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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Johnstone confined his travels mostly to Dumfries shire


considerable time after this, as Robert was one evening travelling with his packs, between Elvanfoot and Moffat, two men came up to him, whom he thought very suspicious-looking fellows. As he was a stout man himself, and carried a good cudgel, he kept on the alert for a considerable way, lest they should take him by surprise. At last, one of them asked him if he was not afraid to travel alone, so late at night. He said he was under a necessity to be out late, sometimes, on his lawful business. But recollecting his token, he said a gentleman had once given him a piece of brass, to show, if ever any person troubled him. They desired him to show it, as it was moonlight. He gave it to them. On seeing it, they looked at one another, and then, whispering a few words, told him it was well for him he had the token, which they returned; and they left him directly.

"After a lapse of nearly two years, when he had almost forgotten his two guineas, as he was one morning loading his packs, at the door of a public-house, near Gretna-green, he felt some person touch him behind, and, on looking round, saw it was Mr. Baillie, who slipped something into his hand, wrapped in paper, and left him, without speaking a single word. On opening the paper, he found three guineas, which was his own money, and a guinea for interest.

"There was another gang of Gipsies that stayed mostly in Annandale, headed by a Jock Johnstone, as he was

called in the country. These were counted a kind of lower caste than Baillie's people, who would have thought themselves degraded if they had associated with any of the Johnstone gang. Johnstone confined his travels mostly to Dumfries-shire; while Baillie went over all Scotland, and even made long excursions into England. Johnstone kept a great many women about him,[131] several of whom had children to him; and, in kilns and in barns, Johnstone always slept in the middle of the whole gang. Baillie sometimes told his select friends that he had a wife, but never any of them could find out where she stayed; and as he used to disappear now and then, for a considerable time together, it was supposed he was with her. He never slept, in barn or kiln, with any of his people. Johnstone travelled all day in the midst of a crowd of women and children, mounted on asses. Baillie travelled always by himself, mounted on the best horse he could get for money.

[131] A great many of the inferior Gipsy chiefs travelled with a number of women in their company; such as George Drummond, Doctor Duds, John Lundie, and others.

"Some time in the year 1739, Johnstone, with a number of his women, came to the house of one Margaret Farish, an old woman who sold ale at Lonegate, six miles from Dumfries, on the Edinburgh road. After drinking for a long time, some of Jock's wives and the old woman quarrelled. On which he took up the pewter pint-stoup, with which she measured her ale, and, giving her two or three severe blows on the head, killed her on the spot. Next day he was apprehended near Lockerby, and brought into Dumfries' jail. He had a favourite tame jack-daw that he took with him in all his travels, and he desired it might be brought to stay with him in the jail, which was done. When the lords were coming into the circuit, as they passed the jail, the trumpeters gave a blast, on which the jack-daw gave a flutter against the iron bars of the window, and dropped down dead. When Jock saw that, he immediately exclaimed: 'Lord have mercy on me, for I am gone.' He was accordingly tried and condemned. When the day of execution came, he would not walk to the scaffold, and so they were forced to carry him. The executioner, being an old man, could not turn him over. Several of the constables refused to touch him. At last, one of the burgh officers turned him off; but the old people about Dumfries used to say that the officer never prospered any more after that day."[132]

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