Obituary: Man who wrote three books about growing up Romany in Norfolk

Mike Harmer, 79 years old, has written three books about being brought up Romani in Norfolk in the 4

Mike Harmer, from North Walsham, has died at the age of 79. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

A man of proud Romany heritage who was a goldmine of Norfolk lore has died aged 79.

Although Mike Harmer was born and died on the same patch of land outside North Walsham, he had a restless, nomadic spirit and loved nothing better than travelling in his truck from place to place, doing and deal and having a yarn.

He owned a reclamation yard and it was there much of Norfolk passed through his hands. Bannisters, doors, floorboards and fireplaces all salvaged from demolition sites across the county.

Mike Harmer in a Bow Top Vardo he built. Picture: Nick White

Mike Harmer in a Bow Top Vardo he built. Picture: Nick White - Credit: Archant

One of five siblings, Mr Harmer was born to Romany parents in July 1942 in a railway carriage at Spa Common.

His father, Edgie, was a horse trader and his mother, Mary Lamb, instilled in her son a love of Romany culture.

By the local standards of the time, the family was well off. His parents worked all the time, buying and selling scrap, and their children went to the cinema almost every night.

Mr Harmer attended Manor Road School and left education when he was 15-years-old to work on a farm at Colby.

In 1963, he set up his own reclamation business.

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He met his future wife Hazel in 1969 and they married in 1972. The couple had three sons together, Mark, Rodney and Shane.

Mike Harmer, 79 years old, has written three books about being brought up Romani in Norfolk in the 4

Mike and Hazel Harmer, who married in 1972, at their home in North Walsham. - Credit: Brittany Woodman

The family lived in various places including Briston, North Walsham and Smallburgh before settling in a house Mr Harmer had built in 1992 at Spa Common.

In his later years he wrote three books. 'Kaka, Rokker Romany' and 'The Romany Chal' both explore growing up in Norfolk in the 1940s and 1950s and 'King of the Commons' tells the story of his grandfather, Butty Lamb.

Lydia Harmer, his granddaughter, said: "He was cheeky, witty, funny and loving."

Mike Harmer, Tales from a North Norfolk Romany Life. Pictures: Mike Harmer

Mike Harmer, who has died at the age of 79, wrote three books about growing up Romany in north Norfolk. - Credit: Archant

Mr Harmer died of cancer on Tuesday, February 22.

He is survived by his wife, his sister Maureen Purdy, his three sons and five grandchildren.

His friend Nick White said: "Mike was a remarkable man. He was very proud of his heritage, his mother was a Romany from the Lamb family, and you could tell that even though he was born and finally died on the same patch of land, the nomadic spirit still flowed through his veins."