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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Under the head Tweed dale and Clydesdale Gipsies


"This

lenient course of dealing with the Gipsies was not taken, however, from any opinion of it as a necessary thing, nor was there any purpose of prescribing it as a rule for other times, or for further cases of the kind where such an indulgence might seem improper, as appears from the interlocutor of relevancy in the case of John Kerr, and Helen Yorkston, and William Baillie and other seven; in both of which the simple fame and character of being an Egyptian is again found _separatum_ relevant to infer the pain of death, (10th and 11th August, 1714.) Kerr and Yorkston had a verdict in their favour; Baillie and two of his associates were condemned to die; but as far as concerns Baillie, (for the others were executed,) his doom was afterwards mitigated into transportation, under pain of death in case of return.

"As early as the month of August, 1715, the same man, (as I understand it,) was again indicted, not only for being found in Britain, but for continuing his former practices and course of life. Notwithstanding this aggravation, the interlocutor is again framed on the indulgent plan, and only infers the pain of death, from the fame and character of being an Egyptian, joined with various acts of violence and sorning, to the number of three, that are stated in the libel. Though convicted nearly to the extent of the interlocutor, he again escaped with transportation.[84]

[84] This, and part of the preceding paragraph,

will be quoted again, under the chapter of Tweed-dale and Clydesdale Gipsies.

"Nor have I observed that the court, in any later case, have thought it necessary to proceed upon the repute alone, unavouched by evidence of, at least, one act of theft or violence; so that, upon the whole, according to the practice of later times, this sort of charge seems to be reduced nearly to the level of the charge of being habit and repute a thief at common law."

It is noticed by Baron Hume that the Faas and the Baillies were noted names among the Gipsies. Indeed, the trials referred to by him are all of persons bearing these two surnames, except two individuals only. The truth is, the Faas and the Baillies were the two principal families among the Gipsies; giving, according to their customs, kings and queens to their countrymen in Scotland. They would be more bold, daring, and presumptuous in their conduct than the most part of their followers; and, being leaders of the banditti, government, in all probability, would fix upon them as the most proper objects for destruction, as the best and easiest method of overawing and dispersing the whole tribe in the country, by cutting off their chiefs. As I have already mentioned, these two principal clans of Faw and Bailyow appear to be the only Gipsy families in Scotland who have retained the original surnames of their ancestors, at least of those whose names are inserted in the treaty with James V, in 1540.

It will be seen, under the head Tweed-dale and Clydesdale Gipsies, that tradition has represented William Baillie, who was tried in 1714 and 1715, as a bastard son of the ancient family of Lamington, (his mother being a Gipsy). It appears to me that the Gipsy policy of joining themselves to some family of rank was, in Baillie's case, of very important service, not only to himself but to the whole tribe in Scotland.[85] The extraordinary lenity shown to him by the court, after such repeated aggravation, cannot be accounted for in any other way than that great interest had been used in his behalf, in some quarter or other; and that, by creating a merciful precedent in his case, it was afterwards followed in the trial of all others of the race in Scotland.


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