Murder at the Mill
Well not really.
Host, criminal mastermind and crime writer, Graham
The crime scene...
I’ve just returned from a weekend of crime writing fun run by Graham Smith and his cronies at Crime and Punishment. I’ve asked Graham to guest blog about who and what the C and P writers are and it turns out he has guested for MIE before, as a guest of Leighton. So I felt I was following in great footsteps and was rather chuffed when Graham agreed. So watch this space...
My partners in crime ....Michael Malone, writer and poet, who re enacted Jaws with me
Neil White, crime writer, Crown Prosecutor and general clever person.
The Bridgestocks. He's an ex Detective Chief Super. She's an ex family liaison officer I think. And together they write crime fiction and act as advisers on a popular Tv series. Yipe they are married and write together..... they still seem to speak to each other.
Graham is, when not writing crime novels, the general manager of The Mill Forge, a very famous wedding venue in Scotland and it would be a fantastic place to host a murder mystery weekend, except that daft folk will insist on getting married there.
In 1740 it was a grain mill, the farmhouse was added in 1862. In 1988 the Smith family bought the premises (it was a disused farm by then) and set about building the accommodation, converting the grain mill to a restaurant and bar. The wedding ceremony venue was added in 1999.
And very pretty it is to.
It now has a wee shop, a reception and a children’s play area round the back out of sight! My other half, who drummed in wedding bands for years has always said it is a godsend when kids have somewhere to go at a wedding, somewhere where they can get tired out and fall asleep in the corner. Instead of throwing things at the drummer.
Gretna and Gretna Green are both historically linked to weddings because throughout history, it has always been easier to get married in Scotland than … that other place in the south.
Prior to the Acts of Union (1707) Gretna was a customs post on the drovers road for collecting taxes on cattle crossing the border between the two kingdoms. Then marriage down south became more difficult, both parties had to be over 21 or both parents had to consent whereas in Scotland girls of 12, boys of 14 could get married no matter what the parents thought. (that might be due to very short life expectancy!)
So many English betrothed eloped to Gretna, then as the new road was built, Gretna Green was slightly easier to reach and it became the top destination.
Gretna has an interesting past. During WW1 it was code named Moorside. 30,000 workers, mostly women, mixed devil’s porridge ( nitro-glycerine and gun cotton into cordite paste ) by hand.
The influx of workers, thousands and thousands of them, caused huge problems with their drunkeness, which was so bad, even the government was concerned and the problem was deemed to be a threat to national security.
So the government introduced new bylaws in the area that stretched as far as Carlisle and Maryport; Spiritless Saturdays were introduced. Buying anyone else a drink, or drinking beer and spirits in the same pub, were both banned. The pub landlords became civil servants and therefore it was unlawful for them to let people get drunk in their premises.
What I wasn’t aware of is that this is the home of the Cumberland Gap (Lonnie Donnegan fans need note). The Cumberland Gap refers to the remaining 6 miles of non-upgraded dual-carriageway that existed between the Scottish Motorway to the North and the M6 at Carlisle.
So as Gretna Green is the first village in Scotland. The railway station serves both Gretna Green and Gretna and it is where the worst rail crash disaster in British history happened. The Quintinshill rail crash, 226 deaths in 1915.
But the mojo of the area is a happy one. It is said that one in every six Scottish weddings takes place in Gretna / Gretna Green. Over 5000 weddings a year.
In the old days the black smith could marry couples ( the modern day registry office is known as the Anvil Hall). The blacksmith and the anvil have become the lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings. By Scottish law, it was allowed to have "irregular marriages", meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. Hence the blacksmiths in Gretna became known as "anvil priests". The most famous, Richard Rennison, performed 5,147 ceremonies.
Since 1929, both parties in Scotland have had to be at least 16 years old, but they still may marry without parental consent. In England and Wales, the age for marriage is now 16 with parental consent and 18 without.
Thousands of couples from around the world come to be married in Gretna Green.
In popular fiction Gretna has come to the attention of Jane Austin, Tony Hancock, Agatha Christie, EastEnders, Downton Abbey, Coronation Street and the 1949 Hitchcock movie Under Capricorn.
Caro Ramsay 13 03 2015