Thursday 28 July 2011

A Colonsay Marriage Custom

Wedding Rings
Tucked in between a proverb – rinn e sùilean na cait rium with the meaning ‘growing wild at me’ – and a fragmentary pibroch song Bodach nam Briogais, Alexander Carmichael noted down a short item about how marriages were negotiated in the isle of Colonsay. Presumably, though it is not explicitly stated in any way, Carmichael got this information from a native of the place. It may also be noted, judging from the tenor of the opening, that such customs were no longer in use but clearly that they must have lingered long enough in living memory in order for them to be written down. In many ways such customs made a lot of sense and this is perhaps why pre-nuptial agreements have become in a similar fashion more usual when marriages are nowadays being negotiated:

About the beginning of this century it
was customary in Colonsay to meet
on two hillocks to arrange marriage
preliminaries. On the farm of
[ ] they met – the bride’s
party on one knoll (cnoc) and
the groom’s party on another. Then
one man from each party
descended the valley and came
within speaking distance of one
another. They conversed in solemn
tones and then retired to their respective
parties. They descended the valley
a second time and came nearer
than before and talked again in
a formal manner and then
went back up the hill as before.
The two men met again for
the third and last time and on
this occasion came quite close
to each other and after a third
and final and formal negociation [sic] they

If either party with-drew the
party withdrawing paid the tochar
agreed upon to the other. In case the
girl withdrew, her father had to pay
his daughter’s tochar; if the man
withdrew he paid the equivalent of
the girl’s tochar to the girl and there
was an end to it. Neither lost

CW120/341, ff. 99v–100r.
Image: Wedding Rings.

1 comment:

  1. Unusual use of the word "cast" at the end there, at least to my ears (eyes really). Cast I assume meaning "face", "social stature" or the like?


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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [©]