Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Tourist's Matrimonial Guide Through Scotland

Scotland differs from England in many ways from a genealogical research point of view. Nowhere is this perhaps more obvious than with the Scottish laws of marriage, based to some extent on both canon law and the ancient practices of Roman Law.

In 1753, Lord Hardwicke abolished irregular and clandestine marriages in England and Wales, but his remit stopped at the border - we did things a wee bit differently up here, right up to 2006, when marriage by habit and repute was finally abolished as the last form of perfectly valid irregular marriage in Scotland, via the Family Law (Scotland) Act.

So to guide you through the many wonders of Scots Law and marriage, how about a wee song?! Well, dear visitor, here's The Tourist's Matrimonial Guide Through Scotland, a popular 19th century work, to explain it all to ye!

Ye tourists, who Scotland would enter,
The summer and autumn to pass,
I'll tell you how far you may venture
To flirt with your lad or your lass;
How close you may come upon marriage,
Still keeping the wind of the law,
And not, by some foolish miscarriage,
Get woo'd and married an' a'.

Woo'd and married an' a',
Married and woo'd an' a';
And not by some foolish miscarriage
Get woo'd and married and a'.

This maxim itself might content ye,
The marriage is made - by consent,
Provided it's done de praesenti,
And marriage is really what's meant.
Suppose that young Jocky or Jenny
Say "We two are husband and wife",
The witnesses needn't be many
They're instantly buckled for life.

Woo'd and married an' a',
Married and woo'd an' a';
It isn't with us a hard thing
To get woo'd and married an' a'.

Suppose the man only has spoken,
The woman just giving a nod ;
They're spliced by that very same token
Till one of them's under the sod.
Though words would be bolder and blunter,
The want of them isn't a flaw
For nutu signisque loquuntur
Is good Consistorial Law.

Woo'd and married an' a',
Married and woo'd an' a',
A wink is as good as a word
To get wood and married an' a.

If people are drunk or delirious,
The marriage of course will be bad,
Of if they're not sober and serious,
But acting a play or charade.
It's bad if it's only a cover
For cloaking a scandal or sin,
And talking a landlady over
To let the folks lodge at her inn.

Woo'd and married an' a',
Married and woo'd an' a';
It isn't the mere use of words
Makes you woo'd and married an' a'.

You'd better keep clear of love-letters
Or write them with caution and care;
For, faith they may fasten your fetters,
If wearing a conjugal air.
Unless you're a knowing old stager,
'Tis here you'll most likely be lost;
As a certain much-talked-about Major
Had very near found to his cost.

Woo'd and married an' a'
Married and woo'd an' a';
They are perilous things pen and ink,
To get woo'd and married an' a'.

I ought now to tell the unwary
That into the noose they'll be led,
By giving a promise to marry,
And acting as if they were wed.
But if, when the promise you're plighting,
To keep it you think you'd be loath,
Just see that it isn't in writing,
And then it must come to your oath.

Woo'd and married an' a'
Married and woo'd an' a';
I've shown you a dodge to avoid
Being woo'd and married an' a'.

A third way of tying the tether,
Which sometimes may happen to suit,
Is living a good while together,
And getting a married repute,
But you who are here as a stranger,
And don't mean to stay with us long,
Are little exposed to that danger;
So here I may finish my song.

Woo'd and married an' a',
Married and woo'd an' a';
You're taught now to seek or to shun
Being woo'd and married an' a'.


I trust that's all clear?! :)

For more about regular and irregular marriage pre-1855, consult my book Discover Scottish Church Records, now available in a handy ebook format from Unlock the Past via http://www.gen-ebooks.com. (Coming soon also is Discover Scottish Civil Registration Records, with even more to say on the subject post-1855!)

Also currently available is Discover Scottish Land Records on the same platform.

And coming soon - my new guide to Scottish civil registration records. ScotlandsPeople is just the start of the story...!

Chris

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