Sid Rawle: 1945 – 2010

Sid Rawle at StonehengeSid Rawle, the so-called “King of the Hippies” passed away, on 31st August.

I knew Sid in the 70s/80s. I would run into him at free festivals, then I spent a summer living at Tipi Valley, the community that he helped to found.
He told me that his mother had been a Romany girl, his father an Exmoor shepherd; according to him, his mother had gone back to her people a year after his birth and he had been raised by his paternal grandmother. I don’t know how true any of that was but he certainly had a huge respect for women that would have come from being around strong women as a child.
And he had a great love for women as well. He had flaming red hair; around the free festivals, the big joke about him was that any red-haired child around was probably one of his. I was with him once when a woman carrying a red-haired baby walked by – she held up the baby and called out to him “This is another one of yours, Sid!” and he just chuckled.
He wasn’t particularly educated, but he was highly intelligent and loved to read. At a festival, he would wander into your van, greet you, pick up whatever interesting-looking book that was lying around and settle down for a couple of silent, intense hours of reading; when he finished, he would thank you for it and wander off somewhere else.
He was a master at peace-making and bridge-building. In a dispute, he could talk to anybody – police chiefs, biker gang leaders, junkies and councillors – and convince them to come to a compromise.
1984 was the last time I saw him. I kept track of him via friends of friends, and magazines; the 90s were none too kind to him – he had health problems and some women found his 60s brand of sexual licence unpalatable.

It’s so sad that he’s gone from us. He wasn’t all that old – born 1st October 1945 in Bridgewater, Somerset (I did his astrological chart* – he seemed to value my skill in that area).
He went easily, by all reports – slipping away as he sat at a campfire at the Superspirit Rainbow2000 festival in Gloucestershire.

Wherever he is now, I’m sure he’s sitting by a camp fire in front of a tipi, amongst rolling hills, enjoying a big mug of thick sweet tea and a long conversation with somebody interesting.

There’s a press report on his life here, and some 2007 video interviews here.

* He didn’t know his time of birth; I rectified it to 00:15 GMT, giving him an AS of 3 Leo.

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  1. 1 Not all his kids were red-haired.

    2 His nickname for himself was Bear of Little Brain.

    3 His reading ability improved after he’d been given lessons by a girlfriend previous to me. His writing skills were always meager.

  2. Sid's sister

    Sid’s mother wasn’t a “Romany girl” and Sid tells his heritage in an interview on You-Tube. Mine and Sid’s mother was born and bred in London (Fulham), as was our grand-mother, and great-grandmother. Betty, our mother, joined the Land Army aged 17 and was posted to Exmore in the 1940s where she met Sid’s father whilst she worked on a farm there. They were married for seven years before they divorced. Following a protracted custody battle, Sid was raised on an Exmore farm by his father and a step-mother. Sid believed that it was the combination of his city-bred mother and country-bred father that gave him his unique views concerning the rights of land-ownership for the people of England. Two of my brother’s seven children have his red hair, and very beautiful children they all are. Sid’s passing marks the end of a unique era of English history. He will be missed terribly by his family, we all loved him dearly. RIP dear brother.

  3. Hi Sid’s Sister – good to hear from his family. I wish now I’d made more effort to get in touch with him during the last few years. I too miss him – and his mugs of “British Rail tea”!
    I never really believed that story he told me about his parentage – perhaps at that time Sid felt he needed to weave some romance about himself. If so, it wasn’t necessary. He was brave, honourable and idealistic and needed no fairy tales around him.

  4. a stonechild

    am I included in the 7, Tris and being the beautiful red heads? It’s very likely that Dad now find’s himself with everlasting cup of tea . . But i believe he’s got used to drinking it without excess sugar . . Oh!. . Wanted to add. . Dad has more than 7 children . . He adopted many in particular situations. . For him it seemed there was no difference between us and who had been adopted. .

