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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Whom we met near Inverkeithing Manse


In

confirmation of these facts, I shall transcribe a letter addressed to me by the gentleman who was present on the occasion.[198]

[198] This letter is interesting to the extent that it illustrates the amount of knowledge possessed by the Scottish community, generally, regarding the subject of the Gipsies.--ED.

INVERKEITHING, _25th May, 1829._

"MY DEAR SIR:

"Agreeably to your desire, I have looked over that part of your manuscript of the Scottish Gipsies which details the particulars of a short and accidental interview which we had with a woman and four children, whom we met near Inverkeithing Manse, on the 22d inst., and who turned out to be Gipsies. I have no hesitation in averring that your statements, to my knowledge, are substantially correct--being present during the whole conversation which took place with the individuals mentioned. It was the first time I ever heard the Gipsy language spoken, and it appeared quite evident that those Gipsies could converse, in a regular and connected manner, on any subject, without making use of a single English word; and which particularly appeared from the questions which they put to you, as well as from the conversation which they had among themselves, in their own peculiar speech: and that, otherwise, the woman and children had

not, in the colour of their hair, complexion, and general appearance, any resemblance to those people whom I always considered to be Gipsies. I am, &c.,

"JAMES H. COBBAN, _Deputy Compt. of Customs, Inverkeithing._

"MR. WALTER SIMSON, _Supt. of Quarantine, Inverkeithing_."[199]

[199] Sir Walter Scott was disposed to think that our Gipsy population was rather exaggerated at five thousand souls; but when families such as the above mentioned are taken into account--leaving alone those who may be classed as settled Gipsies--I am convinced that their number is not over-estimated.

[Not being in possession of sufficient information on the subject of the Gipsies, the opinion of Sir Walter Scott, on the point in question, amounted to nothing. See the Index, for Sir Walter Scott's ideas of the Scottish Gipsy population.--ED.]

I have already mentioned having succeeded in obtaining a few words of Gipsy, from two sisters, of the name of Jamieson, who came begging to my door. I had reason to suppose they would acquaint their relatives of having been questioned in their own speech, and would greatly exaggerate my knowledge of it; for I always observed that the individuals with whom I conversed were at first impressed with a belief that I knew much more of it than I really did.


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