my time again I would do everything I’ve done, over again. Yes, it was a hard life but it was an interesting life.
17 sec, 13 sec. Did you have any family traditions?
What do you mean?
Something that’s gone down through generations, like your granddad might have done it, and your dad and you.
Well, my dad’s dad was a Cornish Wrestler, Champion Wrestler with the jackets, I’ve done a bit of it, bit of boxing, barefist fighting, wrestling, fighting at the fair.
My dad’s dad, I can’t remember him, I only know what my father told me, I can only just remember my dad’s mum. He had mule and he used to chain it by the leg with a strap because she’d keep breaking the straps what they’d put round her neck. He went down to shift it, and he died shifting it. They could not get into grandfather to get him out the way. The mule was like a guard dog, he was protective towards my grandfather. Then father’s brother, Donald, he was a good horseman, he had motorbikes and 2 sisters, lived at Crofthandy, 2 sisters, 2 brothers, all gone now. Both his sisters were lovely. We had a picture, standing outside our porch with our cowboy hats on and little guns, we weren’t very big. I can image it now, but I can’t seem to get hold of anyone who had that picture. I have lots of pictures of my mum and dad. I see most of mum’s sisters and brothers, I get on with them all.
20 min 18 sec Did you have a favourite game when you were younger?
I used to like playing drafts. We liked bareback riding. Just wild really.
You spent more time playing outside?
Yes, where we used to live we could run around with just underpants on.
21.14 Did Gypsies only marry Gypsies when you were younger? Or Travellers only marry Travellers? Was it stricter?
Some used to like marrying their own, but 2 of my uncles didn’t marry in to their own, they married Gorgies. My mum was the real deal, my dad was an ordinary guy like Matt (Youth worker on this project) . They was married young, they adored each other. Good days, I can see them now, picture it all as if it was yesterday, I’ve got a good memory, it’s lovely, mum used to make pasties, she could make a meal out of everything.
22.43 Is it frowned upon to marry outside the Gypsy family, or not?
Have you ever watched a big fat Gypsy Wedding? That’s a load of !! , that isn’t like it is. Grabbing don’t happen. I didn’t marry a Traveller. A lot of them do like marrying their own. I’ve known people who’ve married their first cousins, it ain’t no good for the children, they call it inbred.
23.38 What would you say is a big traditional Traveller wedding is like?
For a start it’s the horse and carriage, like I got. All the fancy dresses, the hair is looking the part, all the gold. You can tell a Traveller’s wedding from an ordinary wedding, as there’s no spares with this. And the food is outstanding really, the cakes, and the drinks. They drink like it’s going out of fashion.
24 min 55sec Did you have your favourite meal or things to eat when you were younger?
Mum used to make pasties every Saturday. We used to look forward to that. Sundays she would make a roast. Christmas times was brilliant. We never had a fridge or freeze. Mum would buy the meat fresh, on Christmas eve. We had no pantries back then, we’d keep the milk in a churn of water. Cover the meat down. Veg, she used to buy fresh every day. Pasties, Roast Dinner, Rabbit Stew, lovely, and I still have them now. Mum was some cook. Her hair was black, she was stunning. Beautiful. She was one hell of a mother. She looked after we to the best that she could.
27 min 12 sec. I’ve got to ask, as I always look when I see you , is there a story behind your tattoos?
No. I was 15 when I had my first. I got about 280 of them in all. But today’s prices, it’s £60 an hour. My first tattoo was £15, and you’d think it was done yesterday. Doc Price in Plymouth, he’s brilliant. I have a big eagle on my back, I think it was about £25. If I had to pay for it all, today you wouldn’t get much change for £10,000. In all it cost me £200, and they are all good.
29 min. I’m all out of questions.
I’m going to ask you a couple. Do you enjoy doing this?
Yes, It’s good to learn about other people.
My 3 children, they are so much different to me.
I was married at 20, or 21. I was in a caravan nearly 12 months, then we moved out. I thought I don’t want my children being brought up like I was. There’s nothing wrong with it, but when you’ve got to fetch water, and carry the shopping all the way up the hill, and gas for the gas cooker. When it was cold, the gas used to freeze. No phones, the boy was poorly one night, he couldn’t breath, We had to walk, in pitch black, ring the doctor, and he didn’t want to come out, The doctor said, can he blow his nose, I said are you daft, he’s 5 months old, how can he blow his nose. It was good days, I enjoyed it.
I would go back into a caravan again tomorrow, if we had everything. Last up we had a Start-A-Matic , Lister Engine, that used to run the telly, the lights, Mum used to take all our washing in the laundrette, Plain-An-Gwarry, Redruth. she worked bloody hard. Back then, it’s the way it was. When they say ’til death do us part’, it was like that. Unfortunately it’s not like that today. Half of them now do it for the party!
34 min 4sec Any favourite stories you can remember.
When I was 15, I was driving when I was 15. It was my brothers van, an old green post office Morris van, I remember the reg SLP 315F , My brother said you go back and pick the girls up. Before I went out, the old man said don’t be late. I got parked up at the bottom of the lane, left the van ticking over, walked back up the hill and knocked on the side of the caravan, said I was home, lit the candles, left it burning for 2 minutes, then snuck back down to the fair, I got home at 3 or 4 in the morning. Dad never did know.
We used to do the wood, good times, they were hard times.