The Gypsies
The Early History
Gypsies in Scotland
Gypsies in the Borders
The Yetholm Gypsies
Gypsy Families
The Faa Family
Jean Gordon

Esther Faa Blythe (1861-1883)

.... [cont'd]

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,
Where gentle Queen Esther, the gypsy throne fills,
Farewell to sweet Bowmont, whose bright water glides
Thro' thy dark glen where nature's wid beauty resides.

The spell is now broken, thy glory is past,
Thy course like the sun, disappears in the west;
Thy swart Eastern sons no longer can rove
In freedom to plunder, to fight and to love.

No longer the Faa at the head of his race
Returns to thy palace with spoils of the chase,
In the smuggling foray no longer is heard,
The song of wild mirth nor the clash of his sword.

Thy daughters who once, like the Fairies of yore,
Danced round thy green knolls, now gambol no more;
Those dark eyes whose glance set the heart all on flame,
No longer in Yetholm their empire proclaim.

No longer the youth roams the woodland and dell
To ask the young gypsy his fortune to tell
And, in love-melting rapture, to gaze in her face,
While she sought on his hand the dark future to trace.

Still in memory those elf-locks of glossy black hair
Encircle young bosoms, voluptuous and fair,
Like the warmth of the sunbeam that's fled o'er the hill
The smile of those maidens doth linger there still.

Like the tree, from whose branches the leaves have been cast
Over mountain and fell by the rude wintry blast,
In her lone mountain glen their aged queen reigns,
Her subjects all scattered o'er far-distant glens.

Queen Esther, farewell! thou art stately and fair,
Though eighty warm summers have silvered your hair.
May the blessings of plenty and peace ne'er depart
From thy time-honoured throne and thy true gypsy heart.

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

Esther Faa Blythe

Charles Faa Blythe Coronation

At St James Fair 1907

At St James Fair 1907

Kirk Yetholm Green c1920

Kirk Yetholm - Muggers Row c1920

Looking up the hill to Staerough

Kirk Yetholm Gypsy Palace c1945

King & Queen and Palace

Gypsy Palace present day