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

The Yetholm Gypsies

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Their occupations are various. There are two who manufacture horn into spoons: one tinker; and most of all of the rest are 'muggers', or, as they prefer being called, 'potters' or 'travellers', who carry earthen-ware about the country for sale. These last also frequently employ themselves in making besoms and baskets. The gipsy, in general, enjoys but few of the comforts of home - with the exception of the spoon-manufacturer, who must remain stationary to fabricate his wares, which the females usually dispose of at neighbouring markets, and in the surrounding country. The horn-spoons, or 'cutties', are very generally used by the peasantry, and before harvest are purchased for the use of the reapers. Most readers are probably familiar with the appearance of a gipsy tent. It is generally situated in the least frequented parts of the country, probably beside some plantation, which supplies it at once with shelter and with fuel. The women carry about their manufactured items for sale; while the men either remain with the cart, or occupy themselves in fishing and poaching, in both of which they are generally expert. The children accompany the females, or collect decayed wood for fuel. At night the whole family sleep under the tent, the covering of which is generally woollen cloth, and is the same usually that covers their cart during the day. Occasionally two or more families travel together. A dog, chained under the cart, protects their property, and at night gives warning of danger. Each family generally travels a particular district, seldom remaining more than a few days in one place. This is their mode of life, even in the coldest and wettest weather of spring, or the beginning of winter; and sometimes the tents are but scantily provided with warm and comfortable clothing. The ground, from which, while they sleep, they are separated only by a blanket or slight mattress laid on some straw, must frequently. of course, be completely saturated with rain; nevertheless I have never understood that these people are, even as much as others, troubled with colds and rheumatisms, to which this mode of life seems almost unavoidably to expose them. Indeed, both at home and abroad, they enjoy the best health. In cases of sickness, they are usually unwilling to call in a medical practitioner. Before autumn all return who are able and willing to hire themselves as reapers. After harvest work is over, they set off once more to the country, where they continue until the severity of winter drives them home. At home they are usually quiet and peaceable. Their quarrels, which do not often take place, and are only among themselves, are very violent while they continue: and the subject or ground of quarrel is seldom known but to themselves. On these occasions they are much addicted to profane swearing, and but too much so at other times. I think it deserving of remark, that most of the murders for which gipsies have been condemned seem to have been committed upon persons of their own tribe, in the heat and violence of passion, the consequence of some old family fead, or upon strangers of other clans for invading what they regard as their territory, or the district they were wont to travel. Their character for truth and honesty is certainly not high. Their pilfering and plundering habits, practised chiefly when from home, are pretty generally known. Their money debts, however, they discharge, I believe, as punctually as others; and there is a species of honour among them, that, if trusted, they will not deceive, and a principle of gratitude, that, if treated kindly, they will not injure. Numerous instances can be referred to of the grateful sense they entertain of favours bestowed on them, and on the length of time they will remember a kindness done either to themselves or their relatives. A deep spirit of revenge is the darkest trait in their character. Yet may most of the savage features of the gipsy character be referred to their loose, wandering, and disorderly life; to their lamentable ignorance of the duties which they owe both to God and man, and their total want of restraint by any consideration, moral or religious. I am not aware that they are much addicted to ardent spirits, or that there is any habitual drunkard belonging to their tribe.

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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