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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The fiery Tinklers often fell out among themselves


Like

their race generally, these Gipsies were extremely civil and obliging to their immediate neighbours, and those who lived nearest to their quarters, and had the most intercourse with them, in the ordinary affairs of life, were the least afraid of them.[88] But the farmers and others at a distance, who frequented the markets at Falkirk, and other fairs in the neighbourhood, were always a plentiful harvest for the plundering Tinklers. Their plunderings on such occasions spread a general alarm over the country. But that good humour, mirth, and jocund disposition, peculiar to many of the males of the Gipsies, seldom failed to gain the good-will of those who deigned to converse with them with familiarity, or treated them with kindness. They even formed strong attachments to certain individuals of the community, and afforded them protection on all occasions, giving them tokens to present to others of their fraternity, while travelling under night. Notwithstanding the good disposition which they always showed under these circumstances, the fiery Tinklers often fell out among themselves, on dividing, at home, the booty which they had collected at fairs, and excited feelings of horror in the minds of their astonished neighbours, when they beheld the hurricanes of wrath and fury exhibited by both sexes, and all ages, in the heat of their battles.

[88] This trait in the character of the Scottish Gipsies is well illustrated in the following anecdote,

which appeared in Blackwood's Magazine. It was obtained by an individual who frequently heard the clergyman in question relate it.

"The late Mr. Leek, minister of Yetholm, happened to be riding home one evening from a visit in Northumberland, when, finding himself likely to be benighted, for sake of a near cut, he struck into a wild, solitary track, or drove-road, across the fells, by a place called the Staw. In one of the derne places through which this path led him, there stood an old deserted shepherd's house, which, of course, was reputed to be haunted. The minister, though little apt to be alarmed by such reports, was, however, somewhat startled on observing, as he approached close to the cottage, a 'grim visage' staring out past a _window claith_, or sort of curtain, which had been fastened up to supply the place of a door, and also several 'dusky figures,' skulking among the bourtree-bushes that had once sheltered the shepherd's garden. Without leaving him any time for speculation, however, the knight of the curtain bolted forth upon him, and, seizing his horse by the bridle, demanded his money. Mr. Leek, though it was now dark, at once recognised the gruff voice, and the great, black, burly head of his next-door neighbour, _Gleid Neckit Will_, the Gipsy chief. 'Dear me, William,' said the minister, in his usual quiet manner,'can this be you? ye're surely no serious wi' me? ye wadna sae far wrang your character for a good neighbour, for the bit trifle I ha'e to gi'e, William?'--'Lord saif us, Mr. Leek!' said Will, quitting the rein, and lifting his hat, with great respect, 'Whae wad hae thought o' meeting you out owre here away? Ye needna gripe for ony siller to me--I wadna touch a plack o' your gear, nor a hair o' your head, for a' the gowd o' Tividale. I ken ye'll no do us an ill turn for this mistak--and I'll e'en see ye safe through the eirie Staw--it's no reckoned a very _canny bit_, mair ways nor ane; but I wat ye'll no be feared for the _dead_, and I'll tak care o' the _living_.' Will accordingly gave his reverend friend a safe convoy through the haunted pass, and, notwithstanding this ugly mistake, continued ever after an inoffensive and obliging neighbour to the minister, who, on his part, observed a prudent and inviolable secrecy on the subject of this rencounter, during the life time of _Gleid Nickit Will_."


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