Wednesday, January 22

How Giving Advice Can Come Back And Bite Your Bum

Marriage at Gretna Green

A story today I found in an old Penny Illustrated magazine from 1878. It 'illustrates' how giving advice can sometimes come back and 'bite your bum' - as the saying goes:

Lord Westmorland, it is reported, was dining one day with Mr Child when he asked him to suppose himself in love with a girl, and her father refusing his consent of the union.

"Yes," said Mr Child.

"Well what would you do?" queried the Lord.

"Why, run away with her, of course," promptly replied Mr Child.

The same night Lord Westmorland ran away with Mr Child's daughter.

Mr Child pursued the couple and came up with them in Northumberland, when the gallant Lord, in order to get ahead, stood up in his carriage and shot the leading horse in Mr Child's chaise. "Which," according to Mr Hilton Price, "caused the whole vehicle to capsize."

Lord Westmorland then got across the border, the blacksmith was in readiness, and the pair were married at Gretna Green before Mr Child could interfere with the ceremony.

Gretna Green Marriages

Gretna Green's famous 'runaway marriages' began back in 1754 when Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act came into force in England. Under the Act, if a parent of a minor (anyone under 21) objected, they could prevent the marriage going ahead. The Act tightened up the requirements for marrying in England and Wales but did not apply in Scotland. So young English couples eloped to Scotland.

In the 1770s Gretna Green became the first easily reachable village for the English to get married, The Old Blacksmith's Shop, built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith's Shop (1710) became the focal points for marriage.

The local blacksmith and his anvil have become the symbols of Gretna Green weddings. Scottish law allowed for 'irregular marriages', meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as 'anvil priests'.

Since 1929, both parties in Scotland have to be at least 16 years old, but they still may marry without parental consent. In England and Wales, the age for marriage is now 16 with parental consent and 18 without.

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  1. Suzie16:33

    When I was little I thought it would be so romantic to elope to Gretna. And you've got to be careful who bites your bum :)

    1. The reality would probably be less romantic.

  2. you dig up some strange stuff mike and from so long ago. always interesting.

    1. I pick up a lot of old books and magazines from car boot sales and flea markets.

  3. Fascinating slice of history. I''d never heard of this. It sounds like stuff for a historical novel!

    1. A historical romance, never thought of it that way.