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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

One of the Lochgellie Tinklers

community at large. The following

is one instance, among many, of this curious practice among the Gipsies. I received the particulars from the individual himself who obtained the token or passport from Wilson. My informant, Mr. Buchanan, a retired officer of the Excise, chanced, in his youth, to be in a fair at Skirling, in Peebles-shire, when an acquaintance of his, of the name of John Smith, of Carnwath Mill, received, in a tent, fifty pounds for horses which he had sold in the market. Wilson, who was acquainted with both parties, was in the tent at the time, and saw the latter receive the money. On leaving the tent, Smith mentioned to his friend that he was afraid of being robbed in going home, as Wilson knew he had money in his possession. Mr. Buchanan, being well acquainted with Wilson, went to him in the fair, and told him the plain facts; that Smith and himself were to travel with money on their persons, and that they were apprehensive of being robbed of it, on their way home. The Gipsy, after hesitating for a moment, gave Buchanan a pen-knife, which he was to show to the first person who should offer to molest them; at the same time enjoining him to keep the affair quite private. After my informant and his friend had travelled a considerable distance on their way home, they observed, at a little distance before them, a number of Tinklers--men and women--fighting together on the side of the road. One of the females came forward to the travellers, and urged them vehemently to assist her husband, who, she
said, was like to be murdered by others who had fallen upon him on the highway. My friend knew quite well that all the fighting was a farce, got up for the purpose of robbing him and his companion, the moment they interfered with the combatants in their feigned quarrel. Instead of giving the woman the assistance she asked, he privately and very quietly, as if he wished nobody to see it, showed her Wilson's knife in his hand, when she immediately exclaimed, "You are our friends," and called, at the same moment, to those engaged in the scuffle, in words to the same effect. Both the travellers now passed on, but, on looking behind them, they observed that the squabble had entirely ceased. The pen-knife was returned to Wilson the day following.

I may give, in this place, another instance of these tokens being granted by the Gipsies to their particular favourites of the community. The particulars were given to me by the individual with whom the incident occurred; and the Gipsy mentioned I have myself seen and spoken to: A---- A----, a small farmer, who resided in the west of Fife, happened to be at one of the Falkland fairs, where, in the evening, he fell in with old Andrew Steedman, a Gipsy horse-dealer from Lochgellie, with whom he was well acquainted. They entered a public-house in Falkland to have a dram together, before leaving the fair, and after some conversation had passed, on various subjects, Steedman observed to his acquaintance that it would be late in the night before he could reach his home, and that he might be exposed to some danger on the road; but he would give him his snuff-box, to present and offer a snuff to the first person who should offer to molest him. My informant, possessed of the Gipsy's snuff-box, mounted his horse, and left his acquaintance and Falkland behind for his home. He had not proceeded far on his journey, before a man in the dark seized the bridle of his horse, and ordered him to stop; without, however, enforcing his command to surrender in that determined tone and manner common to highwaymen with those they intend to rob. The farmer at once recognized the robber to be no other than young Charles Graham, one of the Lochgellie Tinklers, whom he personally knew. Instead of delivering him his purse, he held out to him the snuff-box, as if nothing had happened, and, offering him a pinch, asked him if he was going to Lochgellie to-night. A sort of parley now ensued, the farmer feeling confident in the strength of his protection, and Graham confounded at being recognized by an acquaintance whom he was about to rob, and who, moreover, was in possession of a Gipsy token. At first a dry conversation ensued, similar to that between persons unacquainted with each other when they happen to meet; but Graham, recovering his self-possession, soon became very frank and kind, and insisted on the farmer accompanying him to a public-house on the road-side, where he would treat him to a dram. The farmer, a stout, athletic man, and no coward, complied with the Gipsy's invitation without hesitation. While drinking their liquor, Graham took up the snuff-box, and examined it all over very attentively, by the light of the candle, and returned it, without making a single remark, relative either to the untoward occurrence or the snuff-box itself. The farmer was equally silent as to what had taken place; but he could not help noticing the particular manner in which the Gipsy examined the token. They drank a hearty dram together, and parted the best of friends; the farmer for his home, and Graham, as he supposed, for the highway, to exercise his calling. Graham, about this period, resided in a house belonging to Steedman, in Lochgellie.

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