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Archiver > GENBRIT > 2000-06 > 0960112583

From: Don Moody <>
Subject: Re: Off topic - who/what is a "didicoy"
Date: Sun, 4 Jun 2000 10:56:23 +0100

In article <3939f1e5$0$8420$>, Syd
Norris <> writes
>Dear listers,
>I have before me an item from an English journal which reads in part -
> "We're all so fed up with up with burglars and didicoys and other
>criminals who make our lives a misery".
>Could someone please enlighten me as to the meaning of "didicoy"?
>Syd Norris, Sydney, Aust.
Dear Syd,

Didicoys were people who took up the nomadic life of tinkers, peg-
makers, and - later - car-breakers and all the other trades of gypsies
but were not of true romany blood. Gypsies hated them and blamed their
own reputation for criminality on the didicoys masquerading as gypsies.
There were ferocious pitched battles (probably would be called turf wars
in modern idiom) when didicoy and gypsy convoys met. The most ferocious
weapon used was a wide leather belt studded with horse-brasses and
whirled round the head at a phenomenal rate. If it connected with a face
it could take off flesh down to the bone, and even break bones.
Blackthorn clubs and knives were also used. Guns were unknown, even
regarded as dishonourable. A man wasn't a man unless he fought hand to
hand. The lethal thing was when the women got involved.

Inevitably, they did. Love struck across the didicoy-gypsy divide and
the mayhem which followed would make Montagues and Capulets look like
bosom pals. There was also the small problem that in 'orthodox' gypsy
families all men traditionally had to find a gypsy wife, except for one
man. The 'king' of any group of families was required to 'marry out'.
Where would he find a wife who was non-gypsy but also experienced at
surviving the travelling life? Many a gypsy 'queen' was a didicoy.

Before rushing to judgement based on modern ideas and on availability of
dole, free medicine and so forth, stop to think what life was really
like in those days for didicoy and gypsy alike. No social security, no
doctors, no police, no protective union, no food stores, no education,
no protection from courts, no... . You were, in modern jargon, the
excluded. If your tribe had developed a bare existence on a patch of
settled folk then possession of that patch was the entire and sole
possible lifeline for your kids and their kids. You fought to the death
to protect your patch.

As a footnote to history, a few of the men brought up under such
ferocious conditions were significant, out of all proportion to their
percentage in the population, in sundry Special Forces activities in
WWII and afterwards. Didicoys and gypsies served together. And for those
who rely on documentary 'proof' in genealogy, most of those men were
known by two or more names at different times. They changed with the
society in which they were mixing and the country they happened to be
passing through.

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