Pikeys - Our Friends
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Pikeys are one of the best-loved of all the various demographic groups that make up the population of modern Britain. Their cheeky ways and reputation for honesty and hard work make them popular wherever they go and ensures steady employment whenever an employer needs trustworthy and diligent workers. To truly understand how Britain became the modern player on the world stage that it is today, it is essential that any historian develop an understanding of the vital part played in the development of the nation by this fascinating ethnic group.
The earliest confirmed record of Pikeys in Britain is dated to the 16th Century, when they lived as itinerant showmen travelling the length and breadth of the country setting up entertainments and sideshows wherever they found a village fete or festival. These entertainments were commonly tests of skill or gambling games, upon which small wagers would be placed. Thomas de Rychecunte, 3rd Earl of Snifflingthorpe, writing in 1502 informs us that
|"Cannye as they arre, ye gentle countryfolke know alle too welle not to truſt ye showmen who, to a man, are villains and rogues. [However,] shoulde it become knowne to them that one of the showmen is a Pikey, they flock to his stalle like geeſe upon graine, forre they know that there they shalle find a fair game with honeſt and simple rules. Mannye are they who have found thatte, upon completion of a game runne by a Pikey, they have become richer than afore ye game beganne."|
An earlier mention may date from 1237; though it must be recorded here that the writings in question, attributed to one Friar Richard of Fartteberrye Abbey, have never been proved to be of 13th Century vintage and some scholars have even suggested that they may in fact be 19th Century forgeries. Thomas tells us that
|"yere inne ye dale of Fartteberrye, alle hath been woefulle and Sadde. Forre our faire Village hath been ſette uponne onne alle ſydes by vagabonds, pad-footes and their Lykke; a plague arre they, thatte hath been making of ourre Lyves a Miſereye. Butte ytte cameth to paſs thatte, ynne the darke days of November whenne the dark nyghttes of Wynter hath been makkynge for theſe ungodly rogues an eaſye tyme offe ytte, Greatte Rejoicinnge waſſe heard ynne ye fields and bye-wayes. 'Ye Pikeyes cometh,' called out thoſe who werre at toil, 'Verilye, ye Pikeyes will delyvere Uſſe fromme the vagabonds and restorre Law and Goodeneſſe to our Manor!' And whenne theſe Greatte, Noble and Honourable Menne saw thatte we were beſieged thuſse, they tooke up their Swordes and their greatte mannye Weaponnes, and with them they did dryve ye troubleſomme villaines away. Much merryement tooke place thereafter, with a Fayre in their honoure, and we ye elders of ye village saw thatte the Pikeyes' needes were adequately ſeene-to by our Daughters, with a greate deale of Gladde-neſse in our Hearts."|
It is often claimed that the Pikey is in fact an offshoot of the Irish breed known as Knackers. It is true that historical accounts of both breeds have similar respect for the trustworthy nature of either the Pikey or the Knacker. William Carlton, on one of his many Irish journeys, said in 1847
|"The Knacker profess a terrible similarity to our own native breed of Pikey. Perhaps not as stout around the shoulder and nor as dexterous in the burning of homesteads, but making up with blind enthusiasm that welcomes all to their endeavours."|
However there is scant evidence that the Pikey is a sub species, it all stems from a fragment of document, one that is impossible to date for certain. Supposedly a piece of a decree issued by the last king of the Knackers, King Mike XII, it reads
|"... Ye arre Bannisheede fromme yere... cameth... alle and theirre Lyke to be gonne to o'er ye oceanne... to be knowne as Pickie..."|
A historian would be hard-put to find
anythyngge anything other than glowing accounts of people's experiences with the noble Pikeys anywhere in the annals of time, no matter how many libraries he were to search. Even the staid Victorians, so often intolerant of those with ways different from their own, could find nothing bad to say about them. Queen Victoria herself is known to have had a Pikey maid named Siobhan O'Flanerty at Windsor Castle, who was given the highly responsible task of polishing the silverware when it became apparent that nobody else could be trusted to resist the temptation to steal when surrounded by such priceless riches.
Visiting Pikeys at Home
Pikeys are generally to be found on encampments known as 'Sites' outside large towns where they have resisted the encroachment of the modern world upon their traditional way of life. Outsiders, known to the Pikeys as 'Guests,' are welcomed into the camps and can expect to be treated like old friends. Stay for a day or two, and they'll think of you as a beloved family member. However, should you take such an opportunity and visit a Pikey Site, be warned that you may suffer a form of culture shock for a while - but this will soon pass. Though you may at first find their lifestyle disagreeably old-fashioned, you will shortly begin to find it idyllic.
Upon arrival at the Site, you may find that you are suddenly surrounded by dogs. Although these animals may look somewhat wild, they are in fact an old-established breed known for their friendliness and long recognised by the Kennel Club who have given them the official breed-name Pike Hounds (qv.). Pikeys themselves refer to them as dags, and they take a great pride in the breeding of these fine, faithful and gentle animals. Pike Hounds are bred to run and love to play - run as fast as you can into the camp so that any Pikeys watching will realise that you have befriended their dags, for any friend of the dags is a friend to the Pikeys.
