The Wedding Took Place by Candle-Light
Late one dark afternoon in 1949, while I was a minister at Blackridge, West Lothian, a man arrived at the manse and said I'd forgotten to be at a wedding in Armadale at three p.m. I checked my diary and noted I had weddings at six p.m. in Armadale and seven p.m. in Blackridge. But nothing for three p.m.
I discovered that everything had been done about arranging the wedding, except telling the Church Officer and contacting me! The whole bridal party had come from Armadale by car and the bride was in tears. I gave her my 'hankie' while I got my case with gowns etc. Then I jumped into the car and off to Armadale we went.
The church was quite warm as it was being heated for the later wedding. About twenty guests were in the pews. The service started and I announced the first hymn. The organ would not start and we were left standing in darkness when the lights failed. I had my torch. I knew there were candles in the vestry. So, with the bridesmaid holding one candle and the best man another plus my torch, the couple were married. In the vestry, they signed the certificate by candle-light too. It was all very romantic.
The following week I had another unusual wedding.
All was ready, the bride arrived, but there was no sign of the bridegroom and the best man. Guests set out in different directions to try to trace them. All returned without success. The bride was trembling, convinced something serious had happened. I was standing in my robes at the kerbside when a car drew up. I looked in and saw a sorry sight. There was the bridegroom, pads and plaster on his face and neck, jacket and collar splashed with blood, hands bandaged.
I told the bride what had happened, then the guests and asked everyone to relax till we got the bridegroom cleaned up.
With sticking plaster, powder and liberal use of turpentine on his clothes we got him looking respectable. Nearly an hour late, the wedding took place.
The doctor arrived with the district nurse and attended to the bridegroom's and best man's injuries.
Apparently, en route to church, they had had to travel a short distance by bus to collect the best man's car from its garage. Rounding a bend, the bus swerved and the bridegroom, who was standing on the platform, was hurled into the road. His wounds were dressed at the garage, from the first-aid box. Fortunately, though ugly, they soon healed up.
As I mentioned earlier, I've always had a soft spot for gypsies, tinkers and others on the road. While visiting hospital one day I saw what I took to be a coloured woman in a bed. She was one of the travelling folk. I went over to speak to her. She was pleased to see me. She asked me to ask if she could smoke. The ward sister was most sympathetic, but explained: 'Her pipe is vile, the smoke dreadful and the patients object. I'll leave it to you.
I got the dirty clay pipe half-filled with tobacco and went back to the ward. To the other patients I said: 'Can dear old Granny here have twenty puffs (under a towel) of her pipe? Laughingly they agreed and Granny got her pipe.
'Bless you, sir, I'm all right now,' she said.
Next day, I gathered a posy of wild flowers - campion, heather, buttercups and others - bordered them with fern leaves and took them to her. She was asleep. I got a vase from a nurse and put the flowers into it and placed it on Granny's locker, along with sweets and biscuits.
An hour later I returned. The old woman was sitting up, speaking and admiring her 'precious' flowers. When she saw me she was full of smiles and thanks. She told me I had made her very happy giving her such pretty flowers. She wouldn't need her pipe any more now that she had them to look at.
One summer afternoon, there was a knock on the door of the manse in Blackridge, West Lothian. On the step I saw a young tinker woman. Shyly, she told me that she and her husband wanted her baby Christened. So, a day or two later, I made my way to the tinkers' tent which was pitched on the bank of a stream. The couple were ready and waiting, with their baby dressed in a beautifully worked gown. Inside the tent was decked with wild flowers and laid out on a rush mat were the baby's clothes, all knitted with wool gathered from the hedgerows and spun by the mother. Solemnly, the baby's father handed me a tin mug filled with crystal clear water from the burn. And there, with the door of the tent thrown wide, I took the child in arms and Christened it. As I asked God's blessing on the little one, a mavis burst into song outside.
When the simple ceremony ended, the tinker poured the water from the mug into a bottle and put it carefully away, telling me that it would be used to Christen any other children that might come to them. It wasn't the grandest Christening service I conducted, but in its way it was the sincerest and most memorable. I often wonder how life treated this lovely young family.
NOTE: Appendix 8, Part 6, 'The beggar woman with the well kept hands,' records an incident where things were not as they seemed.
This work, Going With God, is copywrited by Ronald R. Caseby, 1993. All rights reserved. Used here by express permission.