Sunday, February 19, 2017

“Romany” (Rev. George Bramwell Evens)

1. Romany and his dog Raq
Romany was Rev. G. Bramwell Evens
He was a children's writer and radio broadcaster

[Dust cover of the biography by Mrs Eunice Evens]
2. Dust cover of one of Romany’s books:
"Out with Romany Once More" (1940) 
Romany travels the countryside on his vardo 
3. Entrance to Glassonby village, Eden valley, Cumbria
The former Methodist chapel can be seen on the left
Rev. G. Bramwell Evens regularly preached here
His spirit and soul remains at Glassonby:
His ashes were scattered at the nearby Old Parks Farm 
4. Romany Society memorial plaque (2003)
At the former Glassonby Methodist chapel
Rev. Bramwell Evens regularly preached here
5. The former Central Methodist Hall, Carlisle
Built during Romany's ministry at Carlisle
Rev. Evens was at Carlisle (1914 - 1926) 
6. Romany Society Memorial plaque (2003)
At the former Carlisle Central Methodist Hall
Rev. Evens was responsible for its building
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 For additional information click on 'Comments' below.
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8 Comments:

Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Introduction

Retired Wesleyan (Methodist) minister Reverend George Bramwell Evens passed away suddenly at his Wilmslow, Cheshire home on 20 November 1943 after spending some time tending his garden. Ministers of religion tend not to truly retire and this was the same with Rev. ‘Bram’ Evens who had an almost full speaking diary for about three years. Reverend ‘Bram’ Evens was also a writer of children’s writer and broadcaster on BBC radio under the pen name of “Romany”, bringing his astute observations of the countryside to millions of children.

As a writer and broadcaster of natural history the books he wrote and the broadcasts he made were also popular with adults, especially in a time of war. In the hard times of the 1930s and then in wartime, Romany brought a more peaceful and everlasting view of the countryside to millions of readers and listeners in the British Isles and beyond.

About a year after Romany’s death his wife Eunice began to write his biography. First published in 1946, the dust cover of the book has a photograph of Romany on the front cover and his faithful dog, Raq, one of Romany’s companions on his travels through the countryside [seen in photograph no. 1]. Although only one recording of “Romany of the BBC” has survived, his books are still read and the front cover of one of these, “Out with Romany once more” first published in 1940 can be seen in photograph No. 2. In the series of books, Romany would travel in his own vardo with Raq and a young lad, Tim (real name George Swalwell) to see the animals and plants of the countryside.
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Sunday, 19 February, 2017  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Romany’s early life

George Bramwell Evens was born at 3 Argyll Street, Anlaby Road, Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire. His father was a Salvation Army missioner, Lieutenant George Evens, while his mother Matilda (nee Smith) who went by the name Tilly, was a true Romany or gypsy as they are sometimes known. Along with her siblings, Tilly was born in a vardo, a traditional gypsy caravan. She too was a missioner for the Salvation Army and one of her brothers was Rodney (‘Gypsy’) Smith was another famed evangelic preacher for the Salvation Army in Britain and in North America.

George and Matilda married in 1883 and George Bramwell Evens, their only child, was born the following year in 1884. According to the biography of Romany by Eunice Evens, Bram was taken to missionary meetings led by his parents while still in the cradle. After a time, they ended their connection with the Salvation Army and began their own Christian Missions firstly in the British Isles. Like Tilly’s brother Gypsy Smith, Romany’s parents later moved on to lead Missions in North America. In between times, George Evens became a Wesleyan (Methodist) Missioner at Cranmer Street Chapel, Liverpool. Thus, Bram Evens appeared on the Christian Missions almost from birth. Eunice Evens quotes her mother-in-law Tilly who often said, “I gave him to the Church before he was born.”

After his parents moved to Liverpool it was here that Bram Evens first attended regular school. One of the childhood books from this time that Bram kept all his life was one entitled “Animals of the World”. Was this an early indication that his love of natural history and the outdoors that would eventually lead to his second ‘calling’ as a children’s writer and broadcaster about the outdoors?

