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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Having been attended by the magistrates of Linlithgow


In a dark night, a gentleman of the name of H----, an officer in the army, and a man of courage, while travelling on the high road, from the eastward to Stirlingshire, to visit, as was said, his sweetheart, had occasion to stop, for refreshment, at a public-house near the bridge of Linlithgow. The landlord advised him to go no further that night, owing to the road being "foul," meaning that the Tinklers had been seen lurking in the direction in which he was travelling. Foul or not foul, he would proceed; his particular engagement with the lady making him reluctant to break his promise, and turn back. He called for a gill of brandy, which he shared with the landlord, and deliberately loaded, in his presence, a brace of pistols which he carried about his person. His courage rose with the occasion, and he declared that whoever dared to molest him should not go unpunished. He then mounted his horse and rode forward. On arriving at a place called Sandy-ford-burn, a man, in the dark, sprang out from the side of the road, and, laying hold of the bridle of his horse, demanded his money. The horseman being on the alert, and quite prepared for such a demand, with his spirits, moreover, elevated by his dram of brandy, instantly replied by firing one of his pistols at the robber, who fell to the ground. He, however, held fast the bridle reins in his convulsive death grasp, and the horse, being urged forward, dragged him a short distance along the ground. Hardly had the shot been fired, ere a voice, close by, was heard to exclaim, "There goes our captain," while a confused cry of vengeance was uttered on all sides, against him by whom he had fallen. But the rider, clapping his spurs to his horse, instantly galloped forward, yet made a narrow escape, for several shots were fired at him, which were heard by the landlord of the public-house which he had just left.

The Gipsies, in this awkward predicament, carried the body of their chieftain home, and gave out to their neighbours, the country people, the following morning, (Sunday,) that he had died very suddenly of iliac passion. His lyke-wake was kept up in their usual manner, and great feastings and drinkings were held by them while his body lay uninterred. After several days of carousing, the remains of the robber were buried in the church-yard of Linlithgow.[89] His funeral was very respectable, having been attended by the magistrates of Linlithgow, and a number of the most genteel persons in the neighbourhood. The real cause of the sudden death of the Tinkler began to spread abroad, a short time after the burial, but no enquiry was made into the matter. The individual who had done the public a service, by taking off the chief of the banditti, mentioned the circumstance afterwards to his friends, and was afraid of the band for some time thereafter; although it was improbable that, in the dark, they were able to make out, or afterwards ascertain, the person who had made himself so obnoxious to them.

[89] Some of the Gipsies only put a paper cap on the head, and paper round the feet, of their dead; leaving all the body bare, excepting that they place upon the breast, opposite the heart, a circle made of red and blue ribbons, in form something like the shape of the variegated cockade, worn in the hats of newly-enlisted recruits in the army. [In England it was customary with the Gipsies, at one time, to burn the dead, but now they only burn the clothes, and some of the effects of the deceased.--ED.]


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