‘I am a Scottish traveller' begins Jess Smith's bestselling account of her childhood as one of Scotland's travelling people. ‘Ask me where I belong,' she says: it is ‘wherever the feather falls or the seed is blown.' She is the proud inheritor of a long gypsy tradition. Her mother was born in a tent, and her aunts and uncles were described on official forms as tinkers, hawkers and itinerants. She herself lived from the ages of 5 to 15 with her parents, sisters and a mongrel dog, in an old blue Bedford bus. They travelled the length and breadth of Scotland, and much of England too, stopping here and there until moved on by the local authorities, or driven by their own instinctive need to travel. By campfires under the unchanging stars they brewed up tea, telling stories and singing songs late into the night.
Jessie's story describes what it was like to be one of the last of the traditional travelling folk. It is not an idyllic tale: her way of life was outside the margins of respectable society, and that society could be harsh to travellers. It was not easy to get a good education from widely scattered schools; sudden ill-health could present a problem to those who were not registered with any doctor, and the threat of bigoted abuse or even violence was never far away. Despite this, humour and laughter run throughout Jessie's childhood: her story teems with unforgettable characters and incidents. In more senses than one, this is a magical book: it is full of tales and songs, glimpses of animal and human nature. Jessie's Journey is seen through the fresh eyes of a girl growing into adulthood, travelling along the roads and the wild places of a Scotland few of us really know.
Reviews for Jessie's Journey on Amazon.co.uk (all 5 stars)
- "a fantastic delve into the past; wonderfully written,you can taste the tablet and the horror of the explosion,as well as being on tenterhooks as they climbed the devils elbow.,sends a shiver down my spine just thinking about it!!!!wonderful!!"
- A reader from Boston, Ma USA
"I purchased this book on a recent trip to Scotland. I had been specifically looking for childhood memoirs by Scottish writers and I couldn't have found a better one! This book is heartwarming, funny, moving and delightfully written. Books like this make one glad to be alive! Jess Smith's book, is full of joy!"
- "Absolutely wonderful...
Well, if anyone out there has a yearning for their child-hood (like me and I suspect, most people) then I suggest Jessies Journey is the place to start.
- "It took me 2 days to read this book (my normal timescale reckons between 2 to 3 weeks), and 1 very annoyed wife and 1 very angry boss later but well worth it in the end.
- "Jessie transports you on a fantastic journey that includes, bullying, stories of old, love, fantasies, hardships infact experiences that every single one of us can relate to!
- "Unfortunately, I am not an author and thats a shame because I cannot put my enthusiasm for this book into words. All I can say is fantastic followed by a lot of !"
- "A fabulous book. Don't read it on trains, planes etc or people will wonder why you are chuckling the whole time. It's the story of Jess, a Travelling Person (tinker, if you must) and her mainly nomadic childhood on the roads of Scotland.
- "Home was an old Bedford bus and as it takes Jess and her sisters and mam and daddy throughout much of Scotland, whilst the family earns a living in varioous seasonal work, we learn of the prejduicie and sometimes sheer hatred she and her family meet.
- Despite that, as I've indicated, it's not a sad book, though there are unhappy times. The humour of the situations and all that she experiences as a lively, intelligent child, comes through all the time. There's the time she finds a man and woman making love and is convinced the man is murdering her; the escapade with her cousin's slow worm in his troozers (for which a relative tells the innocent 7 year old she's a 'dirty wee girl' and the time she offended God (and his woman).
- "Yes, you'll need as hanky to dab the eyes occasionally, but above all this is a wonderfully written book which will appeal to all teen/adult ages..
- "Thoroughly recommnended. The first time I've ever felt moved to write a review on Amazon."