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

William Faa II (1784-1847)

.... [cont'd]

The 'Kelso Mail' carried his obituary entitled 'Death of a Gypsy King'.

'The venerable patriarch of the gypsy tribe, Will Faa, died at Kirk Yetholm last week in the 96th year of his age. Up to a very recent period he was in the enjoyment of a hale old age - pursuing his favourite enjoyment with the fishing rod and taking long rambles, but within these few months back, his iron frame indicated quick coming decay. His death was made the occasion for a gypsy wake which consisted of a more than ordinary house (sic) among such of the clan who were in the village and neighbourhood. Will held his kingly honours unchallenged for many years and was as proud of his pedigree as if he had all the blood of the Howards purpling his veins. He was always accounted a more respectable character than any of his tribe, and could boast of never having been in gaol during his life. At one time he kept a public house in Yetholm and was a man pretty well to do, as things went in the old Border village. He was either proprietor or life-renter of the house in which he died. Visitors to Yetholm (and in the summer months they are not few, owing to the salubrity of the air) generally made it a point to procure an introduction to the old king and more curious persons took care to possess themselves of his autograph, which could be procured when the right method was taken. Will's old age lived on the memory of his young days. His eye kindled and his countenance beamed when he told of his feats at football, in which he bore the ball at the great matches of yore down both sides of the Borders. In every thing that required the strong arm or the lithe limb, he was victorious; and, almost to the last, his mumbling speech became eloquent as he recalled his favourite recollections ...'

Later in the same month, a tribute to him appeared in 'The Scotsman', which is contained within Lucas:

'The daisy has faded, the yellow leaf drops,
The cold sky looks grey o'er the shrivelled tree tops,
And many around us, since summer's glad birth
Have dropt, like the old leaves, into the cold earth.
And one worth remembering has gone to his home -
Where the King and the Kaiser must both at last come -
The King of the Gypsies - the last of his name
Which in Scotland's old story, is rung on by fame.

The cold clod ne'er pressed down a manlier breast
Than that of the old man now gone to his rest.
It is meet we remember him - never again
Will such foot as old Will's kick a ball o'er the plain,
Or such a hand as his, warm with the warmth of the soul,
Bid us welcome to Yetholm, to bicker* and bowl. (beaker or cup)
Oh, the voice that could make the air tremble and ring
With the great-hearted gladness becoming a king,

Is silent, is silent; oh, wail for the day
When death took the Border King, brave Willie Faa.
No dark Jeddart prison e'er closed upon him,
The last lord of Egypt ne'er wore gyve* on limb. (leg irons)
Though his grey locks were crownless, the light of his eye
Was Kingly - his bearing, majestic and high.
Though his hand held no sceptre, the stranger can tell
That the full bowl of welcome became it as well;
The fisher or rambler, by river or brae,
Ne'er from old Willie's hallan,* went empty away. (home)

In the old house of Yetholm we've sat at the board,
The guest, highly honoured, of Egypt's old lord,
And mark'd his eye glisten as oft as he told
Of his feats on the Border, his prowess of old.
It is meet when that dark eye in death hath grown dim
That we sing a last strain in remembrance of him.
The fame of the Gypsy hath faded away
With the breath from the brave heart of gallant Will Faa.'

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