Loving tributes have been paid to a man who travelled by horse and wagon for 50 years around Dorset.

Dave Rawlins was devoted to his late wife, Romany gypsy Eileen, and together the two of them travelled the highways and byways of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire.

Father-of-four Dave was buried in a simple ceremony at Poundbury Cemetery in a service conducted by Revd Jonathan Herbert, Chaplain to Gypsies and Travellers.

Dorset Echo:

A horse-drawn hearse at Dave’s funeral at Poundbury Cemetery

He grew up on a farm near Shaftesbury and served nine years in the British Army post war; in Egypt Hong Kong and Singapore.

He served in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, looking after mules who were used for transporting supplies to inaccessible regions. When the mules were replaced by helicopters he took to looking after the officer’s polo ponies.

In the army he learnt how to shoe a horse and saddlery, skills which were to prove invaluable in his life on the road.

On leaving the army Dave was at a loss what to do, and one day out on his bike he met a group of horse drawn Gypsies.

They were Robert and Alice Hughes and their daughter Eileen who ran out to apologise as their dog tried to bite Dave. He got talking, as he always did and they invited him to travel with the family. Dave and Eileen fell in love and married in Broadmayne in 1961.

Dorset Echo:

Dave Rawlins playing his mandolin

For 50 years Dave and Eileen travelled by horse and wagon throughout the south west making friends wherever they stopped.

Their four children Olive, Marie, Leon and Sarah were all born and brought up on the road. It was a hard life collecting water, firewood and making clothes pegs to sell. They worked on farms pulling out weeds, picking blackcurrants and elderflowers.

Dave supplemented their income by busking with his mandolin and fine baritone voice.

Dorset Echo:

Dave and Eileen's horse and wagon

In 1997 the Revd Roger Reading met Dave and Eileen at one of their stopping places and was so impressed with their unconditional welcome of him and Dave’s strong Christian faith that he founded the Chaplaincy to Gypsies and Travellers.

As age slowed them down Dave and Eileen decided to hang up the harness and settled down at the Piddlehinton Traveller site. They kept in touch with their travelling heritage by keeping a small horse.

Dorset Echo:

Floral wreaths at Dave's funeral

Dorset Echo:

Floral tribute to Dave

Dorset Echo:

Mandolin floral tribute to Dave

Eileen, nee Hughes, died in May last year - her long marriage to Dave was described as a 'true love match' as it was so rare in the 1960s to marry outside the Romany Gypsy community.