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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

He fell in with Captain McDonald


[91] A pen-knife, a snuff-box, and a ring are some of the Gipsy pass-ports. It is what is marked upon them that protects the bearer from being disturbed by others of the tribe.

Another instance of a Gipsy's honour, generosity, or caprice, or by whatever word the act may be expressed, occurred between McDonald and a farmer of the name of Campbell, and exhibits a singular cast of character, which has not been uncommon among the Scottish Gipsies. On this occasion, it would appear, the Gipsy had been influenced rather by a desire of enjoying the extraordinary surprise of the simple countryman, than of obtaining booty. The occurrence will also give some idea of the part which the cautious chiefs take in plundering at a fair. The particulars are derived from a Mr. David McRitchie, of whom I shall again make mention.

While Campbell was on his way to a market in Perth, he fell in with Captain McDonald. Being unacquainted with the character of his fellow-traveller, the unsuspecting man told him, among other things, that he had just as much money in his pocket as would purchase one horse, for his four-horse plough, having other three at home. McDonald heard all this with patience till he came to a solitary part of the road, when, all at once, he turned upon the astonished farmer, and demanded his money. The poor man, having no alternative, immediately produced his purse. But in parting, the robber desired him to

call next day at a certain house in Perth, where he would find a person who might be of some service to him. Campbell promised to do as desired, and called at the house appointed, and great was his surprise, when, on being ushered into a room, he found himself face to face with the late robber, sitting with a large bowl of smoking toddy before him. The Gipsy, in a frank and hearty manner, invited his visitor to sit down and share his toddy with him; a request which he readily complied with, although bewildered with the idea of the probable fate of his purse, and the result of his personal adventure. He had scarcely got time, however, to swallow one glass, before he was relieved of his suspense, by the Gipsy returning him every farthing of the money he had robbed him of the day before. Being now pleased with his good fortune, and the Gipsy pressing him to drink, Campbell was in no hurry to be gone, his spirits having become elevated with his good cheer, and the confidence with which his host's conduct had inspired him. But his suspicions returned upon him, as he saw pocket-book after pocket-book brought in to his entertainer, during the time he was enjoying his hospitality. The Gipsy chief was, in fact, but following a very important branch of his calling, and was, on that day, doing a considerable business, having a number of youths ferreting for him in the market, and coming in and going out constantly.

But this crafty Gipsy, and his brother-in-law, Jamieson, were at last apprehended for house-breaking and robbery. Their trials took place at Edinburgh, on the 9th and 13th of August, 1770, and "the fame of being Egyptians" made part of the charge against them in the indictment; a charge well founded, as both of them spoke the "right Egyptian language." It was the last instance, I believe, that the fact of their being "called, known, repute, and holden Egyptians," made part of the indictment against any of the tribe in Scotland, under the sanguinary statute of James VI, chap. 13, passed in 1609. So cunning are the Gipsies, however, in committing crimes, that, in this instance, the criminals, it was understood, would have escaped justice, for want of sufficient proof, had not one of their own band, of the name of Jamieson, a youth of about twenty-two years of age, turned king's evidence against his associates. The two unhappy men were then found guilty by the jury, and condemned to die. They were ordered to be executed at Linlithgow bridge, near the very spot where their band had their principal rendezvous, with the apparent object of daunting their incorrigible race.


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