Yetholm’s crowning glory is in safe hands, says gypsy expert Tom

Tom Tokely with one of the pikestaffs used at the gypsy crowning ceremonies.
Tom Tokely with one of the pikestaffs used at the gypsy crowning ceremonies.

A PIKESTAFF from the crowning of the last Yetholm Gypsy King is back in the village, writes Sally Gillespie.

It has emerged that one of the original two spears dating back to the 19th century is in the safekeeping of Tom Tokely, former community council chairman and local gypsy expert.

“It was given to me by the great grandson of the man who made it. I said I would preserve it until I died, “ said Mr Tokely.

Many pictures of that last coronation in 1898 show King Charles Faa Blythe flanked by two heralds carrying pike staffs. But over the years the pikestaffs and crown disappeared.

Mr Tokely said: “One staff was given away to someone away in Lothian, I think.”

But the other passed further down the family line until Murray, the great grandson of village blacksmith Archibald Gladstone, who crowned the King and is seen standing next to him, gave it to Mr Tokely for safekeeping during his lifetime.

“Murray always comes to the village and comes round for a bit of a chat.

“We happened to be looking at the picture and I was saying about these halberdiers (with the staffs). He said ‘I had the two but my mother gave one of them away, do you want the other?’

“I said he’d get it back after I died.

“He knew that I was interested in the gypsies, “ said Mr Tokely, “and I’ve lived beside the Gladstones all my life.”

“It’s a great piece of craftsmanship, especially when you consider it was made on an old anvil more than 100 years ago.

“It’s like a spear at the end and a few inches from the end it’s like an axe on one side and a hook on the other. It’s great work.”

He takes the ceremonial pikestaff along with a Yetholm Jagger to show people when he gives talks on the historic travelling community.

The small jagger is said to have be used to prick the skin of bladders containing whisky or gin gypsies were smuggling over the border if they were caught by customs and excisemen – thus ensuring the liquid drained out and there was no longer any evidence.

Mr Tokely’s next talk on the Yetholm gypsies is in Jedburgh in July.