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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Mentions having seen this Jock Johnstone hanged


[132] Dr. Alexander Carlyle, in a note to his autobiography, mentions having seen this Jock Johnstone hanged. The date given by him (1738), differs, however, from that mentioned above. According to him, Johnstone was but twenty years of age, but bold, and a great ringleader, and was condemned for robbery, and being accessory to a murder. The usual place of execution was a moor, adjoining the town; but, as it was strongly reported that the "thieves" were collecting from all quarters, to rescue the criminal from the gallows, the magistrates erected the scaffold in front of the prison, with a platform connecting, and surrounded it with about a hundred of the stoutest burgesses, armed with Lochaber axes. Jock made his appearance, surrounded by six officers. He was curly-haired, and fierce-looking, about five feet eight inches in height, and very strong of his size. At first he appeared astonished, but, looking around awhile, proceeded with a bold step. Psalms and prayers being over, and the rope fastened about his neck, he was ordered to mount a short ladder, attached to the gallows, in order to be thrown off; when he immediately seized the rope, and pulled so violently at it as to be in danger of bringing down the gallows--causing much emotion among the crowd, and fear among the magistrates. Jock, becoming furious, like a wild beast, struggled and roared, and defied the six officers to bind him; and, recovering the use of his arms, became more formidable. The magistrates then with difficulty prevailed on by far the strongest man in Dumfries, for the honour of the town, to come on the scaffold. Putting aside the six officers, this man seized the criminal, with as little difficulty as a nurse handles her child, and in a few minutes bound him hand and foot; and quietly laying him down on his face, near the edge of the scaffold, retired. Jock, the moment he felt his grasp, found himself subdued, and, becoming calm, resigned himself to his fate.--_Carlyle's Autobiography._--ED.

The extraordinary man Baillie, who is here so often mentioned, was well known in Tweed-dale and Clydesdale; and my great-grandfather, who knew him well, used to say that he was the handsomest, the best dressed, the best looking, and the best bred man he ever saw. As I have already mentioned, he generally rode one of the best horses the kingdom could produce; himself attired in the finest scarlet, with his greyhounds following him, as if he had been a man of the first rank. With the usual Gipsy policy, he represented himself as a bastard son of one of the Baillies of Lamington, his mother being a Gipsy. On this account, considerable attention was paid to him by the country-people; indeed, he was taken notice of by the first in the land. But, from his singular habits, his real character at last became well known. He acted the character of the gentleman, the robber, the sorner, and the tinker, whenever it answered his purpose. He was considered, in his time, the best swordsman in all Scotland. With this weapon in his hand, and his back at a wall, he set almost everything, saving fire-arms, at defiance. His sword is still preserved by his descendants, as a relic of their powerful ancestor. The stories that are told of this splendid Gipsy are numerous and interesting. I will relate only two well-authenticated anecdotes of this _baurie rajah_, this king of the Scottish Gipsies; who was, in all probability, a descendant of Towla Bailyow, who, with other Gipsies, rebelled against, and plundered, John Faw, "Lord and Earl of Little Egypt," in the reign of James V. The following transaction of his has some resemblance to a custom among the Arabians.


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