Tag Archives: Scotland

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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Where I’ve ministered

Where I've ministered

Kilmadock Parish Church, Doune


Greyfriars Church of Scotland, Port of Spain, Trinidad


St.Ann’s Church of Scotland, Port of Spain, Trinidad

Caputh copyright Mike Pennington

Caputh Parish Church, Perthshire (photo copyright Mike Pennington)


Clunie Parish Church, Perthshire (Caputh and Clunie)


Inveresk Parish Church (St. Michael’s)


St Andrew’s in the Grange, St.Peter Port, Guernsey


Healthcare Chaplaincy – Dumfries Hospitals


The Crichton Memorial Church, Crichton Royal Hospital, Dumfries


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August 6, 2013 · 09:34


Iona service celebrates 1450 years since arrival of Columba

Published 10 June 20

(Photo: Oliver Bonjoch)
Iona Abbey is still regarded as a centre of Christianity and spirituality 1450 years after the arrival of Columba

An ecumenical service took place on Iona on Sunday as part of celebrations marking 1450 years since the arrival of Columba on the tiny Scottish island.

Iona is regarded as the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland. It was where Columba, an Irish monk, arrived in 563AD to bring the Gospel. A monastic community was established, which flourished as a centre for Christian learning and played a major role in spreading Christianity throughout Scotland.

Centuries later, Christians from around the world continue to visit Iona to deepen their faith and grow in relationship with God.

The celebratory service was joined by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Reverend Lorna Hood.

“I was delighted to be involved in the celebrations which were deeply humbling and moving for me. Without the work of Columba who knows where our faith and belief would be today,” she said.

“Iona is still so relevant to us all and especially the Iona community who continue to live out the Christian message of hope. Without hope we have nothing and it is a central tenant of our faith.”

The 1450 celebrations coincide with the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Iona Community, an ecumenical community promoting peace and justice from a Christian perspective.

As part of celebrations, Historic Scotland has invested around £1million in improvements to the visitor experience at Iona Abbey, including new permanent exhibitions and a museum containing rare early Christian sculptures from Britain and Ireland.  The centrepiece of the museum will be the reassembled St Oran’s and St Matthew’s High Crosses.

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Prayer for Sunday, 9 June (St. Columba of Iona)


CathachColumbaText4a (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the Christian feast of St. Columba of Iona.

He who tramples on the world tramples on himself.
~ St. Columba

May you recognize in your life, the presence, power and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone,
That your soul in its brightness and belonging
connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique,
that you have a special destiny here,
That behind the facade of your life
there is something beautiful, good, and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride,
and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.

(John O’Donohue from Anam Cara)


St Columba icon

St Columba icon (Photo credit: jimforest)

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Catholicism in Scotland -2 – by Peter Kearney

English: Anti-Catholic cartoon depicting the C...

English: Anti-Catholic cartoon depicting the Church and the Pope as a malevolent octopus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Famous 1876 editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast s...

Famous 1876 editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast showing bishops as crocodiles attacking public schools, with the connivance of Irish Catholic politicians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunday 2 June 2013
The matter of anti-Catholicism in Scotland is usually guaranteed to spark fierce debate.
Amazingly, discussion of the subject tends not to be about how best to tackle it but rather about whether or not it exists.

It is both bizarre and frustrating to see that a matter of objective fact – based on, among other data, Crown Office conviction statistics – proving that anti-Catholicism is demonstrably present in Scotland, is treated as a matter of opinion or a “point of view”.

Society, as far as I can see, does not do this with any other topic. When considering, for example, childhood obesity, smoking-related cancer and violence against women, it may be a minority who are affected … but that reality is never proposed as a challenge to the fact that a measurable problem exists. Why is the threshold so high for anti-Catholicism? And why can’t discussion focus on how we tackle this problem?

Many Catholics are utterly exasperated at a seemingly wilful denial of a clearly catalogued problem and a complete disinclination to challenge it within wider society, while column inches are constantly given to deniers.

It is very important in discussing this topic that the anecdotal does not substitute for the empirical. Were you to ask a cross-section of women if they’d ever experienced sexism and found that a number had not, you wouldn’t be justified in concluding “sexism may not exist”.

Health studies generally indicate that between 17% and 25% of smokers develop cancer. If you asked a sample of smokers if they’d developed cancer, statistically around 80% wouldn’t, yet no-one would conclude: “smoking-related cancer probably doesn’t exist”.

To assess such matters, it is important that we steer away from anecdotal and personal experiences and follow a far more rigorous factual methodology.

The empirical evidence is clear: The Act of Settlement of 1701, together with Article II of the Treaty of Union of 1707, prohibits a Catholic from ever becoming head of state.

An analysis of convictions under Section 74 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003) which created the offence of “aggravated sectarianism” consistently shows that religious hate crimes against Catholics are more numerous than hate crimes against all other religions combined and that Catholics are between five and six times more likely to be subject to such an attack than anyone else.

An opinion poll based on a statistically significant sample of Scottish adults in September 2011 found that 68% of Scots had an “unfavourable” opinion of the Catholic Church, though interestingly there was majority approval for many of the Church’s messages. And 51% did not agree with the statement that “on balance the Catholic church is a force for good”. All the results were dramatically more negative than the polling results for the same questions in England and Wales.

A recent statistical analysis of the Scottish census results reveal significant levels of employment disparity across several occupations and industries, when you compare Catholics with non-Catholics with similar education and qualification standards. Repeated assertions to the contrary based on older and smaller data samples are utterly flawed and completely false.

