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Rodney (‘Gipsy’) Smith

SMITH, Rodney (‘Gipsy’ Smith). b. Epping Forest, near London, 31 March 1860; d. at sea 4 August 1947). He was born in a Romany tent, the fourth of six children of Cornelius Smith (1831-1922) and Mary Welch (ca. 1831-1865). His family made a living selling baskets, clothes pegs, tinware, and through horse-dealing; neither of his parents could read. He grew up ‘as wild as the birds, frolicsome as the lambs, and as difficult to catch as the rabbits’ (Smith, 1901, Chapter 1). His mother died of smallpox when Rodney was four or five, which transformed his father’s life. As she was dying he turned to the teachings of a chaplain with whom he had spoken while in prison on some false accusation, and...

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