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Dorothy Una Ratcliffe and Romany culture

Published 02 April 2012

Artificial flowers made from wood shavings (Romany)

Dorothy Una Ratcliffe was an avid collector of rare books and manuscripts and later went on to become a published author and editor.

Living in Yorkshire, she was Lord Brotherton's niece-in-law by her marriage to his nephew Charles Ratcliffe.

She developed a passion for Romany culture, actively engaging with members of the Romany community and Gypsy Lore Society. She published many volumes of dialect poetry and fiction, including children's verse, relating to her fondness for Romany people.

Dorothy travelled widely throughout her life, particularly with her second husband, Noel McGrigor Phillips, who acted as photographer during their travels. As at home, she actively sought contact with Romany and travelling families when abroad.

The current display of Romany items from Dorothy's collection is predominantly made up of photographs and publications. It also features artificial flowers made from wood shavings, which are traditionally sold at Romany markets and horse fairs.

Mrs McGrigor Phillips gave her collection to the Brotherton Library in 1950, though she continued to purchase and donate material. The Romany Collection was catalogued in 1962 and through her endowment has continued to grow. Many of her own works are included.

The small display is situated in the Special Collections reading room and can be viewed during normal opening hours.