Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wedding Wednesday - Two 19th Century Scottish Weddings.

On 15 April 1803, the Reverend James Hall, of Walthamstow, left Edinburgh on a tour of Scotland. He kept a journal of the trip and it is well worth reading for the glimpse it gives into the lives of ordinary people, and less ordinary people, in Scotland in the early part of the 19th Century.

Hall reports on two very different weddings, the first in County of Perth and the second in County of Aberdeen.
As I was riding slowly along near Kilspendi [County of Perth], I met a number of what may be termed begging gipsies. They were all merry, a wedding having been lately among them, which it seems was performed by an aged man among them, who indeed had a respectable appearance. This gipsy parson, if I may use that expression, desiring them to join hands, and having broken a wine glass in a thousand pieced, by dashing it against a stone, declared, that as it was impossible for the art of man to put the parts of that glass together, exactly as it was before, so it was impossible for the art of man to separate that man and woman, which ended the ceremony.

Rev. James Hall A.M., Travels in Scotland, by an Unusual Route: with a Trip to the Orkneys and Hebrides. Containing Hints for Improvements in Agriculture and Commerce. With Characters and Anecdotes. Embellished with Views of Striking Objects, and a Map, Including the Caledonian Canal. 2 volumes (London: Privately Printed, 1807), 1: 271-272.
As I rode slowly along, I beheld, at a distance, on the banks of the Esk [County of Aberdeen], a great number of people in their Sunday clothes dancing on a green, near a large tent covered with canvasses, blankets, &c. It was a country wedding, where near four hundred people were assembled. There being a small inn in the neighbourhood, I put up my horse, and went to observe this rural scene. On a fine green or lawn the tent was stretched to the extent of forty or fifty feet; and a number of temporary tables of fir deal, with forms on each side. Two or three great cauldrons were boiling, filled with, I dare say, a hundred fowls, and a great number of mutton hams. There were pots also in which the legs of mutton were stewed. The broth of the fowls and ham, boiled with onions, barley, &c. Was a dish fit for kings. At the cauldrons stood women with pitchforks, stirring about the immense mass with both their hands, which seemed to require all their strength. A great number of gypsies, called in Scotland Tinklers, and beggars, sat in groups at some distance, and sent deputations after dinner had began for some time, to receive their portion in their own wooden dishes. This was sent without hesitation. It seemed to be considered as no more than their due on such a jovial occasion, The genteeler part of the guests were entertained in the tent, where there was wine. At the tables in the field, at one of which I seated myself, there was no wine, but great abundance of ale and whisky punch. This carousing at weddings is sometimes continued for three or four successive days, not by the same company, but by new comers.
I find, that on such occasions, the new-married pair sometimes save fifty, sixty, or even an hundred pounds, each person paying five shillings at least, besides what drink they call for. I saw all kinds of rural mirth going on, some at reels, others at country dances, minuets, fandangoes, highland capers, &c.

Rev. James Hall A.M., Travels in Scotland, by an Unusual Route: with a Trip to the Orkneys and Hebrides. Containing Hints for Improvements in Agriculture and Commerce. With Characters and Anecdotes. Embellished with Views of Striking Objects, and a Map, Including the Caledonian Canal. 2 volumes (London: Privately Printed, 1807), 1: 299-301.