non-qualifications of the Gretna Green Priests.
This chapter shows how parish
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
"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.