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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Sweeping his cudgel around his body in all directions


Old Will, of Phaup, at the head of Ettrick, was wont to shelter them for many years. They asked nothing but house-room, and grass for their horses; and, though they sometimes remained for several days, he could have left every chest and press about the house open, with the certainty that nothing would be missing; for, he said, "he aye ken'd fu' weel that the toad wad keep his ain hole clean." But it happened that he found one of the gang, through the trick of a neighbouring farmer, feeding six horses on the best piece of grass on his farm, which he was keeping for winter fodder. A desperate combat followed, and the Gipsy was thrashed to his heart's content, and hunted out of the neighbourhood. A warfare of five years' duration ensued between Will and the Gipsies. They nearly ruined him, and, at the end of that period, he was glad to make up matters with his old friends, and shelter them as formerly. He said he could have held his own with them, had it not been for their warlockry; for nothing could he keep from them--they once found his purse, though he had made his wife bury it in the garden.--_Blackwood's Magazine._ It is the afterclap that keeps the people off the Gipsies, and secures for them a sort of toleration wherever they go.--ED.

When occurrences of so grave and imposing a nature as the above are taken into consideration, the fear and awe with which the Gipsies have inspired the community are not

to be wondered at.

The Gipsies at Lochgellie had a dance peculiar to themselves, during the performance of which they sung a song, in the Gipsy language, which they called a "croon." A Gipsy informed me that it was exactly like the one old Charles Stewart, and other Gipsies, used to perform, and which I will describe. At the wedding near Corstorphine, which Charles Stewart attended, as already mentioned, there were five or six female Gipsies in his train. On such occasions he did not allow males to accompany him. At some distance from the people at the wedding, but within hearing of the music, the females formed themselves into a ring, with Charles in the centre. Here, in the midst of the circle, he danced and capered in the most antic and ludicrous manner, sweeping his cudgel around his body in all directions, and moving with much grace and agility. Sometimes he danced round the outside of the circle. The females danced and courtesied to him, as he faced about and bowed to them. When they happened to go wrong, he put them to rights by a movement of his cudgel; for it was by the cudgel that all the turns and figures of the dance were regulated. A twirl dismissed the females; a cut recalled them; a sweep made them squat on the ground; a twist again called them up, in an instant, to the dance. In short, Stewart distinctly spoke to his female dancers by means of his cudgel, commanding them to do whatever he pleased, without opening his mouth to one of them.

George Drummond, a Gipsy chief of an inferior gang in Fife, danced with his seraglio of females, amounting sometimes to half a dozen, in the same manner as Stewart, without the slightest variation, excepting that his gestures were, on some occasions, extremely lascivious. He threw himself into almost every attitude in which the human body can be placed, while his cudgel was flying about his person with great violence. All the movements of the dance were regulated by the measures of an indecent song, at the chorus of which the circular movements of Drummond's cudgel ceased; when one of the females faced about to him, and joined him with her voice, the gestures of both being exceedingly obscene. Drummond's appearance, while dancing, has been described to me, by a gentleman who has often seen him performing, as exactly like what is called a "jumping-jack"--that is, a human figure, cut out of wood or paste-board, with which children often amuse themselves, by regulating its ludicrous movements by means of strings attached to various parts of it.


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