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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Which is peculiar to the Gipsy everywhere


There is a vast amount of ambition about every Gipsy, which is displayed, among the humble classes, in all kinds of athletic exercises.[274] The same peculiarity is discernible among the educated Scottish Gipsies. Carrying about with them the secret of being Gipsies, which they assume would be a terrible imputation cast upon them by the ordinary natives, if they knew of it, they, as it were, fly up, like game-cocks, and show a disposition to surpass the others in one way or other; particularly as they consider themselves better than the common inhabitants. They must always be "cock of the company," master of ceremonies, or stand at the top of the tree, if possible. The reader may ask, how do they consider themselves better than the ordinary natives? And I answer, that, from having been so long in Scotland, they are Scotchmen, (as indeed they are, for the most part, in point of blood,) and consider themselves as good as the others--nay, smarter than others in the same sphere, which, generally speaking, they are; and, in addition to that, being Gipsies, a great deal better. They pique themselves on their descent, and on being in possession of secrets which are peculiarly and exclusively theirs, and which they imagine no other knows, or will ever know. They feel that they are part and parcel of those mysterious beings who are an enigma to others, no less than to themselves. Besides this vanity, which is peculiar to the Gipsy everywhere, the Scottish Gipsies have chimed in with all the native Scotch ideas of clanism, kith, kin, and consequence, as regards family, descent, and so forth; and applied them so peculiarly to themselves, as to render their opinion of their body as something of no small importance. Some of them, whose descent leads them more directly back to the tented stock, speak of their families having possessed this district or the other district of the country, as much, almost, as we would expect to hear from some native Scottish chieftain.

[274] "I was one of these verminous ones, one of these great sin-breeders; I infected all the youth of the town where I was born with all manner of youthful vanities. The neighbours counted me so; my practice proved me so: wherefore Christ Jesus took me first, and taking me first, the contagion was much allayed all the town over."--_Bunyan._

As regards the various phases of history through which many of the Scottish Gipsies have passed, we can only form an estimate from what has been observed in recent times. The further back, however, we go, the greater were their facilities to rise to a position in society; for this reason, that a very little education, joined to good natural talents, were all that was necessary, in a mixed Gipsy, to raise himself in the world, at the time to which I allude. He could leave the district in which, when a youth, he had travelled, with his parents; settle in a town where he was not personally known; commence some traffic, and, by his industry, gradually raise himself up, and acquire wealth. He would not lack a proper degree of innate manners, or personal dignity, to deport himself with propriety in any ordinary company into which he might enter. Even at the present day, in Scotland, a poor Gipsy will commence life with a wheelbarrow, then get a donkey-cart, and, in a few years, have a very respectable crockery-shop. I am intimate with an English mixed Gipsy family, the father of which commenced life as a basket-maker, was afterwards a constable, and now occasionally travels with the tent. His son is an M. D., for I have seen his diploma; and is a smart, intelligent fellow, and quite an adept at chemistry. To illustrate the change that has taken place among some of the Scottish Gipsies, within the last fifty years, I may mention that the grand-children of a prominent


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