The Kirk Yetholm Gypsies

The Kirk Yetholm Gypsies

During our research we have been unable to find us yet direct mention of Dandie Dinmont terriers as such. We can however draw links from some main characters connected with the Kirk Yetholm gypsies. Namely Sir Walter Scott, Willie Allan, Jamie Allan. And have strong links to the breed.

We will discuss how gypsies to use Kirk Yetholm as a winter base and some leading characters among them who proved influential in guy manner in.

The gypsies arrived in Scotland around 1500 having made the long tortuous journey from India. They were well received in Scotland and their conduct was regulated by their own tribal leaders, who administered justice as was required.

In 1506 King James the 4th wrote to the king of Denmark informing him the tribe of people called gypsies Egyptians were touring Scotland on instructions from the Pope.

The gypsy’s conduct in the 16th and early 17th centuries became unacceptable, so much so that in 1609, an act of parliament decreed that any gypsy found in Scotland was to be hung, and gypsy women drowned.

To save their lives, the gypsies did a number of things

1. Fell in with inhabitants way of life.

2. Change that dress to that worn by the Scots.

3. Change the names to those of local people.

4. Kidnapped Scots children and brought them up as their own.

5. Move to areas such as the borders there where they could seek refuge in the cheviots hills, over into England.

The gypsies wandered around the borders in all types of weather, and it was no surprise when a number of the lads took the king shilling and joined the army.

There were a number of gypsies the company commanded by the Laird of Kirk Yetholm, Captain Bennet. At the Battle of Namur in 1695, one of the gypsy lads saved the captains life. As a reward for this brave act, the captain provided Houses in Kirk Yetholm for that gypsy and his friends.

The houses were rented to the gypsies at a one shilling per year, on the leases were for 19 times 19 years. The let consisted of a cottage, garden at the back of the house and about a quarter of an acre of land on the loaning – A stretch of cultivated land adjacent

to the village. In the same direction as the loaning, towards the English border, was about 200 acres of common land on which the Kirk Yetholm residents were allowed to grace a cow, horse, donkey,cuddy or pownie, besides being allowed to cut peat.

The first gypsy settlers were the Youngs, Tails, Gordon’s, Fleckies, Douglas and Blyths. Dark curly hair, dark eyes, high cheekbones, and olive or tawney skin was their general appearance, excepting the Blyths, who had blue eyes and fair hair.

Cookie atom has been referred to as the home of the kings of the Scottish gypsies, but this is doubtful. The home of the gypsy king of southeast Scotland would be more accurate.

From earliest times to the last crowning, the royal family have been related or connected with the surname of Faa.

Tokelau,A.V. 2004.

Walter Scott

Jean Gordon brackets 1670 to 1746 brackets and her husband Patrick Faa 1670 to1727) , although not mentioned as Kings and Queens, was certainly the first leaders of the Kirk Yetholm Gypsies. Jean, it was said, stood 6 feet tall, had Raven black hair which hung around her shoulders, an aquiline nose, piercing eyes, wore a cloak and a man’s overcoat, and on all occasions carried a large staff, which was threateningly wielded to add to her reputation of being savage and fearsome. She had a commanding and queenly presence, and was greatly respected.

Sir Walter Scott said she was quite a Meg Merilee’s, and was a strong influence in depicting that character in his book, Guy Mannering, although her granddaughter Madge, had similar features and characteristics. So Walter had met Madge as a boy, when she called on his father for arms. So most probably the character of make Merilee’s was drawn from both Jean and Madge Gordon.

The King Charles Blyth, brother in law of Will Faa II,was crowned in 1847 at the age of 69. He was friendly with Walters Sir Walter Scott, who enjoyed conversing with him while

and camped near Abbotsford. Space so Walter gleaned much information on the gypsy character in ways of life. So Walter said he was happiest in the company of the gypsies and people of the ordinary stations of life, rather than Lords and ladies and those of high rank.

In Guy Mannering, Sir Walter Scott describes how Meg Merilee’s cooks her pottage

Meg, in the meanwhile, went to a great black cauldron that was boiling on a fire on the floor, and lifting the lid, and order was diffused through the vault, which, if the vapours of a witches cauldron could be ought be trusted, promised better things than the hell broth which such vessel vessels are usually supposed to contain.

