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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Through Falkirk and Linlithgow

The Gipsies who frequented the banks of the Forth, and the counties northward, appear to have been more daring than those who visited some other parts of Scotland.

Within these sixty years, a large horde, of very desperate character, resided on the banks of the Avon, near the burgh of Linlithgow. At first, they quartered higher up on the Stirling side of the stream, at a place called Walkmilton; but latterly they took up their abode in some old houses, on the Linlithgow side of the river, at or near the bridge of Linlithgow.

These Gipsies displayed much sagacity in carrying on their trade, by selecting the neighbourhood of Falkirk and Linlithgow for their headquarters, as this was, perhaps, the most advantageous position in all Scotland that a Gipsy band could occupy. The district was of itself very populous, and a very considerable trade and bustle then existed at the port of Bo'ness, in the vicinity. All the intercourse between Edinburgh and Glasgow passed a few miles to the south of their quarters. The traffic, by carts, between Glasgow and the west of Scotland, and the shipping at Carron-shore, Elphingston-Pow and Airth, on the Forth, before the canal was cut, was immense; all which traffic, as well as that between Fife and the western districts, passed a few miles north of their position. The road for travellers and cattle from the Highlands, by way of Stirling, crossed the above-mentioned roads, and led,

through Falkirk and Linlithgow, to Edinburgh, the eastern and southern counties of Scotland, and England.

The principal surnames of this Gipsy band were McDonald, Jamieson, Wilson, Gordon and Lundie. Frequently the number that would assemble together would amount to upwards of thirty souls, and it was often observed that a great many females and children were seen loitering about their common place of residence. No protection was given by them to our native vagrants, nor were any of our common plunderers, vagabonds, or outlaws suffered to remain among them. When at home, or traversing the country, the trade and occupation of this band were exactly the same as those of their friends in other parts of Scotland, viz: making wool-cards, cast-iron soles for ploughs, smoothing-irons, horn spoons, and repairing articles in the tinker line. The old females told fortunes, while the women in general assisted their husbands in their work, by blowing the bellows, scraping and polishing the spoons with glass and charred wood, and otherwise completing their articles for sale. Many of the males dealt in horses, with which they frequented fairs--that great resort of the Gipsies; and these wanderers, in general, were considered excellent judges of horses. Numbers of them were fiddlers and pipers, and the tribe often amused themselves with feasting and dancing.[87]

[87] It appears that, at this period, James Wilson, town-piper, and John Livingston, hangman, of Linlithgow, were both Gipsies. [Formerly the Gipsies were exclusively employed in Hungary and Transylvania as hangmen and executioners. _Grellmann._--ED.]

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