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]

Tait describes her later years as follows:

'With a dignified aspect, a large share of shrewdness, and a plausible manner with visitors to her shrine, which consisted of a neat little cottage on the outskirts of Kirk Yetholm, Queen Esther did what she could to maintain a fair position, but the effort was hopeless. The tinsel crown, her emblem of royalty, was somehow lost; and in March 1867, her income had become so precarious and insufficient that application for assistance was made on her behalf to the Parochial Board of Jedburgh, to which her husband, then deceased, had belonged. She was offered accommodation in the poorhouse, but that did not meet her ideas of dignity and freedom. So the struggle with poverty was continued till at length the hapless Queen found refuge in 'The Castle', a large, unshapely block of buildings in the Horse Market of Kelso, which had become a general rendezvous of the indigent and vagabond classes. There she had an allowance from the Parochial Board of Yetholm.'

She much preferred Kirk Yetholm to Town Yetholm as 'Kirk Yetholm has the parish church and the wool manufactury (Blunty's Mill); Kirk Yetholm has the mill, and Kirk Yetholm has me.' In her later years she bemoaned the fact that those gypsies living in Kirk Yetholm were 'maistly Irish'.

The Berwickshire Naturalists visited her and recorded their thoughts:

'The President and two other members paid a visit to the Queen of the Gipsies, who lives in a very nice, tidy, clean, well-furnished cottage in Kirk Yetholm. She informed us that she was elected Queen, November 16th, 1861, having succeeded her uncle, William Faa. She said her name was that given at her baptism, Esther Faa Blythe. She clearly thought that her mother had committed an offence against the tribe when she married Blythe, who did not belong to the royal race. I conclude she must have followed her mother's footsteps when she married her husband, Rutherford, who belonged to Jedburgh, and was not a gipsy; for she never once alluded to him in our conversation, though she told us she had had twelve children. She is certainly very fair for a gipsy; has short, small delicate hands; her feet are the same, and her gait in walking has a litheness which, I am informed by one able to judge, is not seen in the natives. She cannot tell an ordinary story without great action of hands and arms. One daughter lives with her, but is quiet and staid in her manner. Her children are all darker than the generality of dark persons. She has several brothers and sisters alive, who are very dark, unmistakeable gipsies. Her sister, Helen, is the only one my informant has seen with the dark streak at the root of the eye-lashes. The eyes of all are black. The Queen says that all her children spoke Romany equally well as English, but from what she said subsequently I gathered that they did not keep up the practice.'

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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