Esther Faa Blythe (1861-1883)
Joseph Lucas, who published his book, 'The Yetholm History of the Gypsies' in 1882, had visited her in about 1880. She gave him a list of gypsy words which he included in his book, and showed him all her treasures including a long poem by an obvious admirer of the gypsies, only known as W.Y.C., who had penned it in the Collingwood Arms at Cornhill on September 11th 1877.
'To Kirk Yetholm, The Headquarters of the Scottish Gypsies.
Farewell to Kirk Yetholm, and Cheviot's green hills,
The spell is now broken, thy glory is past,
No longer the Faa at the head of his race
Thy daughters who once, like the Fairies of yore,
No longer the youth roams the woodland and dell
Still in memory those elf-locks of glossy black hair
Like the tree, from whose branches the leaves have been cast
Queen Esther, farewell! thou art stately and fair,
This is obviously a romanticised view, as by then she was living in real penury, having applied to the Poor Board of Jedburgh for financial assistance and support some ten years earlier.
In the last few years of her life she lived with her daughter in a large building called 'The Castle' in Horsemarket, Kelso. This building was was the place where all the local vagrants met and lived. She received an allowance from the Parochial Board of Yetholm, but soon fell into ill-health. Despite care from her daughters, she sickened and died.
When she died on July 12th 1883, her remains were taken to Kirk Yetholm for burial in the tomb of her forebears. It has been estimated that about 1500 attended the interment, but that of them only about two dozen were gypsies.
The coffin bore the inscription 'Esther Faa Blythe, Queen of the Gipsies, died July 12th, 1883'. It was ornately decorated with tinsel and flowers, including a wreath of white roses from Lady John Scott. Over it was spread the royal scarlet cloak which she had worn during her reign. She was the last remnant of gypsy royalty in the Yetholm area.
Altho' a stone was erected on her grave, there is now no sign of it.
By the time she died, the end of the gypsy culture was at hand.
The Faa Family - The Gypsies