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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The worst kind of English Gipsies


family, I believe, are the Winters noticed by Sir Walter Scott, in Blackwood's Magazine, as follows:

"A gang (of Gipsies), of the name of Winters, long inhabited the wastes of Northumberland, and committed many crimes; among others, a murder upon a poor woman, with singular atrocity, for which one of them was hung in chains near Tonpitt, in Reedsdale. The mortal reliques having decayed, the lord of the manor has replaced them by a wooden effigy, and still maintains the gibbet. The remnant of this gang came to Scotland, about fifteen years ago, and assumed the Roxburghshire name of Wintirip, as they found their own something odious. They settled at a cottage within about four miles of Earlston, and became great plagues to the country, until they were secured, after a tight battle, tried before the circuit court at Jedburgh, and banished back to their native country of England. The dalesmen of Reedwater showed great reluctance to receive these returned emigrants. After the Sunday service at a little chapel near Otterbourne, one of the squires rose, and, addressing the congregation, told them they would be accounted no longer Reedsdale men, but Reedsdale women, if they permitted this marked and atrocious family to enter their district. The people answered that they would not permit them to come that way; and the proscribed family, hearing of the unanimous resolution to oppose their passage, went more southernly, by the heads of the Tyne, and I never

heard more of them, but I have little doubt they are all hanged."[50]

[50] It is but just to say that this family of Winters is, or at least was, the worst kind of English Gipsies. Their name is a by-word among the race in England. When they say, "It's a winter morning," they wish to express something very bad. It is difficult to get them to admit that the Winters belong to the tribe--ED.



That the Gipsies were in Scotland in the year 1506 is certain, as appears by a letter of James IV, of Scotland, to the King of Denmark, in favour of Anthonius Gawino, Earl of Little Egypt, a Gipsy chief. But there is a tradition, recorded in Crawford's Peerage, that a company of Gipsies, or Saracens, were committing depredations in Scotland before the death of James II, which took place in 1460, being forty-six years after the Gipsies were first observed on the continent of Europe, and it is, therefore, probable that these wanderers were encamped on Scottish ground before the year 1460, above mentioned. As I am not aware of Saracens ever having set foot in Scotland, England, or Ireland, I am disposed to think, if there is any truth in this tradition, it alludes to the Gipsies.[51] The story relates to the estate and family of McLellan of Bombie, in Galloway, and is as follows:

[51] There is no reason to doubt that these were Gipsies. They were evidently a roving band, from some of the continental hordes, that had passed over into Scotland, to "prospect" and plunder. They would, very naturally, be called Saracens by the natives of Scotland, to whom any black people, at that time, would appear as Saracens. We may, therefore, assume that the Gipsies have been fully four hundred years in Scotland. I may mention, however, that Mediterranean corsairs occasionally landed and plundered on the British coast, to as late a period as the reign of Charles I.--ED.

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