It was in fact the saviour of a good lease too, composed of fowls, hairs, partridges, and more game, boiled with potatoes, onions and leeks, and from the size of the cauldron, appeared to be prepared for half a dozen people at least

Will Allan

Many of the gypsy men practised music, and the violin and bagpipes were the instruments they commonly used. We scarcely need reminder readers of Jamie Allen, the celebrated Northumberland paper, all of Jamie Bailey of Coldstream the well known angler who was not less famous as a violinist all over the borders on both sides

Jamie Allan was of distinct gypsy decent on the mother’s side but it would be hard to see or conjecture what was the pedigree of his father, though, whatever it was, he was no improvement on the gypsy breed. Will Allan, the father, was well known in his day all over Northumberland through most of which he travelled annually for his skill as an angler, his passion for Otter hunting, and his masterly performances on the small bagpipes held in peculiar favour in the county. He had a rooted and cherished aversion to systemic labour of any kind, not only as regarded himself, but also extending to his immediate relatives. He sometimes condescended to do some work in the way of horning and besom making but most of his time was spent by the side of the cork it, indulging in angling, which he made a source of profit. He usually kept about a dozen dogs, of three or four of which he made special favourites, and for which he was capable of affording deeper affection than he could to any of his children. These favourite dogs were well trained to otter hunting, in which pursuit Will had an instinct which enabled him to attain great success, which in turn brought him great notoriety and sometimes not a little gain. But his genius for the small pipes was his most promised prominent characteristic, as it was his principal source of income. His pipes and his dogs sometimes obtained for him introduction to an employment by the titled

and wealthier classes, but this much may be said for him, that he never sacrificed his native but somewhat rough independence either of spirit or address in the presence of or two please his superiors. He was, on the whole honest, which could not be said for the two of his six children, Robert and James, of whom anything is now known, though they inherited all his love for fishing and pipes.

James Allan (the Northumberland piper).

James, the youngest but one of the family afterwards became a great master of the pipes as his father and lived a most eventful life of 76 years. He has been regarded as such a prodigy of his kind that his life has been written and published, and forms a pretty large volume, at one time, if not even yet, held in no small estimation in the country of Northumberland, though it would hardly stand the test of the destructive criticism of our day.

James Allan, who became a kind of hero of the Dick Turpin school, was born at the village of Hepple, in the parish of Rothbury in Northumberland in March 1734 he would almost seem to have imbibed depravity with his mother’s milk, and his father cared little and did nothing to restrain or supplant his evil propensity’s.

James’s father carefully instructed his son in his juvenile performances on the instrument, and the more promise he gave of excellent the more painstaking was the father’s tutorial help. James had the gift of music, above every other endowment of which you could boast, when the time came when his father, much to the old man chagrin, had to stand second to him. new line his father coming, party from natural inclination, and poultry from having a gypsy to wife, made a regular practise of spending a portion of every year with the Faa gang as the gypsies often termed in Northumberland, and after the introduction of his son to a professional career as a piper the old man felt glad and the young ones ratified as having an opportunity of taking part in their merry makings in the musical line, and participating in the marriage rejoicings which happened to be held during the period of their presence. Young Alan felt in his element when taking part in the feasting and hilarity of the far gang for then he deemed himself among his equals, but his excellence as a player obtained him the notice of not a few of the highest drunken social scale. The fame of young Alan reached the ears of the Countess of Northumberland, who took him under her patronage, and she installed him paper at Alnwick Castle, where he dwelt in considerable comfort and repute for upward of two years.

Gypsy of Kirk Yetholm etc, William Brockie, 1884.

Will Faa, was very despotic, and affected regal pomp on solemn occasions. He had 24 children, and at each of their christenings he appeared dressed in his original wedding robes. These christenings were celebrated with no small parade. 12 young hand maidens were always present as part of the King’s retinue, and for the purpose of waiting on the numerous guests who assembled to witness the ceremony, or to partake of the subsequent festivities.

Young Allan had the honour of being frequently and kindly notice by His Majesty, (Will Faa) who sometimes reproved all Allan for permitting his son to live too long in one place like a slave, and advised him to enlarge his circuit. After this hint, the Allan’s always travelled down the Tweed, where they could fish in addition to their other employments. In one of these first excursions, they met a party of Yetholm gypsies near Cornhill, amongst whom was Long Jean Gordon, this was only a short time before her death and she was advanced in years, yet she still walked with all the firmness and elasticity of youth Alan though then only 11 years of age observed this singular woman with great interest, and always mentioned her in terms of respect and admiration.

A New and Authentic Life OF James Allan, the Celebrated Northumberland Piper, detailing his surprising adventures in various parts of Europe, Asia and Africa, including a complete description of the manners and customs of the Gypsy Tribes. Thompson, J.1828