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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The battle took place at the bridge of Hawick


[124] The Scottish Gipsies, as I have already said, have a tradition that their ancestors came into Scotland by way of Ireland.

[The allusion to that circumstance by the Gipsies, on this occasion, was evidently to throw dust into the eyes of the Scottish authorities, by whom the whole tribe in Scotland were proscribed.--ED.]

About a century after this conflict, we find the nature of the Gipsies still unchanged. The following details of one of their general engagements will serve as a specimen of the obstinate and desperate manner in which, to a late period, they fought among themselves. The battle took place at the bridge of Hawick, in the spring of the year 1772, or 1773. The particulars are derived from the late Mr. Robert Laidlaw, Tenant of Fanash, a gentleman of respectability, who was an eye-witness to the scene of action. It was understood that this battle originated in some encroachments of the one tribe upon the district assigned to the other; a principal source of quarrels among these wanderers. And it was agreed to, by the contending parties, that they were to fight out their dispute the first time they should meet, which, as just said, happened at Hawick.

On the one side, in this battle, was the celebrated Alexander Kennedy, a handsome and athletic man, and head of his tribe. Next to him, in consideration, was little Wull Ruthven, Kennedy's father-in-law.

This man was known, all over the country, by the extraordinary title of the Earl of Hell;[125] and, although he was above five feet ten inches in height, he got the appellation of Little Wull, to distinguish him from Muckle William Ruthven, who was a man of uncommon stature and personal strength.[126] The earl's son was also in the fray. These were the chief men in Kennedy's band. Jean Ruthven, Kennedy's wife, was also present; with a great number of inferior members of the clan, males as well as females, of all ages, down to mere children. The opposite band consisted of old Rob Tait, the chieftain of his horde, Jacob Tait, young Rob Tait, and three of old Rob Tait's sons-in-law. These individuals, with Jean Gordon, old Tait's wife, and a numerous train, of youths of both sexes and various ages, composed the adherents of old Robert Tait. These adverse tribes were all closely connected with one another by the ties of blood. The Kennedys and Ruthvens were from the ancient burgh of Lochmaben.

[125] This seems a favourite title among the Tinklers. One, of the name of Young, bears it at the present time. But the Gipsies are not singular in these terrible titles. In the late Burmese war, we find his Burmese majesty creating one of his generals "King of Hell, Prince of Darkness."--See _Constable's Miscellany_.

[126] A friend, in writing me, says: "I still think I see him, (Muckle Wull,) bruising the charred peat over the flame of his furnace, with hands equal to two pair of hands of the modern day; while his withered and hairy shackle-bones were more like the postern joints of a sorrel cart-horse than anything else."

The whole of the Gipsies in the field, females as well as males, were armed with bludgeons, excepting some of the Taits, who carried cutlasses, and pieces of iron hoops, notched and serrated on either side, like a saw, and fixed to the end of sticks. The boldest of the tribe were in front of their respective bands, with their children and the other


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