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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

For calling them Sauchie Blackies


What has been said by the two last-named writers is very wide of the mark; Grellmann, however, hits it exactly. The Gipsies have excellent memories. It is all they have to depend on. If they had not good memories, how could they, at the present day, speak a word of their language at all? The difficulty in question is down-right shuffling, and not a want of memory on the part of the Gipsy. The present chapter will throw some light on the subject. Even Mr. Borrow himself gives an ample refutation to his sweeping account of the Spanish Gipsies, in regard to their language; for, in another part of his work, he says: "I recited the Apostles' Creed to the Gipsies, sentence by sentence, which they translated as I proceeded. They exhibited the greatest eagerness and interest in their unwonted occupation, and frequently broke into loud disputes as to the best rendering, many being offered at the same time. I then read the translation aloud, whereupon they raised a shout of exultation, and appeared not a little proud of the composition." On this occasion, Mr. Borrow evidently had the Gipsies in the right humour--that is, off their guard, excited, and much interested in the subject. He says, in another place: "The language they speak among themselves, and they are particularly anxious to keep others in ignorance of it." As a general thing, they seem to have been bored by people much above them in the scale of society; with whom, their natural politeness,
and expectations of money or other benefits, would naturally lead them to do anything than give them that which it is inborn in their nature to keep to themselves.--ED.

Among the causes contributing to this state of things among the Scottish Gipsies, and what are called Tinklers or Tinkers, for they are the same people, may be mentioned the following: The traditional accounts of the numerous imprisonments, banishments, and executions, which many of the race underwent, for merely being "by habit and repute Gipsies," under the severe laws passed against them, are still fresh in the memories of the present generation. They still entertain the idea that they are a persecuted race, and liable, if known to be Gipsies, to all the penalties of the statutes framed for the extirpation of the whole people. But, apart from this view of the question, it may be asked, how is it that the Gipsies in Scotland are more reserved, (they are generally altogether silent,) in respect to themselves, than their brethren in other countries seem to be? It may be answered, that our Scottish tribes are, in general, much more civilized, their bands more broken up, and the individuals more mixed with, and scattered through, the general population of the country, than the Gipsies of other nations; and it therefore appears to me that the more their blood gets mixed with that of the ordinary natives, and the more they approach to civilization, the more determinedly will they conceal every particular relative to their tribe, to prevent their neighbours ascertaining their origin and nationality. The slightest taunting allusion to the forefathers of half-civilized Scottish Tinklers kindles up in their breasts a storm of wrath and fury: for they are extremely sensitive to the feeling which is entertained toward their tribe by the other inhabitants of the country.[190] "I have," said one of them to me, "wrought all my life in a shop with fellow-tradesmen, and not one of them ever discovered that I knew a single Gipsy word." A Gipsy woman also informed me that herself and sister had nearly lost their lives, on account of their language. The following are the particulars: The two sisters chanced to be in a public-house near Alloa, when a number of colliers, belonging to the coal-works at Sauchie, were present. The one sister, in a low tone of voice, and in the Gipsy language, desired the other, among other things, to make ready some broth for their repast. The colliers took hold of the two Gipsy words, _shaucha_ and _blawkie_, which signify broth and pot; thinking the Tinkler women were calling them _Sauchie Blackies_, in derision and contempt of their dark, subterraneous calling. The consequence was, that the savage colliers attacked the innocent Tinklers, calling out that they would "grind them to powder," for calling them _Sauchie Blackies_. But the determined Gipsies would rather perish than explain the meaning of the words in English, to appease the enraged colliers; "for," said they, "it would have exposed our tribe, and made ourselves odious to the world." The two defenceless females might have been murdered by their brutal assailants, had not the master of the house fortunately come to their assistance. The poor Gipsies felt the effects of the beating they had received, for many months thereafter; and my informant had not recovered from her bruises at the time she mentioned the circumstances to me.[191]


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