When George and Tilly Evens went over the Atlantic on an eight-month ‘Mission Tour’ for the Moody Institute, Bram was left behind at Liverpool under the care of the family’s faithful maid, Polly Furzland, who had been ‘converted’ during a previous mission in Cornwall. Later, at the age of 13, Bram Evens went as a boarder to Epworth College, Rhyl, North Wales. Five years later, in the summer term of 1902, Bram Evens entered Queen’s College, Taunton, Devon as a Divinity Student. After completing his studies there, Bram did six months as a master at Lytham on the Fylde coast of Lancashire followed by a probationary year doing ‘ordinary mission’ work at Colchester, Essex.
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Sunday, 19 February, 2017  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Bram’s vocation as a Wesleyan minster

In September 1905, Bram Evens began a three-year course of study at the Wesleyan Theological College, Handsworth, Birmingham. His ordination took place at the Wesleyan Methodist Conference at Cardiff in July 1908.

The first post for Rev. Bram Evens was when he was sent to a mission in the East End of London. It was while in London that Bram Evens met Miss Eunice Evens, daughter of the neighbouring Congregational Minister Rev. Owen Thomas. Bram Evens and Eunice Thomas were married by Eunice’s father at the Congregational Church on 1 August 1911. At that time Bram Evens was 27 years old and Eunice Thomas was 24 and they honeymooned at a small cottage in North Wales.

After returning from honeymoon, in September 1911 Rev. Bram Evens had a three year stint at the Wesleyan mission, Goole, East Yorkshire. Their first child, a son, Glyn Evens was born and baptised while at Goole.

Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, in September 1914 Rev. Bram Evens took up the post of Wesleyan minister at Carlisle, Cumberland (now Cumbria). With the recruitment centre of Carlisle Castle about five minutes from the then Wesleyan chapel on Fisher Street, Rev. Bram Evens volunteered to enlist, presumably as an army chaplain, but due to a heart murmur failed the medical and was rejected. Nevertheless, it was while at Carlisle that Bram began writing for the local newspaper and visiting the Eden valley for preaching, camping with the young scouts, fishing and began writing a regular column for the local newspaper, the ‘Cumberland News’.

Rev. Bram Evens first visited the village of Glassonby in the Eden valley of Cumberland when taking a party of scouts to camp near Old Parks Farm and made a lifelong friendship with the Potter family who owned the farm. Rev. Bram Evens was also a regular preacher at the Methodist Chapel at the northern entrance to the village [Photograph No.3]. This was his most favoured place on earth for after his death his ashes were scattered at Old Parks Farm. The images he stored up in his mind in and around Glassonby, plus the knowledge and observations of wildlife became the catalyst for his pioneering work as a writer and broadcaster.

Bram Evens bought his own vardo (gypsy caravan) at Brough Hill Fair in 1921 for £75. It was in this vardo that Rev. Bram Evens, later to be better known as Romany, would travel throughout the countryside observing the countryside way of life. It is still possible to follow in the footsteps of Romany and his vardo in the Eden valley. Some of these special places have been marked by memorial plaques by the Romany Society, including one on the former Methodist Chapel at Glassonby [Photograph No. 4].

Sunday, 19 February, 2017  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

After a year at the Carlisle mission, dry rot was found in the Methodist church in Fisher Street where John Wesley, the founder of Methodism had preached. It was about this time that a new munitions factory at Gretna was built a little to the north of Carlisle with many of those working there being lodged in and around Carlisle. Also around that time, Methodism had a multi-millionaire benefactor, the flour miller Joseph Rank who was also the father of the founder of the J. Arthur Rank cinema empire. Thus, Joseph Rank offered to pay £10,000 towards the building of a new and impressive Methodist Central Hall. The total cost of the building was estimated to be £26,000 and so a balance of £16,000 somehow needed to be raised. Eventually, thanks to fund raising by the congregation and many other generous benefactors in the Carlisle district and further afield, just before the building was officially opened on 12 April 1923, the debt on the building was down to £1,000.

