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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Called Town Yetholm and Kirk Yetholm


a child, and among the scenes which she frequented, I have often heard these stories, and cried piteously for poor Jean Gordon.

"Before quitting the Border Gipsies, I may mention that my grandfather, riding over Charter-house moor, then a very extensive common, fell suddenly among a large band of them, who were carousing in a hollow of the moor, surrounded by bushes. They instantly seized on his horse's bridle, with many shouts of welcome, exclaiming, (for he was well known to most of them,) that they had often dined at his expense, and he must now stay, and share their good-cheer. My ancestor was a little alarmed, for, like the good man of Lochside, he had more money about his person than he cared to venture with into such society. However, being a bold, lively man, he entered into the humour of the thing, and sate down to the feast, which consisted of all the different varieties of game, poultry, pigs, and so forth, that could be collected by a wide and indiscriminate system of plunder. The feast was a very merry one, but my relative got a hint, from some of the elder Gipsies, to retire just when 'The mirth and fun grew fast and furious;' and, mounting his horse, accordingly, he took French leave of his entertainers, but without experiencing the least breach of hospitality. I believe Jean Gordon was at this festival.

"The principal settlements of the Gipsies, in my time, have been the two villages of Easter

and Wester Gordon, and what is called Kirk-Yetholm,

Making good the proverb odd, Near the church and far from God."

In giving an account of the modern Gipsies on the Scottish Border, I shall transcribe, at full length, the faithful and interesting report of Baillie Smith, of Kelso, which was published in Hoyland's "Historical Survey of the Gipsies."

"A considerable time," says Mr. Smith, "having elapsed since I had an opportunity or occasion to attend to the situation of the colony of Gipsies in our neighbourhood, I was obliged to delay my answer to your enquiries, until I could obtain more information respecting their present numbers.

"The great bar to the benevolent intentions of improving their situation, will be the impossibility to convince them that there either is, or can be, a mode of life preferable, or even equal, to their own.

"A strong spirit of independence, or what they would distinguish by the name of liberty, runs through the whole tribe. It is, no doubt, a very licentious liberty, but entirely to their taste. Some kind of honour peculiar to themselves seems to prevail in their community. They reckon it a disgrace to steal near their homes, or even at a distance, if detected. I must always except that petty theft of feeding their _shelties_ and asses, on the farmer's grass and corn, which they will do, whether at home or abroad.

"When avowedly trusted, even in money matters, they never deceived me, nor forfeited their promise. I am sorry to say, however, that when checked in their licentious appropriations, &c., they are very much addicted both to threaten and to execute revenge.

"Having so far premised with respect to their general conduct and character, I shall proceed to answer, as far as I am able, the four queries subjoined to the circular which you sent me; and then subjoin, in notes, some instances of their conduct in particular cases, which may perhaps elucidate their general disposition and character.

"_Query 1st._ What number of Gipsies in the county?

"_Answer._ I know of none except the colony of Yetholm, and one family who lately removed from that place to Kelso. Yetholm consists of two towns, or large villages, called Town-Yetholm and Kirk-Yetholm. The first is in the estate of Mr. Wauchope, of Niddry; the latter in that of the Marquis of Tweed-dale. The number of the Gipsy colony at present in Kirk-Yetholm amounts to, at least, 109 men, women and children; and perhaps two or three may have escaped notice. They marry early in life; in general have many children; and their number seems to be encreasing.

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