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 
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.
The Annual Report for the year ended 31 March 2018 is available here:
There are two outings planned in early Summer 2018:
- To Stenton Village on Saturday 9th June
- To Doon Hill on Saturday 7th July
To all members
The AGM will be held on Sunday 20th May at West Barns Village Hall at 2.30pm
At 3.0pm Arran Johnston will give a talk entitled:
“ROAD TO DEFEAT;
GENERAL COPE’S MARCH FROM
DUNBAR TO PRESTONPANS IN 1745”
Which traces the route of the army, the likely locations of their campsites in Dunbar and Haddington, and eye-witness accounts.
This is an open lecture and will be followed by tea.
Please call 01620 850877 if you wish to attend this talk.
The final event of the annual programme of East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists Society was the annual dinner held in the Maitlandfield House Hotel, Haddington on Friday 20th April 2018.
A group of thirty members and guests enjoyed the fellowship of the annual dinner served with the usual efficiency by the new team at the Hotel. At the conclusion of the meal Joy Dodd introduced Mrs Judy Riley, who lives in Tyninghame House, and gave an illustrated talk; “Helen, the hand who Launched a thousand trees”. This described the significant landscape developments at Tyninghame carried out by Thomas, 6th Earl of Haddington and his wife and cousin, Helen Hope. who virtually laid out Binning Wood. The wood was cut down in the second war of the 20th century but was re planted.
Mrs Riley who is a landscape designer gave a very informed talk about on this important estate. There was some interesting discussion. Interested members and others should note that the estate is open on the 13th May. The President gave votes of thanks to the speaker and others who had helped with the organisation of the evening. He announced that the AGM would be held in Westbarns Village Hall on Sunday 20th May at 2 30.
At the conclusion of the business, Arran Johnston will give an open lecture at 3 pm entitled ’Road to Defeat; General Cope’s march from Dunbar to Prestonpans in 1745. Tea will be provided. The society in conjunction with Haddington History Society is holding a conference on September 15th in the Town House Haddington. The conference which is part of the Haddington 700 programme is entitled Charter, Church, Conflict and Community; Haddington 1318-2018.
Stephen Bunyan announced that the Transactions of the Society had been digitalised and put on an improved website.
At the last talk of the winter series on Sat 10th March Professor Ian Ralston OBE gave an illustrated talk on Neolithic times at Doon Hill and Balbirdie in Aberdeenshire. Ian has been a member of the society since he was a school boy and was one of the local volunteers who helped Brian Hope Taylor with his excavation between 1964-6. Hope Taylor had carried out his excavation of Yeavering in Northumberland which he had identified as a palace of Edwin, the 7th century King of Northumbria. Hope Taylor concluded that the building on Doon Hill had been similar in scale and date to that at Yeavering.
The site was stabilised as a tourist attraction and usually referred to as an Anglo-Saxon hall but the dig was not fully written up. This omission caused a lot of local frustration. This interpretation was challenged in 1980 when a similar site was discovered and excavated at Balbridie. It was established that Balbridie had been built about 3800 BC.
Hope Taylor died in 2001 and it was possible thereafter to radiocarbon date some of his artefacts. This established that they dated from c 4000 BC Indicating that the timber halls were more than 4,000 years older than had been thought.
This amazing conclusion was reported in the Times by Norman Hammond that very day. It made us feel that we were at the sharp edge of knowledge. The lecture was followed by some interesting discussion and by some reminiscence going back to 1966.
The next event will be the annual dinner on Friday 20TH April in the Maitland field Hotel Haddington
A visit to Melville Castle Hotel was the final outing of the season. It was led by the president who gave a short summary of the history of the building. The estate was noted as far back as 1155 when it belonged to Galfrid de Malleville. In the 18th century it became the seat of Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville who was virtually ruler of Scotland until his death in 1811. The estate remained in the possession of the Dundas family until c1980. It is now a hotel where Members had tea and visited the restored main rooms.
After the Castle visit certain Members explored the forested grounds. The most notable tree is a majestic Spanish Chestnut which was planted some 450 years ago by a companion of Queen Marie Stuart, Seigneur David Rizzio as an act of friendship.
On Saturday 19 August 2017 the East Lothian Antiquarian & Field Naturalists’ Society made its 4th Summer Programme visit to Torness Nuclear Power Station.
Members thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience finding the strict security procedures, technology and grand scale of operations most interesting.
The guide also alluded to a somewhat unexpected field naturalist aspect being the power station having been awarded the Biodiversity Benchmark by the Wildlife Trusts for its work in protecting and enhancing the unique and diverse wild life around its operation. Most of the Members were not aware of the Torness Coastal Walkway and on another occasion this may be explored.
The visit was rounded off with tea and biscuits provided by the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides.
The next Society visit will be to Keith Marischal House on Saturday 16 September.
Photo credit © EDF
East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists Society made a visit to Penicuik House and Estate on Saturday 10th September.
Penicuik House was destroyed by Fire in June 1899.When the Society last visited some years ago the house was still largely full of rubble and covered by vegetation.