Tom Odley

A Gypsy poet

Tom Odley, was born on the Isle Of Sheppey, in Kent, England, during 1929, of ‘Nidi’ (Romanichel) descent. 

He served close to 12years in the Royal Air Force, as a Physical Training/Parachute Jumping Instructor.  Along with his (late) Piremni, his Beloved Romni, Rose, Tom helped raise their ten children.  During the many years spent ‘on the Drom’ with his Family, and since settling down, following the tragic loss of his much-loved wife, Rose, as a result of a fire in their trailer-home, Tom has struggled for the rights of his People, the Rom.

Having a pleasant singing voice, and being a lover of ‘words’, Tom has employed his talents to promote the Romani Cause. 

Angered by “The Gypsy Industry” and its exploitation of his fellow Rom, for personal, academic, and political gain by some within the (so-called) “Support” groups, (both Gohja and Rom), Tom was instrumental in the establishment of The British Rommani Union, and, for many years acted as its general secretary. 

Tom has attended and participated in very many conferences and meetings, throughout Europe, and has been responsible for many communications with British Governmental Departments.

Aware of the truism that; “The pen is mightier than the sword”, Tom has used his poetry in attempts to convey to the Gohja, some of the emotions that rise within the Romani People as a result of their mistreatment within Gohja society. 

Now, approaching his “Three score years and Ten!”, Tom still struggles to promote his dream of a world wherein the Rom everywhere can aspire to, and attain, that “Freedom” that is, all too often accredited to “The Wandering Gypsy!”, by Gohja romantics.

The Lord Ramh said ; “And the greatest of these, my gifts, is understanding ! ”


Has the kohri-menčerko[1] made love to your throat

And your mind fled your head from the pain ?

Have you tried to escape the Gohjaken rape

Of your Sisters, your Brothers, your kin ?


Were you torn from the side of your parents or bride

To stand on the block once again ?

With the torments, the pains of the slave-trading chains ;

you'd jin[2] why the Rom are not “Free” ?


Forever we're tied to a past that's not died

But lives on in each Romani !


The mendiklo[3] we wear, lest our neck be left bare,

Is a cover for old mental weals,

From the fetters and rope that were placed round all

Hope of seeing our Čhave[4] born free !


The 'bit' and the 'bridle', no horse ever knew,

As the Rom were fated to wear ;

To keep us subdued while 'profit' accrued for the

Gohja, that seem not to care !


Our tears and our sorrow are a part of  'Tomorrow′,

Race-memories, that never can die,

Of escape-plots betrayed and feet-soles raw flayed,

Till the mind screams out… “Mo Devel[5]...Why ?”



Dreaming, beside your fatal fire, Mino, I’m wildly

dreaming ;     

In its flickering flames and red coals gleaming,

I’ve seen your love so warm and true.


Yearning, for want of lasting love, Mino, my soul is

yearning ;

Within my breast my heart is burning,

Afire with love for only you.


I saw you, your dark eyes filled with mystery ;

I knew then, that mine, in time you'd be.


Starlight ; the velvet sky above is filled with

sparkling starlight ;

The heavens conspire to make our love right,

Smiling down on you and me.


Pleading ; with all my heart and soul, Mino, to you

I’m pleading ;

That you will say my love you're needing,

That you and I'll be Romadi.


I saw you ; your shadow flickering in the flame ;

I knew then ; to be, for me you came.


Dreaming ; within your fatal fire, Mino, I’m wildly

dreaming ;

Your Gypsy eyes with love are gleaming,

With promise of Eternity.


Ending ; this love we share so strong, my Love, can

have no ending ;

Our futures now together blending,

From each other never free!

© Tom Odley, 1991

Translation Balval 2003

[1] kohri-mencerko : spiked-neck-collar with spikes pointed inward.
[2] jin : to know
[3] mendiklo : kerchief traditionally worn around the throat of Rom.
[4] Čhave : Boys, children.
[5] Mo Devel : My God.