When I am asked 'Where do you come from?', I invariably open my response with 'My wife and I were both Gypsies'. Not very PC, perhaps, but it reflects the fact that we both spent the time before we maried in many diferent places, never spending enough time in any to call it home.
I never, in all the times I have had these discussions, imaginged that amongst the douglases there was some one who revelled in the title "King of the Gypsies", awarded him by his own Romany people for his many achievements.
Charle Douglas died last week.
Charlie's ability to inspire his gypsy peers led in 1974 to him being invited by the government to act as an adviser on Romany affairs. The post brought Charlie into contact with legal lord Lord Birsay, who became a fast friend of the "King of the Gypsies" and a regular visitor to his family home in Larkhall. So valuable was Charlie's input and so highly was his advice valued by the Scottish Office that he was created a Member of the British Empire in 1974.
His campaign for the creation of travelling people’s sites (twenty one) across Scotland was backed by the Scottish Office of its day. His dedication and hard work resulted in success. All 21 sites opened including one at Swinhill in Larkhall.
His son David said: "My Dad's title of 'King of the Gypsies' was one no other gypsy person ever disputed and he was a king – not just of Romany folk but also as a husband and much-loved father, grandfather and great-grandfather.''
Charlie died 13 September, 2009, in Larkhall, Lanarkshire, aged 79. He is survived by his wife Margaret (b.c. 1936, married 1954), three sons, David (the Scottish Welterweight champion and the first for about 50 years to successfully defend the title), Charlie and Alex (owner of South Lanarkshire Builders in Larkhall’s Carlisle Road), four grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
He was buried at Hamilton’s Bent Cemetery.
His biography can be found in the Douglas Archives