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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Comprehending the baronies of Kirk Yetholm and Grubit


2d._ In what do the men and women mostly employ themselves?

"_Answer._ I have known the colony between forty and fifty years. At my first remembrance of them, they were called the _Tinklers_ (Tinkers) of Yetholm, from the males being chiefly then employed in mending pots and other culinary utensils, especially in their peregrinations through the hilly and less frequented parts of the country. Sometimes they were called _Horners_, from their occupation in making and selling horn-spoons, called _cutties_. Now, their common appellation is that of _Muggers_, or, what pleases them better, _Potters_. They purchase, at a cheap rate, the cast or faulty articles from the different manufacturers of earthenware, which they carry for sale all over the country; consisting of groups of six, ten, and sometimes twelve or fourteen persons, male and female, young and old, provided with a horse and cart, to transport the pottery, besides shelties and asses, to carry the youngest of the children, and such baggage as they find necessary. A few of the colony also employ themselves, occasionally, in making besoms, foot-basses, &c., from heath, broom, and bent, and sell them at Kelso and the neighbouring towns. After all, their employment can be considered little better than an apology for idleness and vagrancy. I do not see that the women are otherwise employed than attending the young children, and assisting to sell the pottery when carried through the country.

style="text-align: justify;">"They are, in general, great adepts in hunting, shooting and fishing; in which last they use the net and spear, as well as the rod; and often supply themselves with a hearty meal by their dexterity. They have no notion of being limited in their field sports, either in time, place, or mode of destruction. In the country, they sleep in barns and byres, or other out-houses; and when they cannot find that accommodation, they take the canvas covering from the pottery cart and squat below it, like a covey of partridges in the snow.

"_Query 3d._ Have they any settled abode in winter, and where?

"_Answer._ Their residence, with the exception of a single family, who, some years ago, came to Kelso, is at Kirk-Yetholm, and chiefly confined to one row of houses, or street, of that town, which goes by the name of the _Tinkler Row_. Most of them have leases of their possessions, granted for a term of nineteen times nineteen years, for payment of a small sum yearly, something of the nature of a quit-rent. There is no tradition in the neighbourhood concerning the time when the Gipsies first took up their residence at that place, nor whence they came. Most of their leases, I believe, were granted by the family of the Bennets, of Grubit, the last of whom was Sir David Bennet, who died about sixty years ago. The late Mr. Nisbet, of Dirlton, then succeeded to the estate, comprehending the baronies of Kirk-Yetholm and Grubit. He died about the year 1783; and long after, the property was acquired by the late Lord Tweed-dale's trustees. During the latter part of the life of the late Mr. Nisbet, he was less frequently at his estate in Roxburghshire than formerly. He was a great favourite of the Gipsies, and was in use to call them his body-guards, and often gave them money, &c.

"On the other hand, both the late and present Mr. Wauchope were of opinion that the example of these people had a bad effect upon the morals and industry of the neighbourhood; and seeing no prospect of their removal, and as little of their reformation, considered it as a duty to the public to prevent the evil encreasing; and never would consent to any of the colony taking up their residence in _Town_ Yetholm.

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