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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Fife and stirlingshire gipsies


[95] Perhaps the author intended to say, six feet two inches, and six feet four inches. Still, it might have been as stated in the MS.; for with Gipsies of mixed blood, the individual, if he takes after the Gipsy, is apt to be short and thick-set. The mixture of the two people produces a strong race of men.--ED.

CHAPTER V.

FIFE AND STIRLINGSHIRE GIPSIES.

In this account of the Gipsies in Fife, the horde which at one period resided at the village of Lochgellie are frequently referred to. But it is proper to premise that this noted band were not the only Gipsies in Fife. This populous county contained, at one time, a great number of nomadic Gipsies. The Falkland hills and the Falkland fairs were greatly frequented by them;[96] and, not far from St. Andrews, some of the tribe had, within these fifty years, a small farm, containing about twenty acres of waste land, on which they had a small foundry, which the country people, on that account, called "Little Carron." As my materials for this chapter are chiefly derived from the Lochgellie band, and their immediate connexions in other districts not far from Fife, their manners and customs are, on that account, brought more under review.

[96] In Oliver and Boyd's Scottish Tourist, (1832), page 181, occurs the following passage: "A singular set of

vagrants existed long in Falkland, called _Scrapies_, who had no other visible means of existence than a horse or a cow. Their ostensible employment was the carriage of commodities to the adjoining villages, and in the intervals of work they turned out their cattle to graze on the Lomond Hill. Their excursions at night were long and mysterious, for the pretended object of procuring coals, but they roamed with their little carts through the country-side, securing whatever they could lift, and plundering fields in autumn. Whenever any enquiry was addressed to a Falkland _Scrapie_ as to the support of his horse, the ready answer was, 'Ou, he gangs up the (Lomond) Hill, ye ken.' This is now prevented; the Lomond is enclosed, and the _Scrapies_ now manage their affairs on the road-sides."

The people mentioned in this extract are doubtless those to whom our author alludes. The reader will notice some resemblance between them and the tribe in the Pyrenees, as described at page 87.--ED.

The village of Lochgellie was, at one time, a favourite resort of the Gipsies. The grounds in its immediate vicinity are exactly of that character upon which they seem to have fixed their permanent, or rather winter's residence, in a great many parts of Scotland. By the statistical account of the parish of Auchterderran, Lochgellie was almost inaccessible for nearly six months in the year. The bleak and heathy morasses, and rushy wastes, with which the village is surrounded, have a gloomy and melancholy aspect. The scenery and face of the adjoining country are very similar to those in the neighbourhood of Biggar, in Lanarkshire, and Middleton, in Midlothian, which were also, at that time, Gipsy stations. A little to the south of the spot where the Linlithgow band, at one period, had their quarters, the country becomes moory, bleak, and barren. The village of Kirk-Yetholm, at present full of Gipsies, is also situated upon the confines of a wild, pastoral tract, among the Cheviot hills.[97] The Gipsies, in general, appear to have located themselves upon grounds of a flattish character, between the cultivated and uncultivated districts; having, on one side, a fertile and populous country, and, on the other, a heathy, boggy, and barren waste, into which they could retire in times of danger.[98]


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