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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The better kind of Scottish Gipsies


the better kind of Scottish

Gipsies? Society, generally, would not be over-ready to lessen the distance between itself and the tented Gipsies, or those who live by means really objectionable; but it should have that much sense of justice, as to confine its peculiar feelings to the ways of life of these individuals, and not keep them up against their children, when they follow different habits. If, for example, I should have made the acquaintance of some Scottish Gipsies, associated with them, and acquired a respect for them, (as has happened with me,) how could I take exceptions to them, on account of it afterwards leaking out that they were Gipsies? A sense of ordinary justice would forbid me doing so. I can see nothing objectionable in their conduct, as distinguished from that of other people; and as for their appearance, any person, on being asked to point out the Gipsy, would, so far as colour of hair and eyes goes, pitch upon many a common native, in preference to them. A sense of ordinary justice, as I have said, would disarm me of any prejudice against them; nay, it would urge me to think the more of them, on account of their being Gipsies. To the ordinary eye, they are nothing but Scotch people, and pass, everywhere, for such. There is a Scottish Gipsy in the United States, with whom I am acquainted--a liberal-minded man, and good company--who carries on a wholesale trade, in a respectable article of merchandise, and he said to me: "I will not deny it, nor am I ashamed to say it--_I come from Yetholm_."
And I replied: "Why should you be ashamed of it?"

It is this hereditary prejudice of centuries towards the name, that constitutes the main difficulty in the way of recognition of these Gipsies by the world generally. How long it may be since they or their ancestors left the tent, is a thing of no importance; personal character, education, and position in life, are the only things that should be considered. The Gipsies to whom I allude do not require to be reformed, unless in that sense in which all men stand in need of reformation: what is wanted is, that the world should raise up the name of Gipsy. And why should not that be done by the people of Great Britain, and Scotland especially, in whose mouths are continually these words: "God hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth?" Will the British public spend its hundreds of thousands, annually, on every other creature under heaven, and refuse to countenance the Gipsy race? Will it squander its tens of thousands to convert, perhaps, on an average, one Jew, and refuse a kind word, nay, grudge a smile, towards that body, a member of which may be an official of that Missionary Society, or, it may be, the very chairman of it? I can conceive no liberal-minded Scotchman, possessing a feeling of true self-respect, entertaining a prejudice against such Gipsies. The only people in Scotland in whose mind such a prejudice might be supposed to exist, are those miserable old women around the neighbourhood of Stirling, who, under the influence of the old Highland feud, will look with the greatest contempt upon a person, if he but come from the north of the Ochils. I would class, with such old women, all of our Scotch people who would object to the Gipsies to whom I have alluded. A Scotchman should even have that much love of country, as to take hold of his own Gipsies, and "back them up" against those of other countries: and particularly should he do that, when the "Gipsies" might be his cousins, nay, his own children, for anything that he might know to the contrary. Scotch people should consider that the "Tinklers," whom they see going about, at the present day, are, if not the very lowest kind of Gipsies, at least those who follow the original ways of their race; and are greatly inferior, not only relatively, but actually, to many of those who have gone before them. They should also consider that Gipsies are a race, however mixed the blood may be; subject, as a race, to be governed, in their descent, by those laws which regulate the descent of all races; and that a Gipsy is as much a Gipsy in a house as in a tent, in a "but and a ben" as in a palace.


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