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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The Gipsies were very orderly in their deportment


A

considerable portion of the time of the males was occupied in athletic amusements. They were constantly exercising themselves in leaping, cudgel-playing, throwing the hammer, casting the putting-stone, playing at golf, quoits, and other games; and while they were much given, on other occasions, to keep themselves from view, the extraordinary ambition which they all possessed, of beating every one they met with, at these exercises, brought them sometimes in contact with the men about the farm, master as well as servants. They were fond of getting the latter to engage with them, for the purpose of laughing at their inferiority in these healthy and manly amusements; but when any of the country-people chanced to beat them at these exercises, as was sometimes the case, they could not conceal their indignation at the affront. Their haughty scowl plainly told that they were ready to wipe out the insult in a different and more serious manner. Indeed, they were always much disposed to treat farm-servants with contempt, as quite their inferiors in the scale of society; and always boasted of their own high birth, and the antiquity of their family. They were extremely fond of the athletic amusement of "o'erending the tree," which was performed in this way: The end of a spar or beam, above six feet long, and of a considerable thickness and weight, is placed upon the upper part of the right foot, and held about the middle, in a perpendicular position, by the right hand. Standing upon the left
foot, and raising the right a little from the ground, and drawing it as far back as possible, and then bringing the foot forward quickly to the front, the spar is thrown forward into the air, from off the foot, with great force. And he who "overends the tree" the greatest number of times in the air, before it reaches the ground, is considered the most expert, and the strongest man. A great many of these Gipsies had a saucy military gesture in their walk, and generally carried in their hands short, thick cudgels, about three feet in length. While they travelled, they generally unbuttoned the knees of their breeches, and rolled down the heads of their stockings, so as to leave the joints of their knees bare, and unincumbered by their clothes.

During the periods they occupied the out-houses of the farms, the owners of which were kind to them, the Gipsies were very orderly in their deportment, and temperate in the use of spirituous liquors, being seldom seen intoxicated; and were very courteous and polite to all the members of the family. Their behaviour was altogether very orderly, peaceable, quiet, and inoffensive. In gratitude for their free-quarters, they frequently made, from old metal, smoothing-irons for the mistress, and sole-clouts for the ploughs of the master, and spoons for the family, from the horns of rams, or other horns that happened to be about the house; for all of which they would take nothing. They, however, did not attend the church, while encamped on the premises; at the same time, they took especial care to give no molestation, or cause of offence, to any about the farm, on Sunday; being, indeed, seldom seen on that day out-side of the door of the house in which they were quartered, saving an individual to look after their horses or asses, while grazing in the neighbouring fields. Their religious sentiments were confined entirely within their own breasts; and it was impossible to know what were their real opinions on the score of religion. However, within the last ten years, I enquired, very particularly, of an intelligent Gipsy, what religion his forefathers professed, and his answer was, that "the Gipsies had no religious sentiments at all; that they worshipped no sort of thing whatever."


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