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Chronicles of Gretna Green
Chapter XIII


Qualifications or non-qualifications of the Gretna Green Priests.

This chapter shows how parish priests
Are sometimes not in orders
But mostly out of order, those
Who live upon the borders.

Frequently hearing the word " priest" used in conversation, when these officials were the topic of conversation, or were the subject of discourse— mentioned not as if derisively or in irony, but gravely and soberly as a matter of course, and as it were a right proper word—we had the audacity to inquire of those who stood around, as to whether any clerical act of consecration had been achieved over them; for how should Southeron strangers and errant perigrinators know what particular laws of church, or state, or custom might obtain here, within the bounds of this most strange of all parishes in the  varsal world. In furtherance of obtaining light upon this point, we demanded whether those, forsooth, who took upon themselves the responsibilities of this office, really did undergo any prescribed course of initiatory study, what terms they kept, and at what college or university, what examinations they submitted too, and were they often plucked, what degrees they took, how they were -ordained, and by whom, or by what bishops?

These questions we held to be important; but after having put them most assiduously all round, we received one universal answer, namely, "Ha! lia! ha!" or, in other words, everybody "haw-hawed right out."

"Good Master Southerner, for such you be by your speech," cried they; "when;-we say priests, we mean Gretna priests (rendered verbatim); 'tis a convenient word, and expresses our meaning as understood by ourselves; that is, he who is employed by any innkeeper to marry any strangers who come over the border to his house; such person is a 4 priest' or 'Gretna priest,' according to our acceptation of the term."

"Then I am to understand, that to become one ' of your priests, it is not indispensable that any previous course of study should be gone through, or that any of higher privileges has conferred the office?"

Here they haw-hawed again.

"When we ironically make sport of them, or cast scorns at them, we generally dub them bishops at once; but priest is the current coin here, and is as common as a bawbee. You, sir, or myself, or any of this company here in presence, might marry just whom we might please, either in this same room, or out there in the middle of the street, or else yonder under the hedge; at morning, noon, night, late, early, summer, winter, or what not; no matter the place or the time. To prove the truth of what I say, I will marry you, sir, now this moment." Oh! will you? Let us begin another chapter.


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