Joseph Paisley

Gretna Green Anvil Priest 1754 - 1814

Paisley was born in about 1730 just south of Gretna Green, a tall young man, well built, and as folklore tells, so strong he could straighten a cold horseshoe with his bare hands! An ex tobacconist and smuggler, Joseph Paisley became a blacksmith but soon realised there was more money to be had marrying young couples and he was one of the earliest of the new self-styled 'priests'. As one of the first 'Blacksmith Priests' Paisley did much to enhance the folklore of Gretna Green.

When he first conducted marriages in 1753 he was warned that the "trade" was not strictly legal, not that he had any moral qualms about conducting the ceremonies. When he learnt, from an eminent jury-consult that the ceremony was indeed legal and binding, he went on to make a good living from the trade. One story tells how two couples required his services at the same time, and through a "trifling mistake" he married the wrong brides and grooms! Unabashed, he declared, "Ah weel juist sort yersels oot".

In his latter years he was described as: "grossly ignorant and insufferably coarse ... an overgrown mass of fat weighing at least twenty five stone ..... who drank a good deal more than was necessary to his thirst"


It was believed that he was still conducting ceremonies from his deathbed during the year 1814.

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