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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Was attended by a midwife from Queensferry


by a shagged pony. The whole

party were neatly attired, some of the young girls having trowsers, with frills about their ankles; and very few would have taken them for Gipsies. A large proportion of those miserable-looking females, who are accompanied by a number of ragged children, and scatter themselves through the streets, and beg from door to door, are Gipsies. I do not recollect, distressing as the times ever have been, of having seen reduced Scotch tradesmen _begging in families_. I remember once seeing a man with a white apron wrapped around his waist, his coat off, an infant in his arms, and two others at his feet, accompanied by a dark-looking fellow of about twenty, singing through the town mentioned. They represented themselves as broken-down tradesmen, and had the appearance of having just left their looms, to sing for bread; and many half-pence they received. Suspecting them to be impostors, I observed their motions, and soon saw them join other vagrants, outside of the town, among whom were females. The poor tradesmen were now dressed in very substantial drab surtouts. They were nothing but a family of Tinklers. They were proceeding, with great speed, to the next town, to practise their impositions on the inhabitants; and I learned that they had, in this manner, traversed several counties in Scotland. At a subsequent period, I fell in with another family, consisting of five children and their parents, driving an ass and its colt, near the South Queensferry. Upon the back of the ass were two
stone-hammers, and two reaping-hooks, placed in such a manner as any one, in passing, might observe them. I enquired where they had been. "We have been in England, sir, seeking work, but could find none." Few would have taken them for anything but country labourers; but the truth was, they were a family of Gipsies, of the well-known name of Marshall, from about Stranraer. Their implements of industry, so conspicuously exhibited on the back of their ass, was all deception.

It is only about twenty-five years since the Irish Gipsies, in bands, made their appearance in Scotland. Many severe conflicts they had with our Scottish tribes, before they obtained a footing in the country. But there is a new swarm of Irish Gipsies at present scattered, in bands, over Scotland, all acquainted with the Gipsy language. They are a set of the most wretched creatures on the face of the earth. A horde of them, consisting of several families, encamped, at one time, at Port Edgar, on the banks of the Forth, near South Queensferry. They had three small tents, two horses, and four asses, and trafficked in an inferior sort of earthen-ware. On the outside of one of the tents, in the open air, with nothing but the canopy of heaven above her, and the greensward beneath her, one of the females, like the deer in the forest, brought forth a child, without either the infant or mother receiving the slightest injury.[240] The woman, however, was attended by a midwife from Queensferry, who said that these Irish Gipsies were so completely covered with filth and vermin, that she durst not enter one of their tents, to assist the female in labour. Several individuals were attracted to the spot, by the novelty of such an occurrence, in so unusual a place as the open fields. Immediately after the child was born, it was handed about to every one of the band, that they might look at the "young donkey," as they called it. In about two days after the accouchement, the horde proceeded on their journey, as if nothing had happened.[241]


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