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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Gipsies were originally from Ethiopia


Gipsies were originally from

Ethiopia, although now called Gipsies.[208] He now spoke of himself and his tribe by the name of Gipsies, without hesitation or alarm. "Our Gipsy language," added he, "is softer than your harsh Gaelic." He was at considerable pains to give me the proper sound of the words. The letter _a_ is pronounced broad in their language, like _aw_ in paw, or _a_ in water; and _ie_, or _ee_, in the last syllable of a great many words, are sounded short and quick; and _ch_ soft, as in church. Their speech appears to be copious, for, said he, they have a great many words and expressions for one thing. He further stated that the Gipsy language has no alphabet, or character, by which it can be learned, or its grammatical construction ascertained. He never saw any of it written. I observed to him that it would, in course of time, be lost. He replied, that "so long as there existed two Gipsies in Scotland, it would never be lost." He informed me that every one of the Yetholm Tinklers spoke the language; and that almost all those persons who were selling earthen-ware at St. Boswell's fair were Gipsies. I counted myself twenty-four families, with earthen-ware, and nine female heads of families, selling articles made of horn. These thirty-three families, together with a great many single Gipsies scattered through the fair, would amount to above three hundred Gipsies on the spot. He further mentioned that none of the Yetholm Gipsies were at the market. The old man also informed me that a great number
of our horse-dealers are Gipsies. "Listen attentively," said he, "to our horse-coupers, in a market, and you will hear them speaking in the Gipsy tongue." I enquired how many there were in Scotland acquainted with the language. He answered, "There are several thousand." I further enquired, if he thought the Gipsy population would amount to five thousand souls. He replied he was sure there were fully five thousand of his tribe in Scotland. It was further stated to me, by this family, that the Gipsies are at great pains in teaching their children, from their very infancy, their own language; and that they embrace every opportunity, when by themselves, of conversing in it, about their ordinary affairs. They also pride themselves very much in being in possession of a speech peculiar to themselves--quite unknown to the public.

[208] The tradition among the Scottish Gipsies of being Ethiopians, whatever weight the reader may attach to it, dates as far back, at least, as the year 1615; for it is mentioned in the remission under the privy seal, granted to William Auchterlony, of Cayrine, for resetting John Faa and his followers. _See page 113._--ED.

I then sent for some spirits wherewith to treat the old chief; but I was cautioned, by one of the family, not to press him to drink much, as, from his advanced age and infirmities, little did him harm. The moment you speak to an intelligent Gipsy chief, in a familiar and kindly manner, putting yourself, as it were, on a level with him, you find him entirely free from all embarrassment in his manners. He speaks to you, at once, in a free, independent, confident, emphatic tone, without any rudeness in his way of addressing you. He never loses his self-possession. The old chieftain sang part of a Gipsy song, in his own language, but he would not allow me to write it down.[209] Indeed, by his manner, he seemed frequently to hesitate whether he would proceed any further in giving me information, and appeared to regret that he had gone so far as he had done. I now and then stopped him in his song, and asked him the meaning of some of the expressions. It was, however, intermixed with a few English words; perhaps every fifth word was English. The Gipsy words, _graunzie_ (barn), _caunies_ (chickens), _molzie_ (wine), _staurdie_ (prison), _mort_ and _chauvies_ (wife and children), were often repeated. In short, the subject of the song was that of a Gipsy, lying in chains in prison, lamenting that he could not support his wife and children by plunder and robbery. The Gipsy was represented as mourning over his hard fate, deprived of his liberty, confined in a dungeon, and expressing the happiness and delight which he had when free, and would have were he lying in a barn, or out-house, living upon poultry, and drinking wine with his tribe.[210]


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