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

Gypsies in Scotland

Whilst it is believed that the Gypsies first came into the area about the middle of the 15th century, the first recorded reference to the 'Egyptians' would appear to be in 1492, in the reign of James IV, when an entry in the Book of the Lord High Treasurer records a payment to Peter Ker of four shillings, to go to the king at Hunthall, to get letters subscribed to the 'King of Rowmais'. Two days after, a payment of twenty pounds was made at the king's command to the messenger of the 'King of Rowmais'.

In 1502, the 'Earl of Grece' was paid 14 shillings at the king's command.

'Apr. 22, 1505 - Item to the Egyptianis be the Kingis command, vij lib.(7)'

On July 5th 1506, Anthonius Gawino, described as the Earl of Little Egypt, received from James IV, letters commending him to the King of Denmark, to which country he was about to sail.

Gypsies re-enter the records, in 1527, with the trial and subsequent death penalty for a group accused of theft in Aberdeen.

In May 1529, 'King Cristal's' servant was paid 20.

In 1532, the 'King of Cipre' got, at the command of the king, James V, 100.

In October 1539, another appearance in court for a group led by George Faw, referred to as 'Erle George callit of Egypt', led to him being in the curious position of being ordered out of Aberdeen whilst, apparently, at the same time being the recipient of a King's Writ in his support.

In February 1540, there is recorded a writ granting protection to 'our lovit Johnnie Faa, Lord and Erle of Littil Egipt' signed by King James V. Johnnie Faa was also granted powers to administer justice upon his people 'conforme to the laws of Egypt'. They were charged to help Johnnie capture and punish a group of gypsies under the leadership of Sebastaine (or Sebastiane) Lalow and including two men of the name Bailzow. (Bailzow is believed to be Baillie, of which name people appear at Yetholm.)

This protection was renewed, in 1553, during the minority of Mary.

In May 1540, a precept was granted in favour of John Wanne, son and heir of the said Johnnie Fall, to hang and otherwise punish all his Egyptian subjects within the kingdom of Scotland.

In 1541, the Lords of Council, on considering the complaints given in by Johnnie Faa and his brother, and Sebastiane Lowlaw, Egyptians, to the King each against the others, were ordered to depart the kingdom within thirty days after being charged so to do, under pain of death.

In 1553, having renewed the writ in favour of the gipsy king, Queen Mary granted a respite to Andrew Faa, captain of the Egyptians, George Faa, Robert Faa, his sons, for the murder of Ninian Smaill within the town of Linton.

In 1571, an Act of stringency was passed upon them and all the hangers-on which they attracted - bards, minstrels and vagabond scholars. During the next thirty-three years the penalties on the Gypsies increased, just as in England. The Court Records show how hanging, drowning and being deported were the order of the day for those convicted of being Gypsies.

An Act passed in 1579 refers to the gypsies as 'the idle peopil calling themselves Egyptians'.
This Act included the requirement that any person found to be a gypsy was to be nailed to a tree by the ears, and thereafter to have the said ears cut off.

In 1603, the Privy Council ordered the entire race of gypsies to leave Scotland by a certain date, never to return on pain of death.

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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