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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Who kept a poor Tinkler Howff at Mauchline


Mutilation was also very common among the English Gipsies, during the French war. Strange as it may appear, the same took place among them, at the commencement of the late Russian war; from which we may conclude, that they had suffered severely during the previous war, or they would not have resorted to so extreme a measure for escaping military duty, when a press-gang was not even thought of. An English Gipsy, at the latter time, laid two of his fingers on a block of wood, and, handing his broom-knife to his neighbour, said, "Now, take off these fingers, or I'll take off your head with this other hand!"

During the French war, Gipsies again and again accepted the bounty for recruits, but took "French leave" of the service. The idea is finely illustrated in Burns' "Jolly Beggars:"

"TUNE--_Clout the caudron_.

"My bonny lass, I work in brass, A Tinkler is my station: I've travell'd round all Christian ground, In this my occupation. I've ta'en the gold, an' been enroll'd In many a noble squadron: But vain they searched when off I march'd To go and clout the caudron."

Poosie Nancie and her reputed daughter, Racer Jess, were very probably Gipsies, who kept a poor "Tinkler Howff" at Mauchline.

Gipsies sometimes voluntarily join the navy, as

musicians. Here their vanity will have a field for conspicuous display; for a good fifer, on board of a man-of-war, in accompanying certain work with his music, is equal to the services of ten men. There were some Gipsy musicians in the fleet at Sebastopol. But, generally speaking, Gipsies are like cats--not very fond of the water.--ED.

Such causes as these, taken in connection with the improved internal administration of the country, and the progression of the age, have cast a complexion over the outward aspect of the bulk of the Scottish Gipsy race, entirely different from what it was before they came into existence.

Many of the Gipsies now keep shops of earthen-ware, china, and crystal. Some of them, I am informed on the best authority, have from one to eight thousand pounds invested in this line of business.[230] I am disposed to think that few of these shops were established prior to the commencement of the French war; as I find that several of their owners travelled the country in their early years. Perhaps the fear of being apprehended as vagrants, and compelled to enter the army or navy, forced some of the better sort to settle in towns.[231] Like their tribe in other countries, numbers of our Scottish Gipsies deal in horses; others keep public-houses; and some of them, as innkeepers, will, in heritable and moveable property, possess, perhaps, two or three thousand pounds. These innkeepers and stone-ware merchants are scarcely to be distinguished as Gipsies; yet they all retain the language, and converse in it, among themselves. The females, as is their custom, are particularly active in managing the affairs of their respective concerns.


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