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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

As in the case of Robert McVitie and others


reader will have observed the complete protection which William Baillie's token afforded Robert McVitie, when two men were about to rob him, while travelling with his packs, between Elvanfoot and Moffat. This system of tokens made part of the general internal polity of the Gipsies. These curious people stated to me that Scotland was at one time divided into districts, and that each district was assigned to a particular tribe. The chieftains of these tribes issued tokens to the members of their respective hordes, "when they scattered themselves over the face of the country." The token of a local chieftain protected its bearer only while within his own district. If found without this token, or detected travelling in a district for which the token was not issued, the individual was liable to be plundered, beaten, and driven back into his own proper territory, by those Gipsies on whose rights and privileges he had infringed. These tokens were, at certain periods, called in and renewed, to prevent any one from forging them. They were generally made of tin, with certain characters impressed upon them; and the token of each tribe had its own particular mark, and was well known to all the Gipsies in Scotland. But while these passes of the provincial chieftains were issued only for particular districts, a token of the Baillie family protected its bearer throughout the kingdom of Scotland; a fact which clearly proves the superiority of that ancient clan. Several Gipsies have assured me
that "a token from a Baillie was good over all Scotland, and that kings and queens had come of that family." And an old Gipsy also declared to me that the tribes would get into utter confusion, were the country not divided into districts, under the regulations of tokens. It sometimes happened, as in the case of Robert McVitie and others, that the Gipsies gave passes or tokens to some of their particular favourites who were not of their own race.

This system of Gipsy polity establishes a curious fact, namely, the double division and occupation of the kingdom of Scotland; by ourselves as a civilized people, and by a barbarous community existing in our midst, each subject to its own customs, laws and government; and that, while the Gipsies were preying upon the vitals of the civilized society which harboured them, and were amenable to its laws, they were, at the same time, governed by the customs of their own fraternity.

The surnames most common among the old Tweed-dale bands of Gipsies were Baillie, Ruthven, Kennedy, Wilson, Keith, Anderson, Robertson, Stewart, Tait, Geddes, Grey, Wilkie and Halliday. The three principal clans were the Baillies, Ruthvens and Kennedys; but, as I have already mentioned, the tribe of Baillie were superior to all others, in point of authority as well as in external appearance.[145]

[145] According to Hoyland, the most common names among the English tented Gipsies are Smith, Cooper, Draper, Taylor, Boswell, Lee, Lovel, Loversedge, Allen, Mansfield, Glover, Williams, Carew, Martin, Stanley, Berkley, Plunket, and Corrie. Mr. Borrow says: "The clans Young and Smith, or Curraple, still haunt two of the eastern counties. The name Curraple is a favourite among the English Gipsies. It means a smith--a name very appropriate to a Gipsy. The root is _Curaw_, to strike, hammer, &c." Among the English and Scottish Gipsies in America, I have found a great variety of surnames.--ED.

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