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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Yetholm being the metropolis of Scottish Gipsydom


_One drop of blood makes all Gipsydom akin._

The simple fact of a person having Gipsy blood in his veins, in addition to the rearing of a Gipsy parent, acts upon him like a shock of electricity; it makes him spring to his feet, and--"snap his teeth at other dogs!" A very important circumstance contributing to this state of things is the antipathy which mankind have for the very name of Gipsy, which, as I have already said, they all take to themselves; insomuch that the better class will not face it. They imagine that, socially speaking, they are among the damned, and they naturally cast their lot with the damned. Still, the antagonistic spirit which would naturally arise towards society, in the minds of such Gipsies, remains, in a measure, latent; for they feel confident in their incognito, while moving among their fellow-creatures; which circumstance robs it of its sting.

Let a Lowlander, in times that are past, but have cast up a Highlander's blood to him, and what would have been the consequences? "Her ainsel would have drawn her dirk, or whipped out her toasting-iron, and seen which _was_ the prettiest man." Let the same have been done to a Scottish Gipsy, in comparatively recent times, and he would have taken his own peculiar revenge. See how the Baillies, as mentioned under the chapter of Tweed-dale and Clydesdale Gipsies, mounted on horseback, and with drawn swords in their hands, threatened death

to all who opposed them, for an affront offered to their mother. Twit a respectable Gipsy with his blood, at the present day, and he would suffer in silence; for, by getting into a passion, he would let himself out. For this reason, it would be unmanly to hint it to him, in any tone of disparagement. The difference of feeling between the two races, at the present day, proceeds from positive ignorance on the part of the native towards the other; an ignorance in which the Gipsy would rather allow him to remain; for, let him turn himself in whatever direction he may, he imagines he sees, and perhaps does see, nothing but a dark mountain of prejudice existing between him and every other of his fellow-creatures. He would rather retain his incognito, and allow his race to go down to posterity shrouded in its present mystery. The history of the Gipsy race in Scotland, more, perhaps, than in any other country, shows, to the eye of the world, as few traces of its existence as would a fox, in passing over a ploughed field. The farmer might see the foot-prints of reynard, but how is he to find reynard himself? He must bring out the dogs and have a hunt for him. As an Indian of the prairie, while on the "war path," cunningly arranges the long grass into its natural position, as he passes through it, to prevent his enemy following him, so has the Scottish Gipsy, as he entered upon a settled life, destroyed, to the eye of the ordinary native, every trace of his being a Gipsy. Still, I cannot doubt but that he has misgivings that, some day, he will be called up to judgment, and that all about him will be exposed to the world.

What is it that troubles the educated Gipsies? Nothing but the word Gipsy; a word which, however sweet when used among themselves, conveys an ugly, blackguard, and vagabond meaning to other people. The poet asks, What is there in a name? and I reply, Everything, as regards the name Gipsy. For a respectable Scottish Gipsy to say to the public, that "his mother is a Gipsy," or, that "his wife is a Gipsy," or, that "he is a Gipsy;" such a Gipsy simply could not do it. These Gipsies will hardly ever use the word among themselves, except in very select circles; but they will say "he's one of us;" "he's from Yetholm;" "he's from the metropolis," (Yetholm being the metropolis of Scottish Gipsydom;) or, "he's a traveller." If the company is not over classical, they will say "he's from the black quarry," or, "he's been with the cuddies." Imagine a select party of educated Scottish Gipsies, all closely related. They will then chatter Gipsy over their tea; but if a person should drop in, one of the party, who is not acquainted with him, will nudge and whisper to another, "Is he one of the tribe?" or, "Is he one of us?" The better class of Scottish Gipsies are very exclusive in matters of this kind.


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