Our Records: VE Day Weddings

In 1945 there were 48,728 registered marriages – an increase of 11,711 from the previous year and the greatest number registered since the introduction of Statutory Registration in 1855, with the exception of the year 1940. The images of these wedding entries are now available to search, view and save on the ScotlandsPeople website. 

The marriage-rate was highest in the months of June and July and lowest in May and February 1945. Of the 48,728 marriages that year, 41,846 were solemnised by a minister of religion. Civil marriages constituted 14.1% of all marriages in Scotland that year with 6,871 contracted under the provisions of the Marriage (Scotland) Act, 1939. 11 were registered on production of a Decree of Declarator of the Court of Session (a formal recognition of marriage ‘by cohabitation with habit and repute’). 

1945 welcomed the cessation of almost six years of fighting in the Second World War. Millions of lives had been lost or torn apart, homes had been destroyed by bombings and people had lived through strict rationing. As the spring of 1945 progressed, it became clear that Germany would surrender to the Allied Powers. On 30th April, Hitler committed suicide and it was announced on British radio on 7th May that the unconditional surrender of the German Forces had been given. A day of national celebration was planned for the following day, 8th May, to be known as Victory in Europe Day. Millions of people held street parties, danced together and filled local pubs in celebration. 

For some, the 8th of May was the cause for additional cheer – it was their wedding day. 

Michael Lorimer and Jean Monteith   

In Edinburgh, at St Mary’s Cathedral, the wedding of Jean Mary Monteith and Michael Lorimer was officiated by Reverend Father Lavery. 

Michael Lorimer was the youngest son of Sir Robert Lorimer, a renowned Scottish architect, restorer of historic houses and castles, and designer of the Scottish National War Memorial, and his wife Violet Wyld. Michael was born in the family home at 54 Melville Street, Edinburgh, on 11th June 1912. Sir Robert had bought the house for Violet and extensively remodelled it for her in 1903, expanding it with an attic space the year after Michael was born to accommodate the growing family. Sir Robert died in September 1929 following an operation for appendicitis. 

Detail from Michael Lorimer’s birth entry, 11 June 1912.

Detail from Michael Lorimer’s birth entry, 11th June 1912.
Crown copyright, National Records of Scotland, Statutory Register of Births, 1912, 685/1 523 page 175

The engagement between Michael and Jean had been announced in The Scotsman on Thursday 28th December 1944. At the time Michael was a Writer to the Signet at an Edinburgh legal firm and Jean was an assistant to the Agricultural Executive Committee of Midlothian. 

The bride, Jean Monteith, was the daughter of Joseph Basil Lawrence Monteith CBE, a retired Major of the Gordon Highlanders, and his wife Dorothea Nicolson. Born on 13th May 1925, her names were registered as Jean Mary Monteith; her wedding entry records them as Mary Jean Monteith. It is possible this was a mistake by the registrar as she is referred to as Jean in a number of newspaper articles and upon the announcement of her engagement. 

Detail of Jean Mary Monteith’s birth entry, 13 May 1925.

Detail of Jean Mary Monteith’s birth entry, 13th May 1925
Crown copyright, National Records of Scotland, Statutory Register of Births, 1925, 633/A 18 page 6.

Jean was born at the mansion ‘Cranley House’, part of the extensive lands, woodlands, farm, and houses owned by her father in Carstairs. The bride and groom’s families moved in similar social circles and this is probably how they came to form a close relationship. 

Jean wore a dress of ivory brocaded silk with a small train. The Carluke and Lanark Gazette reported that her veil was made of Brussels lace with orange blossom and she carried red roses. She was supported by four bridesmaids who wore dresses of gold net with green sashes, and was walked down the aisle by her father. Major Monteith was a convener of the Lanarkshire County Council and a leading figure in other movements in the area. 
 

Detail from the wedding entry of Michael Lorimer and Mary Jean Monteith, 8 May 1945

Detail from the wedding entry of Michael Lorimer and Mary Jean Monteith, 8th May 1945
Crown copyright, National Records of Scotland, Statutory Register of Marriages, 1945, 685/2 237 page 119.

