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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

'The lasses of Blind Pate's Pendicle


[175] On reading the above ceremony to an intelligent native of Fife, he said he had himself heard a Gipsy, of the name of Thomas Ogilvie, say that the Tinklers were married in the way mentioned. On one occasion, when a couple of respectable individuals were married, in the usual Scottish Presbyterian manner, at Elie, in Fife, Ogilvie, Gipsy-like, laughed at such a wedding ceremony, as being, in his estimation, no way binding on the parties. He at the same time observed that, if they would come to him, he would marry them in the Tinkler manner, which would make it a difficult matter to separate them again.

Having endeavoured to describe the ancient nuptial ceremony of the Scottish Gipsies, I have considered it proper to give some account of an individual who acted as priest on such occasions. The name of a famous celebrator of Gipsy marriages, in Fifeshire, was Peter Robertson, well known, towards the latter end of his days, by the name of Blind Pate. Peter was a tall, lean, dark man, and wore a large cocked hat, of the olden fashion, with a long staff in his hand. By all accounts, he must have been a hundred years of age when he died. He was frequently seen at the head of from twenty to forty Gipsies, and often travelled in the midst of a crowd of women. Whenever a marriage was determined on, among the Lochgellie horde, or their immediate connexions, Peter was immediately sent for, however far distant he happened to be at the time from the parties requiring his assistance, to join them in wedlock: for he was the oldest member of the tribe at the time, and head of the Tinklers in the district, and, as the oldest member, it was his prerogative to officiate, as priest, on such occasions. A friend, who obligingly sent me some anecdotes of this Gipsy priest, communicated to me the following facts regarding him:

"At the wedding of a favourite Brae-laird, in the shire of Kinross, Peter Robertson appeared at the head of a numerous band of Tinklers, attended by twenty-four asses. He was always chief and spokesman for the band. At the wedding of a William Low, a multerer, at Kinross, Peter, for the last time, was seen, with upwards of twenty-three asses in his retinue. He had certain immunities and privileges allowed him by his tribe. For one thing, he had the sole profits arising from the sale of keel, used in marking sheep, in the neighbouring upland districts; and one of the asses belonging to the band was always laden with this article alone. Peter was also notorious as a physician, and administered to his favourites medicines of his own preparation, and numbers of extraordinary cures were ascribed to his superior skill. He was possessed of a number of wise sayings, a great many of which are still current in the country. Peter Robertson was, altogether, a very shrewd and sensible man, and no acts of theft were ever laid to his charge, that I know of. He had, however, in his band, several females who told fortunes. The ceremony of marriage which he performed was the same you mentioned to me. The whole contents of the bowl were stirred about with a large ram's horn, which was suspended from a string round his neck, as a badge, I suppose, of his priestly office.[176] He attended all the fairs and weddings for many miles round. The Braes of Kinross were his favourite haunt; so much so that, in making his settlement, and portioning his children, he allowed them all districts, in the country round about, to travel in; but he reserved the Braes of Kinross as his own pendicle, and hence our favourite toast in the shire of Kinross, 'The lasses of Blind Pate's Pendicle.' Besides the Braes of Kinross, this Gipsy, in his sweeping verbal testament, reserved the town of Dunfermline, also, to himself, 'because,' said he, 'Dunfermline was in cash, what Lochleven was in water--it never ran dry.'" A great deal of booty was obtained by the Tinklers, at the large and long-continued fairs which were frequently held in this populous manufacturing town, in the olden times.


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