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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

With which he moves about from pasturage to pasturage


"And, if thou said'st I am not peer To any _one_ in Scotland here, Highland or Lowland, far or near, _Oh, Donald_, thou hast lied!"

But it is impossible for any one to give an account of the Gipsies in Scotland, from the year 1506, down to the present time. This much, however, can be said of them, that they are as much Gipsies now as ever they were; that is, the Gipsies of to-day are the representatives of the race as it appeared in Scotland three centuries and a half ago, and hold themselves to be Gipsies now, as, indeed, they always will do.

Ever since the race entered Scotland, we may reasonably assume that it has been dropping out of the tent into settled life, in one form or other, and sometimes to a greater extent at one time than another. It never has been a nomadic race, in the proper sense of the word; for a nomad is one who possesses flocks and herds, with which he moves about from pasturage to pasturage, as he does in Asia to-day. Mr. Borrow says that there are Gipsies who follow this kind of life, in Russia; but that, doubtless, arises from the circumstances in which they have found themselves placed.[301] "I think," said an English Gipsy to me, "that we must take partly of the ancient Egyptians, and partly of the Arabs; from the Egyptians, owing to our settled ways, and from the Arabs, owing to our wandering habits." Upon entering Europe, they must have wandered about promiscuously,

for some short time, before pitching upon territories, which they would divide among themselves, under their kings and chieftains. Here we find the proper sphere of the Gipsy, in his original state. In 1506, Anthonius Gawino is represented, by James IV., to his uncle, the king of Denmark, as having "sojourned in Scotland in peaceable and catholic manner:" and John Faw, by James V., in 1540, during his "pilgrimage," as "doing a lawful business;" which evidently had some meaning, as we find that seven pounds were paid to the Egyptians by the king's chamberlain. In 1496, the Gipsies made musket-balls for the king of Hungary; and, in 1565, cannon-balls for the Turks. In short, they were travelling smiths, or what has since been called tinkers, with a turn for any kind of ordinary mechanical employment, and particularly as regards working in metals; dealers in animals, petty traders, musicians, and fortune-tellers, with a wonderful knack for "transferring money from other people's pockets into their own;" living representatively, but apparently not wholly, in tents, and "helping themselves" to whatever they stood in need of.[302]

[301] There is scarce a part of the habitable world where they are not to be found; their tents are alike pitched on the heaths of Brazil and the ridges of the Himalayan hills; and their language is heard at Moscow and Madrid, in the streets of London and Stamboul. They are found in all parts of Russia, with the exception of the Government of St. Petersburg, from which they have been banished. In most of the provincial towns, they are to be found in a state of half civilization, supporting themselves by trafficking in horses, or by curing the disorders incidental to those animals. But the vast majority reject this manner of life, and traverse the country in bands, like the ancient Hamaxobioi; the immense grassy plains of Russia affording pasturage for their herds of cattle, on which, and the produce of the chase, they chiefly depend for subsistence.--_Borrow._


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