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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

You indirectly call them Gipsies


I

need scarcely say, that all those females who travel the country in families, selling articles made from horn, while the males practise the mysteries of the tinker, are that portion of the Gipsies who adhere more strictly to their ancient customs and manner of life. Some of the principal families of these nomadic horner bands have yet districts on which none others of the tribe dare encroach. This division of the Gipsies are, by superficial observers, considered the only Gipsies in existence in Scotland; which is a great mistake. The author of Guy Mannering, himself, seems to have had this class of Gipsies, only, in view, when he says, "There are not now above five hundred of the tribe in Scotland." Those who deal in earthen-ware, and work at the tinsmith business, call these horners Gipsies; and nothing can give greater offence to these Gipsy potters and smiths than to ask them if they ever _made horn spoons_; for, by asking them this question, you indirectly call them Gipsies, an appellation that alarms them exceedingly.[234]

[234] It is only within these forty years that spoon-making from horn became a regular trade. It would seem the Gipsies had a monopoly of the business; for I am informed that the first man in Scotland who served a regular apprenticeship to it was alive, in Glasgow, in 1836. [There is nothing in this remark to imply that the manufacturing of spoons, and other articles, from horn, may not be monopolized by the

Gipsies yet, whatever the way in which it may be carried on.--ED.]

Since the termination of the long-protracted French war, the Gipsies have, to some extent, resumed their ancient manners; and many of them are to be seen encamped in the open fields. There are six tents to be observed at present, for one during the war. To substantiate what I have said of the numbers and manners of the nomadic Gipsies since the peace, I will give the two following paragraphs, taken from the Caledonian Mercury newspaper:

"_Tinklers and vagabonds_: The country has been much infested, of late years, by wandering hordes of vagabonds, who, under pretence of following the serviceable calling of tinkers, assume the name and appearance of such, merely to extort contributions of victuals, and other articles of value, from the country-people, particularly in lonely districts. The evil has encreased rapidly of late, and calls loudly for redress upon those in whose charge the police of the country districts is placed. They generally travel in bands, varying in number from ten to thirty; and wherever they pitch their camp, the neighbours are certain of suffering loss of cattle or poultry, unless they submit to pay a species of black-mail, to save themselves from heavier and more irregular contributions. These bands possess all the vices peculiar to the regular Gipsies, without any of the extenuating qualities which distinguish these foreign tribes. Unlike the latter, they do not settle in one place sufficiently long to attach themselves to the soil, or to particular families; and seem possessed of no industrious habits, but those of plunder, knavery, and riot. The chief headquarters of the hordes are at the caves of Auchmithie, on the east coast of Forfarshire; from which, to the wilds of Argyleshire, seems to be the usual route of their bands; small detachments being sent off, at intermediate places, to extend the scene of their plunder. Their numbers have been calculated by one who lives on the direct line of their passage, through the braes of Perthshire, and who has had frequent opportunities for observation; and he estimates them at several hundred."--_22d August, 1829._


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