Final journey for Spalding’s ‘great Romany’ Gordon Boswell

  • Hundreds of people remember founder of museum dedicated to preserving gypsy culture
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The life of one of the most respected and colourful characters in post-war Spalding history has been remembered and celebrated at the town’s parish church.

Hundreds of people sat inside and stood outside St Mary and St Nicolas Church, Spalding, where the funeral of “true-hearted, learned gypsy gentleman” Gordon Boswell took place on Tuesday.

Mr Boswell, who died on August 27, aged 76, opened the Gordon Boswell Romany Museum in Clay Lake, Spalding, in February 1995 after serving as president of Spalding Rotary Club between 1988 and 1989.

His body was brought to the service in a carriage drawn by two horses, Jacob and Hendrick, which was followed by his favourite horse-drawn cart pulled by another horse, Mandy, which carried Mr Boswell’s brothers Donny and Lewis Boswell.

The funeral service was led by the Vicar of Spalding, the Rev John Bennett, who said: “Gordon was very well-known in this town and he touched the lives of people across the country and, indeed, in many, different parts of the world.

“We are here to show our respects to him and his family, to thank God for his life and to give him up to God’s loving care for a life that is to come.”

FUNERAL SERVICE: Donny and Lewis Boswell travel to St Mary and St Nicolas on their brother's favourite lorry and cart pulled by Mandy, owned by Gordon's son-in-law Deano Smith.  Photo by Tim Wilson.

FUNERAL SERVICE: Donny and Lewis Boswell travel to St Mary and St Nicolas on their brother's favourite lorry and cart pulled by Mandy, owned by Gordon's son-in-law Deano Smith. Photo by Tim Wilson.

The service included performances of Amazing Grace, sung by Jo Wheatley, and a recording of The Lord’s Prayer sung by 2012 Britain’s Got Talent finalists, Only Boys Aloud.

Mr Boswell’s work in bringing the Romany language and way of life to a wider audience was also recognised at the start of the service with the playing of The Romany Rye, sung by Dave Peters and Tom Walsh, and its end with the music of Django’s Dream by Martin Taylor.

Also during the service, a poem was read by the Rev Aileen Workman called The Fallen Limb which said: “A limb has fallen from the family tree, I keep hearing a voice that says ‘Grieve not for me’.

“Remember the best times, the laughter, the song, the good life I lived while I was strong. 
“Continue my heritage, I’m counting on you; keep smiling and surely the sun will shine through.

It was very moving for me to lead this service and to see the strength of a community coming together to honour someone who commanded so much respect

The Vicar of Spalding, the Rev John Bennett

“My mind is at ease, my soul is at rest, remembering all, how I truly was blessed.

“Continue traditions, no matter how small; go on with your life, don’t worry about falls.

“I miss you all dearly, so keep up your chin; until the day comes when we’re together again.”

Mr Boswell, made a Kentucky Colonel by the Governor of the southern US state in May 2008, is survived by his wife of 55 years, Margaret, children Lenda, Louise and Gordon, ten grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

FUNERAL SERVICE: Horses Jacob and Hendrick who brought the carriage containing the body of Gordon Boswell to St Mary and St Nicolas Church, Spalding.  Photo by Tim Wilson.

FUNERAL SERVICE: Horses Jacob and Hendrick who brought the carriage containing the body of Gordon Boswell to St Mary and St Nicolas Church, Spalding. Photo by Tim Wilson.

After the service, the Vicar of Spalding praised the town’s people for the unity of respect and regard shown to Mr Boswell and his family at Tuesday’s funeral.

Mr Bennett said: “It was very moving for me to lead this service and to see the strength of a community coming together to honour someone who commanded so much respect.

“I learned about some of the traditions the family were keeping following Gordon Boswell’s death, including the curtains remaining closed in their house – something I remember being quite common when I was a child.

“They brought the coffin back to the house the day before the funeral and members of the family sat up with him through the night.

“Gordon’s wife, Margaret, also told me that none of the family ate any meat until Gordon was buried which gave the roast dinner served at Springfields Events and Conference Centre, Spalding, and enjoyed by nearly three hundred of the mourners, a particular poignancy.

“Gordon strived to spread an understanding of Romany life with warmth and good humour which will be recognised by the fact that his work to counter ignorance and prejudice will continue through the Gordon Boswell Romany Museum.

“We will no longer see him at the reins of a carriage, with a horse trotting along the road, but the memory of Gordon Nathanial Boswell will always remain with us here in Spalding.”

One of Mr Boswell’s proudest moments came in May 2008 when he was made a Kentucky Colonel, an honour awarded by the Commonwealth and Governor of Kentucky, USA.

Speaking to the Spalding Guardian in February 2013, Mr Boswell said: “Kentucky is the American state most associated with horses and so they asked around for a gypsy man who would talk about the black and white gypsy horses, their history and breeding.

“I was recommended to go and I’ve been back several times since then, including one occasion when I linked up with the official photographer for the Kentucky Derby (horse race) who was writing a book about the gypsy cobs.

“He invited me back to the United States to promote the book with him and I once even opened the first Gypsy Cob Show at the Kentucky Horse Park.”