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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Of the Gipsy always being a Gipsy


bandit McGregor; and yet how

apt the McGregor is to turn up his nose--just as Punch, only, could make him turn it up--if a Gipsy were to step out, and say, that he was a descendant, and could speak the language, of Will Baillie, mentioned under the head of Tweed-dale and Clydesdale Gipsies: a Gipsy, described by my ancestor, (and he could judge,) to have been "the handsomest, the best dressed, the best looking, and the best bred, man he ever saw; and the best swordsman in Scotland, for, with his weapon in his hand, and his back at a wall, he could set almost everything, saving fire-arms, at defiance; a man who could act the gentleman, the robber, the sorner, and the tinker, whenever it answered his purpose."[281] And yet, some of this man's descendants will doubtless be found among our medical doctors, and even the clergy. I recollect our author pointing out a clergyman of the Scottish Church, who, he was pretty sure, was "one of them." What name could have stood lower, at one time, than McGregor? Both by legal and social proscription, it was looked upon as vagabond; and doubtless the clan brought it, primarily and principally, upon themselves; but as for the rapine they practised upon their neighbours, and the helpless southerners, they were, at first, no worse, in that respect, than others of their nation. Are the McGregors sure that there are no Gipsies among them? There are plenty of Gipsies of, at least, the name of McGregor, known to both the Scottish and English Gipsies. What more likely than some
of the McGregors, when "out," and leading their vagabond lives, getting mixed up with the better kind of mixed Gipsies? They were both leading a wild life, and it is not unlikely that some of the McGregors, of even no small consequence, might have been led captive by such Gipsy girls as the lady Baillies, of Tweed-dale. Let a Gipsy once be grafted upon a native family, and she rises with it; leavens the little circle of which she is the centre, and leaves it, and its descendants, for all time coming, Gipsies.

[281] See page 202.

I now come to ask, what constitutes a Gipsy at the present day? And common sense replies: the simple fact or knowing from whom he is descended, that is, who he is, in connection with having the Gipsy words and signs, although these are not absolutely necessary. It requires no argument to show that there is no tribe or nation but finds something that leads it to cling to its origin and descent, and not despise the blood that runs in its own veins, although it may despise the condition or conduct of some of its members. Where shall we find an exception to this rule? The Gipsy race is no exception to it. Civilize a Gipsy, and you make him a civilized Gipsy; educate him, and you make him an educated Gipsy; bring him up to any profession you like, Christianize him as much as you may, and he still remains a Gipsy; because he is of the Gipsy race, and all the influences of nature and revelation do not affect the questions of blood, tribe, and nationality. Take all the Gipsies that ever came out of the tent, or their descendants, including those brought into the body through the male and female line; and what are they now? Still Gipsies. They even pass into the other world Gipsies. "But they will forget that they are Gipsies," say, perhaps, some of my readers. Forget that they are Gipsies! Will we hear, some of these days, that Scotch people, themselves, will get up of a morning, toss about their night-caps, and forget that they are Scotch? We may then see the same happen with the Gipsies. What I have said, of the Gipsy always being a Gipsy, is self-evident; but it has a wide difference of meaning from that contained in the quotation given by Mr. Borrow, in which it is said: "For that which is unclean by nature thou canst entertain no hope; no washing will turn the Gipsy white."[282] But, taking the world all over, there will doubtless be Gipsies, in larger or smaller numbers, who will always be found following the original ways of their race.


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