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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Stewart called McRitchie to him


who lived, at one time, at Menstry, were related to the Lochgellie band, the answer which I received was: "The Tinklers are a' sib"--meaning that they are all connected with one another by the ties of blood, and considered as one family. This is a most powerful bond of union among these desperate clans, which almost bids defiance to the breaking up of their strongly cemented society. Old Charles Stewart was described to me as a stout, good-looking man, with a fair complexion; and I was informed that he lived to a great age. He affirmed, wherever he went, that he was a descendant of the royal Stewarts of Scotland. His descendants still assert that they are sprung from the royal race of Scotland. In support of this pretension, Stewart, in the year 1774, at a wedding, in the parish of Corstorphine, actually wore a large cocked hat, decorated with a beautiful plume of white feathers, in imitation of the white cockade of the Pretender. On this occasion, he wore a short coat, philabeg and purse, and tartan hose. He sometimes wore a piece of brass, as a star, on his left breast, with a cudgel in his hand. Such ridiculous attire corresponds exactly with the taste and ideas of a Gipsy.[104] These pretensions of Stewart are exactly of a piece with the usual Gipsy policy of making the people believe that they are descended from families of rank and influence in the country. At the same time, it cannot be denied that some of our Scottish kings, especially James V, the "Gaberlunzie-man,"[105] were far from being scrupulous or fastidious in their vague amours. As old Charles Stewart was, on one occasion, crossing the Forth, at Queensferry, chained to his son-in-law, Wilson, in charge of messengers, he, with considerable shame in his countenance, observed David McRitchie, whose father, as already mentioned, kept a first-rate inn at the north-side, and in which the Tinkler had frequently regaled himself with his merry companions. Stewart called McRitchie to him, and, taking five shillings out of his pocket, said to him, "Hae, Davie, there's five shillings to drink my health, man; I'll laugh at them a'." He did laugh at them all, for nothing could be proved against him and he was immediately set at liberty. It was, as Charles Graham said--"The auld thing again, but nae proof."[106]

[103] It is interesting to notice that the three criminals who gave occasion to the Porteous mob, in 1736, were named Stewart, Wilson and Robertson. They were doubtless Gipsies of the above mentioned clans. Their crimes and modes of escape were quite in keeping with the character of the Gipsies.--ED.

[104] Grellmann, in giving an account of the attire of the poorer kind of Hungarian Gipsies, says: We are not to suppose however that they are indifferent about dress; on the contrary, they love fine clothes to an extravagant degree. Whenever an opportunity offers of acquiring a good coat, either by gift, purchase, or theft, the Gipsy immediately bestirs himself to become master of it. Possessed of the prize, he puts it on directly, without considering in the least whether it suits the rest of his apparel. If his dirty shirt had holes in it as big as a barn door, or his breeches so out of condition that any one might, at the first glance, perceive their antiquity; were he unprovided with shoes and stockings, or a covering for his head; none of these defects would prevent his strutting about in a laced coat, feeling himself of still greater consequence in case it happened to be a red one. They are particularly fond of clothes which have been worn by people of distinction, and will hardly ever deign to put on a boor's coat. They will rather go half naked, or wrap themselves up in a sack, than condescend to wear a foreign garb. Green is a favourite colour with the Gipsies, but scarlet is held in great esteem among them. It is the same with the Hungarian female Gipsies. In Spain, they hang all sorts of trumpery in their ears, and baubles around their necks.


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