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Luck of the Irish for ‘gypsy’ girls
FIVE Burnley girls went a-roaming with a difference on their summer holidays, back in 1968.
While their friends took more traditional trips to English shores, or basked in the Mediterranean sun, this quintet spent 50 guineas on a 120-mile tour of Ireland, in a gypsy caravan.
And, by all accounts, they took the Emerald Isle by storm, with their folk singing and guitar playing as they passed by.
So popular were they that the locals of several village pubs insisted on several encores before they could leave.
The five, all 17, who had attended Towneley Technical High School, were Barbara Wadge, of Brunshaw Road, Janet Brindle, of Manchester Road, Pauline Sugg of Hollin Hill, Margaret Hammerton, of Towneleyside and Jill Nixon of Herkomer Avenue.
Back home, Pauline told the tale of their journey: “The boat crossing was straightforward, but the fun started after we had boarded the train at Dublin, bound for Cork.
“There seemed a long delay and when someone told us we had climbed into the wrong compartment, we looked out and the front half of the train had left without us.
“We had to wait three hours for another.”
When they eventually reached Cork, the five found their brightly coloured Romany caravan waiting for them — along with their horse power for the fortnight — an old grey mare called Speck.
Said Margaret: “She was marvellous. It’s just that we had ti push the caravan up hills ourselves because she hadn’t the strength to pull it herself!”
The girls washed at water pumps found in the middle of the road and had to prepare their own meals, relinquishing traditional open fires for bottled gas.
But Pauline confessed: “We had a rota, but to tell the truth, we pretty well lived on beans, cornflakes and jam.
“One day however a Dutch chef came to our rescue at one camp site and cooked us a delicious meal - bliss.
“That was one caravan site we were sorry to leave because it was back to beans again.”
The girls also quickly found out that the caravan leaked and much of their clothing was soaked when it rained — so they were often forced to wear bikinis.
Said Barbara: “Villagers were quite amazed at the sight of five girls in bikinis, riding on a Romany caravan and one man even walked straight into a lamp post!”
The friends all agreed the trip had been a success and hoped to return - most of all they enjoyed the music.
And their favourite song — not surprisingly it was ‘Travellin’ Folk’.
The Burnley folk singers, from the left: Jill, Margaret, Pauline and Janet.
Barbara was still travelling when this photograph was taken by an Evening Star photograph in the summer of 1968.