Sunday, 3 November 2013

Nomads and Travellers

 I want to look at the beats: nomads, travellers and vagrants. In 1597 the Act for the Repression of Vagrancy defined these people as:
  1. wandering scholars seeking alms
  2. shipwrecked seamen
  3. idle persons using subtle craft in games or in fortune-telling
  4. pretended proctors, procurers or gatherers of alms for institutions
  5. fencers, bearwards, common players or minstrels
  6. jugglers, tinkers, pedlars and petty chapmen
  7. able-bodied wandering persons and labourers without means refusing to work for current rates of wages
  8. discharged prisoners
  9. wanderers pretending losses by fire
  10. Egyptians or gypsies

Galloway was one of the great centres for tinkers or travelling people. Billy Marshall for instance, born in 1672 and died at the supposed age of 120 sometime near 1792. Billy claimed to be the King of the Gypsies in Galloway, and was:

a bare knuckle boxer
a smuggler
a soldier who deserted 7 times at the time of the Horse Fairs
a sailor who deserted 3 times at the times of the Horse Fairs
married 17 times
the father of 68 children, 4 reputedly after his hundredth birthday

Billy Marshall's grave at Kirkcudbright
He led a band of gypsies or 'randies' but also was an early radical at the time of the levellers. With his military training and expertise he was able to organise the country people and demolish the tyrannical dykes the landowners were building to parcel up the land.

The Workhouse at Gatelawbridge Thornhill
The coming of the workhouses in the 19th century with their special blocks for vagrants led to a decline in the numbers and easier communications meant a fall in the number of folk on the roads selling and trading though salesmen like the Petitjeans or Onion Johnnies were a common sight for close to a century from the 1860s. One, a M Quemener,  is still working in the eastern borders but none as far as I know still trade in Dumfries and Galloway.
Small numbers of travellers still can be seen in Dumfries and Galloway which has 2 permanent facilities for travellers in Glenluce and in Collin, though the numbers using these are extremely small.

Where's the modern equivalent of the wandering scholars, jugglers and fortune tellers? Are they dark sky watching or practising reiki therapy from rustic cottages in Moniaive or New Galloway or Wanlockhead? Do they just come out for Knockengorroch or the Wickerman then go home? Or are there any still on the road living out of a backpack?

I was talking to some auld heids the other night and they talked of another type of nomad. Thanks  to free travel concessions there are wee old men and women just jumping on buses and criss crossing the region, the nation, just for the hell of it. Must invent a name for them.

Word of the day- Pruch. To filter through for things of value.

No comments:

Post a Comment