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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

And do not the Scottish Gipsies


Consider,

then, that the process which I have attempted to describe has been going on, more or less, for at least the last three hundred and fifty years; and I may well ask, where might we _not_ expect to meet with Gipsies, in Scotland, at the present day? And I reply, that we will meet with them in every sphere of Scottish life, not excepting, perhaps, the very highest. There are Gipsies among the very best Edinburgh families. I am well acquainted with Scotchmen, youths and men of middle age, of education and character, and who follow very respectable occupations, that are Gipsies, and who admit that they are Gipsies. But, apart from my own knowledge, I ask, is it not a fact, that, a few years ago, a pillar of the Scottish church, at Edinburgh, upon the occasion of founding a society for the reformation of the poor class of Scottish Gipsies, and frequently thereafter, said that he himself was a Gipsy? I ask, again, is not that a fact? It is a fact. And such a man! Such prayers! Such deep-toned, sonorous piety! Such candour! Such judgment! Such amiability of manners! How much respected! How worthy of respect! The good, the godly, the saintly doctor! When will we meet his like again?[275]

[275] "Grand was the repose of his lofty brow, dark eye, and aspect of soft and melancholy meaning. It was a face from which every evil and earthly passion seemed purged. A deep gravity lay upon his countenance, which had the solemnity, without the sternness, of

one of our old reformers. You could almost fancy a halo completing its apostolic character."

This leads me to speak of a high-class Scottish Gipsy family--the Falls, who settled at Dunbar, as merchants, alluded to under the chapter on Border Gipsies.[276] Who can doubt that they were Gipsies to the last? How could they avoid being Gipsies? The Gipsies were their people; their blood was Gipsy blood. How could they get rid of their blood and descent? Could they throw either off, as they would an old coat? Could medical science rid them of either? Assuredly not. They admitted their descent, _over their cups_. But being _descendants of Gipsies_, and yet _not Gipsies_, is a contradiction in terms. The principles which regulate the descent of other Gipsy families applied equally to theirs. The fact that Mrs. Fall had the history of her people, in the act of leaving Yetholm, represented in tapestry, may be taken as but a straw that indicated how the wind blew. Was not old Will Faa, the Gipsy king, down to his death, at the end of the first American war, admitted to their hospitality as a relative? And do not the Scottish Gipsies, at the present day, claim them to have been Gipsies? Why might not the Falls glory in being Egyptians among themselves, but not to others? Were not their ancestors _kings_? "Wee kings," no doubt, but still kings; one of them being the "loved John Faw," of James V., whom all the tribe consider as a great man, (which, doubtless, he was, in that barbarous age,) and the principal of the thirteen patriarchs of Scottish Gipsydom. Was not a Gipsy king, (themselves being Gipsies,) an ancestor of far more respect, in their eyes, than the founder of a native family, in their neighbourhood; who, in the reign of Charles II., was a common country _snip_, and most likely commenced life with "whipping the cat" around the country, for fivepence a day, and victuals and clippings?[277]

[276] Burns alludes to this family, thus: "Passed through the most glorious corn country I ever saw, till I reached Dunbar, a neat little town. Dine with Provost Fall, an eminent merchant, and most respectable character, but indescribable, as he exhibits no marked traits. Mrs. Fall, a genius in painting; fully more clever in the fine arts and sciences than my friend Lady Wauchope, without her consummate assurance of her own abilities."--_Life of Burns, by Robert Chambers._


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