Bartley Gorman King of the Gypsies Book Review. Before I talk a little about this excellent book I want to make one personal opinion clear. Who determines who is the real King of the Gypsies? Is there really a King of the Gypsies? This is not meant as a disrespect to any of the Gypsy fighters out there. They are a tough breed who are taught to fight from a very early age. I know this first hand after going through a stage in my younger years where I was hanging around with Gypsy's on a daily basis who lived near to me. Fighting was at the top of their daily "to do" list. However, In my opinion there isn't a true King of the Gypsies. Not anymore anyway.
I say this because amongst the Gypsies there are different bloodlines, different clans. And people from certain "breeds" will say that a fighter from their bloodline is the king. Then another breed will claim that one of their fighters is the King. And it just keeps going around and around. So basically it depends who you ask and what bloodline they are from. Although people from different bloodlines will respect another good gypsy fighter from another clan if he warrants or deserves respect.Truth is, there are good fighting men from most of the breeds. Want a little look inside the book? Read the Prologue and part of the first chapter here for free.
But then comes the problem of getting the best to fight the best. As we now see with the bare knuckle boxers of today like Big Joe Joyce's sons and the McGinley's. The fight, for one reason or another, just can't get made. But credit to the Joyce's, in particular the younger Joe "Hulk" Joyce, at least he doesn't say that he is the King. He just wants to get on with it and fight. Whereas, Simon McGinley, although he hasn't fought anyone of note, he claims to be the King..This is the kind of ridiculousness we are dealing with in this day and age. But then again, some of the fighters of the Joe Joyce Sr - McGinley Sr Era used to do the same thing.
Claim to be the King, and even claim victory when there's a commotion within the crowd while in mid-fight. Where's the honour. It's just a mess to be honest. And it's more about bragging rights than anything else, even if that means "winning" by any means possible (fake victory). It's been made even worse these days though with the Internet and all the video wars and call outs on youtube that now take place between rival family's. So, is there a real King of the Gypsies. No, I don't believe there is. There are Kings of certain breeds and areas. Are there some really good gypsy fighters who are tough as nails and have a lot of heart due to pride, family honour and fighting tradition: Absolutely. But, if there ever was a true King of the modern day, it was Bartley Gorman the fifth.
Bartley Gorman V was born to fight. He came from a long line of Gorman's. Some of which were fighting men and some of them weren't. However, from birth Bartley was expected to be a bare knuckle fighter and unbeaten champion. It was distilled in him from an early age. This in itself created a mindset and self belief in Bartley that made him so mentally strong that he truly believed he could not be beaten. And he never was beaten in over 2 decades of fighting gypsies and hard countrymen from all over the UK in bare knuckle matches on fair grounds, caravan parks, outside pubs, even down mine shafts. You name it. He could punch like a mule too. His trademark punch was called the Bull Hammer, and many men fell victim to that blow over the years. Check out the great video above if you haven't seen it before. It was made by Shane Meadows. This was when Bartley Gorman was 51 years old. You can see him doing a workout on the punch bag and its clear that there's still some bulls in those hammers! He can sing a bit too!
There are 16 Chapters that make up the Bartley Gorman King of the Gypsies Book
Chapter 1: In the Days of Giants
Chapter 2: Born To Fight
Chapter 3: Coming of Age
Chapter 4: Big Just
Chapter 5: A Band of Gypsies
Chapter 6: Unlicensed
Chapter 7: King of the Gypsies
Chapter 8: Streetfighting Man
Chapter 9: Massacre on St Leger Day
Chapter 10: Bad Times
Chapter 11: The Battle of Longrake Mine
Chapter 12: Suicide Fighters
Chapter 13: Fight at Sam's Funeral
Chapter 14: The American Killer
Chapter 15: The Outlaw
Chapter 16: The Unforgiven
This book is a mountain of knowledge and insight, not just into the world of bare knuckle boxing, but also into the history of Gypsy traditions. And of course, the life and mission of the man himself, Bartley Gorman. Bartley Gorman King Gypsies Book has many highs, and some lows which conjure up a whole host of good and bad emotions. It did for me anyway. Sometimes you feel good for Bartley, and other times really bad. It's a winding road of ups and downs, which will have you eager for more.
The book mentions, and has fighting stories of a lot of legendary fighters, some of those include Jack Ward, Joseph "Chasey" BlackBird, Price, Martin (Black Martin) Fury, Bill Elliot, Jack Fletcher, Sam Ward, Jim Crow, Uriah Burton (Big Just), Dan Rooney, and some of the more recent gypsy fighting men like John Fury, Aney (Ernie) McGinley, James Quinn-McDonagh and Big Joe Joyce Sr. Also, Lenny Mclean and Roy "Pretty Boy" Shaw are talked about because there was a time when challenges were issued and fights against Mclean and Shaw were possible. But for whatever reason those fights did not take place. Who would have won? That's a heated debate in many circles, but who really knows for sure.
It's also nice that there are quite a few pictures of fighters in this book. There have been a few fighters who's names are well-known, even legendary in some areas of the UK, that I've wanted to put faces to for a long time and this book supplied that. Just out of curiosity, the one fighter I wanted to see the most who I'd heard mentioned a lot was Uriah Burton (Big Just), and there is a picture of him in this book. Other pictures include many of the Gorman family past and present, and quite a lot of other fighters too, like Lewis Welch, Ivan Botton, Terry Ward, Bernie Ward, Henry Francis, Henry "The Dental Surgeon" Arab, Joe-Boy Botton, John-John Stanley, Boxer Tom, Siddy Smith, Tommy "Tucker" Lee, Albert "N*g*er" Smith, Sam Ward, Jim Crow, Sam Gorman, Sam Price, Riley Smith and Johnny Winters. There's even an image of Bartley Gorman with the great, Muhammad Ali.
Bartley Gorman is the most likeable and honest out of all the gypsy fighters that I have read up on, and watched footage about. Throughout the book that's what really stands out. It's not your average "I'm Ard" type of book where you just get the feeling that the guy is spinning you a yarn just to make the book more exiting and make himself look hard. This book seems straight from the heart, and it gives a really good account of how Bartley Gorman really was as a man, not just a fighter. Yes, it is a biography (memoirs) type book and there is a lot of talk about his fights, run-ins with the Police, and many other crazy situations that Bartley found or put himself in. But you just get the feeling that it's all actually true because he (or the writer, Peter Walsh) described it in such a manner where it's not all about Bartley constantly trying to cut a hard man image, but him just telling you how it really happened. Like, for example, being honest enough to admit that some of the fights he was in were broke up before there was a clear winner. And that, along with many other instances in the book, makes him come across as a very genuine, respectful and truthful man. He was a man with morals that you can only admire. I would have liked to have met him in real life. This book is a spectacular read. It's genuinely one of those books that once you pick up it's hard to put back down. Buy this book!