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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

But of the Gipsies from a distance


"They

mostly remain at home during winter, but as soon as the weather becomes tolerably mild, in spring, most of them, men, women and children, set out on their peregrinations over the country; and live in a state of vagrancy, until driven into their habitations by the approach of winter.

"Seeming to pride themselves as a separate tribe, they very seldom intermarry out of the colony; and, in rare instances, when that happens, the Gipsy, whether male or female, by influence and example, always induces the stranger husband, or wife, to adopt the manners of the colony; so that no improvement is ever obtained in that way. The progeny of such alliances have almost universally the tawny complexion, and fine black eyes, of the Gipsy parent, whether father or mother. So strongly remarkable is the Gipsy cast of countenance, that even a description of them to a stranger, who has had no opportunity of formerly seeing them, will enable him to know them whenever he meets them. Some individuals, but very rarely, separate from the colony altogether; and when they do so, early in life, and go to a distance, such as London, or even Edinburgh, their acquaintances in the country get favourable accounts of them. A few betake themselves to regular and constant employments at home, but soon tire, and return to their old way of life.

"When any of them, especially a leader, or man of influence, dies, they have full meetings, not only of

the colony, but of the Gipsies from a distance; and those meetings, or _late-wakes_, are by no means conducted with sobriety or decency.

"_Query 4th._ Are any of their children taught to read, and what portion of them? With any anecdotes respecting their customs and conduct.

"_Answer._ Education being obtained at a cheaper rate, the Gipsies, in general, give their male children as good a one as is bestowed on those of the labouring people, and farm servants, in the neighbourhood; such as reading, writing, and the first principles of arithmetic. They all apply to the clergyman of the parish for baptism to their children; and a strong, superstitious notion universally prevails with them, that it is unlucky to have an unchristened child in the house. Only a very few ever attend divine service, and those as seldom as they can, just to prevent being refused as sponsors at their children's baptism.

"They are, in general, active and lively, particularly when engaged in field sports, or in such temporary pursuits as are agreeable to their habits and dispositions; but are destitute of the perseverance necessary for a settled occupation, or even for finishing what a moderate degree of continued labour would enable them to accomplish in a few weeks.

"I remember that, about 45 years ago, being then apprenticed to a writer, who was in use to receive the rents and the small duties of Kirk-Yetholm, he sent me there with a list of names, and a statement of what was due, recommending me apply to the landlord of the public-house, in the village, for any information or assistance which I might need.

"After waiting a long time, and receiving payment from most of the feuers, or rentalers, I observed to him, that none of the persons of the names of Faa, Young, Blythe, Fluckie, &c., who stood at the bottom of the list, for small sums, had come to meet me, according to the notice given by the baron-officer, and proposed sending to inform them that they were detaining me, and to request their immediate attendance.

"The landlord, with a grave face, enquired whether my master had desired me to ask money from those men. I said, not particularly; but they stood on the list. 'So I see,' said the landlord; 'but had your master been here himself, he did not dare to ask money from them, either as rent or feu duty. He knows that it is as good as if it were in his pocket. They will pay when their own time comes, but do not like to pay at a set time, with the rest of the barony, and still less to be craved.'


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