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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

There were brought to trial Helen Faa


"In

January, 1624, follows a still more severe example; no fewer than eight men, among whom Captain John Faa and other five of the name of Faa, being convicted, were doomed to death on the statute. Some days after, there were brought to trial Helen Faa, relict of Captain Faa, Lucretia Faa, and other women to the number of eleven; all of whom were in like manner convicted, and condemned to be drowned! But, in the end, their doom was commuted for banishment, (under pain of death,) to them and all their race. The sentence was, however, executed on the male convicts; and it appears that the terror of their fate had been of material service; as, for the space of more than 50 years from that time, there is no trial of an Egyptian."

But notwithstanding this statement of Baron Hume, of the Gipsy trials having ceased for half a century, we find, twelve years after 1624, the date of the above trials, the following order of the privy council: "Anent some Egyptians. At Edinburgh, 10th November, 1636. Forasmuch as Sir Arthur Douglas of Quhittinghame having lately taken and apprehended some of the vagabond and counterfeit thieves and _limmers_, (scoundrels,) called the Egyptians, he presented and delivered them to the sheriff principal of the sheriffdom of Edinburgh, within the constabulary of Haddington, where they have remained this month or thereby: and whereas the keeping of them longer, within the said tolbooth, is troublesome and burdensome to the town of

Haddington, and fosters the said thieves in an opinion of impunity, to the encouraging of the rest of that infamous _byke_ (hive) of lawless _limmers_ (scoundrels) to continue in their thievish trade: Therefore the lords of secret council ordain the sheriff of Haddington, or his deputies, to pronounce doom and sentence of death against so many of these counterfeit thieves as are men, and against so many of the women as want children; ordaining the men to be hanged, and the women to be drowned; and that such of the women as have children, to be scourged through the burgh of Haddington, and burned in the cheek; and ordain and command the provost and baillies of Haddington to cause this doom be executed upon the said persons accordingly."[83]

[83] Blackwood's Magazine.

"Towards the end of that century," continues Baron Hume, "the nuisance seems to have again become troublesome. On the 13th of December, 1698, John Baillie and six men more of the same name, along with the wife of one of them, were indicted as Egyptians, and also for sundry special misdeeds; and being convicted, (all but the woman,) they were ordered for execution. But in this case it is to be remarked, that the court had so far departed from the rigour of the statute as not to sustain a relevancy on the habit and repute of being an Egyptian of itself, but only 'along with one or other of the facts of picking and little thieving;' thus requiring some proof of actual guilt in aid of the fame. In the next trial, which was that of William Baillie, June 26th, 1699, a still further indulgence was introduced; for the interlocutor required a proof, not of _one_ only, but of _several_, of the facts of 'picking or little thieving, or of several acts of beating and striking with invasive weapons.' He was only convicted as an Egyptian, and of _one_ act of striking with an invasive weapon, and he escaped in consequence with his life.


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