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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

As Baillie was a very daring fellow


Yorkston despised to ask what is properly understood to be alms. She sold horn spoons and other articles; and, when she made a bargain, she would take, almost by force, what she called her "boontith," which is a present of victuals, exclusive of the cash paid; a practice which I will explain further on in the chapter.

Matthew Baillie had, by Mary Yorkston, among other children, a son, named James Baillie, who, along with his brothers, as we have seen, threatened with destruction the people assembled in Biggar fair, in consequence of an affront offered to his mother by a gardener of that town. He was condemned, in 1771, to be hung, for the murder of his wife, by beating her with a horse-whip, and tumbling her over a steep; but he "obtained a pardon from the king, on condition that he transported himself beyond seas within a limited time, otherwise the pardon was to have no effect." Baillie, paying little regard to the serious conditions of this pardon, did not "transport himself beyond seas," but continued his former practices, as appears by the following extract from the Weekly Magazine of the 8th October, 1772:--"James Baillie, who was last summer condemned for the murder of a woman, and afterwards obtained his majesty's pardon, on condition of transporting himself to America, for life, was lately apprehended at Falkirk, on suspicion of robbery. On the 1st October he was brought to town, and committed to the Tolbooth, by a warrant of Lord Auchinleck.

This warrant was granted upon the petition of the procurator fiscal of Stirling, in which he set forth that, as Baillie was a very daring fellow, and suspected of being concerned with a gang equally so with himself, there was great reason to apprehend a rescue might be attempted, by breaking the prison; and therefore praying that he might be removed to Edinburgh, where a scheme of that nature could not so easily be effected." On the 18th December, 1773, and 27th February, 1774, the "Lords, in terms of the said former sentence, decree and adjudge the said James Baillie to be hanged on the 30th March then next." He thus appears to have remained in prison from October, 1772, till March, 1774. "Soon after this sentence, he got another pardon," and was again discharged from prison, in order to his transporting himself; but he remained at home, and again relapsed into his former way of life. He was, some time afterwards, committed to Newcastle gaol, but made his escape. A short time after that, he was committed to Carlisle gaol, on suspicion of having stolen some plate. On the 4th December, 1776, three sheriff-officers set out from Edinburgh, to bring him hither; but before they reached Carlisle, he had again broken prison and escaped.[140]

[140] Scot's Magazine, vol xxxviii., page 675.

During one of the periods of Baillie's imprisonment, he escaped from jail, attired as a female; having been assisted by some of his tribe, residing in the Grass-market of Edinburgh. Tradition states that the then Mistress Baillie, of Lamington, and her family, used all their interest in obtaining these pardons for James Baillie; who, like his fathers before him, pretended to be a bastard relative of the family of Lamington, and thereby escaped the punishment of death. McLaurin justly remarks that "few cases have occurred in which there has been such an expenditure of mercy."[141]

[141] McLaurin's Trials, page 555. [See note at page 205.--ED.]

I have already mentioned how handsomely the superior order of Gipsies dressed at the period of which we are speaking. The male head of the Ruthvens--a man six feet some inches in height--who, according to the newspapers of the day, lived to the advanced age of 115 years, when in full dress, in his youth, wore a white wig, a ruffled shirt, a blue Scottish bonnet, scarlet breeches and waistcoat, a long blue superfine coat, white stockings, with silver buckles in his shoes. Others wore silver brooches in their breasts, and gold rings on their fingers. The male Gipsies in Scotland were often dressed in green coats, black breeches, and leathern aprons. The females were very partial to green clothes. At the same time, the following anecdote will show how artful they were at all times, by means of dress and other equipments, to transform themselves, like actors on the stage, into various characters, whenever it suited their purposes.[142]

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