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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Of the family in question being Gipsies


following anecdote will give some idea of the manner of life of the Gipsies in England.

A man, whom I knew, happened to lose his way, one dark night, in Cambridgeshire. After wandering up and down for some time, he observed a light, at a considerable distance from him, within the skirts of a wood, and, being overjoyed at the discovery, he directed his course toward it; but, before reaching the fire, he was surprised at hearing a man, a little way in advance, call out to him, in a loud voice, "Peace or not peace?" The benighted traveller, glad at hearing the sound of a human voice, immediately answered, "Peace; I am a poor Scotchman, and have lost my way in the dark." "You can come forward then," rejoined the sentinel. When the Scotchman advanced, he found a family of Gipsies, with only one tent; but, on being conducted further into the wood, he was introduced to a great company of Gipsies. They were busily employed in roasting several whole sheep--turning their carcasses before large fires, on long wooden poles, instead of iron spits. The racks on which the spits turned were also made of wood, driven into the ground, cross-ways, like the letter X. The Gipsies were exceedingly kind to the stranger, causing him to partake of the victuals which they had prepared for their feast. He remained with them the whole night, eating and drinking, and dancing with his merry entertainers, as if he had been one of themselves. When day dawned, the Scotchman

counted twelve tents within a short distance of each other. On examining his position, he found himself a long way out of his road; but a party of the Gipsies voluntarily offered their services, and went with him for several miles, and, with great kindness, conducted him to the road from which he had wandered.

The crimes of some of the English Gipsies have greatly exceeded those of the Scottish, such as the latter have been. The following details of the history of an English Gipsy family are taken from a report on the prisons in Northumberland. The writer of this report does not appear to have been aware, however, of the family in question being Gipsies, speaking an Oriental language, and that, according to the custom of their tribe, a dexterous theft or robbery is one of the most meritorious actions they can perform.

"_Crime in Families. William Winters' Family._

"William himself, and one of his sons, were hanged together for murder. Another son committed an offence for which he was sent to the hulks, and, soon after his release, was concerned in a murder, for which he was hanged. Three of the daughters were convicted of various offences, and the mother was a woman of notorious bad character. The family was a terror to the neighbourhood, and, according to report, had been so for generations. The father, with a woman with whom he cohabited, (himself a married man,) was hanged for house-breaking. His first wife was a woman of very bad character, and his second wife was transported. One of the sons, a notorious thief, and two of the daughters, were hanged for murder. Mr. Blake believes that the only member of the family that turned out well was a girl, who was taken from the father when he was in prison, previous to execution, and brought up apart from her brothers and sisters. The grandfather was once in a lunatic asylum, as a madman. The father had a quarrel with one of his sons, about the sale of some property, and shot him dead. The mother co-habited with another man, and was one morning found dead, with her throat cut. One of the sons, (not already spoken of,) had a bastard child by one of his cousins, herself of weak intellect, and, being under suspicion of having destroyed the child, was arrested. While in prison, however, and before the trial came on, he destroyed himself by cutting his throat."

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