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have thought that, to a certain extent, he was so.
He nevey asked for trust as long as he had a halfpenny in his pocket. At the different inns which he used to frequent, he was seldom or never denied anything. If he pledged his word that he would pay his bill the next time he came that way, he punctually performed his promise. Peter's work was of a very miscellaneous nature. It comprehended the professions of a blacksmith in all its varieties, a tínsmith, and brazier. His original business was to mend pots, pans, kettles, &c. of every description, and this he did with great neatness and ingenuity: Having an uncommon turn for mechanics, he at last cleaned and repaired clocks and watches. He also could engrave on wood or metal ; so also could his brother John; but where they learned any of these arts I never heard. Peter was very handy about all sorts of carpenter work, and occasionally amused himself, when the fancy seized him, in executing some pieces of curious cabinetwork that required neatness of hand. He was particularly famous in making fishing-rods, and in the art of fishing he was surpassed by few. Placed in advantageous circumstances, what might this man not have become? As the case was, he was continually committing depredations on society; and no pains being taken to improve his habits, he came out of prison worse than he went in. * At length he committed a capital crime, and was condemned to be hanged at Aberdeen.
“During the few weeks which were permitted to elapse between sentence and execution, Peter appeared to be very penitent, and perfectly resigned to the fate which awaited him. Having been heard to complain of the coldness of his feet, different articles of clothing were sent to him by humane people to keep him warm. The practice in Aberdeen at that time was for the jail to be finally shut at four o'clock p.M. Public executions always took place upon the Friday, being the market-day. Upon the previous Wednesday, when the jailor came to inquire if he wanted anything for the night, Peter sprung upon him like a tiger, took the keys from him, and said if he would remain quiet, he would not touch a hair of his head. He had been for some time at freedom from his irons, having sawed them through with the mainspring of a watch. He commanded the jailor to lie down upon his back, and, with dreadful imprecations, swore that if he moved a finger or a toe, and especially if he looked out at the window, he would murder him on the spot. The jailor was well aware of the kind of man he had to deal with, and was therefore very compliant. After thus settling matters with the jailor, which occupied five or six hours, at a time of night when everything appeared to be quiet, Peter went down stairs and informed his féllow-prisoners what he was about. It so happened that there were a great number then in the prison at Aberdeen. He had all the keys, and showing these was sufficient hush-money. When he thought everything was prepared, at one o'clock he went himself
to unlock the outer door; but, unfortunately for him, it was bolted on the outside. This for a moment staggered him; but no time was to be lost-no exertion spared. In a state of fearful agony and desperation, he threw his immense strength upon the door, and it yielded to the impulse, and flew open. In the old prison of Aberdeen there was always a soldier on guard. Peter seized his firelock, and made him accompany him, until he set every prisoner at liberty. He was the last that went out himself. Having locked the door, and left the key in the lock, he delivered the firelock to the sentinel, and ran off.
“ There was at that time a great deal of snow upon the ground. Peter was well acquainted with every devious path in the county; he needed nobody to pilot him. According to his own account, he tore off the skirts of his coat immediately upon leaving the prison, and made all the speed he could to the hilly country, or what is called the head of Aberdeenshire. He had travelled about twenty-four miles, and, being quite exhausted, lay down to sleep. Sir Edward Bannerman and some other gentlemen were out on a sporting expedition, and their dogs made a dead set at Peter, who was lying on the snow fast asleep. Sir Edward knew Peter perfectly, and, according to the statement of some, had been one of the jury that condemned him. They bound Peter, and sent an express to Aberdeen. The magistrates ordered that he should be sent to town under a strong guard.
"By this time it was Friday morning; the gallows was erected, and everything prepared for the execution; but, in going up the Shiprow, attended by a great mob, some person called out,
Peter, deny that you are the man!' The provost, council, &c. examined him. Peter said he knew nothing about such a man as Peter Young; he never heard of him; his own name was John Anderson; and he wondered what they meant by making such a wark about him. Though he was as well known in Aberdeen as the provost himself, yet none could be found to identify him. He therefore escaped being hanged at this time, and was sent to Edinburgh, where, after a short delay, and the necessary examinations, the unfortunate man was executed. John Young, his brother, was hanged at Aberdeen for the murder of a gipsy cousin in 1801; the whole family, indeed, consisting of seven brothers, became victims of their own unregulated passions, and of the law of capital punishment.”
We now conclude with a more pleasing department of inquiry, namely, the prospect of the
CIVILISATION OF THE GIPSIES. The foregoing sketches afford a melancholy picture of human degradation and neglect. According to the barbarous policy of a past age, no attempt was made to reclaim the gipsies to the
usages of civilised life; they were left to wander at large, exposed to every species of temptation to crime, and when caught, they were punished with all the usual vengeance of the law. In recent times, in consequence of that wise and more philan. thropic mode of dealing with the criminal classes in society, which has been gaining ground, some attempts have been made to call attention to the condition of the gipsies, with a view to their instruction and civilisation. This has been particularly the case in Great Britain, where the gipsies are supposed to be about eighteen thousand in number-a large proportion of the population to be left abandoned to a lawless course of life. The attempts which have been made, although by no means so energetically or extensively supported as they ought to have been, have been sufficient at least to demonstrate the practicability, with the assistance of time, of civilising and domesticating this unfortunate race.
