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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

239 Some of the itinerant Gipsies


[238] The Gipsies' supreme luxury is to lie, day and night, so near the fire as to be in danger of burning. At the same time, they can bear to travel in the severest cold, bare-headed, with no other covering than a torn shirt, or some old rags carelessly thrown over them, without fear of catching cold, cough, or any other disorder. They are a people blessed with an iron constitution. Neither wet nor dry weather, heat nor cold, let the extremes follow each other ever so close, seems to have any effect upon them.--_Grellmann on the Hungarian Gipsies._

Their power of resisting cold is truly wonderful, as it is not uncommon to find them encamped, in the midst of the snow, in light canvas tents, when the temperature is 25 or 30 degrees below freezing point, according to Raumer.--_Borrow on the Russian Gipsies._

It is no uncommon thing to see a poor Scottish Gipsy wrap himself and wife in a thin, torn blanket, and pass the night, in the cold of December, in the open air, by the wayside. On rising up in the morning, they will shake themselves in their rags, as birds of prey, in coming off their perch, do their feathers; make for the nearest public-house, with, perhaps, their last copper, for a gill; and, like the ravens, go in search of a breakfast, wherever and whenever Providence may send it to them.--ED.

The females as well as the males

of this horde of Gipsies were busily employed in manufacturing white-iron into household utensils, and the clink of their hammers was heard from daybreak till dark.[239] The males formed the plates into the shapes of the different utensils required, and the females soldered and otherwise completed them, while the younger branches of the families presented them for sale in the neighbourhood. The breakfast of the band consisted of potatoes and herrings, which the females and children had collected in the immediate neighbourhood by begging. I noticed that each family ate their meals by themselves, wrought at their calling by themselves, and sold their goods for themselves. The name of the chief of the gang was Williamson, who said he travelled in the counties of Fife and Perth. When I turned to leave them, they heaped upon me the most fulsome praises, and so loud, that I might distinctly hear them, exactly in the manner as those in Spain, mentioned by Dr. Bright.

[239] Some of the itinerant Gipsies, doubtless, use their trades, in a great measure, as a cover for living by means such as society deems very objectionable. Many of them work hard while they are at it, as in the above instance, when "the clink of their hammers was heard from daybreak till dark;" and as has been said of those in Tweed-dale--"however early the farm servants rose to their ordinary employments, they always found the Tinklers at work."--ED.

I have, for many months running, counted above twenty Gipsies depart out of the town of Inverkeithing, about ten o'clock in the forenoon, every day, on their way to various parts of the country; and I have been informed that from twenty to thirty vagrants lodged in this small burgh nightly. Some of the bakers declared that the persons who were the worst to please with hot rolls for breakfast, were the beggars, or rather Gipsies, who frequented the place. On one occasion, I observed twelve females, without a single male among them, decamp out of the town, all travelling in and around a cart, drawn


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