be a gypsy!
If your ancestors are
from the Scottish Borders area near England, you
may have some gypsy blood running through your
veins! This is another example that if you label
yourself as a Scot, you may have any number of
bloodlines from the European continent.
Another good example –
my Scottish ancestry is from the Isle of Harris
and Lewis – one of the many homes to the
MacLeods. Who founded the MacLeod clan? Two
Viking brothers! Technically speaking, I’m not
Scottish, but Viking! Find out why you may have a
wee bit of gypsy in you.
In a country like
Scotland where castles and stately homes are found
almost everywhere, there is one palace where very
different riches were celebrated. The Gypsy
Palace may sound like a bizarre contradiction, but
here lived crowned kings and queens. While they
were not rich in the gold or the jewels associated
with other famous palaces, these people were rich
in other ways – in tradition and in spirit.
The Gypsies were first
recorded in Scotland in 1506, having arrived from
the Continent, and are thought to have their
origins in the Persian Gulf. A nomadic race, the
gypsy way of life was simple. They would find
work on farms, doing even the most menial work
through the spring and summer, earning enough food
or money to see them through the long winter
months. They never put much stock in possessions,
apart from a fierce loyalty to their horses.
Their society was hugely reliant on family, and it
was the Faa family who made headquarters at Kirk
Located near the
English border, seven miles (11 km) southeast of
Kelso, Yetholm is adjacent to Bowmont Water and in
the old country of Roxburghshire. The town
Yetholm is the younger of two parts of a village,
which also includes Kirk Yetholm. The nature of
the land in the Borders – constantly disputed
ownership between the Scots and the English – made
it a perfect place for gypsies to settle. The Faa
family’s first official involvement in the area
was reported in Chambers’ Journal, August
18, 1883, “the land (where the Gipsy Palace
stands), was given to the gypsies by Bennet of
Grubbit and Marlefield, Laird of Kirk Yetholm,
after a brave gypsy named Young saved his life
during the Battle of Namur, in 1695.”
Alasdair Alpin MacGregor, met a resident of
Yetholm called Robert Christie in 1935, who could
vividly remember the 1898 coronation of Charles
Faa Blyth, the last king: “There were ten
thousand folk here the day Chairlie Blythe was
crooned, and twa hundred cuddies [horses]. He was
crooned oot there on the Green l’ Kirk Yetholm…
The gypsies wended their way up the Loanings
toward the tract o’ land known as the Common.
There they put a tin croon on him, and broke a
bottle of whisky ower his heid, and then bound a
hare roond his neck. Chairlie then walked down
the Loanings to his Palace as ‘His majesty’! The
hare, of course, was indicative o’ the case – or
rather, o’ the ancient art o’ poaching, whereby
the gypsies derived so much o’ their sustenance.
They regarded poaching as their birthright, so to
There was general
distrust of the gypsies locally, but various
people including the Quakers and a local man, John
Baird, sought better conditions for the
community. He brought about measures like
full-time homes for the children of the gypsies
(in taking some gypsy girls into his own home,
others saw fit to do likewise), and encouraged
their education, but this also saw the beginning
of the end of their traditional way of life.
The last queen, Esther
Faa Blyth, died in 1883 and her son, crowned king
in 1902, died a few years later. The gypsy
community intermingled with the local folk and
effectively disappeared. However, if your surname
is Baillie, Tait, Douglas, Young, Gordon or Blyth,
you may well have Faa blood in your veins.
Despite the demise of
the gypsy royal family, the ‘Gypsy Palace’ still
stands in Kirk Yetholm, although it now hosts
commoners as a bed and breakfast.
Extracts from a Fraser
Source: Palmetto &
Thistle, Scots-American Society of Brevard, PO
Box 3325, Melbourne, FL 32902-3325.
Radio can be heard through your PC
Internet users will
find BBC Radio Scotland Online at
www.bbc.co.uk/radioscotland. Near the top
of the page there’s a blue dot to click for the
Listen Now function – hear programs as they
A free weekly
electronic newsletter lists the programs that
were recorded for later listening. To
subscribe, click newsletter in the middle
of the right side of the opening screen.
programs are available on demand for seven days
following transmission via
or link to the program you want right from the
BBC Radio Scotland
Online has programs in the categories of
comedy, sports, music, festivals, gardening,
adventure, art, wildlife, health, and community
matters. Click around on the site and you’ll
find Scottish weather, Scottish travel, etc.
Let Clan Ross News know if you find
something you really enjoy.
The BBC history site
is not perfect (even the typing contains some
goofs), but its fun. I like to read about
ancient Scotland; the first ancient site offered
is Skara Brae. There are a couple of
interesting opinions of evidence that the side
of the bed you slept on was determined by
gender, as areas of the house might also be.
But the author didn’t really provide an overview
of what Skara Brae is, how it looks, when it was
found – those basics.
I wrote to the people
who monitor Contact Us to ask what
evidence there is that the base of a wooden pole
found at the Stones of Stenness was a totem
pole. It will be interesting to see how that
question is answered. Weeks have passed since I
submitted the question though.
offers a free electronic newsletter, but it’s
for all British history, not just Scotland’s.
Back to Scottish
radio stations available through the Internet,
www.radio-locator.com has an International
selection. You’ll find Scottish stations mixed
in with the UK grouping. Included are:
Some of these stations use the same contest
questions that U.S. stations do – hear the
answer hours ahead!
Source: Clan Ross
News, Clan Ross Foundation, Dorothy Gerych,
Newsletter Editor, 21278 Flanders, Farmington
Hills, MI 48335.
Arizona Society Meeting