The Tinker Experiment is one of a series of stories that somehow have fallen through the cracks of history. Anita Anand has taken up the story as part of her History on the Edge series currently being broadcast on Radio 4 (Mondays 11am and later on BBC Sounds).
At the end of World War 2, the authorities in Scotland, with the help of the Church of Scotland, wanted to bring an end to the nomadic traditions of the Scottish Travellers and Tinkers. They wanted this community to settle down in one place, put their children into school and become part of mainstream Scottish society.
The McPhee family were one such family who were ‘settled’ at Bobbin Mill near Pitlochry. There was no electricity and asbestos in the walls wasn’t removed until the 1980’s. In this episode, Anita meets with Shamus McPhee and three of his sisters who still live on the site. This programme examines the deep-seated prejudice that still prevails against gypsy travellers by members of the settled community. Many members of the Gypsy Traveller community are reluctant to reveal their background, fearing that this will turn prospective employers against them out of prejudice and fear. The McPhees are now seeking an apology from the Scottish Government for wrongs committed against them under the auspices of the ‘Tinker Experiment’.
This story was taken up by Bylines Scotland. As the author of an article TheTinker Experiment I have been asked to contribute to this episode of History on the Edge. I believe it is important for Bylines Scotland to get stories like this into the public domain. We are covering stories that other, more so called ‘mainstream’, parts of the media overlook or more worryingly deliberately ignore, because they don’t ‘fit’ with the editorial guidelines of their organisation. I hope this story strengthens the role of BylinesScotland and the idea that citizens can and should report the stories in their communities to hold the powerful to account for their actions.
When asked for a response to the story, the Scottish Government said of the original article;
“The Scottish Government will be commissioning independent research into the Tinker Experiment to ensure we are able to fully capture and understand its implications, identify who was involved and affected, and ensure the community has the opportunity to share its story.
“Work is underway to commission this research which includes meeting with relevant organisations and individuals, to aid our understanding of this period.”
The McPhees are still waiting for a satisfactory response from the Scottish Government.