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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

One of whom singled out and attempted to take Faa prisoner


Yetholm Tinklers keep up an intercourse with their friends at Horncliff, Spittal, Rothbury, Hexam, and Harbottle. They go frequently to Newcastle, and even to Staffordshire, for earthenware, and the whole family embark in every expedition.

"I was at school with most of the present generation of Tinklers. I mean the males; for, to speak truth, I never heard of a female Gipsy being educated at all.

"None of this colony have been either impeached or tried for a crime for fifty years past. Two Tinklers have been executed at Jedburgh, in my remembrance, named Keith and Clark, for murder and horse-stealing. They were strangers, from a distance."

When I visited Yetholm, I fell in with a gentleman who resided at that time in Town-Yetholm. I chanced to mention to him that I was sure all the Gipsies had a method of their own in handling the cudgel, but he would not believe it. At my request, he took me into some of their houses, and, observing an old, rusty sword lying upon the joists of an apartment in which we were sitting, I took it down, and, under pretence of handling it, in their fashion, gave some of the guards of the Hungarian sword-exercise. An old Gipsy, of the name of Blyth, shook his head, and observed: "Ay, that is an art easily carried about with you; it may be of service to you some day." My friend was then convinced of his mistake.


Faa, when I was in his house, showed me the mark of a stroke of a sword on his right wrist, by which he had nearly lost his hand. With others of his clan, he had been engaged in a smuggling speculation, on the coast of Northumberland, when they were overtaken by a party of dragoons, one of whom singled out and attempted to take Faa prisoner. William was armed with a stick only, but, with his stick in his dexterous hand, he, for a long time, set the dragoon, with all his arms, at defiance. The horseman, now galloping round and round him, attempting to capture him, became exasperated at the resistance of a man on foot, armed with a cudgel only, and struck with such vigour that the cudgel became shattered, and cut in pieces, till nothing but a few inches of it remained. Still holding up the stump, to meet the stroke of his antagonist's sword, William was cut to the bone, and compelled to yield himself a prisoner. A person, present at the scuffle, informed me that the only remark the brave Tinkler made to the dragoon was, "Ye've spoiled a good fiddler."

William Faa, the lineal descendant of John Faw, "Lord and Earl of Little Egypt," when I saw him, appeared about sixty years of age, and was tall and genteel-looking, with grey hair, and dark eyes. He is the individual who fought the three battles with Young, between Dunse and Coldstream. The following notice of his death I have extracted from the "Scotsman" newspaper, of the 20th October, 1847:


"The Deceased King of Little Egypt.

"The daisy has faded, the yellow leaf drops; The cold sky looks grey o'er the shrivelled tree-tops; And many around us, since Summer's glad birth, Have dropt, like the old leaves, into the cold earth. And one worth remembering hath gone to the home Where the king and the kaiser must both at last come, The King of the Gipsies--the last of a name[167] Which in Scotland's old story is rung on by fame. The cold clod ne'er pressed down a manlier breast Than that of the old man now gone to his rest.

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