Author Archives: georgerobertson

The Hidden Histories of Keith Marischal

The history of the estate of Keith Marischal has been a topic of dispute for almost two hundred and seventy years. On the 9th February 2019 there will be a joint presentation on the hidden histories of the property. Keith Marischal was the ancestral seat of the Keith family from at least the twelfth century. By the sixteenth century they were described as the richest earls in Scotland, their power centred on the famous Dunnottar Castle near Aberdeen. Keith Marischal remained symbolically important as their ancestry home and for its useful proximity to Edinburgh. The house and barony were sold due to the financial mismanagement of the seventh Earl Marischal in November 1642.

Dr Miles Kerr-Peterson will explore the history of the building over the centuries as the Keiths’ medieval tower developed into a grand Renaissance Palace before parts were gradually demolished. On one side of a courtyard once stood a great hall “which surpassed anything of the kind” 110 feet in extent and 3 stories in height, almost as long as the Great Hall of Stirling Castle. David Affleck, curator of the current Exhibition on The Last of the Hepburns of Smeaton will reveal the work done in the 19th C. to show that while the Hepburns had acquired the estate from the Keiths, the 17th Century Sir Robert Hepburn of Keith who died in 1683 was not descended from the Hepburn of Smeaton line. This is significant as there are families living in Australia who believe that they had an ancestral link with the Hepburns of Keith and through him, the earlier Smeaton line. In addition, the birth name of Sir Robert’s nephew was Congalton. He had adopted the surname of Hepburn as a requirement of his uncle’s will and became an active Jacobite in 1715. Accounts that the Hope family of Hopetoun had acquired Keith Marischal estate before 1715 can now be disproved.
Taken together, the hidden histories of the property and the ownership can now be revealed and will demonstrate the significance of the estate and its Keith and Hepburn owner in this part of East Lothian’s history.

The presentations are part of the winter lecture programme of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalist’s Society and will be held at the Maitlandfield Hotel Haddington on Saturday 9th February at 2.30.

Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple Bt

Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple Bt was President Emeritus of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists Society and a former Lord Lieutenant of East Lothian. He died on 26th December 2018, and his funeral is on the 4th of January 2019.

Hew Fleetwood Hamilton-Dalrymple was educated at Ampleforth College and joined the Grenadier Guards in 1944 at the age of 18. His last post was Adjutant of the Grenadier Guards before he retired from the army in 1962, with the rank of major. Subsequently he was Adjutant, later president of the Council, and finally Captain-General of the Royal Company of Archers (the Queen’s ceremonial bodyguard for Scotland) and Gold Stick for Scotland 1996–2004. He was Lord Lieutenant of East Lothian 1987–2001.

Hamilton-Dalrymple was a landowner whose property included the Bass Rock bird sanctuary which has been in his family since 1706. He was vice-chairman of Scottish and Newcastle Breweries 1983–86 and chairman of Scottish American Investment Company 1985–91.

Image courtesy of The Courier

Gilmerton Walled Garden

The final meeting of the summer programme was a visit to Gilmerton Walled Garden on Sunday 7th October. Sir David and Lady Kinloch have established a trust called ‘Growing Matters’ to create a centre of gardening therapy to provide a life enhancing environment for those facing challenges to their mental and physical health.

Our group was received by Jerry Simcock who explained the back ground to the trust and outlined what they hoped to achieve. His wife Diana, who was unable to meet us, is now co-ordinating efforts to restore the garden. This will be an immense task.
The trust has developed an excellent plan , but an enormous amount of effort will be required to develop it.

It is good to see an increasing interest in these old gardens and our group had some interesting discussion and wished the endeavour every success. They would welcome volunteers donations of cash and kind. [ twitter@gilmertongarden]

Their promotional card has a quotation from Audrey Hepburn. ’To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow’.

Coldingham Priory Visit

The members of the society made a visit to Coldingham Priory on Saturday 1st September. Arrangements the visit were made by David Philp who hosted the party. The visit was led by Rennie Weatherhead, a longstanding member of the society, he has an immense knowledge of and interest in St Ebba, St Abbs and Coldingham. It was good to see this huge foundation, now reduced to a small but much loved parish church unlike the other pre-reformation monastic remains in the Borders which are no longer places of worship still playing an important role in the community.

