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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

60 60 Small's Roman Antiquities of Fife


[59] The Gipsies assert that, on this occasion, the king attempted to take liberties with one of their women: and that one of the male Gipsies "came crack over his head with a bottle."--ED.

This tradition is noticed by the Rev. Andrew Small, in his antiquities of Fife, in the following words. His book came into my hands after I had written down my account of the tradition.

"But, surely, this would be the last tinker that ever he would dub (a knight). If we may judge from what happened, one might imagine he, (James V,) would be heartily sick of them, (tinkers,) being taken prisoner by three of them, and compelled to stay with them several days, so that his nobles lost all trace of him, and being also forced, not only to lead their ass, but likewise to assist it in carrying part of the panniers! At length he got an opportunity, when they were bousing in a house at the east end of the village of Milnathort, where there is now a new meeting-house built, when he was left on the green with the ass. He contrived to write, some way, on a slip of paper, and gave a boy half-a-crown to run with it to Falkland, and give it to his nobles, intimating that the guid-man of Ballangiegh was in a state of captivity. After they got it, and knew where he was, they were not long in being with him, although it was fully ten miles they had to ride. Whenever he got assistance, he caused two of the tinkers, that were most harsh

and severe to him, to be hanged immediately, and let the third one, that was most favourable to him, go free. They were hanged a little south-west of the village, at a place which, from the circumstance, is called the Gallow-hill to this day. The two skeletons were lately found after the division of the commonty that recently took place. He also, after this time, made a law, that whenever three tinkers, or Gipsies, were found going together, two of them should be hanged, and the third set at liberty."[60]

[60] Small's Roman Antiquities of Fife, pages 285 and 286. Small also records a song composed on James V dubbing a Tinker a knight.

The following order in council is, perhaps, the one to which this tradition alludes:

"Act of the lords of council respecting John Faw, &c., June 6, 1541. The which day anent the complaint given by John Faw and his brother, and Sebastiane Lalow, Egyptians, to the King's grace, ilk ane plenizeand . . . . upon other and divers faults and injuries; and that it is agreed among them to pass home, and have the same decided before the Duke of Egypt.[61] The lords of council, being advised with the points of the said complaints, and understanding perfectly the great thefts and _skaiths_ (hurts) done by the said Egyptians upon our sovereign lord's lieges, wherever they come or resort, ordain letters to be directed to the provosts and baillies of Edinburgh, St. Johnstown (Perth), Dundee, Montrose, Aberdeen, St. Andrews, Elgin, Forres, and Inverness; and to the sheriffs of Edinburgh, Fife, Perth, Forfar, Kincardine, Aberdeen, Elgin and Forres, Banff, Cromarty, Inverness, and all other sheriffs, stewarts, provosts and baillies, where it happens the said Egyptians to resort.[62] To command and charge them, by open proclamation, at the market crosses of the head burghs of the sheriffdoms, to depart forth of this realm, with their wives, children, and companies, within xxx days after they be charged thereto, under the pain of death; notwithstanding any other letters or privileges granted to them by the king's grace, because his grace, with the advice of the lords, has discharged the same for the causes aforesaid: with certification that if they be found in this realm, the said xxx days being past, they shall be taken and put to death."[63]

[61] It would seem that John Faw had become frightened at the mishap of one of his folk "coming crack over the king's head with a bottle," and that, to pacify his majesty, he had at once gone before him, and informed him that he had prevailed on his "rebellious subjects" to _pass home_, and have the matter in dispute decided by the _Duke of Egypt_. This would, so far, satisfy the king; but to make sure of getting rid of his troublesome visitors, he issued his commands to the various authorities to see that they really did leave the country.--ED.


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