The wedding was attended by many other individuals with connections to the armed forces including Sir Hew and Lady Dalrymple, Brigadier General and Mrs Crosbie, Brigadier General and Mrs Mackenzie Stewart and Major the Honourable Henry Douglas Home. Master Robert Lorimer, nephew of the groom acted as page and Major David Dundas Robertson of Auchleeks was the best man.

A reception was held in the North British Hotel on Princes Street, Edinburgh.  

Two months after the wedding, Michael was appointed as secretary of the Scottish Land and Property Association where he tried to gain support and funding from the government for those working in the agricultural industry sector.  

Michael worked as a solicitor for the remainder of his life. He died in South Queensferry in 1991, aged 79 years; Jean survived him for another six years dying in 1997, also in South Queensferry. 
 

John Allister and Kathleen Aikman

On the same day, in St. Serf’s Church, Goldenacre, Edinburgh, John Ian Allister married Kathleen Hamilton Aikman. John was an Engineer Officer in the Merchant Navy. Kathleen was a ‘physical instructress’ and The Scotsman newspaper reported that she was a ‘well-known hockey player.’

A photograph of John Allister and Kathleen Aikman on their wedding day, 8 May 1945.

John Allister and Kathleen Aikman on their wedding day, 8 May 1945
Image, private collection, courtesy of Anne Allister

The Merchant Navy served an essential role during the Second World War in supporting Britain’s naval fleet. More than 40,000 individuals serving in the Merchant Navy lost their lives and many others suffered terrible injuries. In 1939 Lloyd’s of London established a committee to honour those seafarers who performed heroic acts. In December 1940 the creation of the ‘Lloyd’s War Medal for Bravery at Sea’ was announced. Between 1941 and 1948 a total of 541 medals were awarded. During the war John had served as a Supernumerary Fourth Engineer on the SS Narkunda. On 14th November 1942, after landing troops for the North African campaign, she was bombed and sunk by a German aircraft off Bougie, Algeria. 31 crew members were killed. The survivors, including John, were picked up by the minesweeper HMS Cadmus and returned to Britain by P&Os Stratheden and Orient Line’s Ormonde. Following this, John was awarded the Lloyd’s Medal for gallantry at sea ‘for courage and devotion to duty in action with the enemy’. John was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross Medal ‘for bravery in defensively equipped merchant ships during the hazardous passage to North Africa.’

John Allister in his merchant navy uniform, nd

John Allister in his merchant navy uniform, nd
Image, private collection, courtesy of Anne Allister

On her wedding day, Kathleen wore a white gown with silver brocade and, like Jean, her veil was held in place by a headdress of orange blossom. Over 100 years before Kathleen and John’s wedding, Queen Victoria had included orange blossom (a symbol of chastity) in the design of her veil and also in the garlands that she wore around her head. This sparked their popularity and were still a keen choice for royal brides throughout the 20th century. Indeed, Princess Elizabeth, Diana, Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Cambridge all included orange blossom in their bouquets. Kathleen also carried deep red roses. Her two bridesmaids wore dresses of ‘love in the mist blue’ with matching hats.

A luncheon was held in the Charlotte Rooms, Edinburgh, following the ceremony. The newly weds enjoyed a trip to The Empire Theatre to watch the play 'The Lisbon Story.'

Detail from the marriage entry of John Ian Allister and Kathleen Hamilton Aikman, 8 May 1945.

Detail from the marriage entry of John Ian Allister and Kathleen Hamilton Aikman, 8th May 1945
Crown copyright, National Records of Scotland, Statutory Register of Marriages, 1945, 685/8 230 page 115

The couple moved to England where they had two sons and a daughter. Every year on their anniversary John gave red roses to Kathleen as a memory of their special day. John died in Somerset, England, in 1984. Kathleen died in March 2014, aged 95 in Preston, England.

Find out more about how to search the statutory register of marriages in our online guide. 

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