In England, in the 1700s, an act was passed stating that parental consent had to be given to the guy and girl who were wanting to marry, if they were under 21 years of age.
In Scotland it was possible for 14 year-old boys and 12 year-old girls to marry without parental consent.
Because of the enactment of this English law, young couples eloped by the droves across the border to the closest Scottish village they could find -- Gretna Green.
Scottish law allowed marriages to be conducted by virtually anyone, as long as the vows were made before two witnesses. So the local blacksmith became known as the "anvil priest" as he was the one traditionally sought out by the couples to perform the marriage ceremony.
Hundreds of thousands of weddings have been performed in Gretna Green, and now, because of its romantic tradition, thousands of couples still come from the world over to be married "over the anvil" in the blacksmith's shop at Gretna Green.
Today's "Blacksmith Shop wedding chapel"
A Gretna Green wedding
In 1961, I crossed over the border between England and Scotland and headed to Gretna Green.
No -- not to get married! I was travelling with my parents, and we were moving to the location of my father's new job, in Prestwick, Scotland. We stopped off along the way to visit this infamous tourist site. At the age of 15, I thought it was quite a romantic proposition -- to be snatched up by a 'knight in shining armor' and to run away together to get married in Gretna Green, and I spent many hours dreaming about it! Unfortunately, not all dreams come true :)
We stopped off at another tourist attraction along the way... Bruce's Cave, in Kirkpatrick Fleming, near Lockerbie.
Robert the Bruce was crowned King of the Scots in 1306 (I just love British history -- how I wish I had paid more attention to it in school). In 1307, after suffering a bitter defeat, King Robert went into hiding in the cave. He spent three months living a solitary existence, while things were looking their bleakest for the Scots.Bruce's Cave
One day, while in the cave and in the depths of despair, King Robert watched a spider attempting to build a web in the cave. The spider would spin, and then fall -- get up and spin again, and then fall. Time and again it went through the process, working relentlessly, until eventually the web was completed.
Watching the spider gave Robert great courage, and the story is reputed to have given birth to the saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again."
More stories to come!