THE nation was stunned when Paddy Doherty, his family and friends burst onto our screens in My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
Channel 4’s show about the traveling community first aired in 2010, and it was so groundbreaking that two full series followed, along with spin-offs and an American version.
This has sparked its share of controversy, with some gypsies criticizing the show for misrepresenting them.
As the American spin-off celebrates its 10th anniversary this month, we take a look at what’s happened since the documentary aired – including a tragic suicide pact and multiple divorces.
Battles against cancer and covid
Larger than life, Paddy is arguably the most famous character to emerge from Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, having entered Celebrity Big Brother in 2011 – which he won.
But the years have not been easy for the bare-knuckle boxer.
In July 2018 Michael ‘Mikey’ Connors, 32, the nephew of Paddy’s horse and cart racing champion, died when a BMW drove into his back.
Then in April 2019, Paddy revealed he had been secretly battling prostate cancer for seven months, before being given the green light.
He also confessed that the diagnosis had taken a toll on his mental health.
Learn more about the Big Fat Gypsy wedding
He said: “I suffered from depression once upon a time, I know what it is and I’m not ashamed to say it.
“When I found out I had prostate (cancer) I lost my mind. No one knows until you’re in that situation.”
In February 2021, Paddy ended up in hospital three times as he struggled to breathe with a bad Covid attack.
Luckily, he is now well recovered and regularly provides fans with happy videos on his Facebook page.
tragic suicide pact
Arborists Billy and Joe Smith starred in the third series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings in 2014, where cameras followed them to work and on vacation.
Tragically, the twin brothers were found dead on a Kent country lane aged 32 in December 2019 by their uncle Phinemore Smith, after killing themselves as part of a ‘suicide pact’.
Joe left behind a nine-year-old son.
Phoebe Charleen Smith, a cousin, told the Telegraph“Joey had cancer, and Billy told him, ‘I could never live without you.
“Joey told the family he got the all clear after chemo two months ago, but we don’t know if that’s true now.
“They disappeared and Joey’s phone was turned off. Then we found a note. It said they wanted it like this, and we’d find them in the woods where they played with the family years ago. “
At their funeral, a procession was led by two white horse-drawn carriages, carrying their identical coffins. The floral tributes were in the shape of a Rolex watch and a bottle of tequila.
John McFayden and Cheyenne Pidgeley first appeared on Big Fat Gypsy Wedding when she was just 14 years old.
She was at a wedding when a boy tried to force her to kiss her by holding her against a wall – a gypsy tradition known as “grabbing”, which was a highly controversial aspect of the show.
They later got engaged, but two days later Cheyenne revealed that her mother had tragically died of cancer.
The couple tied the knot in a lavish wedding in front of 200 guests – and have been plagued with drama ever since.
In 2018, CCTV footage showing McFadyen and his brother threatening to snatch a toddler from his mother shocked the country.
McFadyen was filmed grabbing the terrified mother’s arm, saying, “Give me your rings. I’ll hurt your child and take him away.”
If my daughter leaves school at 13 like me, that’s fine – I want her to learn to read and write, that would be fine, but I don’t think she needs to know more than that
The petrified mother – a neighbor of Amanda Holden – was seen trying to get her child back as she ran down the road, and McFadyen and his brother were chased by a gang of scaffolding heroes armed with poles.
The two brothers were caged after admitting to conspiring to steal, with the gang being sentenced to a total of 68 years.
Isaac McFadyen was sentenced to two years and eight months in a young offenders facility for attempted robbery, while John McFadyen, then 24, was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.
McFadyen is now out of prison and was seen in 2019 flaunting his luxury “shed pub”.
He and Cheyenne are believed to be still together with two young daughters, Berry-Marie and Julie-Ann.
Cheyenne said of her daughters’ future: ‘If she leaves school at 13 like me, that’s fine – I want her to learn to read and write, that would be fine, but I don’t think so. that she needs to know more than that.
“If she wants to get married at 16, I will support her.”
Bitter court case
Seamstress Thelma Madine has become so beloved for her designs on Big Fat Gypsy Weddings that she even got her own spin-off – Thelma’s Gypsy Girls.
But after the show, she found herself locked in a bitter court case with her former chief designer Leanne Phillips.
Leanne, who also appeared on the hit TV show, has previously been hailed by Thelma as a major ‘creative force’ at her Liverpool-based travel clothing design shop, Nico.
But the pair fell out in 2012 after Leanne was sacked and subsequently set up their own rival clothing design boutique, Leanne Alexandra, also in Liverpool.
Thelma successfully sued her former employee in 2017 for ripping off one of her most iconic models to create one of their own dresses.
Jail wasn’t that bad – it was nothing compared to what it was
She claimed the couple also used her designs to create the ‘Crystal Princess Figurine’, one of seven collectible porcelain figurines of girls in large dresses, which they plan to market in Ireland and beyond.
Later, Thelma said that court battle was worse than her time in jail for benefit fraud in 2001.
She told the ECHO“I went through all the emotions – the anger, the disappointment, the hate.
“Prison wasn’t all that bad – it was nothing compared to what it was.”
Messy divorce after a year
Mancunian Joan Furey was the first star bride of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding – and was memorably decked out in the horse-drawn Cinderella wedding carriage that would take her to church, wearing a dress with a train 20 feet.
She said she would never divorce her husband, Patrick Ward, a 22-year-old Irish traveler and part-time worker.
However, it only took a year for the marriage to end in a messy divorce – while Joan was eight months pregnant.
The absolute decree was granted in 2011, due to the unreasonable behavior of Patrick – who she said was controlling and jealous.
She told the Sunday Express: “I will always regret marrying him…I tore up my wedding photos and sold my dress.”
I will always regret marrying him… I tore up my wedding photos and sold my dress
Patrick has since returned to the traveling community in Ireland and Joan admitted in 2012 that she had not heard from him for over a year.
She didn’t even know if he knew the name of their son, Roman, then one.
However, Joan said she knew he had married a traveling bride.
“Blind Pregnant Woman Assaulted”
Josie McFayden got married in the first episode of Gypsy Wedding, and later became her first divorcee.
But a much more shocking thing happened to her after that.
In 2019, she and her relatives were charged with assaulting an eight-month-pregnant partially blind woman, Margaret Doyle, and her sister Eileen, at a nail bar.
A court heard how some assailants stomped on Margaret’s head and stomach while one of them shouted: “Go ahead, chase the baby away from her.”
Josie’s mother, Josie Doherty, her daughter Barbara McFadyen, her son Isaac McFadyen and their cousin Charlie Collins were also accused of assaulting the sisters.
Kingston Crown Court heard how the two families were part of the Traveler community and were involved in a long-running feud.
All five have denied the violent disturbances.
Contact the Samaritans
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact Les Samaritains on 116 123.
They are available free of charge at any time.
or email https://www.samaritans.org/