Carmichael Bigamy, 1908

It’s not too uncommon in history to find men, chancing their luck by marrying to two different women at the same time. It happened more than you may think and in Blantyre, I’ve reported on several occasions of finding this taking place more than 100 years ago. However, what IS uncommon, is to find this crime instigated by a woman, knowingly marrying two different men. This is the rather complicated tale of Grace Carmichael.

Grace Lugg Carmichael was born in 1887 to parents James Carmichael a coalminer and Annie Love.

In 1903 when Grace was 16, she became engaged to a local Dixon’s miner, James Rook. She lived with him for nearly 2 years in High Blantyre, but in 1905 James suddenly took off abroad to India without her.

Feeling abandoned, Grace that same year entered a new relationship with Luke Carr, a miner in Motherwell and they married within months of meeting in Hamilton in 1905.

However, James Rook, whilst abroad heard that Grace had a new man, but knew nothing of the marriage. Perhaps fuelled by jealousy or regret, he returned to Scotland and won back the affections of his fiance, whom he considered as being still engaged to him. He knew nothing of Carr.

Rook and Grace ran off to live in England for a short time, before Grace realised this was a mistake and so she left him, returning to Scotland and to Carr, her husband. She lived with Carr for the next three weeks during 1906 but it wasn’t long before Rook came on the scene again tracking her down. She deserted Carr to be with Rook again.

On Christmas Eve, 1906 Grace married James Rook at High Blantyre Manse. She was 19 and James was 25. They had been living together at 23 Forrest Place, High Blantyre at the time, an address no longer there, which would now be where the carpark behind Jinxy’s Bakery is today. On her marriage certificate it says Grace was a domestic servant, and spinster, i.e single.

But this story isn’t finished. Upon hearing that Grace had married Rook, Luke Carr, perhaps due to being spurned, informed authorities that he was still married and that Grace had married Rook unlawfully. The case was investigated and upheld.

Grace found herself in Hamilton Sheriff Court on 7th January 1908 where the Sheriff listened to the love tug of war commenting that it was indeed a most painful case for all involved, but in the eyes of the law, only one person was culpable.

Grace was sentenced to 2 months imprisonment, and if you look very carefully at the far left of her marriage certificate (attached), you will see the authorities amended it with a small stamp marking the coupling as “Bigamy”. She is not in any Blantyre census afterwards.

Bigamy is never a nice subject, but I can’t help feeling there was more to this story. Grace was perhaps naïve and certainly was being influenced greatly by the pursuits of these two men. We have no idea of THEIR character, morals or temperament and how that possibly affected the increasingly desperate, decision making actions of such a young woman.

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