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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Where William Baillie was standing


[138] On some of the tombstones of the Gipsies, the word "brazier" is added to their names. [Brazier is a favourite name with the Gipsies, and sounds better than tinker. Southey, in his Life of Bunyan, says: "It is stated, in a history of Bedfordshire, that he was bred to the business of a brazier, and worked, as a journeyman, at Bedford."--ED.]

"Thomas Riddle, tenant and change-keeper in Newarthill, &c., declares, that the deceased, William Baillie, James Kairns, and David Pinkerton, all idle sorners, that are known in the country by the name of Gipsies, came to the declarant's, about sun-setting, where, after some stay, _and talking a jargon the declarant did not well understand_, they fell a squabbling, when the declarant was in another room, with some other company; upon the noise of which, the declarant ran in to them, where he found the said James Kairns lying above the said William Baillie, whose nose the said James Kairns had bitten with his teeth till it bled; upon which, the declarant and his wife threatened to raise the town upon them, and get a constable to carry them to prison; but Kairns and Pinkerton called for their horses, William Baillie saying he would not go with them: Declares that, after the said Kairns and Pinkerton had got their horses, and mounted, they ordered the declarant to bring a chopin of ale to the door to them, where William Baillie was standing, talking to them: That, when the declarant had filled

about the ale, and left them, thinking they were going off, the declarant's wife went to the door, where Kairns struck at her with a drawn sword, to fright her in; upon which she ran in; and thereupon the declarant went to the door, where he found the said William Baillie, lying with the wounds upon him, mentioned in John Meikle's declaration."

By Hume's work on the criminal law, it appears that the trial of David Pinkerton, with others of his tribe, took place on the 22nd August, 1726, for "sorning and robbery;" but no mention is made of the murder of Baillie; yet it was Baillie's relatives that pursued Pinkerton to the gallows. Probably sufficient evidence could not then be adduced to substantiate the fact, being about twenty-one months after the murder was committed; and, besides, Baillie was himself dead in law, having either returned from banishment, or remained at large in the country, and so forfeited his life, when he was killed by Pinkerton, in 1724. The following is part of the interlocutor pronounced upon the indictment of the prisoners: "Find the said David Pinkerton, alias Maxwell, John Marshall, and Helen Baillie, alias Douglass, or any of them, their being habit and repute Egyptians, sorners or masterful beggars, in conjunction with said pannels, or any of them, their being, at the times and places libelled, guilty, art and part, of the fact of violence, theft, robbery, or attempts of robbery libelled, or any of the said facts relevant to infer the pain of death and confiscation of moveables."

William Baillie was succeeded, in the chieftainship, by his son Matthew, who married the celebrated Mary Yowston or Yorkston, and became the leader of a powerful horde of Gipsies in the south of Scotland. He frequently visited the farms of my grandfather, about the year 1770. It appears that his courtship had been after the Tartar manner; for he used to say that the toughest battle he ever fought was that of taking, by force, his bride, then a very young girl, from her mother, at the hamlet of Drummelzier.[139] This Matthew Baillie had, by Mary Yorkston, a son, who was also named Matthew, and who married Margaret Campbell, and had by her a family of remarkably handsome and pretty daughters. Of this principal Gipsy family, I can trace, distinctly, six generations in descent, and have myself seen the great-great-great-grand-children of the celebrated William Baillie. Some of his descendants still travel the country, in the manner of their ancestors, and at this moment speak the Gipsy language with fluency. Some of them, however, are little better than common beggars. There were, at one period, a captain and a quarter-master in the army, belonging to the Baillie clan; and another was a country surgeon.


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