John Roberts: Letters to Francis Groome

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 12 MS.Add.8418
  • Dates of Creation
      1907-1926 (copy of originals of c. 1876-1880)
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English Romany
  • Physical Description
      1 volume

Scope and Content

A typescript copy, made by R.A.S. Macfie in 1907, of letters written to F.H. Groome, c. 1876-1880, with manuscript annotations. There are 201 numbered pages, of which the last 17 are blank. The letters are from John Roberts, with the exception of the final letter, written by Groome's mother-in-law. The script includes early examples of Welsh Romani, for which there are 'hasty, unstudied translations' made by Macfie in September 1926.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Roberts (1816-1894), harpist, was born in Llanrhaiadr, Wales. He was a drummer in the 23rd Regiment for ten years, and later trained the Machynlleth Drum and Fife Band. In 1889 he gave a concert with his family before the Queen at Bala. Roberts died at Newtown on 12 May 1894.

Francis Hindes Groome (1851-1902), Romany scholar, was born at the rectory of Monk Soham, Suffolk, on 30 August 1851. He attended Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, but did not take a degree. After living with gipsies at home and abroad, he settled in Edinburgh in 1876. Groome joined Messrs Chambers in 1885, and was sub-editor of Chambers's encyclopaedia (10 vols, 1888-1892). He published In gipsy tents in 1880, and Gypsy folk tales in 1899. He died in London on 24 January 1902.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Presented by R.A.S. Macfie, 1926.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. The biographical history was compiled with reference to the entry on Francis Groome in Sir Sidney Lee, ed., Dictionary of national biography, 1901-1911, vol. III (Oxford University Press, 1927), pp. 172-173. Information about John Roberts was drawn from an entry at the start of the volume of letters.

Other Finding Aids


Custodial History

The volume was formerly Res.b.1020.


The letters were printed by Miss Dora Esther Yates in The Welsh outlook, vol. 20, no. iii (March 1933). Groome printed extracts in his article on 'gipsies' in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th edition (1879), and in his book In gipsy tents (1880).