The most remarkable, and perhaps the most successful attempt to reclaim the gipsies, is that begun a few years ago at Yetholm in Roxburghshire. Here, as already mentioned, a tribe has been many years located, but, in the course of time, it has become so mingled with the general population of the country, that few traits of the original gipsy character remain. Among these, unfortunately, is the tendency to vagrancy. Bands sally forth at certain seasons to carry on small tinkering or huckstering occupations, and, as formerly, either encamp by the waysides, or find ā shelter among the farmers or peasantry, to whom they are professionally serviceable. No doubt the establishment of a rural police, and also the general enclosing of the country, have considerably limited the disposition to roam, but it still exists. The effort to suppress it, and to cultivate habits of civilisation, has been mainly conducted by the Rev. John Baird, minister of Yetholm, who thus speaks of the aptitude of his gipsy parishioners in learning. *“ Most of the tribe are able to read, though very indifferently. They seem alive to the advantages of education, and speak of it as the only legacy which a poor man can leave to his children; but the migratory habits of the people prevent their children from remaining long enough at school ever to make much progress. The children are generally remarked as clever. One large family of children have been taught to read by their mother at home; and I have known a father (when he was able) who gave a lesson every day to his two children in the course of their migrations. I may mention, as a proof of the anxiety of parents on this subject, that most of them have again and again professed their willingness to leave their children at home throughout the year for instruction, could they only afford it. Of late, the greater number of the tribe have attended church occasionally, and some with exemplary regularity. Their ideas on the subject of religion, however, are extremely limited and erroneous.
Nor can they well be otherwise, consi
dering their unsettled way of life and their defective education. Yet they profess a general respect for religion, and, when absent from church, excuse themselves on the ground that they have no suitable or decent clothing. I have not been able to ascertain whether they entertain any peculiar sentiments on the subject of religion. Like most ignorant persons, they are very superstitious. All of them profess to belong to the established church, and there are no dissenters among them. Eight or nine of them are communicants. Most of them possess Bibles, which have been purchased, however, rather for the use of their children when at school than for any other purpose. Those who have not Bibles would purchase them, they say, could they afford it."
The effort at reclamation began in 1839, by the establishment of a society in Edinburgh, and the collection of voluntary contributions and subscriptions. This society still exists,* and affords encouragement to Mr Baird in his benevolent labours. The plan carried out by the society, with its results, will be learned from the following extracts from a communication with which Mr Baird has favoured us (Nov. 1846).
“Our plan is simply this—To keep the children at home during the excursions of their parents (who are absent usually about ten months out of the twelve), to give them a useful education, and afterwards to find situations for them as servants or apprentices. In this we have succeeded to some extent. Eight girls have been hired as servants, several of whom, however, are at home at present; two from bad health; and one is required, in the absence of her parents, to take care of her brothers and sisters attending school. All of them have conducted themselves well. Nearly as many lads have been hired or apprenticed, or are otherwise employed in ordinary agricultural operations. Two unmarried men, not educated at our expense, and three married men with wives and families, are also now employed as industrious day-labourers. Several of the younger men have been working on the railways. Including the children of these families, there are now between thirty and forty who, for the present, have been withdrawn from the vagabond life of their tribe, and are now in the fair way, we trust, of becoming useful members of society.
" At the commencement of our operations, and indeed all along, we have had difficulties to contend with. I remember well (when there appeared a probability of funds being obtained, and it seemed necessary to make a beginning) of calling first on the gipsy families to explain our intentions, and afterwards on some individuals who appeared to be suitable persons with whom to intrust the care of the children left at home. From the former I had fair promises; they expressed a great desire for the education of their children, much apparent gratitude for
* W. R. Baillie, Esq. secretary and treasurer, 19 Broughton Place, by whom subscriptions will be received.
what was proposed to be done, and I left them in the belief that the plan met their entire approval.”. From the latter, Mr Baird goes on to say he was met by several objections; and for a short time, he adds, “ I doubted if a commencement would be made at all. I was not, however, kept long in suspense. One family at length announced their intention of leaving their children--two little girls of nine and ten years of age. They proposed taking their departure on the following day, and begged to know with whom their children should be left. I assured them their children should be taken care of, but requested them to delay their departure only another day, to give me time to make arrangements. Up to this time I had failed in inducing a single individual to receive a gipsy child as a boarder on almost any terms. I now made one last attempt, which proved as unsuccessful as the former. The morning came when the gipsy family should depart; the mother soon arrived, with her inquiry where the children were to be left. I said, “Leave them with me,' and with me they were left. A comfortable apartment and bed were provided them; and from the manse they went daily to school. Here they remained a week or ten days. In little more than half of that time, however, I received one application after another from some of those who had formerly refused to receive them, offering them accommodation; and from that time, for several years after, I had no difficulty in getting all the children that were left at home comfortably accommodated. And as for the gipsy parents, they soon went from one extreme to another, and would have left all their children but their infants; but we refused to take
below six years of age. “ Occasionally since then, we have had the same difficulty to contend with. The parents would leave their children only with certain individuals, who could not perhaps receive them; and all along, it has been a difficult matter to get proper persons to take charge of them. Now, they are frequently left in their parents' houses, under the care of an older sister or other relative, such as a grandmother. We allow no money, but a certain proportion of meal for each child; the school fees are paid, and clothing occasionally is provided, chiefly for the girls. For some years past we have had from thirty to forty, sometimes upwards of forty, children at school; and the teacher reports favourably of their conduct and progress.
We have here the most conclusive evidence of the improvability of the gipsies: their better faculties only require to be developed, and those of an evil tendency suppressed in youth, in order that they may assume their proper place among the ordinary population of the country. It is to be trusted that the meritorious effort at reclamation will not be suffered to languish for lack of means, and that its example will lead to similar attempts for civilising and bettering the condition of the gipsies in England and other countries.