Page:Notes and Queries - Series 11 - Volume 11.djvu/333

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Laing, who had acquired some notoriety in the business. This was in 1811 ; and he continued in the " trade " until 1828, when it either fell away from him or he fell away from it. His reverence subsequently condescended to act as horsekeeper or hostler at one of the inns in this city ; and a few months ago was sent for to London, as a witness in some marriage case, and is now set up as an author ! We suspect the whole thing to be an attempt to gull the public into the purchase of a book of inventions. If 7,000 were deducted from the names of those to be inserted in the " Register," the mimber would till exceed, by many a score, those who were actually " married," as it is called, by Robert Elliot, the Gretna - green Parson. Carlisle Journal.

Elliott, who was then living in London, quickly replied to this as follows (The Times, 23 Feb.) :

THE GBETNA-GBEEN BLACKSMITHS. To the Editor of ' The Times.'

SIB, From the spirit of impartiality which always pervades the conduct of your journal, I feel confident that you will allow me to reply to a paragraph in yesterday's Times, and taken from the Carlisle Journal, and which is grossly in- accurate and injurious. One charge against me is, that instead of 7,500 persons being married by me, I had only married about as many hun- dreds. Now, Sir, the fact is, that I married 7,744 persons, which I can show registers for, from my commencement, and which either you or any respectable individual may inspect here, And which I can substantiate on oath. Another charge is, that I set up in opposition to David Laing, which is equally untrue ; for Mr. Paisley, the reputed blacksmith, whose granddaughter I married, appointed me to succeed him, and I married a couple the very night of his death. Laing started some time after that in opposition to me, but he got a small share of the marriages. He next says, that I became a horsekeeper, which surely, Sir, cannot be a disgrace to any man who hag a helpless family to provide for, for it has pleased Divine Providence to afflict one of my daughters in a most grievous way, she being both deaf and dumb : and although I sometimes got handsomely paid by people of high rank, it was generally by bills, which when they became due were dishonoured. Below is the number of marriages in each year. Yours,


9, Leicester-square, Feb. 21.

1811 ... ... 58 1826 . 187

1812 ... ... 57 1827 188

1813 ... . . 59 1828 186

!814 ... . . 68 1829 180

1815 ... . . 87 1830 179

1816 ... . . 89 1831 168

1817 ... . . 98 1832 153

1818 ... . . 109 1833 160

1819 ... . . 121 1834 168

1820 ... . . 124 1835 124

1821 ... . . 152 1836 98

1822 ... . . 178 1837 55

1823 ... . . 188 1838 46

1824 ... . . 196 1839 42

1825... .. 198

The Registers have never been issued, as announced by Elliott. He was an illiterate man, and spelt his name sometimes with one t, sometimes with two. On the title-page of his book the spelling is " Elliott."

The next we hear of the Registers is in 1875. An advertisement appeared in -The Carlisle Journal, 24 Sept., 1875, as follows :

" Gretna Green. Register of Marriages. The original register of marriages from 1843 to 1864 for sale by tender. Apply to Messrs, Wright & Brown, Solicitors, Carlisle."

In 1887 they are again referred to, and in The Times of 14 Jan. of that year it is stated that

" the Register of marriages which took place at Allenson's Toll Bar, Gretna Green, is now in the custody of Mr. Wright, a solicitor at Carlisle, and that it contains upwards of 8,000 entries."

On Friday, 29 March, 1912, Messrs. Sotheby offered for sale a most valuable series of Gretna Green marriage certificates, covering a period between 1825 and 1854. The note in the catalogue is of such interest that I append it. The lot was knocked down at 510Z., and was, in fact, bought in by the owner at that figure, and still remains in his hands :


ORIGINAL CERTIFICATES of Marriages cele- brated at Gretna Hall between 1825 and 1854, signed by the contracting parties, a parcel ; GRETNA GREEN MARRIAGE REGISTER, being a quarto volume containing transcripts of the certificates in the handwriting of John Linton, russia gilt, with lock and key ; and an Index to the same, 8vo, russia gilt, top cover loose.

Almost all the marriages were celebrated by the above-mentioned John Linton, who, after being confidential servant to Sir James Graham at Netherby Hall, invested his savings in the pur- chase of Gretna Hall, which he turned into an inn. His house became the most popular at Gretna for eloping couples, and this register contains the record of nearly all the most inter- esting weddings which took place in the village during the period. Linton's rivals in the busi- ness also kept registers and issued certificates, but this is believed to be by far the most important series in existence, none others being so complete or containing so many famous names. There are BETWEEN ELEVEN AND TWELVE HUNDRED CERTIFICATES, most of which are in duplicate, a rough copy and a formal document. It may be added that Gretna Green marriages were put a stop to in 1856, by an Act which required persons domiciled in England to reside twenty-one days in Scotland before being married there.

Of the first important marriage in the register, that of Edward Gibbon Wakefield to. Ellen Turner on March 8th, 1826, the certificate has been lost. Miss Turner was an heiress, only sixteen years of age, and Wakefield decoyed her from school by means of a forged letter, and induced her to marry him by pretending that her compliance was necessary to save her father from ruin. He was subsequently tried for abduction, and sentenced