IF you have any ailments, read on. I'm going to tell you how Petulengro, the BBC Gypsy, would have cured you.

How do I know? Simple. I have been sent a booklet called 'Romany Remedies and Recipes', printed in 1934. It comes from Mrs Mildred Gaskell, of Wilson Fold Farm, Fall Birch Road, Lostock, and includes treatments for problems ranging from rheumatism to relaxed bowels, from indigestion to inflamed eyes.

In the preface, Gypsy Petulengro says that when he broadcast in that year in the radio programme 'In Town Tonight' he received hundreds of letters "asking me to publish a book of these Romany recipes for various complaints". And he continues, recording something of which I was not aware (no, not even I have been at the Evening News that long!), that "I am also a frequent contributor to the Bolton Evening News, that live little Lancashire journal having asked me to give their readers more remedies".

But there is more of a local connection than that. Mrs Gaskell tells me that her father, Eldred Parker, the local greengrocer in Lostock who toured the area with his horse and cart, had a field with stables on it, at the junction of Lostock Junction Lane and Regent Road (near Lostock Station, where Sudbury Drive and Ashridge Close now stand). Although Mrs Gaskell does not herself remember this, she was told by her mother, Esther, that when Gypsy Petulengo visited Bolton, he stayed on that field with his horse-drawn caravan.

This particular Gypsy Petulengro, it seems, was the grandson of the old Gypsy Petulengro, immortalised by George Borrow in the books 'Romany Rye and Lavengro. "My father was the seventh son," he tells us, "and my mother was from a stock of Romanian Zingari. It was through her that I accumulated my knowledge of herbs and other remedies which had been handed down from her ancestors for centuries."

And he says that "most of the herbs and substances can be obtained from herbalists in any town".

So let's have a look at some of the things he had to offer.


l oz of Dandelion Root. Boil in one pint of water for five minutes (this is also good for liver disorders). Dose two table spoonfuls twice daily.


Boil 1 oz of the common stinging nettle (Urtica Dioica) in one pint of water. Take a small wineglass (16th of a pint) three times daily. NB: This is far better than products sold under fancy names, costing 5s (25p) per bottle of tablets.


1 oz Burdock (Arctiurn Lappa). Boil in one pint of water for five minutes. Dose, table spoonful twice daily.


The Herb Saxifrage (Pimpinella Saxifrage). 1 oz to one and a half pints of water, made as tea, by pouring over boiling water. Dose, a table spoonful after every meal.


The leaves of the Sweet Chestnut Tree (Castana Vesca). Boil 1 oz of the leaves to each one and a half pints of water. Strain and, when cool, add half ounce of honey and half ounce Glycerine. Dose, a small wine glassful upon rising, and again after last meal.

NB: This is a recipe that has brought me in hundreds of testimonials of cures recently.


The Herb Periwinkle (Vince Major). Boil 1 oz to one and a half pints of water. Dose: A wine glassful twice daily.


Yellow Dock Root. 1 oz to one pint of water. Dose, wineglass twice daily.


Make an ointment as follows:- 4 oz pure lard (no salt must be in it), add 1 oz of the leaves of the Plantain and half dozen leaves of the Ground Ivy. Place altogether in a basin in a hot oven. Press leaves well to obtain all goodness. Strain off into jar and use ointment externally. Put ointment freely into rectum at night. Use both these treatments at the same time.

Oh dear, the mind boggles ... anyway, had he not heard of Preparation H?

There are also other sections of the booklet, for instance, Old Romany Poaching Tricks (BOLTING RATS OR RABBITS FROM HOLES: Mix 2 ozs powdered Saltpetre with a quarter ounce Cayenne Pepper in water. Steep in solution strips of coarse brown paper or old rough calico about 12 inches long by two inches wide then thoroughly dry. Roll a strip up loosely and place in a windward hold, light and close the hole with a sod of turf. Watch the bolt hole or place net over it.)

And what about the Gypsy Doggy Hints -- "To make a new dog follow and never leave you for others, place a piece of soft bread under the armpit until permeated with perspiration. Then give it to the dog."

As far as I can imagine, I suspect if you did that to your pet dog, he would probably never bark to you again! But let's get back to we mere humans. Gypsy Petulengro also has a chapter on Embrocations, Ointments, etc, and he includes these 'recipes'.


4 oz fat from the kidney of the pig. 1 oz cutting from the frog of a horse's hoof. One Houseleek (the plant that grows on tiles of cottages, etc. A rosette-shaped plant). 1 oz scrapings from the bark of the Elder tree.

Place together in a hot oven, stirring continually while the fat is sizzling. Then strain off into a clean jar and use on skin complaints, cuts, sores, boils, bruises, etc.



The lotion for this is by the Albanian Romani named Choora-Achav (Hair Stop), and is difficult to make. It first has a bleaching action on the hair. Then eventually the poil bulb at the root dries up, and the hair falls out. The lotion can be obtained at Pontings, Kensington, London W*. Price 2s (10p) per bottle.

But there's one recipe in which, personally, I'm particularly interested (and you just need to look at the picture at the top of the page to see why!)


2 oz. pure Hog lard. One dram Chrysorobin. Mix well together and rub into the scalp. Be very careful that it does not get in the eyes. This remedy grows hair when every other method has failed.

Does anyone know the way to the nearest herbalist ... ?