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Who Touched the World!
By Mary Ray
G ipsy and Tilly knocked on the doors and asked the people
if they knew which one was Mother’s grave. The grave was
pointed out to them, and they stood over it, weeping for a long
time. Groby is a nice quiet village on the outskirts of the city of Leicester in
England. My husband and I lived there for five years and consider it a
special time in our lives. The houses in the village and the surrounding
area were neat and tidy, and the gardens (as the British call their yards) were
well kept. Because of the cool, wet summers, the grass was always green,
and the flowers bloomed beautifully throughout the summer months. The
people were reserved but always kind and polite.
About three or four times a year something happened that seemed to
disrupt the peaceful flow of the village. THE GYPSIES ARRIVED. There
was a huge open field a short distance from our house, and it proved to
be the perfect place for them to call “home” for a few weeks. They set up
“camp” overnight and by morning, the once open field was full of caravans.
There was no running water, no electricity, and
no sanitation facilities. With the frequent rainfall
in England, the “camp” soon became a very
unpleasant sight. Most private landowners knew
that by the time they could obtain an eviction
notice, the travelers would have moved on to
In spite of the unpleasantness of the “Gypsy
Camp,” I could not look on the Gypsies with
contempt as some of our neighbors did because I
knew that they were souls for whom Christ died.
Also, I knew the story of Gipsy Smith.
Rodney (Gipsy) Smith was born March
31, 1860, in Epping Forest near London. His
10 MARY RAY
birthplace was not a hospital, a
clinic, or a house but a Gypsy tent
because his parents Cornelius Smith
and Mary Polly Welch Smith were
Gypsies. Even though the Gypsies
were not religious and knew little
about God and the Bible, they had
their children christened because
at the christening their births were
registered at the parish church.
Cornelius Smith supported his
family by making baskets, clothes
pegs, and tin ware and by repairing
cane chairs. Gipsy reported that
before his father’s conversion he
“found” the willows for the baskets
and the wood for the clothes pegs.
He said, “Gypsies only buy what
they cannot ‘find.’” 1
The Gypsy women and children
sold what the men made, but the
women also were fortune tellers.
In his autobiography Gipsy Smith
Gypsy Smith, An Autobiography. (Belfast,
Ireland: Ambassador Productions, 1901). 23.