It is therefore perfectly possible to posit a convincing case for the widespread existence of residual and at times pernicious anti-Catholicism in Scotland to the present day. The cacophony of denials, including by some Catholics, is simply a facet of the problem.

Perhaps we can learn something from the 1999 Lord Macpherson Report and his description of London’s Metropolitan Police Force as “institutionally racist”. However, he also stated that most of the Metropolitan Police are not racists.

A key point from this, seemingly contradictory, set of statements is that the decent non-racist majority did not feel empowered enough to challenge the racist minority – thus leading to the creation of a “canteen culture” of racism.

This mirrors Scotland, where the majority of Scots are not anti-Catholic. However, neither are they minded to recognise and challenge anti-Catholicism in its different forms.

A country where public prosecution statistics show that religious hate crimes against Catholics comprise more cases than all other religious hate crimes combined has an issue with anti-Catholicism. A country where Catholics are statistically at least five times more likely to be subject to such a crime has a problem with anti-Catholicism.

The evidence for widespread occupational disparities for Catholics is simply overwhelming and should no longer be swept under the carpet by apologists who have never experienced it. The time is long overdue for a meaningful honest debate but before any problem is solved, its existence must first be acknowledged.

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Scottish Christian Scotland ‘hostile to Catholics’

June 3, 2013

Photo: Prof Tom Devine

Prof Tom Devine

It was a description of the country that seemed alien and shocking to liberal Scots: a place that was “a hostile environment for Catholics to live”.

The comments, by the director of communications for the Scottish Catholic media office, Peter Kearney, are now causing more controversy, even among Catholics.

Leading historian Tom Devine – himself a Catholic – told the Sunday Herald that Kearney was promoting a “lingering sense of victimhood”.

An admittedly random sample by the Sunday Herald of those attending mass at a Glasgow church failed to reveal many examples of serious contemporary prejudice.

Kearney, though, refuses to back down. In fact, in an article for today’s Sunday Herald he compares “residual and at times pernicious anti-Catholicism in Scotland” with the institutional racism identified in the Metropolitan Police in 1999.

And he argues that a lack of anecdotal evidence of prejudice fails to prove it does not exist. If a sample of women found no complaints of sexism, no-one would argue that sexism did not exist, he says.

Kearney’s stance has prompted Devine – arguably the foremost authority on modern Scottish history – to say that the communications director “doesn’t speak for anyone apart from himself”.

The Edinburgh University professor added that Kearney’s outlook was “unrepresentative” of the experience of the majority of Scots Catholics, and contradicted data.

“If Scotland is so hostile to Catholics then it’s difficult to comprehend why there has been what I would call a silent revolution in the position of people, particularly those from an Irish Catholic background, over the last generation.

“At the census of 2001, for the first time, the people from that background were in a condition of occupational parity with the rest of Scots,” said Devine.

“In other words, if you look at their social and occupational profile, they no longer stand out, they’re no longer distinctive. They’ve got the same proportion of middle-class people, the same proportion of working-class people, and that had been a revolution.”

Devine’s comments follow criticism from other high-profile Catholics. Reverend Paul Morton, of St Bride’s Roman Catholic Church in Cambuslang, said Kearney’s outlook was “exaggerated and pessimistic”.

Some, though, think that Kearney has a point. Professor John Haldane, a Catholic commentator and professor of philosophy at St Andrews University, recalled being told by his grandfather that the Pope wore a gown “to cover his cloven hooves” and said his own father converted to Catholicism in secret to avoid a row.

While Haldane added that being Catholic had never had any negative effect on his own life or career, he believed there was still a “residue of hostility” in Scotland which many Catholics preferred to ignore.

He said: “There’s an enduring and pervasive sense that Catholicism is something foreign and threatening that we got rid of and we don’t want back.

“So if the question is: ‘Is there a sense of anti-Catholicism in Scotland?’, I’m inclined to say yes. But I think it sometimes doesn’t even know it’s anti-Catholic. It’s 400 years of a rhetoric that sees Catholicism as something alien.

“That rhetoric is not very far away, it’s just beneath the surface. It’s just moved on from being seen as a threat to Presbyterian values, to a threat to secular liberal values.”

• Full story at The Herald

Copyright © 1999 – 2013 Scottish Christian, unless otherwise attributed, including compilations.

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June 6, 2013 · 08:30

Thomas Chalmers

Thomas Chalmers
St Patrick’s Day (March 17) 1780 saw the birth of Rev Thomas Chalmers in Anstruther.  He was a Parish Minister, eloquent preacher, academic – “Scotland’s greatest nineteenth century churchman”
Chalmers was the leader of the dissenting ministers in the Great Disruption of 1843. In all, 470 ministers walked out of the General Assembly over the matter of who had the right to pick a minister for a parish. Chalmers then became the first Moderator of the new Free Church of Scotland, expending much energy on ensuring the new church had a solid base on which to build.

Once, when walking with a minister friend, visiting homes in the parish and speaking to people on the road, Chalmers remarked: ‘This is what I call preaching the gospel to every creature; that cannot be done by setting yourself up in a pulpit, as a centre of attraction, but by going forth and making aggressive movements upon the community, and by preaching from house to house.’

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Scotland will be free when the last minister is strangled by the last copy of the Sunday Post

Tom Nairn, Historian

oor wullie



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As far as I’m concerned, Scotland will be reborn when the last minister is strangled with the last copy of the Sunday Post  (Tom Nairn)


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