Joseph Rank came to do the officially opening and promised to match any collection taken on the day. During the ceremony, Rev. Bram Evens asked Mr Rank if he could add the subscriptions for the previous month which Joseph Rank kindly gave his approval and money. This meant Carlisle Methodist Hall opened free from debt. The building is no longer a Methodist Hall and although it has been sold by the church it can still be seen in the centre of Carlisle on Fisher Street [Photograph No. 5]. As at Glassonby, the Romany Society have marked the connection with Romany of the BBC by another memorial plaque in 2003 [Photograph No. 6].
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Sunday, 19 February, 2017  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

A writer and radio broadcaster
In 1926 Rev. Bram Evens moved from Carlisle firstly to Huddersfield and then to Halifax, both in West Yorkshire. At Huddersfield, as Bram Evens became generally recognised as an expert in wildlife and the countryside, he was asked to contribute another weekly column in addition to the one for the ‘Cumberland News’ – this time for the ‘Huddersfield Examiner’.

September 1929 saw Rev. Bram Evens move to Halifax (King’s Cross Methodist Chapel). It was during this period that Rev. Bram Evens received an invitation from BBC radio in Manchester to audition to broadcast for Children’s Hour about nature and the countryside. How did he want to be known to the children listening to him on the radio? His answer was “Romany” and so “Romany of the BBC” was born.

Initially, Romany would relate two nature stories from his own experience and although the programmes were broadcast from a studio in Manchester, they took the form of travelling through the countryside in his vardo along with his faithful companion, Raq. Two actresses took the part of young girls accompanied Romany and Raq and would ask questions that Romany would answer. The young companions, Muriel and Doris, were played by Muriel Levy and Doris Gambell. According to the Romany Society, Romany was broadcasting on the BBC between 1932 until his death in 1943.

A popular series of children’s books followed and in 1937 the first, “Out with Romany” was published. Romany would tell stories of the birds and animals in the countryside, usually to another companion, a young lad “Tim”. As with the radio broadcasts, Romany’s books continued to be published after the Second World War began in 1939 with the paper and book binding conforming to approved wartime standards.

Romany’s retirement from the active ministry of religion coincided with the outbreak of war and a move from Halifax to Wilmslow near Manchester. His broadcasts and books went beyond the world of children and especially in the difficult early years of the war there was something else other than war and destruction to observe.
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Sunday, 19 February, 2017  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Conclusion

A Romany Society was originally formed in 1946 and continued until 1965. It was re-formed in 1996 to promote and encourage the study and appreciation of the Rev. Bramwell Evens, better known as ‘Romany of the BBC’ the pioneer natural history broadcaster and nature writer.

The vardo which Romany and Raq used to travel around in was on display at Wilmslow for many years, However in 2011 the Romany Society held a public appeal for it to be restored as it was deteriorating. After the appeal proved successful, the vardo was fully restored and repainted. It was then taken to the Bradford Industrial Museum in West Yorkshire where it is displayed indoors.

However, it is perhaps in Romany’s beloved Eden valley that his spirit remains the strongest. Follow in Romany’s footsteps and one can still see the countryside as he described. May he rest in peace.
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Sunday, 19 February, 2017  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Further reading and information

Further information about "Romany", Reverend George Bramwell Evens, can be found on 'The Romany Society' website including a list of "Romany" books. To access this, click on the following link:

The Romany Society (website)
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Monday, 20 February, 2017  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

In 2015 the BBC World Service broadcast a short tribute to "Romany", exploring his life and work. To access this tribute, click on the following link:

Romany: Pioneer Wildlife Broadcaster
(Part of the 'Witness' series of broadcasts for the BBC World Service)
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Monday, 20 February, 2017  

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