The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 1/Some Marriage Customs

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THE villages spoken of in this paper lie on the north-east coast of Aberdeenshire. The fisher folks are industrious, hardy, most temperate, a great many of them being total abstainers, kind-hearted, intelligent, and in general anxious to give their children a good education. Their old simple manners are fast disappearing.

In the matter of the "feet-washing" a finger-ring is thrown into the tub. After the ceremony is completed, there is a contest for the ring; the one who becomes the possessor of it is the one who will be married next. It is only the very near relations ("lief freens") that are present, and take part in this rite. The bride invites her own friends, and the bridegroom, his. There is, of course, hospitality. The bride's property is taken to her future home by her nearest relatives the day before the marriage. It is not carried into the house by them, but handed to the bridegroom's friends, who are there to receive it and to carry it in. This does not seem to be a custom in any of the other villages. Invitations to the marriage are given separately by the bride and the bridegroom. All the members of each family are invited. It would be looked upon as a slight to ask only part of a family; and were such an invitation given it would be refused. The bride's guests make presents to her, for the most part articles necessary for a household, and the bridegroom's to him. In this way the expense of the marriage feast is in a great measure made up for; and the expense is no small matter, as the guests are often numbered by the hundred.

After the marriage is solemnized, the two parties separate, and hold the feast. The bride's guests are entertained at her home, and the bridegroom's at his. It would be a serious breach of good manners for any of the guests of the one to go to the house of the other. In others of the fishing villages along the coast this distinction between the guests is not observed. When the bride returns to her father's house after the marriage, broken bread of various sorts is thrown over her before she enters. The same ceremony is gone through with the bridegroom at his father's door. In Rosehearty barley is sometimes thrown over them as they come to the feasting place.

When it is time for the guests to separate, the bridegroom with his best man goes to bring the bride to her future home. She carries something eatable to give to the unmarried guests at "the bedding." At that time the sleeping apartment is filled with them in the full spirit of "daifery." She throws one of her stockings from the bed, and then begins the struggle to get possession of it, which ensures the next marriage. Sometimes, e.g. in Pittulie, the light is extinguished before the throwing of the stocking; the one that is struck by it is fortune's favourite for the next matrimonial alliance.

The day after the marriage all the female friends who were guests wait on the bride with a present. In former times it was made in kind, now it is given in money, and is shaken into her hand when she holds it out in welcome to her visitor. It may range from a shilling upwards, according to the means of the giver. All are entertained to tea. In Pittulie this after-marriage present is made on the evening of the marriage day before the guests separate, as the opportunity of shaking it into her hand—"crossin her han w' siller"—occurs. It is made by all, or, at least, by most of the guests, both male and female. In some of the villages, e.g. Rosehearty, there is at times a dance. Each young woman selects a young man for the first dance, which is called the "favour reel," and ties a ribbon round his arm. He is in honour bound to answer the call. He pays for this dance, commonly a shilling. The money so collected goes to defray the expense of the music and everything in connection with the dance.

The following may be added as an appendix, but the opinions are not confined to the fishing population; the belief about the number of children is widely spread:—

It is a firm conviction of many that each woman is destined to have a certain number of children. A woman was speaking one day to her minister of her sister's large family and weak health, and among other things said:—"Gehn it wir the Lord's will, she hiz muckle needit she hid up her nummer."

Here is another conversation to the same effect:—"Your son's boy is troubled with gripes. So wiz Jamie, but the girlie wizna." "Oh, deed aye," replied the grandmother. "He should hae them a' lassies." "They hiv anew o' them already; but a needna say that, she maun jist hae her nummer," was the answer.

It is a notion among many that children brought up on the feeding-bottle are bad tempered. The minister, after baptizing a farm-servant's child, was taking tea with the parents and a few of their friends, when one of the children, the one next in age to the infant, began to show a good deal of temper. Said the mother, "Nae winner she's ill-naitirt, she wiz fessn up (brought up) o' the bottle." The minister expressed a doubt, but was assured that such was the fact. In proof one of the men present stated as his own experience that a foal brought up on cow's milk always proved a vicious animal.