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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

McDonald and his brother in law


Notwithstanding

this prompt and well-merited chastisement which the Gipsies received, in their leader being shot dead in his attempt at highway robbery, in the immediate vicinity of their ordinary place of rendezvous, they continued their depredations in their usual manner, but generally took care, as is their custom, to give no molestation to their nearest neighbours. The deceased captain was succeeded, in the chieftainship of the tribe, by his son, Alexander McDonald, who also assumed the title of captain. This man trod in the footsteps of his father in every respect, and exercised his hereditary profession of theft and robbery, with an activity and audacity unequalled by any among his tribe in that part of Scotland. The very name of McDonald and his gang appalled the boldest hearts of those who ventured to travel under night with money in their pockets, in certain parts of the country. His band appears to have been very numerous, as among them some held the subordinate rank of lieutenants, as if they had been organized like a regular military company. James Jamieson, his brother-in-law, was also styled captain in this notorious band of Gipsies, who were connected with similar bands in England and Ireland.

McDonald and his brother-in-law, Jamieson, were considered remarkably stout, handsome, and fine-looking men. By constant training at all kinds of athletic exercises, they brought themselves to perform feats of bodily strength and agility which were almost

incredible. They were often elegantly dressed in the finest clothes of the first fashion, with linen to correspond. At the same time they were perfect chameleons in respect to their appearance and apparel. McDonald was frequently observed in three or four different dresses in one market-day. At one time of the day, he was seen completely attired in the best of tartan, assuming the appearance and manners of a highland gentleman in full costume. At another time, he appeared ruffled at hands and breast, booted and spurred, on horseback, as if he had been a man of some consideration. He would again be seen in a ragged coat, with a budget and wallet on his back--a common travelling Tinkler. Both of these men often dealt in horses, and were themselves frequently mounted on the best of animals. The Arabians and Tartars are scarcely more partial to horses than the Gipsies.

The pranks and tricks played by McDonald were numerous, and many a story is yet remembered of his extraordinary exploits. He took great pains in training and learning some of his horses various evolutions and tricks. He had, at one time, a piebald horse so efficiently trained, and so completely under his management, that it, in some respects, assisted him in his depredations. By certain signals and motions, he could, when he found it necessary, make it clap close to the ground, like a hare in its furrow. It would crouch down in a hollow piece of ground, in a ditch, or at the side of a hedge, so as to hide itself, when McDonald's situation was like to expose him to detection. With the assistance of one of these well trained-horses, this man, on one occasion, saved his wife, Ann Jamieson, from prison, and perhaps from the gallows. Ann was apprehended near Dunfermline for some of her unlawful practices. As the officers of the law were conducting her to prison, McDonald rode up to the party, and requested permission to speak with their prisoner, which was readily granted, as, from McDonald's appearance, the officers supposed he had something to say to the woman. He then drew her aside, under the pretence of conversing with her in private, when, in an instant, Ann, with his assistance, sprang upon the horse, behind him, and bade good-bye to the messengers, who were amazed at the sudden and unexpected escape of their prisoner. Ann was a little, handsome woman, and was considered one of the most expert of the Scottish Gipsies at conducting a plundering at a fair; and was, on that account, much respected by her tribe.


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