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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

122 The Gipsies were not spared of braxy


[122] The Gipsies were not spared of _braxy_, of which they were fond. I have known natives of Tweed-dale and Ettrick Forest, who preferred _braxy_ to the best meat _killed by the hand of man_. It has a particular _sharp_ relish, which made them so fond of it.

[Braxy is the flesh of sheep which have died of a certain disease. When the Gipsies are taunted with eating what some call carrion, they very wittily reply: "The flesh of a beast which God kills must be better than that of one killed by the hand of man." Such flesh, "killed by the hand of God," is often killed in this manner: They will administer to swine a drug affecting the brain only, which will cause speedy death; when they will call and obtain the carcass, without suspicion, and feast on the flesh, which has been in no way injured.--_Borrow._ They will also stuff wool down a sheep's throat, and direct the farmer's attention to it when near its last gasp, and obtain the carcass after being skinned.--ED.]

And the third reason is, that, in the pastoral districts in the upper parts of the shires of Peebles, Selkirk, Dumfries, and Lanark, including all that mountainous tract of land in which the rivers Tweed, Annan and Clyde have their sources, the Gipsies were, in a great measure, secure from the officers of the law, and enjoyed their favourite amusements without molestation or hindrance.

Before, and long after, the year 1745, the male branches of the Baillies traversed Scotland, mounted on the best horses to be found in the country; themselves dressed in long coats, made of the finest scarlet and green cloth, ruffled at hands and breast, booted and spurred; with cocked hats on their heads, pistols in their belts, and broad-swords by their sides: and at the heels of their horses followed greyhounds, and other dogs of the chase, for their amusement. Some of them assumed the manners and characters of gentlemen, which they supported with wonderful art and propriety. The females attended fairs in the attire of ladies, riding on ponies, with side-saddles, in the best style. On these occasions, the children were left in charge of their servants, perhaps in an old out-house or hut, in some wild, sequestered glen, in Tweed-dale or Clydesdale.

The greater part of the tenantry were kind to the Gipsies, and many encouraged them to frequent their premises. Tweed-dale being the favourite resort of the principal horde, they generally abstained from injuring the property of the greater part of the inhabitants. Indeed, I have been informed, by eye-witnesses, that several of the farmers in Tweed-dale and Clydesdale, at so late a period as about the year 1770, accepted of entertainments from the principal Gipsies, dining with them in the open fields, or in some old, unoccupied out-house, or kiln. Their repast, on such occasions, was composed of the best viands the country could produce. On one occasion, a band dined on the green-sward, near Douglass-mill, when the Gipsies drank their wine, after dinner, as if they had been the best in the land. Some of the landed proprietors, however, introduced clauses in their leases prohibiting their tenants from harbouring the Gipsies; and the Laird of Dolphington is mentioned as one. The tribe, on hearing of the restriction, expressed great indignation at the Laird's conduct in adopting so effectual a method of banishing them from the district. But so strong were the attachments which some of the Gipsies displayed towards the inhabitants, that the chief of the Ruthvens actually wept like a child, whenever the misfortunes of the ancient family of Murray, of Philliphaugh, were mentioned to him.


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