John Sampson (1862-1931) was an Irish linguist, librarian, and scholar. His father, James, was a Cornish mining engineer who died in 1872, leaving little money for him and his family. The eldest child, Sampson left school after his father’s death. With the family now living in Liverpool, he was apprenticed for seven years to Alexander MacGregor, a lithographer and engraver. Sampson continued his education, reading widely, and when MacGregor retired, Sampson briefly set up his own small printing business, aged 22. In 1892, he was accepted as the first full-time librarian at University College, Liverpool, where he remained until 1928.


On a camping trip in 1894, Sampson encountered the musician Edward Wood. The Wood family to which Edward belonged were noted speakers of Welsh-Rómani, a Rómani dialect that was to become Sampson’s major area of study.


Through Edward Wood’s brother-in-law, Lloyd Robert, Sampson found Matthew Wood on Cader Idris in 1896. Wood was a passionate teller of folk-tales, stories which were related to him by his grandmother, Black Ellen, who supposedly knew two hundred such tales. A handsome fellow with long black curls, Wood lived near Corwen and Bala, and played his fiddle in their country inns.


Matthew Wood disappeared a few years later, but Sampson continued to spend his holidays with the Wood family, studying their language, from which stemmed his best-known work, ‘The Dialect of the Gypsies of Wales’ (1926).

Available Titles by John Sampson and Matthew Wood: