Book Chats on Travellers.
"Stan the Man and Stornoway Slim".
"Only those who wander far and wide find the straight path". Zen saying.
Last updated here February 11th 2020.
“She came into the bookshop where I sat
In abstract thought, reviewing faded days.
I looked beyond my book, and met my childhood’s Mother
In another’s candid gaze…..”.
She was elderly, frail, apologetic. Two carrier bags of books…
“I have some books for you. I understand you buy books? My husband’s . He recently passed away. It seems such a shame to throw them away.
He was such a good man…it’s rather lonely now…..”.
"...the silence now hung loudly in the air
Then, from two worn bags spilt on the carpet
Poured these scrapbooks, here and there
“He wrote you know...a rather special market.
Can you use them...they were his secret love affair ...?”.
Are they tramping still, above some hilltop viewing
Loch Miedart perhaps, or on Innesfree..?
A widow's actions...now quietly soothing
Her life, now muted, just grief filled testimony.
And then, through that same door where she had ventured
She quietly left...as she had entered".
It had been a quiet day. A day for quiet enjoyment. Sympathy rose quietly like the tide. The books were accepted, money was refused…and, for a fleeting moment she held my eyes….
“He often went off you know”.
Then, she turned and was gone. A life in two bags? What to do? Most bookdealers know the feeling. Respect? Sympathy? Perhaps the kindest of all….what would I want done, if it was my life in two carrier bags…?
Two days later the books were sorted, collated, priced, and shelved…..all but one, and that one put aside.
They were mainly about the Roma, some Irish Gypsy lore…a few early dog-eared school textbooks…no signatures, but just pre-war at a guess…
The one held back…hardly a book. Twelve pages, stapled, cheap paper…
" “Vagabond". Published in the New Forest, Burley, Ringwood, and printed by Brown & Son (Ringwood). Kathleen Phelan. 1962”.
Across the cover…
“For Bernard Watson with the author’s best wishes. Jim Phelan ’63!
“Jim Phelan his book. Here is the lore of the road. Bits and pieces written at a hundred halts…..the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic, from Galway Bay to the Alps, Sherwood Forest to Ilkley Moor, Maxwellton Braes to Banbury Cross.
The road goes to them all. And so do I…and so here is the road for you". Jim Phelan..
A search finds Jim Phelan author of no less than twenty-three titles (see image above right), born 1895, dies 1966…tramp, activist, sometime prisoner………
We read: “Upon his release from prison in 1937, Phelan vowed never to live within four walls again and returned to the tramp life. Like most tramps, he had a preferred route; in his case, the northbound A1 in England. On this road, as it snaked its way from London to the York and back, he learnt the lore of the road from characters such as Lumpy Red Fox, Dicky Tom Cosgrove, Jimmy Scotland, Stan the Man and Stornoway Slim. He learned how to write the mysterious hieroglyphics that told fellow travellers whether a single house or entire village was friendly or hostile. He perfected the art of storytelling – a line of guff – to ensure that the passer-by or house holder would be as generous as possible. He would write his novels and essays in longhand and send the manuscript off to his publisher from the first post office he encountered as he commenced his day's "work".”.
So, Mrs Watson, Thank You for your husband Bernard’s books…the treasure of an unrecorded title by Jim Phelan, and learning of their friends Lumpy Red Fox, Dicky Tom Cosgrove, Jimmy Scotland, Stan the Man and Stornoway Slim….!
No. He will not be forgotten.
He's just gone off one last time with Jim..........
To Read More on Jim Phelan, click here....
...and even here!