Thousands come to funeral of gypsy matriarch, 61, and her son

Thousands of travellers bring town to a standstill as they attend funeral at Lincoln Cathedral for gypsy matriarch, 61, and her son, 21, who died four months apart – with floral displays shaped like iPad, caravan and cigarettes

  • Ryalla Duffy, 61, died on March 10 after a sudden illness, and her son Absolom, 21, died in a car crash on July 8
  • Joint funeral service was held for the pair inside Lincoln Cathedral today with police warning of heavy traffic 
  • Ms Duffy formed the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups and ran a travellers’ site for over 20 years
  • Vee Duffy Williams paid tribute to mother and brother before service, saying they were ‘such lovely people’

Thousands of travellers brought a town to a standstill for the funeral of a gypsy matriarch and her son who died months apart, with floral displays shaped like an iPad, cigarettes and a caravan placed outside Lincoln Cathedral.

Ryalla Duffy, 61, passed away on March 10 following a sudden illness, and her 21-year-old son Absolom, known as Absy, died in a car crash on July 8. A joint funeral service was held for the pair today.

A procession including several limousines, 15 flatbed trucks filled with floral displays and two horse-drawn carriages carrying gold coffins departed from the village of Saxilby in Lincolnshire at around 8.30am.

Ms Duffy formed the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups – a body made up of 20 Gypsies, Travellers and Roma (GRT) organisations across England, Scotland and Wales – in 2005, taking part in police training, parliamentary meetings and conferences.

She ran a travellers’ site in Saxilby for more than two decades and was also a poet, filmmaker and author who gained recognition for supporting the rights of the Travelling community. 

A procession including several limousines, 15 flatbed trucks filled with floral displays and two horse-drawn carriages carrying gold coffins is seen outside Lincoln Cathedral for the funeral of Ryalla Duffy, 61, and her 21-year-old son Absolom

Mourners gather outside Lincoln Cathedral for the service. Ms Duffy formed the National Federation of Gypsy Liaison Groups – a body made up of 20 Gypsies, Travellers and Roma (GRT) organisations across England, Scotland and Wales – in 2005

Eight men lift one of the gold coffins outside Lincoln Cathedral earlier today. A handwritten message following the coffins read: ‘My Ry and dear Absy, who brought such love and wisdom to all they knew, will be forever remembered with love’

Floral tributes are seen on top of one of the 15 flatbed trucks. Ms Duffy ran a travellers’ site in Saxilby for over two decades and was also a poet, filmmaker and author who gained recognition for supporting the rights of the Travelling community

Speaking ahead of the funeral, Vee Duffy Williams paid tribute to her mother and brother. The 38-year-old told Lincolnshire Live: ‘They were both such lovely people and Absy was the most kind-hearted person I knew.

‘If someone asked him for help he would give them his last pound because we were all raised like that, and he always had such respect for his elders.’

Referring to the service, she added: ‘We’re expecting around 1,500 people there, but it could be up to 3,000.’

A handwritten message following the two coffins read: ‘My Ry and dear Absy, who brought such love and wisdom to all they knew, will be forever remembered with love.

‘Always your sweet pea, I was blessed to have had you in my life.’  

An obituary published in the Traveller Times shortly after Ryalla’s death told of how she had ‘lived the life, lighting many fires and telling many stories’.


Tributes to Absolom (pictured left), known as Absy, and Ryalla (right) are seen outside Lincoln Cathedral on Tuesday

Mourners and the horse-drawn carriages holding gold coffins are seen outside Lincoln Cathedral for the funeral on Tuesday

Two people are seen unloading a floral tribute from one of the flatbed trucks. Road closures and local diversions were in place until around 4.30pm

A mourner is seen outside Lincoln Cathedral ahead of the funeral today. An obituary published in the Traveller Times shortly after Ryalla’s death told of how she had ‘lived the life, lighting many fires and telling many stories’

A floral tribute reading ‘granny’ is seen outside Lincoln Cathedral on Tuesday. Speaking ahead of the funeral, Vee Duffy Williams paid tribute to her mother and brother, saying they were ‘both such lovely people’

The tribute read: ‘The community will miss her hugely and I shall miss a very dear old friend.’ 

Road closures and local diversions were in place until around 4.30pm, with Lincolnshire Police warning of heavy traffic across the city during the seven-hour procession.

The force said on Monday: ‘We are supporting Highways to keep the road network safe and ask that you plan any journey in the Lincoln area carefully tomorrow and allow extra time.

‘The road network around Lincoln is expected to be very busy between 8am and 3pm tomorrow as the funeral takes place.’

One of the gold coffins is pictured during the seven-hour procession before the service at Lincoln Cathedral in Lincolnshire

A gold coffin is carried out of one of the horse-drawn carriages. Lincolnshire Police warned of heavy traffic across the city during the seven-hour procession

Floral tributes are seen placed outside Lincoln Cathedral. An earlier tribute to Ms Duffy read: ‘The community will miss her hugely and I shall miss a very dear old friend’

Horse-drawn carriages pictured ahead of the funeral service today. Many shops in the city closed for the day and Lincoln County Hospital told patients with appointments to prepare for delays on their journey

Floral tributes reading ‘son’, ‘Absy’ and ‘mum’ are seen on flatbed trucks outside Lincoln Cathedral ahead of the service today

It added earlier today: ‘If you’re on the roads around the city today you’ll see a large police presence as we support @LincsCC_roads to manage the road network as a large funeral takes place at Lincoln Cathedral. 

‘Expect delays until around 3pm today.’

Many shops in the city closed for the day and Lincoln County Hospital told patients with appointments to prepare for delays on their journey.

Lincolnshire Highways also said the funeral could have a ‘very large attendance’ and that drivers should ‘expect delays throughout the day’.

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