The Ballad of Gypsy Jack

Black Jack he was a gypsy man.
Lived his life in a rusty van.
Drank his tea from an old tin can.
Good old Romany Jack!

Yes, Jack was a Romany born and bred.
Strong in the arm, but thick in the head.*
Had a screw loose .... so they said.
Poor old gypsy Jack.

Now Jack, they said was none too bright.
He never learned to read and write.
Never learned to stand up and fight
Poor Black Jack.

Jackie never went to school,
Tried it once, but the kids were cruel.
And the teacher treated him like a fool,
Poor little Diddy coi Jack.

Jack was a stranger to water and soap,
Hair as black as tarry rope.
But he dreamed his dreams, and he lived in hope.
Did that old .... black old .... Jack.

Old Jack was raised in the Romany way
Slept all night and dreamed all day.
Just another Fenland stray.
Was good old gypsy Jack.

Always chasing that pot of gold.
Inside the betting shop, out of the cold.
Sitting on the bench with the young and the old.
That was Romany Jack.

The only friend he ever had
Was a mangy dog, that smelt so bad,
That even his fleas were driven mad,
So they lived on Jack instead.

Jack and his dog they lived as one
Sitting together in the summer sun,
Tucked up tight when the day was done
In old Jack’s .... black old .... bed.

Then one dark day a council man
Banged on the door of old Jacks’ van.
He said “You can’t stay here my man”.
Poor old gyspy Jack!

“It’s not hygienic, it’s just not proper.
If you don’t obey – you’ll come a cropper.
Cos I’ll come back and I’ll bring a copper.”
Poor black Jack!

“You can’t live in this van any more.
We’ve had complaints .... it’s against the law.
So, we’ll give you a flat .... with your own front door,
Are you listening, gypsy Jack ?”

Old Jack he did’nt know what to do
The van dweller’s life was all he knew
I’ll have to sit and think this through,
Said poor old Romany Jack.

So he sat and he sat .... and he thought and he thought
But Jack just wasn’t the thinking sort.
He didn’t want to go to court
Poor old gyspy Jack.

Some men turned up, and they did say
“We’re going to tow your van away,
You can’t stay here for another day...
So piss off ... Gypsy Jack!”

“We’re going to crush this stinking van
So pack up your clothes and your frying pan,
And don’t forget your old tin can.”
They laughed at Gypsy Jack.

Now here’s a key to a nice new flat
You know we can’t say fairer than that!
And wipe your feet on the new door mat ...
When you go in, Gypsy Jack.

Get your things, and stand aside,
Don’t you try to hide, inside.
But Jackie .... he just stood and cried,
As they towed his van away.

Old Jack went in through his new front door
And looked around at his nice clean floor.
He’d never live in a van any more.
Thought poor old Gypsy Jack.

Well night came down, and the walls closed in.
And old Jack’s nightmares did begin.
He knew he was lost and he just couldn’t win.
Poor old Romany Jack.

His dog began to whine and mope.
And sometime in the night they gave up hope,
So Jack took a piece of good strong rope.
And whistled to his dog to come.

When the sun crept in across the floor
Jack and his dog .... they were no more.
And hanging on the back of his new front door.
They found Jack and his dog.

So that’s the story of Gypsy Jack,
And this one’s true, as a matter of fact.
Putting him into a nice new flat,
Was the death of Romany Jack.

* I would add this: just because Gypsy Jack was “strong in the arm and thick in the head” no-one should suppose that we think all gypsies are! Few are well-educated, for two main reasons: they’re often moving on (or being moved on), and the education system is not kind to them – but a lack of education certainly doesn’t equate to a lack of brains.

When Deb read this at an open mic night, I was moved to tears – it reminded me so much of my old friend Steve.