Wednesday 28 December 2011: The Gypsy's Heart
Some time ago I sat next to the traveller and author Jess Smith at a Burns Supper in Perth. I had met her once before at a cultural event and she is one of the most fascinating and inspiring figures from that community, full of stories and intriguing information.
On that occasion she told me that her mothers' family had come from Cowal, indeed from the shores of Loch Fyne. Then , a couple of months ago, she sent me an email asking me about a place I had never heard of, called the Tinkers' or Gypysy's Heart. In her email she said this about it:
As a lassie I was always aware of a little heart of stones where Tinkers/Gypsies married and had their bairns blessed. I wondered as to why it had such significance. My parents simply said it was 'the Tinker's heart'. Searching among the few Travellers left who are aware of the place, I have been given several reasons but the most common being this... 'after the defeat at Culloden many tinker/gypsies who stood ground for the Jacobite cause either lost their lives, were imprisoned, or sent to the Americas. The womenfolk formed the heart of white pebbles, in the ground, on their campsite to remember the men and boys who never returned. Because of its significance it became a sacred place.'
I asked around about it, and found one or two references, including this from the Secret Scotland website.. And finally today, on my way to Lochgoilhead, I sought it out and stopped to take a few photographs to send to Jess.
The weather was awful - yet more high winds and driving rain - and the condition of the site is poor. Moreover it looks as if it is getting poorer. Yet there are signs of regular visiting, not least the coins in the middle, which have clearly been added to in recent months.
Jess , in her email, wondered about the possibility of erecting some sort of cairn or memorial to mark the spot and its' history. I think that is an idea that needs pursuing. It is certainly a place of atmosphere, history and - despite the conditions today - considerable beauty.