“Gypsies have no boundaries. They have primitive, untamed personalities and ' that look i n t heir eyes. ”
It was about five o'clock on the afternoon of the ll April 1870 and Margaret (Maggie) Hardie a dressmaker of Samsons Court in the village of Selkirk was on her knees cleaning her fireside when Rachel Blyth a neighbour who lived at the back of Margaret’s cottage in Market Place came in and asked what all the " clashes " were about regarding a man named Mclinden and Margaret’s sister Elizabeth. Maggie did not have a clue what Rachel was talking about and said she had nothing to do with it and asked Rachel to leave her house. Margaret still on her knees with a brush in one hand and the poker in the other requested her a second time to get out, Rachel deciding she wasn’t going to be spoken to like that turned on her and clouted her on the left eye with her fists. She was about to strike again, when Maggie held up her hand to protect herself and belted Rachel with the poker on her head which began to bleed freely down her face.
Rachel managed to pull the poker out of Maggie’s hand, launched a second attack and walloped her with it on the shoulder. Rachel flung down the poker, took hold of Maggie by the throat and mouth and hurled her down on the sofa. Squeezing her throat and nearly choking her, Rachel hadn’t noticed that her own daughter Martha was pulling at her skirts whilst she was holding down Maggie. On the other side of the room, sitting on the windowsill which was less than three feet from the floor also watching the events taking place was Maggie’s little boy William. The window where the boy was sitting looked out into the Court which backed onto the Blyth’s residence and the Market Place. It was screened off with a net which covered about a pane and a half of the dirty soiled window.
Rachel ignoring her daughter was still holding onto Maggie when Betty Blyth the wife of Charles Blyth, Rachels cousin who lived next door came over from the end of the cottage. Bellowing at Rachel she yelled " For Owl's sake lose your grips, for she's gone."
Upon hearing the boys in the marketplace shouting "They're killing Margaret Hardie" Elizabeth Collins, Margaret sister ran to the cottage. There she saw Betty Blyth and Rachel Blyth on top of Maggie. Elizabeth jerked Rachel back “God Almighty, what are you both doing to her; I will go and seek the police,"
Maggie was lying, all discoloured from the choking she had got. Elizabeth ran for the police, leaving both Blyth’s in the room. As Betty went to leave, she observed Rachel who was near the door watching Maggie trying to rise, Rachel returned and gave her another crack with her fist. She smacked her several times on the head again before seizing her by the throat. Finally deciding to leave Maggie in peace (for now) she went back round to Betty's. Maggie managed to get up and lock the door. Her head was so painful that she lay down on her knees and laid her head on her hands on the sofa.
But the ceasefire did not last for long, her door was kicked open and Thomas Blyth, Rachel eldest son, came in kicked Margaret in the back, beat her several times with both hands and taking her by the back of her neck with one hand he belted her on the top of her head with the other. Maggie managed to get up and scamper out of the house calling "Murder". Thomas had left the house and gone straight to Betty's before Elizabeth Collins arrived back with Constable Chisholm.
Maggie was severely hurt, and the following morning sent for Dr Anderson. After examining her, Dr Anderson confined Maggie to bed for several weeks, she was feverish, had marks on her head, neck shoulder and back. She was seriously injured and not out of danger. He attended her regularly for nine days and continued to observe her for weeks after the attack.
Thomas Boog, Inspector of Police, charged both Rachel and Thomas with having assaulted Maggie Hardie. Rachel Blyth neither denied nor admitted it; she said what she had done was in self-defence. Dr Thomas had checked up on Rachel Blyth after she called him on the evening of the ll April. She had a cut, about an inch and a half long down the scalp and on her head. He had stitched the wound and noted that a blow with a poker would have caused such an injury and in Rachel's defence the doctor said that the blow must have come with direct violence to have caused the wound.
On 29 September 1870, the jury, after retiring about ten minutes, returned a unanimous verdict against both prisoners of “Guilty as libelled." Rachel and Thomas Blyth were confined to Selkirk Prison. Rachel for three months, and Thomas Blyth for four months.
Rachel died in 1893 in Edinburgh. Thomas Blyth married Catherine Kennedy in 1872 and eventually settled in Leicester. The couple had seven children and they lived on Grasmere Street at the back of the Leicester Royal Infirmary. Thomas died in 1903. I do not have any photos of Rachel or Thomas to show, but I do have photos of Thomas’ younger brother David Blyth. David born in Selkirk on 7 August 1870 came into this world only seven weeks before Rachels three-month incarceration. He married Margaret Chisholm Anderson who sadly died aged twenty-eight in Edinburgh. After serving for the Imperial Yeomanry Lovat Scouts in the Anglo Boar War (1899 – 1902), David moved his family which consisted of two sons William and Charles and two daughters Marian and Rachel to Leicester and lived for a short while with his nephew William in Haddon Street in the Highfields district of the town.
The Blyth family are what where known as the Scottish Border Gypsies. Rachel’s grandfather John Blyth was the brother of King Charles Blyth ‘The Gypsy King’ who resided in Kirk Yetholm a small village only a mile from the English border. A perfect location for the gypsies to move speedily undercover over the border from the grasps of the powers that might be. King Charles’ other brother Andrew Blyth is the ancestor of President Clinton.
Rachel Blyth, the lady whom this story is about is my Grt. Grt. Grt Grandmother and David Blyth is my Grt. Grt Grandfather. His daughter Marion is my Grt. Grandmother.
Karl Wiggins, Wrong Planet - Searching for your Tribe
Image: Welcome to Selkirk. VisitorUk.com
Selkirk Old Prison
Gypsy Wagons on Selkirk Market Place
David Blyth: 1870 - 1936
Marian Jack Blyth (lady seated) 1894 - 1933. Married Albert Warren
My grandfather - Charles Warren is the little boy seated on his mothers (Marions) lap.