Author Archives: eastlothianantiquarians

About eastlothianantiquarians

The East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists’ Society, established in 1924, is a membership organisation and a charity. Member events include outings and a copy of the Transactions for just £15/annum. We also welcome short contributions from members for the website.

East Lothian’s geological journey: from tropical paradise to icy wastes

Zoom talk by Fiona McGibbon, Open University Associate Lecturer and Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Open Learning, Edinburgh University.


East Lothian’s geological journey: from tropical paradise to icy wastes. The Society is pleased to present this talk on Thursday 13 January, 2022, 7.15 PM for 7.30 PM



Fiona will take us on a virtual tour of the significant sites and explain what they tell us about Scotland’s geological past.


Our speaker is a geologist living in East Lothian. She is an Open University Associate Lecturer teaching Earth and planetary science modules. She is also a Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Open Learning, Edinburgh University, where she teaches her own courses on Earth Science. Her specialism is geochemistry used to investigate the origin of igneous rocks (those that crystallised from the molten state) and what they tell us about deep Earth processes. She is an experienced field teacher clocking up over a year at Open University summer schools. Fiona also works with archaeologists looking at stone artefacts to identify rock type to investigate provenance as well as the use of resources in the past.


An international upbringing led to primary, secondary and university education on three different continents. Post graduate research took her to Antarctica in the 1980s to investigate volcanic rocks and their cargo of inclusions in the Ross Sea rift and the Dry Valleys. Fiona returned to Scotland twenty years ago and enjoys exploring the wonderful coastal geology of Berwickshire and East Lothian which is the theme of her lecture. She will take us on a virtual tour of the significant sites and explain what they tell us about Scotland’s geological past.


Photo Credit: North Light Arts

Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve: from sea to tree and everything in between

The Society is pleased to present this zoom talk by John Harrison, Warden, Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve, on Thursday 11th November, 2021, 7.15 PM for 7.30 PM

For a small coastal site, the nature reserve boasts an impressively diverse range
of species, which are associated with an excellent diversity of different habitats.

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Reconstruction drawing of Hall B and its encircling palisade at Doon Hill, near Dunbar, drawn by Dr Brian Hope-Taylor following his excavations there between 1964 and 1966

Volume 32 of the East Lothian Antiquarian’s Transactions is now online

A review of Volume 32 of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists’s Society Transactions penned by Don Martin was published in the Spring 2020 edition of Scottish Local History. We can announce that the volume is now available to download, along with dozens of other publications for free.

You can download a complete pdf of every volume since 1924, with the exception of the most recent transactions, which require membership and entitle you to a printed copy.  Print copies of most volumes are also available for purchase.

A copy of the review can be found in the pdf below: Transaction 32 Review from Scottish Local History

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The Improvers and Beltondod

I gave a university extra mural lecture on the Improvers and Beltondod in Dunbar in 1978 and repeated it in East Linton in 1986. I outlined the situation in Scotland and went on to consider the situation in East Lothian which was reputedly the most progressive area in the UK. Progress was made in the 17th and 18th centuries but progress depended on enclosure. Much had been done by 1780 and it was nearly complete by 1840. Four groups of people were involved in the development 

1 The Improvers – The Lairds  Continue reading

East Lothian Antiquarian & Field Naturalists Society – 10th August 2020

Dear Member,

I feel I should make a progress report but it is rather a no progress report.

I wrote to you some time ago saying that because of the government imposed Lock Down we could not meet. I had hoped then that if we abandoned the summer meetings, we would be able to have autumn talks. I feel that with present guidelines this will not be possible, nor is it clear that members would wish to attend. I feel therefore,  sadly, that we should cancel our meetings until at Least Christmas. I am sure this is the worst scenario we have had in our history of  nearly  a hundred years.

We are still doing a certain amount. Our accounts have been made  up and have  gone for audit. Arran is working on the Transactions and we hope to publish them as expected in the Spring. If you intend to submit material please get in touch with him.

We launched an idea for the website inviting short contributions .We have not been inundated. Only three pierces have appeared. Two by me and one by Joy so it’s over to you, if we are to keep this feature going.

Three obituaries have been placed on the forum on the web site; for Ailsa Maxwell who  died on 10th Feb 2020; for Rennie Weatherhead who died on 9th March; and for and Brian Young who died on May 28th

Dunbar was to have celebrated the 650th.anniversary of the charter granted by David 2nd on 8th February  but this had to be abandoned. It was suggested because there was a very different population now in the town, that I, as a survivor, who had played various parts in the intervening years might write some history in Lock Down.

I agreed to do so and have written a series of pieces about Dunbar since 1970, which may be of some interest. There are 16 in all, edited by Philip Immirzi, and are now on Dunbar Community Council Web site.

On our own web site you can also see;

‘St Anne’s Upon Dunbar Sands  stands closest to the sea’  and ‘A mystery solved ,The guns at Bourhouse’

both by me and,

‘Prestonpans West Kirkyard’ by Joy Dodd;

both on the Members Forum.

I will be in touch again when I feel; we are making progress.

Best wishes to you all in these trying times

Stephen Bunyan

Bartholemew half inch 1940-1947 showing coastal defence areas to the North East

A mystery solved: Guns at Bourhouse

The guns at Bourhouse were known to have existed but nothing else was known about them locally. By an amazing chance this position changed in 2005 when The Rev L Twaddle forwarded to me a letter he had received about ten years before. I decided to telephone the sender with little hope of success to my surprise and delight I found Mr Emery alive and very willing to talk. I feel that his report is of importance and that I should put it in the public domain. I therefore publish his letter as sent. Continue reading

East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists’ Society – 20 March 2020 – Letter from the President

Dear Member

I am writing to you to you to express concern about the present position. We face, as you know, a grave situation where life seems to be closing down around us. Who would have believed a month ago that we would have museums closed, the Boat Race and the Grand National cancelled!

We were to have had a Council meeting this evening but responding to government guidelines we decided not to hold it but the office bearers have had some discussion via telephone and “virtual” Minutes will be collated and distributed to Council members. I am sadly writing to tell you that we feel we should put the majority of our programme on hold for the foreseeable future. So;

  1. The Dinner proposed for 17th April is postponed until a possible date in the Autumn.
  2. The AGM was proposed for 9th of May. We will try to do the business by e mail, Skype or more probably telephone conferencing.
  3. An outing to the Farne Islands on the 20th June. is now not likely to be possible and so we are cancelling it.
  4. We will revue the rest of our provisional programme in May in the light of UK and international events.
  5. We are continuing to work on the Transactions.
  6. We have set up a Members’ Forum on the website and are encouraging members to make short contributions of 500 to 600 words with images. If you have something you would like to contribute please contact Arran. Johnston It is easy to use the web site; just type in the name of the Society and you will find it.
  7. Obituary It is with sorrow that I intimate the death of Ailsa Maxwell, a long term former member, on the 10th February and of Rennie Weatherhead, member and former member of the Council of the Society, on March 10. Obituary notices have been posted.

I hope that the world situation will improve so that we can soon resume normal service.

Best wishes

Stephen Bunyan

St Anne’s Upon Dunbar Sands Stood Nearest to The Sea

The ancient ecclesiastical history of Dunbar is illuminated by an ancient rhyme, but it is confused because there are two versions. The rhyme was

St Abb, St Helen and St Bey
They all built kirks which to be nearest to the sea
St Abb’s upon the Nabs,
St Helen’s on the Lea,
St Bey’s upon Dunbar Sands stands nearest to the sea

The second and probably later version has

St Ann’s upon Dunbar Sands, stands nearest to the sea.

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