The British are Coming!

This month I’m celebrating the 4th of July by introducing you to an Old West reenactment group located in England. That’s right! While 238 years ago, the colonies and the British Empire went at it with muzzle-loaded muskets and flintlock pistols and quite a bit of animosity, nowadays the historical American West is popular in the United Kingdom.

While hanging around on Facebook, I happened across Mr. Antony O’Donnell, a Scotsman living in England who belongs to the Wyoming Wild Bunch living history group.

The Wyoming Wild Bunch, mounted and ready to ride into the Detling Military Odyssey, a multi-period event held in Kent UK. Tyrel O'Donnell is second from the right.

The Wyoming Wild Bunch, mounted and ready to ride into the Detling Military Odyssey, a multi-period event held in Kent UK. Tyrel O’Donnell is second from the right.

The group, formed in 1990, portrays the American West period 1860 through 1900. A click to their webpage is worth the trip—great photos and information! The group is borderline fanatical about authenticity and accuracy. Participants are inspected to ensure they are appropriately outfitted, and even weapons are restricted based on the time period of that day’s show.  

There are many Western reenactment groups throughout the United Kingdom, but the Wyoming Wild Bunch is the only Western reenactment group in the UK to use horses in its shows on a regular basis. Some of the members own their horses while others hire a horse for the show. They also have a Native American section which portrays two specific tribes: Blackfeet and Southern Cheyenne. “Before getting into the section you have to meet up with the Runners of the Section so they can see your kit and make sure it is all correctly marked and beaded to that tribe,” Ty says.

Native Americans portrayed by The Wyoming Wild Bunch in the UK

Native Americans portrayed by The Wyoming Wild Bunch in the UK

Tyrel’s reenacting pre-dates the Wyoming Wild Bunch. He’s been at it for 36 years and knows his stuff. With a degree in American Studies, his main dissertation was on the American West from 1865 to 1890. He also collects and shoots reproduction black powder pistols and rifles. “I grew up in the generation that had Western TV serials on nearly every night,” Ty says. “Rawhide, Laramie, and Wagon Train, to name a few, and actors like John Wayne, Gary Cooper and Randolph Scott to watch,” Ty says. When he was 18 and home on leave from the British Army, he saw a Western reenactment group performing a shoot-out. “I’ve been doing it ever since,” he says.

Ty leaning on a tree in 1978 -  36 years of reenacting

Ty leaning on a tree in 1978 – 36 years of reenacting

Ty leaning on a saloon door circa 1990

Ty leaning on a saloon door circa 1990

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ty considers himself both a reenactor and a living history educator. “The reenacting side is what gets us our venues, with the rest of the time chatting with public,” he  says. The group performs at events and schools and does professional work for the media as well as charitable fund-raising.

Ty - nephew Kyle and Ty's mate Beau in their Civil War uniforms (they still look kind of British, don't they?). The Wyoming Wild Bunch can accommodate requests for reenactments of mountain men and the 1776 War of Independence if given advanced notice.

Ty – nephew Kyle and Ty’s mate Beau in their Civil War uniforms (they still look kind of British, don’t they?). The Wyoming Wild Bunch can accommodate requests for reenactments of mountain men and the 1776 War of Independence if given advanced notice.

While he doesn’t represent a specific person from the past, Ty has put together an eclectic mix of personas to come up with a portrayal of a Texas Ranger “loosely based on Captains L. H. McNelly, Lee Hall and G. W. Arrington,” Ty says. As a true scholar, Ty has done extensive research. “It was reading about these Texas Rangers in W. P. Webb’s book and that led me to collect over 100 books on them alone,” he says. He also sometimes portrays a cowboy. “The cowhand I portray could be found anywhere in the west from Montana down to Texas. My moniker Tyrel (or Ty) came from my love of Louis L’Amour’s books, especially The Sacketts.”

Wyoming Wild Bunch chuck wagon - hand-built by the group from model plans

Wyoming Wild Bunch chuck wagon – hand-built by the group from model plans

Ty introduced his wife of 31 years, Chris, to reenacting, and they eventually included their four daughters, two of whom are still participating: 24-year-old Sinead and 26-year-old Frances. “My other two daughters are both mothers themselves now, but my oldest grandson Deaghlan came to his first show last year. This year he was written into one of the sketches.”

Ty and daughter Kaylee when she was 16. "She's now a mum of two," Ty says. She no longer participates but provided the third generation of O'Donnell family reenactors, her son Deaghlan.

Ty and daughter Kaylee when she was 16. “She’s now a mum of two,” Ty says. She no longer participates but provided the third generation of O’Donnell family reenactors, her son Deaghlan.

Next generation - Grandson Deaghlan at his first event in 2013 at the age of 4.

Next generation – Grandson Deaghlan at his first event in 2013 at the age of 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ty says that he doesn’t believe he ever lived a past life and, if he had, he would have known enough to stay away from the old west and “a life that was tough on both men and women.” But he enjoys his reenacting and has visited the States.  He’s been to Wyoming, Arizona and Texas. He says, “I felt spiritually at ease in the Alamo and had a memorable time in Flagstaff, Arizona. I will one day get out there again, God willing.” And we’ll look forward to being able to say the British are coming again!

Do you have an interest or favorite activity you’ve passed on to your family members? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the CHASM CREEK video and check on my first novel’s availability at my web page www.patriciagradycox.com   Thank you!

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12 comments

  1. What a beautiful story. They seem like they are having a lot of fun. I am glad you ran into one of these Westerner’s on the web and got connected! Thank you very much for sharing, Pat. Well written and fabulous pictures.

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    1. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it and thanks also for re-blogging. I appreciate it. Hope you come back again, and check out my other blogs. I try to do one a month.

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      1. You bet. I will try to do that because your blogs are always so professional and informative! Thanks

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      2. And again thank you for your kind words! You are a sweetie pie, Kurt. :o)

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  2. Reblogged this on kurtzmind and commented:
    Reenacting is in the family genes…

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  3. Waxymud · · Reply

    Thank you for a great write up.

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    1. You are most welcome. Everyone seems to be enjoying finding out about the Old West in England!

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      1. Ha! Yes, it’s always surprising when WE are the ones with the accent. Thanks for stopping by! :o)

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  4. Interesting. No wonder a number of Brits found my “Arizona” accent so fascinating.

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  5. Tony O'Donnell · · Reply

    Thanks Patricia i really enjoyed our chat over your blog , myself and the rest if the Wyoming Wild Bunch from the UK thank you. Regards your British Cowboy Tyrel

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    1. It was fun and a pleasure! Hope someday to visit your group in person. Wouldn’t that make a great follow-up article! Thanks so much for participating.

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  6. […] Q. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers today? A. I would like ask that people look at my blog posts, and let me know if they like them. Also, I have a page on Facebook which can be “liked”. And there is one blog post from a while ago that your readership might especially enjoy since it’s about an American West reenactment group – in England. The blog is entitled “The British are Coming!” https://pcoxwriter.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/the-british-are-coming/. […]

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