  5. stephen bassindale

    I first met Sid at the end of 1970 late November early December time on Dornish Island where I was to stay for six months. Sid was organising the commune there, it was a motley crew including myself. We lived in two old army tents that leaked, one for sleeping and the other for communal living. The weather was hard gale force 8 was not uncommon there was 2 cyclones while I was there. Sid designed a more permanent structure based on Tepees’ but the original Tepee design would not cope with the weather. The structure lasted until the last person left. In that time I got to know Sid as well as most people did. He kept a lot back about himself I doubt many people ever got that close to him. Sid was there until just before Xmas then went back to London to get funds he returned only for a few days in March but never went back according to those who stayed on. Sid was always vague about his time on Dornish partly to do with Sid’s own myth making. What actually happened on Dornish as not yet been written and lost in memory of time. Later I met up with Sid again and stayed with him in the Camden squats. We did have a friendship due to the Dornish link and so I have always had time and respect for him. That period thou were a trying time for Sid and many others including myself. The Hippie scene was dying lots of squabbling, big egos and money was diluting what had been a cool scene Sid trying to cut through all that. I saw both sides of Sids character one of a gentle and kind and the other dark side usually with the opposite sex, he was never violent. One episode I remember was to do with a child, he called me over and said look at this, the child no more a year hold had pop marks all over the body from skin popping with heroin. Sid told that the child’s mother was on her way to India and gave it to another women who were on the way back to look after it until she returns. The women she gave it to was an addict and was skin popping the child Sid took over and looked after child and most probably brought up the child as his I moved away after that and had little contact with Sid except a few phone calls in the mid and late seventies. I bumped in to him one more time on a criminal justice demonstration it was brief, he was being filmed after a quick talk about Dornish I was gone. Sid was the genuine article, he distrusted and hated authority something both of us shared he also mistrusted organisations did not trust their intensions. Something’s I have read in other obituaries on Sid, Sid went to Dornish in 1970 after the end of the Isle of Wight festival not 1971. Sid formed the Digger Action moventment I was honouree member at that time he had produce a pamphlet or pamphlets before I had met him. The one person he spoke of fondly was Bill Dwyer. Although Sid did built a myth around him he was genuine in his belief of the land, Dornish was not the right place to do what he wanted it was too harsh. I did plan to visit him in the Forest of Dean a few times I wished I had now.

  6. a stonechild

    The child is now our big brother my eldest son shares his same name.

  7. Time passes, journeys are made, people come and go, the seasons change and finally the clock chimes, today I found Sid again, but I am so sad because we never met again; (I Googled “Sid tee-pee” and the Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia page shocked me! then I had to cry and now i have found this page, but will read it all later). Last year in August I finally moved out of the caravan on the hill and moved here to my first ever house. From many many years of travels that have taken me around the world I have somehow ended up with alot of boxes! One box that had been packed away from the year when we left “evicted” from our farm had a wooden bamboo flute in it that Sid had made for me. He had lived in a teepee with Josh by the stream at the bottom of our hill in Deeply Vale (where I was born). It was my “railway children” experience, only with tee-pee’s. I would love running down the hill to the tee-pee . Watching Sid move the flaps when too much smoke made my eyes water. I told my young daughter all about the mystical merlin type man who had become our (my dog Bruno) friend at the DeeplyVale festivals. He tried to grow vegetables but our goats were always hungry! A few more tee-pees arrived and so did the snow. I remember Josh and I going to “that awful snotty” school. All watching Roots on t.v every Sunday. It was a wonderful childhood, very free spirited and made even more special for spending some of it with Sid (is this where I got my hippiness from)
    …. i will plant a tree for you……. x dustie x

  8. Ah Sid A Cid. Yes lovely to see him appreciated up here. From the london Tribe of the Sacred Mushroom and the Diggers, Henge to Deeply, Tally to Dean. I last met him at the forest of Dean festival – He’d asked me and brother Bev ( to help count the cash which felt like a great recognition considering the size of the event – I got back to my tent to find my primus had been liberated.
    Always a gentleman at least to this person – i was so glad at the kindly nature of his passing which i hear was almost instant.
    Via his committment to the light footed earth based path and the structures that evolved from that many other free spirits moved thru wobbly periods in greater safety.
    Ya Salaam Sid Rawles.

  9. Dustie Hickey

    just found my other comment (above)
    , my mum and I were remembering the days that Sid spent living on our land near to Deeply Vale and she was wondering what happened to Josh and what is he doing now? she recalls Sid bringing him up for a bath and the 2 Maggie’s that lived in the other tee-pees, and a man making bread and he would always leave us a loaf of bread…lovely thoughts


    I also wonder what happened to Josh.I lived in tipi valley for a couple of years after meeting the hippies .