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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Matthew Baillie instantly produced


Nothing

was more common, in the counties of Peebles and Lanark, when the country-people lost their purses at fairs, than to have recourse to the chief Gipsy females, to get their property returned to them. Mary Yorkston, having a sovereign influence and power among her tribe, was often applied to, in such cases of distress, of which the following is a good specimen:--On one of these occasions, in a market in the South of Scotland, a farmer lost his purse, containing a considerable sum of money, which greatly perplexed and distressed him. He immediately went to Mary Yorkston, to try if she would exert her wonderful influence to recover his property. Being a favourite of Mary's, she, without the least hesitation, took him along with her to the place in the fair where her husband kept his temporary depot, or rather his office, in which he exercised his extraordinary calling during the continuance of the market. The presence of Mary was a sufficient assurance that all was right; and, upon the matter being explained, Matthew Baillie instantly produced, and spread out before the astonished farmer, from twenty to thirty purses, and desired him to pick out his own from amongst them. The countryman soon recognized his own, and grasped at it without ceremony. "Hold on," said Baillie, "let us count its contents first." The Gipsy chief, with the greatest coolness and deliberation, as if he had been an honest banker or money-changer, counted over the money in the purse, when not a farthing was found
wanting. "There is your purse, sir," continued Baillie; "you see what it is, when honest people meet!"

The following incident, that occurred one night after a fair, in a barn belonging to one of my relatives, will strikingly illustrate the character of the Gipsies in the matter of stealing purses:--A band of superior Gipsies were quartered in the barn, after several of them had attended the fair, in their usual manner. The principal female, whom I shall not name, had also been at the market; but the old chief had thought proper to remain at home, in the barn. My relative, as was sometimes his custom, chanced to take a turn about his premises that night, when it was pretty late. He heard the voice of a female weeping in the barn, and, being curious to know the cause of the disturbance among the Tinklers, stepped softly up, close to the back of the door, to listen to what they were doing, as the woman was crying bitterly. He was greatly astonished at hearing, and never could forget, the following expressions: "Oh, cruel man, to beat me in this way. I have had my hands in as good as twenty pockets, but the honest people had it not to themselves." The chieftain was, in fact, chastising his wife, in the presence of his family, for her want of diligence or success, in not obtaining enough of booty at the fair. And yet this individual bore, among the country-people, the character of an honest man.

Another story is told of Mary Yorkston and the Goodman of Coulter-park. It differs in its nature from the above anecdote, yet is very characteristic of the Gipsies. Mary and her band were lurking one night at a place in Clydesdale, called Raggingill. As a man on horseback approached the spot where they were concealed, some of the tribe immediately laid hold of the horse, and, without ceremony, commenced to plunder the rider. But Mary, stepping forth to superintend the operation, was astonished to find that the horseman was her particular friend, the Goodman of Coulter-park. She instantly exclaimed, with all her might: "It's Mr. Lindsay, the Gudeman o' Couter-park--let him gang--let him gang--God bless him, honest man!" It is needless to add that Mr. Lindsay had always given Mary and her horde the use of an out-house when they required it.


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