Relatives of Small Dole Romany family reunited in Upper Beeding

Four members of the Tidy family were brought together last month at the home of Pat Nightingale, secretary of Beeding and Bramber Local History Society.

Early 1900s, hop-picking: on the right, Moses and Hiram with their mother, Sarah Tidy, née Scarrott; on the left: other relatives
Early 1900s, hop-picking: on the right, Moses and Hiram with their mother, Sarah Tidy, née Scarrott; on the left: other relatives

They were all descendants of Edward Tidy (1873-1931) and Sarah Ann Scarrott (1875-1956).

Edward, a horse dealer, and Sarah, a Romany Gypsy, originally had a Romany wedding, but after the birth of eight children were officially married in Brighton in 1916, after which they had their ninth and final child.

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The children were Moses Edward, Hiram Aaron, Amy Jane, Miriam Mary, Thomas Joshua, Ruth Maud, Frances Deborah, Mary Elizabeth and Sarah Ann Caroline Kitty (Dolly) Tidy, several of them born in a tent or caravan.

Four cousins get to know each other: Elaine, Sandra, Dorothy and Fiona

The reunion came about because Pat Nightingale and Ken Wilson-Wheeler (also present) had written about Moses and Hiram Tidy in their book The People of Beeding and Bramber in the Great War.

Sandra Finnerty, grand-daughter of Hiram Tidy, attended the book launch.

Extracts have appeared in the Shoreham Herald, leading to other members of the family getting in touch.

Elaine Sowerby, grand-daughter of Miriam Tidy, was visiting from Australia last year when she contacted Pat and together they visited some of the places where her parents had lived.

Caravans at Hoe Wood Rest, Small Dole, about 1932. In the doorway: Dolly Tidy; seated: Tom Tidy, Aunt Nell and Nancy. Standing: Granny Tidy (Sarah) and Granny Sharpe (Ethel)

The reunion was timed to coincide with her visit again this year.

At 84, Mary Dorothy Aylett, daughter of Ruth Maud Tidy, was the oldest of those present and regaled the others with her memories and knowledge of the Tidy clan.

She came with Fiona Greenfield, grand-daughter of Dolly Tidy, who got in touch with Pat this year when she started to research her family history.

Her photograph albums, inherited from her grandmother, were of great interest, full as they were of photos of the older generation of the Tidy family, their children and grandchildren.

The 1911 census shows the Tidy family living in Langton Lane, Hurstpierpoint.

A few years later they settled in Small Dole at Spring Cottage and the children went to Small Dole School.

When they grew up, most of the children “married out” and led settled lives with spouses who had no interest in their Romany connections.

However, their children still suffered from name-calling and prejudice when they in turn went to school.

Fiona, Elaine and Sandra had all been unable to discuss their Romany heritage with their parents and seized the opportunity to talk about it with Dorothy and each other.

Despite having a home in Small Dole, Edward and Sarah kept two caravans at Hoe Wood Rest, just north of the village. Edward died in his caravan in 1931 and Sarah gave him a true Romany funeral.

However, when she died at Spring Cottage in 1956, her children disagreed about how she should be buried. Some wanted to hold a non-Romany funeral and some a traditional one.

The views of the eldest sons prevailed and she was given a non-Romany funeral.

Sadly this led to a falling-out of the brothers and sisters, which their descendants at the reunion have no interest in perpetuating.