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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Nearly in the old Gipsy manner


[111] It is interesting to notice such rencounters between these pretty, genteel-looking Gipsies and the ordinary natives. The denouement, in this instance, might have been a marriage, and the plantation of a colony of Gipsies among the Braes of Kinross-shire. The same might have happened in the case of the other lady Wilson, with the adjutant at Stirling, or with one of his acquaintances.--ED.

It is almost needless to mention that the Stirlingshire Gipsies contributed their full proportion to the list of victims to the offended laws of the country. Although Charles Wilson, the chieftain of the horde, dexterously eluded justice himself, two of his brothers were executed within the memory of people still living. Another of his relatives, of the name of Gordon, also underwent the last penalty of the law, at Glasgow, where an acquaintance of mine saw him hanged. Wilson had a son who carried a box of jewelry through the country, and was suspected of having been concerned in robbing a bank, at, I believe, Dunkeld. Some of the descendants of this Stirlingshire tribe still roam up and down the kingdom, nearly in the old Gipsy manner; and several of them have their residence, when not on the tramp, in the town of Stirling.

The great distinguishing feature in the character of the Gipsies is an incurable propensity for theft and robbery, and taking openly and forcibly (sorning) whatever answers their purpose.

A Gipsy, of about twenty-one years of age, stated to me that his forefathers considered it quite lawful, among themselves, to take from others, not of their own fraternity, any article they stood in need of. Casting his eyes around the inside of my house, he said: "For instance, were they to enter this room, they would carry off anything that could be of service to them, such as clothes, money, victuals, &c.:" "but," added he, "all this proceeded from ignorance; they are now quite changed in their manners." Another Gipsy, a man of about sixty years of age, informed me that the tribe have a complete and thorough hatred of the whole community, excepting those who shelter them, or treat them with kindness; and that a dexterous theft or robbery, committed on any of the natives among whom they travel, is looked upon as one of the most meritorious actions which a Gipsy can possibly perform.

But the Gipsies are by no means the only nation in the world that have considered theft reputable. In Sparta, under the celebrated law-giver Lycurgus, theft was also reputable. In Hugh Murray's account of an embassy from Portugal to the Emperor of Abyssinia, in 1620, we find the following curious passage relative to thieves in that part of the world: "As the embassy left the palace, a band of thieves carried off a number of valuable articles, while a servant who attempted to defend them was wounded in the leg. The ambassadors, enquiring the mode of obtaining redress for this outrage, were assured that these thieves formed a regular part of the court establishment, and that officers were appointed who levied a proportion of the articles stolen, for behoof his imperial majesty."[112] In another part of Africa, there is a horde of Moors who go by the name of the tribe of thieves. This wandering, vagabond horde do not blush at adopting this odious denomination. Their chief is called chief of the tribe of thieves.[113] In Hugh Murray's Asia, we have the following passage relative to the professed thieves in India.


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