Tag Archives: Gretna Green

“Get me Jesus on the line”




Just a few years ago, a well-loved and respected retired Minister was deservedly awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire)

At the Presbytery meeting, following his recognition by Her Majesty, I happenened to be sitting beside him.

The Moderator was addressing him, and, rightly commending him and congratulating him on receiving this prized honour.

Suddenly, in the middle of the Moderator’s encomium, a mobile phone rang shrilly.

In a stage whisper, I said: “That will be the Palace asking for it back!”

{and, yes, some DID laugh}


Not a laughing matter….. many years ago, a particular “pastor” got himself into a spot of bother over a cell phone.

He was was from an independent church somewhere near Gretna Green, Scotland’s Wedding Capital.

He spent so much time there – in the various “Blacksmiths” venues, that (a) he made enough money from fees that he was able to build a house! And (b) he occasionally lost track of where he should be and when – to conduct a marriage ceremony.

Once, when nearing the end of one of his “Over the Anvil” services, his phone rang. Rather than ignore it, he answered it (this, mind you, during a wedding service).

It was another venue, where he was due round about that time (for yet another ceremony), and they were checking to find out where he was.

Rather than answer “soto voce”, he replied in a way that everyone present could hear…”I’m at ‘Ye Olde Horse-shoeing Anvil Shoppe’ (or wherever); I’ll be with you in five minutes or so, once I’ve finished with this lot!”

Naturally, the Bride’s Mother was not best pleased. “You’re the most insincere so-called clergyman I’ve ever met!”  And she complained in no uncertain terms to the venue’s “marriage co-ordinators”

He didn’t conduct many more weddings thereafter.


I always check that my phone is switched off before taking a service of any kind.  I once had as my ring tone the theme tune from ‘The Great Escape’ – now, imagine if it had been left switched on during a funeral?!!!

Or – my current one: the ‘Mission Impossible’ tune…… at a wedding???!!!


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The Famous Old Blacksmith’s Shop at Gretna Green

The Famous Old Blacksmith's Shop at Gretna Green

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September 15, 2013 · 11:04

Gretna Green Weddings

imagesGretna Green is one of the world’s most popular wedding destinations, hosting over 5000 weddings each year in the area, and one of every six Scottish weddings.

Gretna’s famous “runaway marriages” began in 1753 when Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act was passed in England; it stated that if both parties to a marriage were not at least 21 years old, then parents had to consent to the marriage. The Act did not apply in Scotland, where it was possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 years old with or without parental consent (see Marriage in Scotland). Many elopers fled England, and the first Scottish village they encountered was Gretna Green. The Old Blacksmith’s Shop, built around 1712, and Gretna Hall Blacksmith’s Shop (1710) became, in popular folklore at least, the focal tourist points for the marriage trade. The Old Blacksmith’s opened to the public as a visitor attraction as early as 1887.

The local blacksmith and his anvil have become the lasting 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 had 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.

Gretna’s two blacksmiths’ shops and countless inns and smallholding became the backdrops for tens of thousands of weddings. Today there are several wedding venues in and around Gretna Green, from former churches to purpose-built chapels. The services at all the venues are always performed over an iconic blacksmith’s anvil. Gretna Green endures as one of the world’s most popular wedding venues, and thousands of couples come from around the world to be married ‘over the anvil’ at Gretna Green.

In common law, a “Gretna Green marriage” came to mean, in general, a marriage transacted in a jurisdiction that was not the residence of the parties being married, to avoid restrictions or procedures imposed by the parties’ home jurisdiction.A notable “Gretna” marriage was the second marriage in 1826 of Edward Gibbon Wakefield to the young heiress Ellen Turner, called the Shrigley abduction (his first marriage was also to an heiress, but the parents wanted to avoid a public scandal), Other towns in which quick, often surreptitious marriages could be obtained came to be known as “Gretna Greens”.In the United States, these have included Elkton, Maryland Reno and, later, Las Vegas, Nevada.

In 1856 Scottish law was changed to require 21 days’ residence for marriage, and a further law change was made in 1940. The residential requirement was lifted in 1977.



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The Reverend I M thick

Desperate from thirst and dehydration, a visiting minister was ushered into the vestry twenty minutes or so before the service was due to begin.

He noticed, on the desk, a very large glass of water which he greedily and thankfully gulped down.

It was only after he had slaked his thirst that he noticed the dead flowers lying in the waste paper bin.


Nervous minister in strange church being listened to by a vacancy (or search) committe, went up to the pulpit only to find that there was no way in; he’d gone to the wrong side and looked totally puzzled and consequently distraught. Glad to say he eventually found it with some help and preached a blinder of a sermon. He got the job.


A retired minister colleague who used to conduct a shedload of marriage ceremonies in and around Gretna Green was once nearing the end of one particular wedding service, when his mobile phone rang.  Instead of ignoring it, he answered.  It was from another venue nearby, asking where he was.

He answered (and remember that this is during a religious ceremony):  “Won’t be long – once I’ve finished with this lot”

“This lot” rightly complained and he was banned for a while.

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