Sunday, 4 December 2011

King of the Gypsies by Bartley Gorman and Peter Walsh

King of the Gypsies by Bartley Gorman and Peter Walsh tells the story of Bartley Gorman's life as a bareknuckle boxing champion. The title of "King" is won by fighting the current champion and defeating challengers; it isn't inherited. Once proclaimed King of the Gypsies of a particular region or country, the champion is expected to fight anyone who challenges him, which means he will lead a brutal, violent life.

Bartley Gorman was the subject of a short film called King of the Gypsies made for Channel 4 by Shane Meadows in 1995 (see below). Bartley Gorman is an intelligent, thoughtful story-teller who shares his philosophy and outlook on life (state of mind is as important as strength and training if you want to win; honour, decency and pride are important; so is an appreciation of nature; charm and chat will help you to survive or even thrive anywhere; and so on), as well as giving some of the history of prize-fighting and bareknuckle contests in this country. The author is the subject and so you will learn very little about the life of gypsy or traveller women or children, though you will learn how to say "kill him, brother" in both Romany and Cant. The book is a fascinating insight into a world that most of us will never see. It's £2.99 for the Kindle. Recommended.