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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

It was well known that the provost of Linlithgow


I understand this anecdote to apply to old Will Faa, mentioned in the Border Gipsies, under chapter VII.--ED.

The children of these Gipsies attended the principal school at Linlithgow, and not an individual at the school dared to cast the slightest reflection on, or speak a disrespectful word of, either them or their parents, although their robberies were everywhere notorious, yet always conducted in so artful a manner that no direct evidence could ever be obtained of them. Such was the fear that the audacious conduct of these Gipsies inspired, that the magistrates of the royal burgh of Linlithgow stood in awe of them, and were deterred from discharging their magisterial duties, when any matter relative to their conduct came before their honours. The truth is, the magistrates would not interfere with them at all, but stood nearly on the same terms with them that a tribe of American Indians, who worshipped the devil--not from any respect which they had for his Satanic majesty, but from being in constant dread of his diabolical machinations. Not a justice of the peace gave the horde the least annoyance, but, on the contrary, allowed them to remain in peaceable possession of some old, uninhabited houses, to which they had no right whatever. Instead of endeavouring to repress the unlawful proceedings of the daring Tinklers, numbers of the most respectable individuals in Linlithgowshire deigned to play at golf and other games with the principal

members of the body. The proficiency which the Gipsies displayed on such occasions was always a source of interest to the patrons and admirers of such games. At throwing the sledge-hammer, casting the putting-stone, and all other athletic exercises, not one was a match for these powerful Tinklers. They were also remarkably dexterous at handling the cudgel, at which they were constantly practising themselves.

The honourable magistrates, indeed, frequently admitted the presumptuous Tinklers to share a social bowl with them at their entertainments and dinner parties. Yet these friends and companions of the magistrates and gentlemen of Linlithgowshire were no other than the occasional tenants of kilns, or temporary occupiers of the ground floor of some ruinous, half-roofed houses, without furniture, saving a few blankets and some straw, to prevent their persons from resting upon the cold earth. But, nevertheless, these Gipsies made themselves of considerable importance, and possessed an influence over the minds of the community to an extent hardly to be credited at the present day. It was well known that the provost of Linlithgow, who was much exposed by riding at all times through the country, in the way of his business as a brewer, had himself received from the Gipsies assurance that he would not be molested by the band, and that he was, therefore, at all times, and on all occasions, perfectly safe from being plundered. Having in this manner rendered the local authorities entirely passive, or rather neutral, from fear and interest, the audacious Gipsies prosecuted their system of plunder and robbery to an alarming extent.

Notwithstanding the fear which these Gipsies inspired in the mind of the community, there were yet individuals of courage who would brave them, if circumstances rendered a meeting with them unavoidable. None, indeed, would dream of wantonly molesting them, but, if brought to the pinch, some would not shrink from encountering them, when acting under the influences of those feelings which call forth the latent courage of even the most timid and considerate of people. Such a rencounter resulted in the death of the chief of the Linlithgow band, of the name of McDonald, to whom the others of the tribe gave the title of captain.


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