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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

While the Tinkler had all his coining apparatus about him


working in metals, it is not

surprising that they should have resorted to coining, among their many expedients for circumventing and plundering the "strangers" among whom they sojourn. The following instance will illustrate the singular audacity which they can display in this branch of their profession: As an honest countryman, of much simplicity of character, of the name of W---- O----, was journeying along the public road, a travelling Tinkler, whom he did not know, chanced to come up to him. After walking and conversing for some time, the courteous Gipsy, on arriving at a public-house, invited him to step in, and have a "tasting." They accordingly entered the house, and had no sooner finished one half _mutchken_, than the liberal wanderer called for another; but when the reckoning came to be thought of, the countryman was surprised when his friend the Tinkler declared that he had not a coin in his possession. Unfortunately, the honest man happened also to be without a farthing in his pocket, and how they were to get out of the house, without paying the landlord, whom neither of them knew, puzzled him not a little. While meditating over their dilemma, the Gipsy, with his eyes rolling about in every direction, as is their wont, espied a pewter basin under a bed in the room. This was all he required. Bolting the door of the apartment, he opened his budget, and, taking out a pair of large shears, cut a piece from the side of the basin, and, putting it into his crucible on the fire, in no time, with his coining
instruments, threw off several half-crowns, resembling good, sterling money. If the simple countryman was troubled at not being able to pay his reckoning, he was now terrified at being locked up with a man busily engaged in coining base money from an article stolen in the very apartment in which he was confined. He expected, every moment, some one to burst the door open, and apprehend them, while the Tinkler had all his coining apparatus about him. His companion, however, was not in the least disturbed, but deliberately finished his coin in a superior manner, and cutting the remainder of the basin into pieces, packed it into his wallet. Unlocking the door, he rang the bell, and tendered one of his half-crowns to his host, to pay his score, which was accepted without a suspicion. The Tinkler then offered his fellow-traveller part of his remaining coin; but the unsophisticated man, far from touching one of them, was only too glad to rid himself of so dangerous an acquaintance. The Gipsy, on his part, marched off, with his spirits elevated with liquor, and his pockets replenished with money, smiling at the simplicity and terror of the countryman.

However numerous the crimes which the Gipsies have committed, or the murders they have perpetrated in their own tribe, yet, in justice to them, I must say that only two instances have come to my knowledge of their having put to death natives of Scotland who were not of their own fraternity. One of these instances was that of a man of the name of Adam Thomson, whom they murdered because he had encroached, it was said, upon one of their supposed privileges--that of gathering rags through the country. Amongst other acts of cruelty, they placed the poor man on a fire, in his own house. Two Gipsies were tried for the murder, but whether they were both executed, I do not know. The following particulars connected with this deed will show how exactly the Gipsies know the different routes and halting-places of each band, as they travel through the country. Indeed, I have been informed that the track which each horde is to take, the different stages, and the number of days they are to remain at each place, are all marked out and fixed upon in the spring, before they leave their winter residence. One of the Gipsies concerned in the murder of Thomson lay in prison, in one of the towns in the south of Scotland, for nearly twelve months, without having had any communication with his tribe. There was not sufficient evidence against him to justify his being brought to trial; nor would he give any information regarding the transaction. At last he changed his mind, and told the authorities they would find the murderer at a certain spot in the Highlands, on a certain day and hour of that day; but if he could not be found there, they were to proceed to another place, at twenty miles' distance, where they would be sure to find him.


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