Clive White speaks to former Craven Herald reporter, Robert Dawson, about his new novel for young adults -"Tuesday, Wednesday Quake Day " - his passion for the gypsy life and his time in journalism..

AS a lad in his mid teens and early 20s, Robert Dawson, developed a fascination for the culture of travelling people. So much so that he lived in a traditional gypsy caravan in the back garden of his parents home in Bingley.

And it wasn't a fad. Robert had diligently saved up every penny of the farm labouring, early morning milking and gardening he did in his spare time amassing £80 to buy the bow roofed home-from-home.

That love of the the Romany world, the romance of travelling free untethered by the demands of ordinary life, has stuck with Robert, now 72, throughout his life.

It led to him being honoured with a Lifetime award by the Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups for his half century of voluntary work with Romanies and Scottish travellers.

And his new book has as its hero a Romany boy and his friend who set out on a quest to find the boy's sister missing in an earth quake caused in part by fracking.

It was Robert's time working at the Herald in the 1960s that the love of the Romany life was intensified after meeting Skipton traveller Henry Miller and his mother who lived in Hallams Yard.

"I felt very honoured that they took me into their trust and their home," said Robert who now lives in Derbyshire.

"There is so much guff and misunderstanding about Romany people who often get the blame for the action of others.

"Henry taught me a lot about his ethnicity, including language and I was even able to note several folk tales.

"His father was a renowned raconteur of old traditional tales and some of these have since appeared in folk tale anthologies."

In researching for his book, Robert discovered that fracking in the USA could cause problems when there were other local factors.

"That's the theme of the book and it seemed fitting to involve Romanies who often find themselves on the receiving end of environmental messes not of their making," said Robert, who later worked for the Telegraph & Argus before becoming a specialist crime and police journalist, eventually retraining as a teacher.

He describes his time on the Herald as "paradise". “I learned so much about journalism and about people and I was with a lovely crowd of reporters – I remember them all with affection.

“The only fly in the ointment was that on £6 a week pre-tax and bed and breakfast at £4.10s, I was forever hungry. I decided that I had to sell my gypsy caravan just to survive so I advertised it in the paper. I got one call – from Henry Miller who was also intrigued and wanted to know why I was selling it.

"On the evening Henry invited me over, I stood a long time near Hallams Yard plucking up courage. Finally, I risked it and knocked on their door.

"I was made most welcome by Henry and his mother Annie and presented with a feast fit for a king.

"One evening a week from then on, I went to Henry’s, listened to the Romany language and his family’s history, met other Romany people, wrote down folk tales and listened in awe to the music. When I left, they’d pack me up with sandwiches for the next day.”

In the early 1980s, Robert formed a Gypsy Liaison Group in Derbyshire and persuaded many gypsy people, as well as councillors, clergy, police, health and education representatives to work together. That group spawned a national body to which most of the country’s gypsy groups and some traveller groups belong.

After retiring as a head teacher, Robert began full time writing and has over 80 books and specialist papers, mostly on Romany people, to his credit.