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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Another member of the Lochgellie band


Charles Graham, already mentioned,

and Charles Brown, went south in pursuit of the young depredators, for the purpose of compelling them to give up their ill-gotten booty to those to whom, by the Gipsy regulations, it of right belonged. After an arduous chase, the boys were overtaken near Stirling, when a furious battle immediately commenced. Both parties were armed with bludgeons. After having fought for a considerable time, with equal success on both sides, Graham, from some unknown cause, fled, leaving his near relation, Brown, to contend alone with the youths, in the best way he could. The boys now became the assailants, and began to press hard upon Brown, who defended himself long and manfully with his bludgeon, displaying much art in the use of his weapon, in warding off the lighter blows of his opponents, which came in upon him from all quarters. At length he was forced to give way, although very few of the blows reached his person. On retreating, with his front to his assailants, his foot struck upon an old feal dyke, when he fell to the ground. The enraged youths now sprang in upon him, like tigers, and, without showing him the least mercy, dispatched him on the spot, by literally beating out his brains with their bludgeons. Brown's coat was brought home to Lochgellie, by some of his wife's friends, with the collar and shoulders besmeared all over with blood and brains, with quantities of his hair sticking in the gore. It was preserved for some time in this shocking condition by his wife, and exhibited
as a proof that her husband had not fled, as well as to arouse the clan to vengeance. My informant, a man about fifty years of age, with others, saw this dreadful relique of Brown, in the very state in which it is now described.

Alexander Brown, another member of the Lochgellie band, happened, on one occasion, to be in need of butcher meat, for his tribe. He had observed, grazing in a field, in the county of Linlithgow, a bullock that had, by some accident, lost about three-fourths of its tail. He procured a tail of a skin of the same colour as that of the animal, and, in an ingenious manner, made it fast to the remaining part of its tail. Disguised in this way, he drove off his booty; but after shipping the beast at the Queens-ferry, on his way to the north, a servant, who had been dispatched in quest of the depredator, overtook him as he was stepping into the boat. An altercation immediately commenced about the ox. The countryman said he could swear to the identity of the animal in Brown's possession, were it not for its long tail; and was proceeding to examine it narrowly, to satisfy himself on that particular, when the ready-witted Gipsy, ever fertile in expedients to extricate himself from difficulties, took his knife out of his pocket, and, in view of all present, cut off the tail above the juncture, drawing blood instantly; and, throwing it into the sea, called out to the pursuer, with some warmth: "Swear to the ox now, and be ---- to ye." The countryman said not another word, but returned home, while the Tinkler proceeded on his journey with his prize.[102]

[102] Besides getting themselves out of scrapes in such an adroit manner, the Scotch Gipsies have been known to serve a friend, when innocently placed in a position of danger. It happened once that Billy Marshall, the Gipsy chief in Gallowayshire, attacked and robbed the laird of Bargally, and in the tussle lost his cap. A respectable farmer, passing by, some time afterwards, picked up the cap, and put it on his head. The laird, with his mind confused by the robbery and the darkness combined, accused the farmer of the crime; and it would have gone hard with him at the trial, had not Billy come to his rescue. He seized the cap, in the open court, and, putting it on his head, addressed the laird: "Look at me, sir, and tell me, by the oath you have sworn, am not I the man that robbed you?"--"By heaven! you are the very man."--"You see what sort of memory this gentleman has," exclaimed the Gipsy; "he swears to the bonnet, whatever features are under it. If you, yourself, my lord, will put it on your head, he will be willing to swear that your lordship was the person who robbed him." The farmer was unanimously acquitted.


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