If you find that you have entered the camp without attracting the attentions of the dags, call out to the inhabitants to allow them to know of your arrival. Welcoming to strangers they may be, but Pikeys are also houseproud to a fault and would not wish you to see their homes before they've cleaned them from top to bottom. After all, it will not have been possible to telephone them beforehand to warn them of your visit, since they are travellers who live in caravans. They do not even have mobile phones - Pikeys live almost at a subsistence level and, without the wealth to which those of us who live in modern towns have become accustomed, have no way of obtaining such expensive modern electronic equipment. Since they set such store by traditional manners, it is of course best to use a traditional greeting such as "Oi! Pikey scum!" (Note: although there is a word with insulting overtones spelled identically in English, the Pikey word 'scum' translates as 'honourable and noble travelling clan.') Remember that, amongst their many traditional ways, Pikeys live off the land and as a result one of the few modern inventions they have adopted is the shotgun, which makes it far easier for them to shoot the rabbits and hares which make up a large part of their diet. They are intensely proud of their shotguns and spend many hours a day cleaning and oiling them, so do not be alarmed if, when you call out to them, they emerge with such devices in their hands.
Pikeys express themselves through their unique sculpture. This ancient craft traditionally utilises scrap metal which is often burnt to give a patina suggestive of great age, and you may see several old bicycles, motorcycles and cars positioned about the Site, some of which may even be on fire. These are collected by local authorities from townspeople who gladly donate them, and are then handed out to the Pikeys by the Arts Council who in recent years have taken many steps to support the Pikeys' indigenous culture and to prevent their ancient craftsmanship from disappearing - the world would surely be a much poorer place without the timeless beauty of their art.
Pikey Sites, being as they are far removed from the infrastructure we have come to rely on in our cosy towns, are not usually connected to the sewerage systems and refuse collections take place rarely. However, the Site will be kept spotlessly clean at all times - human waste is collected in purpose-built trenches often dug alongside hedgerows so as to provide a modicum of privacy to those using the facility. Though referred to by Pikeys as ditches, these are not to be confused with drainage or irrigation ditches that may be connected to water supplies and/or streams and rivers - great care is taken to ensure that no watercourse is polluted. When the Pikeys decide it is time to move on to a new Site, the ditch will be refilled with the earth that was removed during construction. Farmers actively encourage Pikeys to set up camp on their land as, once rotted into the soil, these ditches greatly increase the productivity of agricultural land.
Rather than allowing refuse to clutter up their spotless caravans, Pikeys collect it in heaps positioned strategically around the Site and take great care to disguise them so as not to negatively affect the natural beauty of the countryside. The skill with which they do so will become apparent if you visit a well-established Site that has been occupied for several years or even generations - try as hard as you might, and chances are you will be unable to spot where the refuse has been stored. Just as is the case with the ditches mentioned above, the Pikeys take great care to deal with the pile when the time comes to move on - all residents of the Site are expected to contribute however much they can afford to pay for the refuse to be collected and responsibly disposed of, with particular regard given to this task being carried out in an environmentally-conscious manner.
One reads so many terrible stories in the news concerning children in the modern age, and anyone could be forgiven for living under the impression that any child they pass in the street is likely to pull out a knife and mug them for their wallet, or maybe to bludgeon them to death in a "happy-slap" attack while their friends film it on their mobile phones ready to later upload it to YouTube. Visiting a Pikey Site will come as a breath of fresh air, for here all children are pure, innocent creatures of joyfulness and light. Their charming laughter and gaiety bring magic into the hearts of even the most jaded Guest, and their faultless good manners are a much-needed relief from the harsh ways and words of the children found in urban areas. When meeting a male Pikey child for the first time, it is considered traditional to refer to him as a "gay little chap." He'll love you if you do and probably ask his parents to invite you to dinner.
Charitable organisations would be far poorer were it not for the naturally altruistic, philanthropic ways of Pikey children who are well-known for their ingenious fund-raising schemes. Rather than succumbing to boredom as so many children do in these times, Pikey kids use the time when they are not in school wisely - you will commonly find them doing the shopping for local old folk who are not as mobile as they once were or organising sponsored litter-picks with all donations going to schemes designed to help the poor.
Pikey kids have an innate love of learning, so sadly absent in many young people today, and their parents take great pride in their children's ability to read and write from an early age - most four-year-old Pikey children, on their first day at school, have a reading ability far in advance of that of the average 16-year-old. Education is considered absolutely vital at home, with most young Pikeys expected to spend several hours each evening studying subjects not normally taught in schools, including practical skills and trades, such as the the salvage industry and lock-smithing, the latter being a trade they traditionally excel in - this has given rise to the popular saying, "What kind of key can open any door? A Pikey!"
