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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

The then laird of Kirk Yetholm


am a native of Yetholm parish, and a residenter in it, with a little exception, for upwards of fifty years. I well remember Kirk-Yetholm, when the Faas and Youngs alone had a footing in it.[163] The Taits came next, and latterly, at various periods, the Douglasses, Blyths, Montgomerys, &c. Old William Faa, (with whom I was well acquainted, and saw him married to his third wife,[164]) constantly claimed kindred with the Falls of Dunbar; and persisted, to the last, that he himself was the male descendant, in a direct line, from the Earl of Little Egypt. For many years before his death, Mr. Nisbet of Dirlton, (the then laird of Kirk-Yetholm,) gave him the charge of his house, at Marlfield, and all its furniture, although he resided six miles distant from it. The key of the principal door was regularly delivered to him, at the laird's departure. I remember a sale of wood at Cherry-trees, belonging to the late Sheriff Murray. William Faa was a purchaser at the roup, and the sheriff proclaimed aloud to the clerk, that he would be Mr. Faa's cautioner. All the Tinklers in the village, and even strangers resorting thither, considered William Faa as the head and leader of the whole. His corpse was escorted betwixt Coldstream and Yetholm by above three hundred asses.

[163] The tribe of Young have preserved the following tradition respecting their first settlement in Yetholm: At a siege of the city of Namur, (date unknown,) the laird of Kirk-Yetholm,

of the ancient family of Bennets, of Grubit and Marlfield, in attempting to mount a breach, at the head of his company, was struck to the ground, and all his followers killed, or put to flight, except a Gipsy, the ancestor of the Youngs, who resolutely defended his master till he recovered his feet, and then, springing past him upon the rampart, seized a flag which he put into his leader's hand. The besieged were struck with panic--the assailants rushed again to the breach--Namur was taken, and Captain Bennet had the glory of the capture. On returning to Scotland, the laird, out of gratitude to his faithful follower, settled him and his family, (who had formerly been travelling tinkers and heckle-makers,) in Kirk-Yetholm; and conferred upon them, and the Faas, a fen of their cottages, for the space of nineteen times nineteen years; which they still hold from the Marquis of Tweed-dale, the present proprietor of the estate.--_Blackwood's Magazine._--ED.

[164] On solemn occasions, Will Faa assumed, in his way, all the stately deportment of sovereignty. He had twenty-four children, and at each of their christenings he appeared, dressed in his original wedding-robes. These christenings were celebrated with no small parade. Twelve young handmaidens were always present, as part of the family retinue, and for the purpose of waiting on the numerous guests, who assembled to witness the ceremony, or partake of the subsequent festivities. Besides Will's Gipsy associates, several of the neighbouring farmers and lairds, with whom he was on terms of friendly intercourse, (among others, the Murrays, of Cherry-trees,) used to attend these christenings.--_Blackwood's Magazine._--ED.

"He was succeeded by his eldest son William, one of the cleverest fellows upon the Border. For agility of person, and dexterity in every athletic exercise, he had rarely met with a competitor. He had a younger brother impressed, when almost a boy. He deserted from his ship, in India; enlisted as a soldier, and, by dint of merit, acquired a commission in a regular regiment of foot, and died a lieutenant, within these thirty years, at London. He was an officer under Governor Wall, at Goree, when he committed the crime for which he suffered, twenty years after, in England.

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