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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

And public travelling apparel


[139] The English Gipsies say that the old mode of getting a wife among the tribe was to _steal_ her. The intended bride was nothing loth, still it was necessary to steal her, while the tribe were on the watch to detect and prevent it.--ED.

Mary Yorkston, above mentioned, went under the appellations of "my lady," and "the duchess," and bore the title of queen, among her tribe. She presided at the celebration of their barbarous marriages, and assisted at their equally singular ceremonies of divorce. What the custom of this queen of the Gipsies was, when in full dress, in her youth, on gala days, cannot now be easily known; but the following is a description of her masculine figure, and _public_ travelling apparel, when advanced in years. It was taken from the mouth of an aged and very respectable gentleman, the late Mr. David Stoddart, at Bankhead, near Queensferry, who had often seen her in his youth: She was fully six feet in stature, stout made in her person, with very strongly-marked and harsh features; and had, altogether, a very imposing aspect and manner. She wore a large black beaver-hat, tied down over her ears with a handkerchief, knotted below her chin, in the Gipsy fashion. Her upper garment was a dark-blue short cloak, somewhat after the Spanish fashion, made of substantial woollen cloth, approaching to superfine in quality. The greater part of her other apparel was made of dark-blue camlet cloth, with petticoats so short that

they scarcely reached to the calves of her well-set legs. [Indeed, all the females among the Baillies wore petticoats of the same length.] Her stockings were of dark-blue worsted, flowered and ornamented at the ankles with scarlet thread; and in her shoes she displayed large, massy, silver buckles. The whole of her habiliments were very substantial, with not a rag or rent to be seen about her person. [She was sometimes dressed in a green gown, trimmed with red ribbons.] Her outer petticoat was folded up round her haunches, for a lap, with a large pocket dangling at each side; and below her cloak she carried, between her shoulders, a small flat pack, or pad, which contained her most valuable articles. About her person she generally kept a large clasp-knife, with a long, broad blade, resembling a dagger or carving-knife; and carried in her hand a long pole or pike-staff, that reached about a foot above her head.

It was a common practice, about the middle of last century, for old female Gipsies of authority to strip, without hesitation, defenceless individuals of their wearing-apparel when they met them in sequestered places. Mary Yorkston chanced, on one occasion, to meet a shepherd's wife, among the wild hills in the parish of Stobo, and stripped her of the whole of her clothes. The shepherd was horrified at beholding his wife approaching his house in a state of perfect nakedness. A Jean Gordon was once detected, by a shepherd, stripping a female of her wearing-apparel. He at once assisted the helpless woman; but Jean drew from below her garments a dagger, and threw it at him. Evading the blow, the shepherd closed in upon her, and struck her over the head with his staff, knocking her to the ground. Another Gipsy of the old fashion, of the name of Esther Grant, was also celebrated for the practice of stripping people of their clothing. The Arabian principle, expressed in these words, on meeting a stranger in the desert, "Undress thyself--my wife, (thy aunt,) is in want of a garment," is truly applicable to the disposition of the old female Gipsies.


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