GLS - Gypsy Lore Society Archive - 1888-1973

Archive level description: Sub-sub fonds
Physical Description:170 boxes; 38 bound volumes (35 linear metres)
Reference Number:GLS
Access Conditions:The copyright in the Lee Family Correspondence is the property of the Lee family. Researchers must apply in writing to the Head of Special Collections and Archives to request permission to quote material from these papers. All correspondence will be passed to the Lee family representative who will be responsible for granting permission to publish material from these papers.
Access Restrictions:Letterbooks GLS A26-30 have been microfilmed to preserve the fragile originals, and readers requesting this material will be routinely asked to use the microfilms.
Biographical/Administrative Information:

In May 1888 David MacRitchie, a qualified accountant from Edinburgh who had given up his profession in favour of his intellectual pursuits, sent out a circular announcing the newly formed Gypsy Lore Society. The circular gave the aim of the society as "...investigating the Gypsy question in as many-sided a manner as possible". The first period of the society had lasted only four years when, in 1892, having published only three volumes of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, lack of funds paralysed its activities. MacRitchie was determined to revive the Society; despite the fact that many of the original contributors had died, he began in 1906 to discuss with John Sampson the feasibility of this proposition.

Robert Andrew Scott Macfie, a Liverpool man, was their choice to take on the unenviable task of rousing the Society. Copies of the circulars, notices and letters he sent out form a major part of the archive. In 1907 the first volume of the JGLS New Series was issued with a prefatory note by David MacRitchie describing the Society as "More vigorous than ever" and "devoting itself with renewed energy to Gypsy study in all its various phases" (JGLS New series 1907). Within a few years Macfie increased the Society's membership from below 100 to over 200 and even made the Society financially viable for a short time. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 the Society languished, and Macfie, on his return from four years' service, was exhausted and unable to provide the impetus for a fresh start.

The hiatus ended in 1922. With the initial backing of the brothers James and William Ferguson, the next chapter of the Society was a success, continuing for the next fifty-two years with the input of such noted Gypsy scholars as Eric Otto Winstedt, T.W. Thompson, F.G. Ackerley, Macfie, who resumed his post as Secretary and Editor in 1932 until his death in 1935, H.J. Francis and Dora Yates. Dora Yates had assisted Macfie with the editing and production of the JGLSfrom 1907 and on his death in 1935 became Honorary Secretary. Although she had had editorial control since Macfie's death, it wasn't until 1955 that Yates officially became the editor of the JGLS. It was Yates who brought the Gypsy Lore Society to Liverpool University Library, continuing her work for the Society from her office in the University even after her retirement in 1945. After her death in 1974, the Society, with Liverpool no longer as its base, produced a sporadic fourth series of the JGLS. In 1977 the Gypsy Lore Society, North American Chapter was formed.