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'We want to make friends, not trouble' - Romany Women

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April 20th, 2008

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09:10 pm - 'We want to make friends, not trouble'

The Romany gypsies who have pitched caravans on land they bought in Langham say they want to make friends, not trouble.

"We want a better education and better life for the children," said Lucy Price, 30. "Tell people to come and meet us, we mean them no harm. We're not going to spend our life savings for a piece of ground to make trouble in the village.

"We want to make friends – we only want a chance."

The field by the A606 has planning permission for stables and is owned by Clifford Lee. He lives there with his wife Lucy, their two daughters, Corolina and Lucy who are both married, and two sons, one of whom is single.

There are also 14 children aged from two months to 16 years.

The matriarch of the family, Lucy Lee, 60, cannot read or write and says they want to stay so the children can attend school.

Sitting inside her immaculate spacious caravan she said: "We are not travellers we are true Romany gypsies and are all one family. We've been around this area for a very long time.

"I've never been to school in my life, none of us has and we would like the children to go."

Her daughter Lucy Price, who has three children, said they were unaware they had to wait for permission before moving the caravans on the land. The family had most recently lived in Hinckley but they were moved on.

Mrs Price said: "It's hard while you've got babies dragging them around. Sometimes you have to pull away at 12 o'clock at night and it is very difficult."
After the recent heavy rainfall the field is very muddy, but inside Mrs Lee's caravan muddy shoes are removed by the door and the four young children inside are well behaved and well dressed.

Mrs Price is a born-again Christian and Blue Boy will be christened, possibly at Langham village church. Many of the 14 children are just toddlers but four school age children have been enrolled at Langham Primary School and will start next week.

Headteacher Janet Lord said: "I know of Romany gypsy families from my previous school and found them to be very positive about their children's education.

"I am sure that through their attendance at our school they will add to our young people's understanding of the cultural diversities that exist within our community."

The men of the family earn a living doing gardening work and a bit of grinding and family members also deal in horses. They own three horses which they are hoping to bring to the site.

Rutland County Council has arranged to put rubbish bins on the land and portable toilets have now been installed. There is water connected on the site.

Mrs Price said: "We've travelled all our lives on the lanes and byways and been brought up with manners, our children don't stink.

"We are not tinkers. We want to be part of the village, if they don't want us we will leave them alone. We understand 100 per cent why people are upset – we are different. We are real Romanies, we are not travellers, and this is our way of life. We understand their fears but give us a chance."

Her sister-in-law Alex Lee, 30, said "We've been brought up to know the difference between right and wrong. We are people like anyone else; we want to settle down to be treated like normal people."

But there is uncertainty in the village about the sudden turn of events. Ward councillor Robert Reid said: "It puts people on edge. I'm sympathetic to residents of Langham and their views and I will be representing their views at the county council planning meeting in May."

And parish council chairman George Kirk said: "All the councillors have had calls about this – people are very concerned that this has happened so quickly."

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