WM minister, naturalist, author and broadcaster, born on 15 February 1884 in Hull, the son of two WM evangelists who had worked for the Salvation Army. His mother Matilda Evens (née Smith) was the sister of 'Gipsy' Smith. He grew up in Liverpool, where his father was serving as a WM missioner. Educated at Queen's College, Taunton and Handsworth College, he was an attractive personality who began to write for the Cumberland News and the Methodist Recorder while stationed in the Carlisle Circuit (1914-1926). Rejected for active service because of a heart condition, he developed a ministry among the local munitions workers; and in 1923 he became the first minister of the newly opened Central Hall, having been actively involved in its building scheme. His wife Eunice (née Thomas) was the daughter of a Congregational minister and gave him much support in the administrative aspects of his ministerial role.
His favourite haunt was Old Parks Farm, Glassonby, near Penrith, owned by a Methodist family named Potter. (A birdbath there marks the place where his ashes were scattered.) From 1933 his 'Out with Romany' series was broadcast on BBC 'Children's Hour' to an audience that reached 13 millions. Few realised that the programmes were broadcast from the studio and not on location. In addition to two series of nature books featuring his spaniel Raq, he wrote a regular article in the Methodist Recorder over his pseudonym 'The Tramp'. His son Glyn K. Evens added four more titles to the series.
After periods in Huddersfield and Halifax, a congenital heart problem caused him to retire from the ministry in 1939 and he died at Wilmslow on 20 November 1943. His gipsy caravan, the 'Vardo', was preserved at Wilmslow by Macclesfield Borough Council, but is now in the Bradford Industrial Museum. A 'Romany Society' preserves his memory.
His daughter Romany Watt (died 31 March 2015) had a successful career in the theatre and in journalism. The Rev. Roly Bain, a 'clown-minister', is his grandson.
'Sacred to the memory of Rev. G. Bramwell Evens - Romany of the BBC - whose ashes are scattered here. Born 1884. Died 20 Novenber 1943. He loved birds and trees and flowers and the wind on the heath.'
Memorial inscription at Old Parks Farm, Glassonby
Memories of Romany
How well we knew Romany in Yorkshire. We remember his preaching and his lecturing; we remember the great crowds he always dew. His fame went ever before him. He was indeed a magnet drawing hundreds, not only to hear him talk of birds and beasts, but also to see his face and to catch that wicked, flashing smile of his, so knowing, so captivating, so irresistible!
I do not know that any man of recent years has had so many young admirers - not even Uncle Mac. He loved children. He understood them. He was near to them in spirit for he never grew up. That was my quarrel with him all along. When he stayed with me he would play tricks like any schoolboy.
When I tramped in the country with him, he looked what he was, a tramp, and was a most embarrassing companion. He would stop and talk with anyone, and was on excellent terms with them within five minutes.
If you were his host, it was odd to get up in a morning and find your front door wide open, your guest gone for a walk, and no word of explanation, though, sure enough, he would turn up again as soon as breakfast was cooking.
And what eyes and ears! Romany the lecturer was marvellously alert and bubbling over witrh humour, but Romany in the woods and fields was even more alert, alive in every fibre of his lithe body, hearing, seeing and even feeling the call of nature. To be 'out with Romany' was to walk reverently in God's good world.
H.L.Gee in Romany Magazine, 1947, p.5