In another ‘first’ for the Tolbooth Museum, the historic building acted as the venue for the wedding of Victoria and Charlie Barrow last month.
The ceremony was held on March 7 by the Tolbooth’s chairperson, Cressida Coates, who is also the registrar for Aberdeenshire Council.
Victoria and Charlie both grew up around Inverurie and first met at secondary school 23 years ago. Victoria is a paediatric research nurse at Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital and Charlie is a primary teacher at Fishermoss School in Portlethen.
Their choice of the Tolbooth was prompted by Cressida, as it is the oldest building in Stonehaven.
Charlie said “It was perfect, as we wanted a small ceremony but it allowed the whole harbour to be used with beautiful views and good pubs. It’s also great to think that such happiness can happen in a building with such a past”.
Victoria’s best friend, Louise, was matron of honour, while Lewis, Charlie’s brother, did the honours as best man. Victoria and Charlie’s eldest daughter, however, was in charge of the rings under Lewis’s watchful eye!
The ceremony was followed by a reception in Stonehaven Town Hall.
In a scene reminiscent of Gretna Green, the blacksmith’s anvil, which is usually on display in the fishing and farming section of the museum, was used in the ceremony.
Until 1940, Scottish law allowed for “irregular marriages” in the ancient tradition of a ‘marriage by declaration’ or ‘handfasting’ ceremony. This simple civil ceremony enabled couples to marry by declaring in front of two witnesses their wish to be husband and wife and they were then legally bound.
Almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony and, as the local blacksmith was one of the most prominent people in a village, more often than not marriages were conducted by him in his forge with the anvil serving as a simple “altar”.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the village would ring with the sound of the anvil being struck, signifying that the marriage had been forged. Blacksmiths who conducted such ceremonies became to be known as “anvil priests”.
An act of parliament in1940 declared such marriages illegal and now all services must be conducted by authorised registrars or clergy. However, the tradition of using an anvil continues in many ceremonies, especially at Gretna Green.
For now, Victoria and Charlie will be living in their rented house near Arduthie School. However, they are really looking for their own house but it must be in Stonehaven, as the happy couple say “it’s where they call home”.
The Tolbooth volunteers wish Victoria and Charlie a long and happy marriage.