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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The winsome gude man of Lochside


Tradition

states that John Faa, the leader of a band of Gipsies, seizing the opportunity of the Earl of Cassilis' absence, on a deputation to the Assembly of divines at Westminster, in 1643, to ratify the solemn league and covenant, carried off the lady. The Earl was considered a sullen and ill-tempered man, and perhaps not a very agreeable companion to his lady.[161]

[161] See page 108.--ED.

Before proceeding to give an account of the modern Gipsies on the Scottish Border, I shall transcribe an interesting note which Sir Walter Scott gave to the public, in explaining the origin of that singular character Meg Merrilies, in the novel Guy Mannering. The illustrious author kindly offered me the "scraps" which he had already given to Blackwood's Magazine, to incorporate them, if I chose, in my history of the Gipsies; but I prefer giving them in his own words.

"My father," says Sir Walter, "remembered Jean Gordon of Yetholm, who had a great sway among her tribe. She was quite a Meg Merrilies, and possessed the savage virtue of fidelity in the same perfection. Having been hospitably received at the farm-house of Lochside, near Yetholm, she had carefully abstained from committing any depredations on the farmer's property. But her sons, (nine in number,) had not, it seems, the same delicacy, and stole a brood-sow from their kind entertainer. Jean was so much mortified at this ungrateful conduct,

and so much ashamed of it, that she absented herself from Lochside for several years. At length, in consequence of some temporary pecuniary necessity, the good-man of Lochside was obliged to go to Newcastle, to get some money to pay his rent. Returning through the mountains of Cheviot, he was benighted, and lost his way. A light, glimmering through the window of a large waste-barn, which had survived the farm-house to which it had once belonged, guided him to a place of shelter; and when he knocked at the door, it was opened by Jean Gordon. Her very remarkable figure, for she was nearly six feet high, and her equally remarkable features and dress, rendered it impossible to mistake her for a moment; and to meet with such a character, in so solitary a place, and probably at no great distance from her clan, was a terrible surprise to the poor man, whose rent, (to lose which would have been ruin to him,) was about his person. Jean set up a loud shout of joyful recognition. 'Eh, sirs! the winsome gude-man of Lochside! Light down, light down; for ye manna gang farther the night, and a friend's house sae near!' The farmer was obliged to dismount, and accept of the Gipsy's offer of supper and a bed. There was plenty of meat in the barn, however it might be come by, and preparations were going on for a plentiful supper, which the farmer, to the great encrease of his anxiety, observed was calculated for ten or twelve guests of the same description, no doubt, with his landlady. Jean left him in no doubt on the subject. She brought up the story of the stolen sow, and noticed how much pain and vexation it had given her. Like other philosophers, she remarked that the world grows worse daily, and, like other parents, that the bairns got out of her guiding, and neglected the old Gipsy regulations which commanded them to respect, in their depredations, the property of their benefactors. The end of all this was an enquiry


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