Rennie spoke about the history of the building. He pointed out details of both the interior and exterior stonework. He showed his collection of illustrations and artworks which added greatly to the interest of the day.

Outing to Doon Hill

On Saturday 7th July, a beautiful sunny afternoon, 25 members of East Lothian Antiquarian & Field Naturalist Society trekked up Doon Hill, near Dunbar. There Professor Ian Ralston, from Edinburgh University, delivered a detailed explanation, of the original excavations in the 1960’s. Originally thought to have been an Anglian Hall, recent re-evaluation, together with radiocarbon dating has taken the date of the hall back to around 4,000 BC. The group then walked back to the car park overlooking the coast and site of the 1650 Battle of Dunbar, where Arran Johnston explained how the layout of the land, weather conditions, movements of troops and other events led to the defeat of the Scottish army.

The next outing on 11th August will be to Coldingham Priory

Stephen Bunyan

Visit to Stenton 9th June 2018

East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists Society held the first meeting of the summer programme with a visit to Stenton held on Saturday 9th June.
Mrs R Halliday led a walk-round the village pointing out features of interest. Mr B Dodd met the group in the remains of the post reformation church and outlined its special features.
Stephen Bunyan welcomed the members to the Parish Church and spoke of the contribution of the Hamilton Nisbet family in the development of the village and of Biel estate. In particular he spoke about the contribution made by Mary Hamilton Nisbet Ferguson in building the church. It was designed by William Burn and built largely at her own expense. Although later in the century her granddaughter became an Episcopalian and built the chapel at Biel she had as a heritor to pay her share for the upkeep of the parish church and would do so when alterations were made by James Jerdan in 1892 altering the position of pulpit and communion table.
From the church the group made their way to the village hall where tea was served. Thanks were expressed to those who had organised this very pleasant visit.
The next outing is to Doon Hill on Saturday 7th July when Professor Ian Ralston will talk about his recent work and Arran Johnston will talk about the Battle of Dunbar [1650]

Stephen Bunyan

AGM 2018 Press Release

The Annual General Meeting of East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalist Society was held at Westbarns Village Hall on Sunday 20th May 2018.

The President spoke to the Annual Report which had been circulated. He outlined the activities that had taken place during the year. Visits had been made to Fountainhall, St Abb’s nature reserve, Greywalls Hotel Gardens, Torness Power Station, Keith Marischal House and Melville Castle Hotel. A successful day of lectures on EAST LOTHIAN IN THE 19TH CENTURY, was held in September 2017. Three winter lectures were given on; The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry by Arran Johnston; John Knox and his East Lothian Connections, by Professor Jane Dawson; and Doon Hill, an update by Professor Ian Ralston. At the Annual Dinner in April, Mrs Judy Riley spoke on Helen (Countess of Haddington) entitled “The hand that launched a thousand trees”. [The development of the Tyninghame estate].

The president also reported that the transactions of the Society have now been digitised and are available on the re-vamped website. He proposed a vote of thanks to George Robertson and Philip Immirzi who had undertaken this work.

Election of Office bearers
Stephen Bunyan MBE was re-elected as President, and Joy Dodd as Vice President. Sir Hew Hamilton Dalrymple BT GCVO and the Dowager Countess of Wemyss and March as Vice Presidents Emeritus. The posts of Secretary and Treasurer remain vacant. There have been three resignations from the Council and three new members appointed.

The President confirmed that plans for the forthcoming year were well advanced, and thanked all who had contributed to the day, and indeed throughout the year.

Following the meeting, Arran Johnston gave an illustrated talk entitled “ Road to Defeat, General Cope’s march from Dunbar to Prestonpans”. He gave a reassessment of the events preceding the battle, and the subsequent fate of its commanders.

The next event will be on 9th June when the society will visit Stenton Village.

This picture shows Winterfield Park, where John Cope’s army was encamped after disembarking at Dunbar.