I always look forward to getting photos and cards from the couples I marry, telling me what made their day so special, but this is one I will never forget!
Leigh and Gregor chose their wedding date because it was 16 years to the day since they met. As they said in their ceremony, “Home, marriage then kids….that was the plan anyway. The house was the easy bit, but as the years flew by, the kids part felt like it was never going to happen.”
But everything changed when, two and a half years ago, their gorgeous son Aaron was born. Then, in September last year, Gregor and Leigh were given the gift of a trip to the Island, and visited the abbey. As they wrote, “We walked in to this room, which was set up for a wedding; the sun was beaming in the windows. We walked down the aisle, stopped at the bottom, looked at each other, and said “Is this it? Have we found it? Let’s make it happen!”
Now I’ve done lots of weddings on Inchcolm over the years. It’s a beautiful island of close-cropped green grass with a well-restored abbey founded in the twelfth century by monks from Iona, and it has an other-worldly, very tranquil atmosphere that makes it feel a lot further away than it is.
Unless you’ve got your own boat, the only way to get there is via the Maid of The Forth, and I’ve just realised that the very first wedding I ever conducted out there was six years ago yesterday, for Tracey Russell who – as the Maid of the Forth’s web site will tell you – is now Tracey Robertson, the smiley face in their office on the pier just across from the Hawes Inn in South Queensferry and it’s always lovely to see her when I check in for a ceremony.
So anyway, I turned up as I usually do, a quarter of an hour before The Maid of The Forth was due to set sail, but there was no sign of the vessel at the quayside. Puzzled but unconcerned, I went up to the office. Tracey wasn’t there, so I asked the young guy who was when The Maid was due to depart. “She’s already gone,” came the reply. “You cannot be serious,” may not have been quite what I said, as I reached for my phone.
“Hello Gregor? It’s Tim here, the guy who’s going to marry you. Did you notice that I’m not on board?….Yes, that’s right, I’m still in South Queensferry…. I wonder if you can have a word with the skipper…”
So to cut a long story short, the Skipper called the RNLI, the station commander kindly agreed to lay on an exercise, and 30 minutes later and wearing a bright orange drysuit, I found myself skimming over the waves at 36 knots aboard the RNLI’s super-fast ocean-going RIB. Just to put it in context, while The Maid takes a good 40 minutes to reach the island, we got there in 10, and even though it was a glorious day with a flat calm sea, it really was a very exciting way to arrive.
As luck would have it, there was a news agency photographer on the island, shooting a story about one of the wardens, so my arrival was thoroughly documented. The next morning we were all over the papers…
and by the following evening, the story had even made the TV news.
So, yes of course I was embarrassed to miss the boat, but Leigh and Gregor were lovely about it.
Leigh was waiting for me as I came up to the abbey with the lifeboat crew at my back
the ceremony itself went like a dream
and it made for a very jolly journey back to South Queensferry with all the guests; I’d take a bet that it’s one wedding they’ll never forget either!
As Leigh and Gregor wrote when they sent these photos, “It was great working with you. We enjoyed the whole ceremony, and we get a lot of people telling us how great it was because it was all about us.”
So my thanks go as always to Leigh and Gregor and their families, and to Philip Hawkins for his great action snaps, but I have to give a very special thanks to the gallant men of RNLI South Queensferry whose job is usually a lot more demanding, for getting me to the church on time!