Gypsy Lore Society
In May 1888 David MacRitchie, a qualified accountant from Edinburgh who had given up his profession in favour of his intellectual pursuits, sent out a circular announcing the newly formed Gypsy Lore Society. The circular gave the aim of the society as ...investigating the Gypsy question in as many-sided a manner as possible. The first period of the society had lasted only four years when, in 1892, having published only three volumes of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, lack of funds paralysed its activities. MacRitchie was determined to revive the Society; despite the fact that many of the original contributors had died, he began in 1906 to discuss with John Sampson the feasibility of this proposition.
Robert Andrew Scott Macfie, a Liverpool man, was their choice to take on the unenviable task of rousing the Society. Copies of the circulars, notices and letters he sent out form a major part of the archive. In 1907 the first volume of the JGLS New Series was issued with a prefatory note by David MacRitchie describing the Society as "More vigorous than ever" and "devoting itself with renewed energy to Gypsy study in all its various phases" (1907 JGLS New series). Within a few years Macfie increased the Society's membership from below 100 to over 200 and even made the Society financially viable for a short time. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 the Society languished, and Macfie, on his return from four years' service, was exhausted and unable to provide the impetus for a fresh start.
The hiatus ended in 1922. With the initial backing of the brothers James and William Ferguson, the next chapter of the Society was a success, continuing for the next fifty-two years with the input of such noted Gypsy scholars as Eric Otto Winstedt, T.W. Thompson, F.G. Ackerley, Macfie, who resumed his post as Secretary and Editor in 1932 until his death in 1935 , H.J. Francis and Dora Yates. Dora Yates had assisted Macfie with the editing and production of the JGLS from 1907 and on his death in 1935 became Honorary Secretary. Although she had had editorial control since Macfie's death, it wasn't until 1955 that Yates officially became the editor of the JGLS. It was Yates who brought the Gypsy Lore Society to Liverpool University Library, continuing her work for the Society from her office in the University even after her retirement in 1945. After her death in 1974, the Society, with Liverpool no longer as its base, produced a sporadic fourth series of the JGLS. In 1977 the Gypsy Lore Society, North American Chapter was formed.
Robert Andrew Scott Macfie
Robert Andrew Scott Macfie (1868-1935) was Honorary Secretary of the Gypsy Lore Society 1907-1914 , and editor of the 1907-1914 Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society and 1933-1935 . He was educated at Cambridge, Edinburgh and Göttingen Universities before joining Messrs. Macfie and Sons sugar refining business, which his family had owned and operated in Liverpool since 1838. Macfie spent a short while abroad when serving in the Army but returned to Liverpool to become one of the first members of the distinguished University Club. Macfie's association with the Club brought him into contact with the group of brilliant scholars who were at the time building up the University College, a number of whom were also keen Gypsiologists.
In 1907 John Sampson and David MacRitchie persuaded Macfie to revive the Gypsy Lore Society. For the next 30 years Macfie was the inspiration for the Society and acted as Secretary and editor for many years. He became one of England's leading authorities on Gypsies and their language, recording vast quantities of dialect, folk tales and songs from various bands of Gypsies in Britain, including the Lovari (or 'German') Gypsies who visited England in 1906 and the 'Coppersmith Gypsies' who came into the country in 1912. In the summer of 1913 Macfie travelled through Bulgaria in the company of a band of gypsy horse-dealers and subsequently wrote a lively account of this adventure for the Gypsy Lore Society entitled "With Gypsies in Bulgaria".
During the First World War, Scott Macfie joined the Liverpool Scottish Regiment as Quartermaster-Sergeant, serving in the trenches as a member of the British Expeditionary Force, and was awarded the Military Medal. After his return from the war, ill-health forced Macfie to retire to the Yorkshire Dales and in June 1935 he died. On his death Macfie's library was bequeathed to the Gypsy Lore Society and was presented to the University of Liverpool.