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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

When the Taits were all apprehended


members of their clan in the

rear, forming a long train behind them. In this order both parties boldly advanced, with their weapons uplifted above their heads. Both sides fought with extraordinary fury and obstinacy. Sometimes the one band gave way, and sometimes the other; but both, again and again, returned to the combat with fresh ardour. Not a word was spoken during the struggle; nothing was heard but the rattling of the cudgels and the strokes of the cutlasses. After a long and doubtful contest, Jean Ruthven, big with child at the time, at last received, among many other blows, a dreadful wound with a cutlass. She was cut to the bone, above and below the breast, particularly on one side. It was said the slashes were so large and deep that one of her breasts was nearly severed from her body, and that the motions of her lungs, while she breathed, were observed through the aperture between her ribs. But, notwithstanding her dreadful condition, she would neither quit the field nor yield, but continued to assist her husband as long as she was able. Her father, the Earl of Hell, was also shockingly wounded; the flesh being literally cut from the bone of one of his legs, and, in the words of my informant, "hanging down over his ankles, like beef steaks." The earl left the field to get his wounds dressed; but observing his daughter, Kennedy's wife, so dangerously wounded, he lost heart, and, with others of his party, fled, leaving Kennedy alone, to defend himself against the whole of the clan of Tait.

style="text-align: justify;">Having now all the Taits, young and old, male and female, to contend with, Kennedy, like an experienced warrior, took advantage of the local situation of the place. Posting himself on the narrow bridge of Hawick, he defended himself in the defile, with his bludgeon, against the whole of his infuriated enemies. His handsome person, his undaunted bravery, his extraordinary dexterity in handling his weapon, and his desperate situation, (for it was evident to all that the Taits thirsted for his blood, and were determined to despatch him on the spot,) excited a general and lively interest in his favour, among the inhabitants of the town, who were present, and had witnessed the conflict with amazement and horror. In one dash to the front, and with one powerful sweep of his cudgel, he disarmed two of the Taits, and cutting a third to the skull, felled him to the ground. He sometimes daringly advanced upon his assailants, and drove the whole band before him, pell-mell. When he broke one cudgel on his enemies, by his powerful arm, the town's people were ready to hand him another. Still, the vindictive Taits rallied, and renewed the charge with unabated vigour; and every one present expected that Kennedy would fall a sacrifice to their desperate fury. A party of messengers and constables at last arrived to his relief, when the Taits were all apprehended, and imprisoned; but, as none of the Gipsies were actually slain in the fray, they were soon set at liberty.[127]

[127] This Gipsy battle is alluded to by Sir Walter Scott, in a postscript to a letter to Captain Adam Ferguson, 16th April, 1819.

"By the by, old Kennedy the tinker swam for his life at Jedburgh, and was only, by the sophisticated and timed evidence of a seceding doctor, who differed from all his brethren, saved from a well-deserved gibbet. He goes to botanize for fourteen years. Pray tell this to the Duke (of Buccleuch,) for he was an old soldier of the Duke, and the Duke's old soldier. Six of his brethren were, I am told, in the court, and kith and kin without end. I am sorry so many of the clan are left. The cause of the quarrel with the murdered man, was an old feud between two Gipsy clans, the Kennedys and Irvings, which, about forty years since, gave rise to a desperate quarrel and battle at Hawick-green, in which the grandfather of both Kennedy and the man whom he murdered were engaged."--_Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott._ Alexander Kennedy was tried for murdering Irving, at Yarrowford.


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