Category Archives: News and Updates

Rennie Weatherhead BSc Hons

Born 5th October 1936 Died 9th March 2020; Principal Teacher of Physics, Antiquarian.

Rennie was the only son of James William Rennie Weatherhead and Isabella Craven Mitchell. James was a banker with the Royal Bank of Scotland and worked in Edinburgh where Rennie grew up. Rennie was proud of his connections with Musselburgh and Prestonpans.
James bought a second home in St Abbs where the family spent happy holidays and St Abbs became Rennie’s spiritual home for the rest of his life. Rennie was educated at Melville College [Since 1972 Stewart’s Melville] and at Edinburgh University where he graduated BSc.Hons on 3rd July 1958

He trained as a teacher at Moray House College. He taught at Peebles High School and St Dennis School. Rennie married Jean Robinson McLean on the 5th. August 1959 and they had two daughters Haydee born on 18 6 1967and Suilven born on 12 1 1969. Suilven has a son Brandon born in 2012.

Rennie’s sister Myrtle hosted a celebration of their diamond wedding on 3rd August 2019. In 1965 Rennie was appointed to the post of Principal Teacher of Physics in Dunbar Grammar School, the post he held for the rest of his career until he retired in 1988. He was a conscientious teacher and was highly respected by the pupils he taught.

Rennie joined and chaired Dunbar Interim Community Council in 1975 but did not stand for the Community Council in 1976. He was a member of East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists’ Society and was a member of the Council of the Society for several years. He contributed a number of articles to the Transactions. He and I encouraged Grammar School pupils to be involved in various projects e. g. the search for the Holy Well at Whitekirk and the Colstoun pottery kiln.

After his retirement Rennie developed his interest in the early church in Northumbria and became an expert on the history of St Ebba and the church at Coldingham. The Society visited Coldingham on 6th September 2018.The visit was organised by David Philip but despite being in a wheel chair. Rennie led the group round and spoke about the history of the church. He had brought some of his artefacts to illustrate the history.
Rennie is survived by his wife Jean, his daughters Haydee and Suilven, his son in law Colin, his grandson Brandon and his sister Myrtle.

Stephen Bunyan 11th March 2020

Obituary – Ailsa Maxwell

Ailsa Maxwell MA; B 16 December 1922 d 10 February2020 aged 97. Ailsa Maxwell was a Historian, Enigma Code Breaker and long time member of the society with her husband Stuart who died in 2012.

She is remembered with affection. Stephen Bunyan

The following is taken from her  obituary in the Scotsman on Friday 6th March

Ailsa Maxwell was an unsuspecting Edinburgh ­University student when she was invited to an interview at the Foreign Office for a ­mysterious job. She had just completed the first year of an economics degree with distinction and had intended to join the Wrens when she was summoned in the summer of 1943. They could not divulge what or where the job was but told the 20-year-old it was ­important work for which she was considered suitable. She accepted and less than two years later found ­herself witness to the one of the most momentous events of the ­Second World War – the ­German surrender.

Her appointment had been to the top secret ­British codebreaking establishment, Bletchley Park, known as Station X, in Buckinghamshire, where she worked in the machine room of Hut 6 ­helping to crack the German Enigma code. The encryption changed on a daily basis, resulting in an enormously complicated operation to decipher it and the vital messages being transmitted by the enemy. Maths genius Alan Turing developed Bombe machines, improved by fellow codebreaker Gordon Welchman, to decrypt Engima’s secret ­settings. They were the forerunners of today’s computers and ­Maxwell’s role was to compile bombe menus from “cribs” – clues to guess what the settings of the machine could be – and to check ­their output.

Maxwell worked alongside Asa, later Lord, Briggs, who became a renowned social ­historian, and both were on overnight duty when the unconditional surrender ­message from Hitler’s successor, Grand Admiral Dönitz, was received early on May 7, 1945, in clear, uncoded text.

