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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Seek other cause 'gainst Roderick Dhu


of the wicked deeds of the

vagabonds of their clans and surnames." Indeed, the doweries of the chiefs' daughters were made up by a share of the booty collected on their expeditions. The Highlands were, at one time, little better than a nest of thieves; thieving from each other, and more particularly from their southern neighbours. It is notorious that robbery, in the Highlands, was "held to be a calling not merely innocent, but honourable;" and that a high-born Highland warrior was "much more becomingly employed, in plundering the lands of others, than in tilling his own." At stated times of the year, such as at Candlemas, regular bands of Highlanders, the sons of gentlemen and what not, proceeded south in quest of booty, as part of their winter's provisions. The Highlanders might even have been compared, at one time, to as many tribes of Afghans. Mr. Skene, the historian of the Highlands, and himself a Highlander, says that the Highlanders believed that they _had a right_ to plunder the people of the low country, _whenever it was in their power_. We naturally ask, how did the Highlanders _acquire_ this right of plunder? Were they ever proscribed? Were any of them hung, merely for being Highlanders? No. What plea, then, did the Highlanders set up, in justification of this wholesale robbery?--"They believed, _from tradition_, that the Lowlands, _in old times_, were the possessions of their ancestors." (_Skene._) But that was no excuse for their plundering each other.[280]

[280] Sir Walter Scott makes Fitz-James, in the "Lady of the Lake," say to Roderick Dhu:

"But then, thy chieftain's robber life!-- Winning mean prey by causeless strife, Wrenching from ruined Lowland swain His herds and harvests reared in vain-- Methinks a soul like thine should scorn The spoils from such foul foray borne.

The Gael beheld him, grim the while, And answered with disdainful smile,--

* * * * *

'Where live the mountain chiefs, who hold That plundering Lowland field and fold Is aught but retribution true? Seek other cause 'gainst Roderick Dhu!'"

The Gipsy's ordinary pilfering was confined to such petty things as "hens and peats at pleasure," "cutting a bit lamb's throat," and "a mouthfu' o' grass and a pickle corn, for the cuddy"--"things that a farmer body ne'er could miss." But your Highlanders did not content themselves with such "needles and pins;" they must have "horned cattle." If the coast was clear, they would table their drawn dirks, and commence their _spulzie_, by making their victims furnish them with what was necessary to fill their bellies; upon the strength of which, they would "lift" whatever they could carry and drive, or take its equivalent in black-mail.

What an effort is made by our McGregors, at the present day, to scrape up kin with this or the other


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