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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Many of the male Gipsies perished on the gallows


Mr. Borrow says, that when the female Gipsies, who sing in the choirs of Moscow, were questioned, in their own language, about their externally professing the Greek religion, they laughed, and said it was only to please the Russians.

The same author mentions an instance in which he preached to them; taking, for his text, the situation of the Hebrews in Egypt, and drawing a comparison between it and theirs in Spain. Warming with his subject, he spoke of the power of God in preserving both, as a distinct people, in the world to this day. On concluding, he looked around to see what impression he had made upon them, but the only response he got from them all was--a squint of the eye!--ED.

With regard to the general politics of the Scottish Gipsies, if they entertain any political sentiments at all, I am convinced they are monarchical; and that, were any revolutionary convulsion to loosen the bonds of society, and separate the lower from the higher classes, they would take to the side of the superior portion of the community. They have, at all times, heartily despised the peasantry, and been disposed to treat menials with great contempt, though, at the very moment, they were begging at the doors of their masters. In the few instances which have come to my knowledge, of Scottish Gipsies forming matrimonial connexions with individuals of the community, those individuals were not of the working

or lower classes of society.[253]

[253] What our author says of the politics of the Gipsies is rather more applicable to their ideas of their social position. Being a small body in comparison with the general population of the country, they entertain a very exclusive and, consequently, a very aristocratic idea of themselves, whatever others may think of them; and therefore scorn the prejudice of the very lowest order of the common natives.--ED.

I believe there are Gipsies, in more or less numbers, in almost every town in Scotland, permanent as well as periodical residenters. In many of the villages there are also Gipsy inhabitants. In Mid-Lothian there are great numbers of them, who have houses, in which they reside permanently, but a portion of them travel in other districts, during the summer season. I have been at no ordinary pains and trouble in making enquiries regarding the number of the Gipsies, and the result of my numerous investigations induces me to believe that there are about five thousand of them in Scotland, at the present day. Indeed, some of the Gipsies themselves entertain the same opinion, and they must certainly be allowed to have some idea of the number of their own fraternity.[254]

[254] Before the reformation of our criminal law, many of the male Gipsies perished on the gallows, but now, the greatest punishment they meet with is banishment, or a short imprisonment, for "sorning, pickery, and little thieving." Few of them are now "married to the gallows tree," in the manner of Graham, as described under the head of Fifeshire Gipsies. Owing to their, (the more original kind especially,) all marrying very young, and having very large families, their number cannot fail to encrease, under the present laws, in a ratio far beyond that of our own population. Instead of there being only 5,000 Gipsies in Scotland, there are, as I have already said, nearer 100,000, for reasons to be given in my Disquisition on the Gipsies.--ED.

It appears to me that the civilization and improvement of the body, generally, would be a work of great difficulty. I would be apt to give nearly the same answer which a Hungarian nobleman gave to Dr. Bright, when that traveller asked him if he could not devise a plan for bettering the condition of the race in Hungary. The nobleman said he knew of no manner of improving the Gipsies.[255] The best plan yet proposed for improving the race appears to be the one suggested by the Rev. James Crabb, of Southampton, and the Rev. John Baird, of Yetholm.[256] One of the first steps, however, should be a complete publicity to their language, if that was possible; and encouragement held out to them to speak it openly, without fear or reproach. Their secret speech is a strong bond of union among them, and forms, as it were, a wall of separation between them and the other inhabitants of the country.


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