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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

A horde of Gipsies and vagabonds encamped


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horde of Gipsies and vagabonds encamped, last week, in a quarry, on the back of the hill opposite Cherry-bank. Their number amounted to about thirty. The inhabitants in that quarter became alarmed; and Provost Ross, whose mansion is in the vicinity of the new settlers, ordered out a strong posse of officers from Perth, to dislodge them; which they effected. The country is now kept in continual terror by these vagabonds, and it will really be imperative on the landed proprietors to adopt some decided measure for the suppression of this growing evil."--_3d October, 1829._[235]

[235] From the numerous enquiries I have made, I am fully satisfied that the greater part of the vagrants mentioned in these notices are Gipsies; at least most of them speak the Gipsy language. [It matters not whether the people mentioned are wholly or only partly of Gipsy blood; it is sufficient if they have been reared as Gipsies. There are enough of the tribe in the country to follow the kind of life mentioned, to the extent the people can afford to submit to, without having their prerogatives infringed upon by ordinary natives. Where will we find any of the latter, who would betake themselves to the tent, and follow such a mode of life? Besides, the Gipsies, with their organization, would not tolerate it; and far less would they allow any common natives, of the lowest class, to travel in their company.--ED.]

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gentleman informed me that, in the same year, he counted, in Aberdeenshire, thirty-five men, women, and children, in one band, with six asses and two carts, for carrying their luggage and articles of merchandise. Another individual stated to me, that upwards of three hundred of the Gipsies attended the funeral of one of their old females, who died near the bridge of Earn. So late as 1841, the sheriff of East Lothian addressed a representation to the justices of the peace of Mid-Lothian, recommending a new law for the suppression of the numerous Gipsy tents in the Lothians. I have, myself, during a walk of two hours, counted, in Edinburgh and its suburbs, upwards of fifty of these vagrants, strolling about.[236]

[236] Owing to such causes as these, many of the Gipsies have been again driven into their holes. It is amusing to notice the tricks which some of them resort to, in evading the letter of the Vagrant Act. They generally encamp on the borders of two counties, which they will cross--passing over into the other--to avoid being taken up: for county officers have no jurisdiction over them, beyond the boundaries of their respective shires.--ED.

When I visited St. Boswell's, I felt convinced, as mentioned in the last chapter, that there were upwards of three hundred Gipsies in the fair held at that place. Part of them formed their carts, laden with earthen-ware, into two lines, leaving a space between them, like a street. In the rear of the carts were a few small tents, in which were Gipsies, sleeping in the midst of the noise and bustle of the market; and numbers of children, horses, asses, and dogs, hanging around them. There were also kettles, suspended from triangles, in which victuals were cooking; and many of the Gipsies enjoyed a warm meal, while others at the market had to content themselves with a cold repast. In the midst of the throng of this large and crowded fair, I noticed, without the least discomposure on their part, some of the male Gipsies changing their dirty, greasy-looking shirts for clean ones, leaving no covering on their tawny persons, but their breeches; and some of the old females, with bare shoulders and breasts, combing their dark locks, like black horses' tails, mixed with grey. "Ae whow! look at that," exclaimed a countryman to his companion; and, without waiting for his friend's reply, he gravely added: "Everything after its kind." The Gipsies were, in short, dressing themselves for the fair, in the midst of the crowd, regardless of everything passing around them.


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