July 18, 2019  
LearningScottish Catholic HistoryCanonical Conundrum  
Canonical Conundrum


One of our volunteer archive assistants recently came across the following rather complicated tangle of affairs in one of our correspondence collections. Perhaps a solution to someone’s family research problems? The item is contained in the Blairs Letter collection - a collection of 46,500 items of correspondence dating from 1627 until 1887. The scope of the collection is vast, with royal correspondence and local church administration.

This item (BL/4/334/16) shows the work that early mission priests had to undertake, posing questions to the local vicar apostolic (bishop).

Letter from W Rattray [priest] at Paisley to Rev Dr Alexander Cameron [Vicar Apolostolic] regarding a ‘canonical question’.


Much Hond Sir


Bernius is about 60 years of age, has a decent appearance and not a bad character in town. He has never been at Confession. When young he lost his father. He went to Sea. Being discharged at the peace 1783, he lived some time at Berwick. There he drew up with Bertha lawfully married to Fallax, who had gone a soldier to the East Indies, and whose comrade had written to his (Fallax’) father three different letters, all stating that Fallax had died in India. This of course his father, his wife and other friends in Berwick believed to be true. And Bernius in being joined to Bertha imagined that he was joined to a widow. Some time after he came to live with her in Paisley. After being together as husband and wife for eleven years, while he was absent on some business at Greenock, lo! Fallax, having risen from the dead, and arrived in Britain, came to Paisley, and carried off his wife Bertha with all the plunder they could take out of Bernius’ house, leaving word for Bernius that he might follow them to Glasgow. This he declined to do, and has never since heard more of them. Soon after he Bernius fell in with a widow in Paisley, a Catholic, and was married to her by a Bucklebeggar in Glasgow. Both want to be admitted to the Sacraments. Shall they be admitted? Your answer will much oblige

Most Hond Sir

Your very humble servant

W. Rattray.

Paisley May 11th 1809

R. R. Dr. Alex. Cameron

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