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I was born in 1955 in a one-time army barracks condemned unfit for human habitation. One of a family of ten traveller children torn apart by the state, I grew up in a children's home in Aberdeen until I was 15.
Traveller families across Scotland were treated similarly, 'ethnically cleansed', their children snatched from street and countryside. Children were taken without warning, during the day or in the middle of the night, and placed into "care". Little or no attempt was made to keep brothers and sisters together.
It was all hidden, of course, a shameful episode from Scotland's past. But the repercussions are still felt to this day. My family was all but destroyed, scattered to the wind. I grew up knowing little or nothing about any of them. Today, despite trying to build up a relationship with my brothers and sisters, the family bond is now a mere shadow of what it should have been.
Scottish travellers, commonly referred to as tinkers, are easily identified through their names - Stewart, Williamson, Higgins, MacPhee, Townsley, Robertson, Reid, Johnston, Macgregor, McAllister, McDonald, Kelbie and of course Whyte.
They are an ancient ethnic group, going back a thousand years and more and were known in Gaelic as 'cairdean', the iron-workers or metal-workers, who moved among the warring clans making and repairing weapons. In effect, they were the armourers of the Highland clans.
But everything changed following the ill-fated 1745 rebellion during which Bonnie Prince Charlie attempted to restore the British crown to the Stuarts. After the Battle of Culloden on 16 April, 1746, proscription was introduced which forbad the wearing of tartan and the carrying of arms by the Highland clans. At a stroke, there was no need for clan armourers.
Ever resourceful, the tinkers turned to making pots and pans and other useful metal items which they sold in order to survive. But then came industrialisation and mass markets and the metal-working skills of the tinker were no longer required. So they turned to potato or berry picking and other seasonal farm work to earn a living until mechanisation replaced the need for such back-breaking labour.
Now there are few travellers to be seen anywhere across Scotland where once there were thousands. Their descendants live invisible lives in council-run estates, privately-rented houses or own their own homes and aspire to all the trappings of modern civilisation. In recent years, a great effort has been made to preserve the centuries-old oral traditions of song and story-telling for which Scottish travellers are justly famous.