78% of Pikey teenagers will go on to higher education (compared to 12% of the general population) and the vast majority of those will gain a degree. There are more Ph.D. students from a Pikey background than any other.
Pike Hounds or Dags
As mentioned above, Pikeys are enormously proud of these noble beasts, bred by them since time immemorial. Tall, gentle, faithful and elegant, the exact origins of the breed are lost in the mists of time and it is only today, with modern advances in genetic science that we have begun to unravel their history. Scientists have, thus far, managed to ascertain a few breeds that have gone into the Pike Hound's make-up; namely wolf, fox, German Shephard, Rottweiler, Doberman, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pitbull, Neapolitan Mastiff, Wolfhound, jackal, and English Bull Terrier. Several other strains of DNA have been discovered but as of yet have not been studied closely enough to improve our knowledge of the breed. Interestingly, one strand closely resembles human DNA found only in the O'Flagherty family, many of whom are in fact Pikeys - how this came to be is a mystery.
In recent years the interaction between Pikeys and Chavs has led to the adoption of the previously urban ASBO breed into the greater pikey community. The ASBO is a short, squat, muscular dog, distinguished by the capacious folds about its neck, which it carries in the form of a hood or cowl. They are traditionally used for the purposes of scaring brown people, harassing young children and defaecating on public transport. The ownership of ASBOs by pikeys is considered somewhat controversial, as an ancient law, from 1741, explicitly restricts them to Council Estates and thus their ownership by roaming bands of nomads is, technically, illegal. It is similarly illegal to own an ASBO without dressing it in a brass harness weighing at least 30% of the dog's bodyweight. Following the Crown-v-Rooney case of 1996, it is no longer an offense to have an ASBO on a lead in a public place, although it is still far from socially acceptable on the council estates, or 'feral reserves', on which they roam.
The Caravan and Home Life
Pikeys still live in traditionally-styled caravans, much like the gypsy wagons of olden times. Their arrival at a new improvised camp-site is sure to be celebrated by its local inhabitants who run through the town shouting out the traditional celebratory song "Lock up your valuables, the Pikeys are here." House-wives cheer in the sure knowledge that the supply of clothes-pegs is now secure, scrap-dealers chuckle at the inevitable upswing in trade and the local constabulary welcome the colourful addition to the community, happy to forgo their leisure time in return for unlimited overtime as all police leave is cancelled.
If you have never visited Pikeys at home before, the simplicity within which they spend their lives may at first seem stark, even rudimentary to you. Like the Amish, they eschew a great many of the modern luxuries to which their Guests have become accustomed and exist with just the basic things they need in their day-to-day lives. The average caravan will contain few of the electrical goods found in a town house, with entertainment limited to that which can be provided by a wide-screen plasma TV, satellite dish with 250+ channels, DVD recorder, state-of-the-art hi-fi system, Playstation, X-Box and PC. Labour-saving devices will be limited to a dishwasher, fan-assisted oven, food processor, microwave oven, fridge, freezer, Breville sandwich toaster, juicer, smoothie maker, George Foreman Fat-reducing Grill, blender and vacuum cleaner. One wonders how it is that Pikeys are able to afford these few necessities, that to us seem the absolute basics but to them are luxuries. Much as Romany gypsies rely on log fires in the great outdoors for their winter warmth, Pikeys use gas-fired central heating systems.
The genders have retained their traditional roles in Pikey families, with the women doing the vast majority of the cleaning, child-rearing and a home-keeping whereas the men go out to work and hunt. A Pikey woman's work is never done, for she takes a great pride in her home - the caravans are never less than spotless even though she may be cooking for her large family and looking after a great number of babies and small children. Though endlessly busy, she is always cheerful and glad to receive Guests. She is never happier than when her husband comes home at the end of a hard day and she can delight him with a delicious dinner cooked from fresh ingredients - Pikeys believe it is wrong to eat pre-cooked and frozen convenience food or fast food such as McDonalds. Any Guest who sees the joyfulness of a Pikey woman as she goes about her daily chores may find themselves wondering if a non-Pikey woman in today's world might not be better off and a great deal happier were she to give up her career and return to the time-honoured female roles of house-keeping and serving her menfolk.
So many of Britain's traditional social groups have vanished as we gradually become an amorphous whole. But what price progress? The concept of the melting pot is undoubtedly an admirable one, in that it intends to bring an end to racism and prejudice and make us all equal. But vive la difference! The world is a richer and more interesting place with variation.
Thankfully, it seems that Pikeys are not about to go the way of all those ethnic groups who have vanished, never to be seen again, into the miasmic strata of modern society. They are a proud race, who want to preserve their way of life and ask only that we tolerate their right to do so. Let us welcome these fine, upstanding, noble and, above all, honest people; and let us value the countless contributions they make to our nation. Visit a Pikey Site as soon as an opportunity arises to do so - you may never leave!