Like everyone at Bletchley, she had been required to sign the Official Secrets Act and kept that vow of silence on her work for more than 30 years. The codebreakers’ operation was declassified in the mid 1970s but she admitted: “It took a bit longer for me to talk about it.” More than 70 years later she saw the 2014 film The Imitation Game and observed it was a reasonably accurate portrayal of the Bletchley story.

She left Bletchley almost immediately after VE Day, in May 1945, returning to Scotland to help with the general election and to finish her degree. She was working as a research assistant at the Department of Health for Scotland when she married her husband Stuart Maxwell, deputy keeper at Edinburgh’s National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, in 1953.

The couple had two sons and when her children were older she worked, as a researcher in Edinburgh University’s economic history department, on a 10-year project leading to the publication of Michael Flinn’s Scottish Population History from the 17th Century to the 1930s. The pioneering study of demographic history won the Saltire Society’s Agnes Mure Mackenzie prize. Later, she continued working in the capital’s Register House and, with her husband, undertook research into the history of Scottish silversmiths and goldsmiths, helping him ­prepare for the Society of ­Antiquaries of Scotland’s renowned Rhind lectures in 1975, when he ­presented a groundbreaking series of papers on Scottish silver. They also collaborated on transcribing the diary of George Home from Berwickshire, published as An Album of Scottish Families 1694-96, by Helen and Keith Kelsall in 1990.

The couple lived in ­Edinburgh’s prestigious Dick Place for 65 years, ­during which time she helped to establish the Samaritans ­service in the capital, volunteering for many years and taking on overnight telephone shifts.

Mrs Maxwell, whose ­wartime achievements are commemorated on Bletchley’s Codebreakers’ Wall, was ­resolutely modest about her time at the Government’s Code and Cypher School, which had once been the world’s best kept secret.

Predeceased by her husband, she spent her last 18 months in a care home in ­Portobello, and is survived by her sons Ian and Sandy and granddaughters Anna and Rowan.

East Lothian Place Names

Members of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists Society gathered at the Maitlandfield House Hotel on 8th February for another in their series of Winter lectures.
Honorary President, Stephen Bunyan, welcomed Liz Curtis of Dunbar who is a member of the Scottish Place Names Society. She gave a fascinating talk on the history behind some of the place names of East Lothian. These have been a subject of interest to historians for centuries with myths muddying the facts. For example, it was long suggested that Humbie got its name from the humming of the many bees to be found there! In reality, many of the names can be traced back to the languages of the many peoples who settled in the area from the earliest times – Brythonic, Old English, Norse, Scots, Baronial French. Strangely, although in East Lothian for some time with a fort at Inveresk, the Romans brought no Latin links.

Many names stem from the words for landscape features or land use in the different languages. Many relate to different types of farm e.g. those with ton, hame or by in them. Dunbar comes from the Anglo Saxon – Dyun Baer – Fort on the Point. A Saxon fort was found when the Leisure Pool was being built. Other names come from religious links e.g. Nungate in Haddington.

After a time for questions, including the correct way to pronounce Gullane, Mr Bunyan gave a vote of thanks. He noted that the day was also the 650th Anniversary of the granting of a Charter to Dunbar by King David the Second.
The next Winter Lecture will be a talk on the History of St Martin’s Kirk at the Maitlandfield House Hotel – 2pm on 14th March.

Message from the President Stephen Bunyan MBE

As we enter or complete a decade depending on your point of view it seems a good time to give an update. The Traprain treasure was found in 1919 and it aroused tremendous interest. Traprain Law was part of Whittinghame estate. Soon afterwards A. J Balfour [created earl in 1922] and his sister suggested the formation of an Antiquarian Society which was done in 1924.

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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.

 

 

The Countess of Wemyss

It is with sorrow that we intimate The Death of Shelagh, the Dowager Countess of Wemyss and March, Vice President Emeritus of East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists’ Society on Monday 4th Feb 2019. Her funeral will be at Aberlady Parish Church on Feb 27th at 12 noon

Stephen Bunyan President

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