A Short History of Haddington

EXACTLY 79 years has elapsed since East Lothian Antiquarians first published Forbes Gray’s A Short History of Haddington.

Now, 34 years after the re-publication by SPA Press, we are pleased to offer here a digitally scanned edition of the same facsimile. Forbes Gray starts the Preface thus:

EXACTLY a century has elapsed since James Miller published his Lamp of Lothian, the only work that attempts seriously to review the Royal Burgh of Haddington in its historical aspect. Considering the period at which it was written, likewise the fact that the writer was printer and not an historian, Miller accomplished his task with some credit. His path was beset with difficulties, some of them formidable. Miller had neither the time nor the facilities for writing the history of town rich in memorials of the past, town dating back to the time of David I. Moreover, he approached the subject from wrong angle. Instead of placing Haddington in the forefront, he buries it beneath long-winded disquisitions on the general history of Scotland. Indeed The Lamp of Lothian may not incorrectly be described as survey of our national story in which Haddington is introduced incidentally.

In the following pages an effort is made to reverse the process to place Haddington in the centre of the picture, and to bring in just as much national history as is essential for rendering intelligible the part played by the town in events which affected Scotland as whole. Written before the days of research as we know it, Miller’s book not only suffers from false perspective, imperfect knowledge, and ill-arrangement, but omits aspects vital to an adequate presentation of the subject. Had more extensive investigation of the sources been possible to him it would have revealed much fresh and illuminating material, which has been largely utilised in this work.

The work is in two parts. The first seven chapters set forth the reactions of Haddington to national affairs, while the remaining six treat of topographical features, as well as of municipal, industrial, and social life. In a work of limited scope it has not been deemed necessary to cite authorities in every instance, but all important statements are vouched for. Supplementary material of an interesting character is supplied in footnotes. The pictorial element includes rare and curious drawings depicting the burgh in bygone times, and there is copious index.

Stephen Bunyan, president of ELAFNS, says it was a major effort at the time and remains probably the best history of Haddington available. It is still available at the John Gray Centre.