New exhibition celebrates St Boswells’ gypsy roots

Gypsy Festival at St. Boswells. Scarlet Lee (granddaughter of Gypsy Rose Lee) giving palm and crystal ball readings at the festival.
Gypsy Festival at St. Boswells. Scarlet Lee (granddaughter of Gypsy Rose Lee) giving palm and crystal ball readings at the festival.

An exhibition celebrating the history of St Boswells Fair and gypsy life opens in the village tomorrow (Friday), the traditional fair day.

With its origins dating back almost 400 years, the fair is an important part of the history of St Boswells, with the gypsy connection probably dating back to its very earliest days.

The exhibition, organised by the community council in partnership with various other organisations, will see displays of arts and crafts, photographs, maps, wood carvings and information on the fair’s history and gypsy life.

Exhibition co-ordinator Ralph Parker said the idea stemmed from a meeting of community council representatives and gypsy families last year, and will hopefully give residents the chance to find out about the background to the fair and the crucial involvement of gypsies in it.

Mr Parker added: “The fair used to be a major event, and up until the early 1900s it attracted as many as 1,000 gypsies.

“Records show that in 1904 there were over 1,000 horses for sale that year, with most of the dealers gyspies, but there were other horse traders there from Dumfries and Carlisle and the Borders.”

A grant from Scottish Borders Council has enabled the community council to stage the exhibition, which will also feature displays from the Borders Family History Society and Hawick Heritage Hub.

Peter Munro, society chairman, said: “We will have resource material at the exhibition covering gravestones in the area, and the 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses for St Boswells and the surrounding parishes.

“What we are hoping is that people will come and say they’ve got gypsy roots and want to find out more about them, and also have people come and speak to us about tracing their family history, which we can hopefully help with.”

There will also be stalls from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, police, fire service and NHS at the exhibition, which takes place in the village hall.

It is open tomorrow and Sunday, from 1pm to 4pm, and Saturday, from 1pm to 7pm.

On Saturday afternoon, from 3.30pm to 4.30pm, Tom Tokely will give a talk about the Yetholm gypsies in St Boswells Church Hall.

It is free admission to both the exhibition and the talk.