In a recent search for marriages in the Stromness Old Parish Register (Ref: OPR/30/3) on microfilm, we found this phrase from 1740:
"pawn money consigned in the Clerk's hand"
How intriguing, we thought [we're so easily intrigued], why is "pawn" being used in a marriage announcement?
Someone instantly sped to the bookshelves and found The Concise Scots Dictionary, 1991 and looked it up.
The definitions are: "1. pawn, a pledge [so far so normal] 2. pawn, usually in plural a sum of money deposited with the kirk session by a couple as a guarantee of their intention to marry within 40 days and of their chaste conduct in the interval, late 16th - early 19th century. [Aha!] and in the phrase lay doon the pawns: make official notification of one's intention to marry, arrange for the proclamation of banns."
In the Chambers English Dictionary the above definition is not mentioned, but it does say that pawn can also be a peacock, a gallery or covered walkway and [of course] a chess piece.
The full proclamation of marriage is here:
"Dec 4th Magnus Coupar and Margaret Newgar both in this parish were contracted and pawn money consigned in the Clerk's hand and January 1st 1740 that the said Magnus Coupar and Margaret Newgar were lawfully married and dues payed."
We love words!