Category Archives: News and Updates

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

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