Why was the irregular form of marriage, by habit and repute, not abolished in 1939 in Scotland, when all other forms of irregular marriage were? Here’s an excerpt from the parliamentary debate on the Marriage (Scotland) Bill on March 30th 1939, on its second reading, and the comments of John Colvilee, MP for Midlothian and Peeblesshire Northern:
In the Religious Worship Census of 1851, taken alongside the main decennial census on March 30th-31st, just four years before the advent of civil registration, there were some 904 Church of Scotland congregations in the country (which had made a census return), but some 2122 congregations from other denominations that were not of the official state church. The breakdown was as follows:
Not long ago I enjoyed a bank holiday break in the Inverness area with my wife and kids. I have several lines of family from the vicinity, including Frasers, Camerons, Munros, MacFarlanes and MacGillivrays, who endured many ups and downs in their lives, none perhaps worse than the death of my great great grandmother, Janet MacGillivray (nee Fraser), who committed suicide in 1860 at the Bridge of Tomnahurich in Inverness – she jumped into the Caledonian Canal and drowned, being so distraught at the death of her daughter during childbirth. But the real mission for me was to explore the ancestral area of my MacGillivrays, in the parish of Dores, for the first time.
The Scottish kirk had a very traditional outlook on things – if it was enjoyable, then the Calvinist medicine of “thou shalt not” should be applied. Wedding celebrations were most definitely a case in point.
Often in the past our ancestors could find themselves in a spot of financial bother, but if they found themselves in serious debt, they would soon find that the state was very much on the side of creditors. Prior to 1838, if a person failed to pay his or her debts, they could be punished quite harshly with imprisonment and the seizure of assets. The civil process for debt recovery was for the creditor, the person to whom the money was owed, to first demand payment of the outstanding debt through a document called a ‘protest’, which essentially said “pay up – or else”. If the creditor still had no joy following this, he or she could then appeal to a court for permission to pursue the debt through a process called ‘horning’. A ‘letter of horning’ laid out the full terms of the agreement and the money outstanding, with an instruction by the court for it to be paid up immediately on pain of the debtor being declared a rebel.
For almost fifteen years now I have been using Scottish land records for genealogical purposes, particularly so over the last decade. In almost every Scottish guide on family history resources, there is usually a basic description of record types such as sasines, which detail every land transaction in the country from the early 17th century, and retours (aka Services of Heirs), which prove the right of an apparent heir to inherit property once the deceased has left this mortal coil. A couple of years ago I produced my own genealogical guide entitled Discover Scottish Land Records, which tried to take a more depth look at how some of these processes worked, and to explain a bit more about the system of Scottish feudalism and the law that derived from it. The purpose, again, was for genealogical research.
I recently managed to make a visit at long last to Dunadd (Dùn Ad), the ancient Iron Age hill fort near Kilmartin in Argyll which was once the capital of the historic kingdom of Dalriada (Dál Riata). This long forgotten kingdom by many once straddled the Irish Sea and encompassed County Antrim in the north of Ireland, and Argyll and Lochaber in the west of Scotland. It was the Gaelic clans of this region who were said to have given Scotland its name – the word ‘Scot’ coming from Scoti, the Latin name used by the Romans to denote the Gaelic inhabitants of Ireland.