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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

And afterwards repeated at Yetholm

"Meeting at Kelso, with Mr. Walter Scott, whose discriminating habits and just observations I had occasion to know, from his youth, and, at the same time, seeing one of my Yetholm friends in the horse-market, I said to Mr. Scott, 'Try to get before that man with the long drab coat, look at him on your return, and tell me whether you ever saw him, and what you think of him.' He was as good as to indulge me; and, rejoining me, he said, without hesitation: 'I never saw the man that I know of; but he is one of the Gipsies of Yetholm, that you told me of, several years ago.' I need scarcely say that he was perfectly correct.

"When first I knew anything about the colony, old Will Faa was king, or leader; and had held the sovereignty for many years. The descendants of Faa now take the name of Fall, from the Messrs. Fall, of Dunbar, who, they pride themselves in saying, are of the same stock and lineage. When old Will Faa was upwards of eighty years of age, he called on me, at Kelso, on his way to Edinburgh, telling me that he was going to see the laird, the late Mr. Nisbet, of Dirlton, as he understood that he was very unwell; and he himself being now old, and not so stout as he had been, he wished to see him once more before he died. He set out by the nearest road, which was by no means his common practice. Next market-day, some of the farmers informed me that they had been in Edinburgh, and seen Will Faa, upon the bridge, (the south bridge was not then built;) that he was tossing about his old brown hat, and huzzaing, with great vociferation, that he had seen the laird before he died. Indeed, Will himself had no time to lose; for, having set his face homewards, by the way of the sea-coast, to vary his route, as is the general custom of the gang, he only got the length of Coldingham, when he was taken ill and died.

"His death being notified to his friends at Yetholm, they and their acquaintances at Berwick, Spittal, Horncliff, &c., met to pay the last honours to their old leader. His obsequies were continued three successive days and nights, and afterwards repeated at Yetholm, whither he was brought. I cannot say that the funeral rites were celebrated with decency and sobriety, for that was by no means the case. This happened in the year 1783, or 1784, and the late Mr. Nisbet did not long survive."[162]

[162] When Mr. Hoyland commenced making enquiries into the condition of the Gipsies, he addressed circulars to the sheriffs, for information. No less than thirteen Scotch sheriffs reported, "No Gipsies within the county." A report of this kind was nearly as good as would be that of a cockney, as to there being no _foxes_ in the country; because, while riding through it, on the stage, he did not _see_ any! Baillie Smith's report, although graphic, is superficial. He states that the Gipsies "marry early in life, and in general have many children;" yet "that their number _seems_ to be encreasing."--ED.

In addition to the above graphic report of Baillie Smith, I will now give a few details from a MS., given to me by Mr. Blackwood, towards the elucidation of the history of the Gipsies. This MS. bears the initials of A. W., and appears to have been written by a gentleman who had ample opportunities of observing the manners of the Border Gipsies.

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