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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Respects paid as caravan burns
Joseph Smith's funeral caravan on fire
The caravan was set alight as mourners watched
More than 100 mourners attended a traditional funeral for one of Wales' most popular Romany gypsies.

In keeping with the beliefs of their ancestors, Joseph Smith's caravan was set alight as friends and relatives said goodbye to the man they knew as 'The King'.

The popular 82-year-old had travelled across Britain during his lifetime but had chosen to settle in Brecon, mid Wales.

Mourners travelled from as far away as Ireland to pay tribute to Mr Smith and carry out the death rites required, which involved gathering around the camp fire for an all-night vigil.


On Monday, Mr Smith's coffin was taken on an antique-style, scrap metal truck, followed by three pick-up vans containing flowers and a horse-drawn drey which was also covered with them.

Funeral cars carried members of his family, while the remainder of the mourners walked the half-mile from the industrial estate where the site is based to the church.

Workers at local factories came out to watch the procession pass by.

Jo Smith
Joe Smith, known as 'The King'
Once the service was over, the mourners burned Mr Smith's caravan and belongings, as custom demanded.

Some aspects of the ritual have changed with time, Mr Smith's son Trevor explained.

"Many years ago they used to burn the caravan and the body together - when it used to be the horse-drawn caravan," he said.

His sister Donna Jones added: "We keep a couple of keepsakes, that is all - things that Dad gave us when he was alive. These things we will treasure.

"The caravan is burned to honour my father. Sometimes today when they are in council houses it can't be done. The Romanies have been forced into houses which can't be burned.

"Our traditional way of life is vanishing. We are put onto caravan sites and we are told not to light fires but how can we bury our dead with dignity if we can't light a fire?"

Donna Jones
Daughter Donna Jones: traditions disappearing
"My father was one in a million. He was king, god - everything to me."

Speaking before the funeral she said: "People will come and reminisce about my father and the times they spent with him and glorify him."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Donna Jones
"He would take farm work where he could get it"



SEE ALSO:
Celebration of Gypsy culture
15 Jun 03  |  Tyne
Wagon reveals gypsy heritage
03 Jun 03  |  South West Wales


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