Haddington History Society 2014-15
Haddington History Society now has 106 paid up members, which largely maintains last session’s numbers. Attendance at our meetings has been anywhere from forty to twenty-two.
This was my first year as Convenor and it began with a bit of a crisis – our first speaker had fled to Portugal and there were only a couple of days to go. Local archaeologist, David Connolly, bravely stepped into the breech and entertained us mightily to a talk on recent archaeological discoveries in East Lothian, which then morphed into a highly amusing talk on archaeology and magic.
Frank Bigwood, an ex-HMI Classics Inspector, spoke in October on “The Yules of Fenton Barns” and described how the family could be described as ‘…upwardly mobile.’ He was very successful in placing the family firmly in their time, the 18th century.
Dr Andrew Coulson, at pains to explain that he was not an historian, rather an interested enthusiast, described the largely forgotten battle of Pinkie Cleugh, near Musselburgh. Andrew’s use of contemporary illustrations was super and he was very successful in highlighting the importance of this battle, however, ‘forgotten’ it may have become.
Our members didn’t let us down on Members’ Night in December and David Elder (a quiz with slides of East Lothian’s statues and plaques), Eric Glendinning (excerpts from the Yester Papers) and Jean Fairbairn (family memorabilia from World War One), all entertained us to interesting fare before members warmed their stomachs with wine and mince pies.
In January I was able to introduce members to the new website (eastlothianatwar.co.uk), a website the society supports financially. Using Powerpoint I showed that East Lothian was far from being a wartime backwater and that there was plenty of material available for a website thanks to the hard work of Jack Tully Jackson.
In February during a significant year for the character in her focus, Professor Jane Dawson from Edinburgh came to talk on her latest discoveries about the life of ‘John Knox, the man from the banks of the Tyne’. The queue of interested post talk questions was proof sufficient of the rapt involvement of members.
Sally Wilson, author of a book about Cockburnspath and the local area, came to us in March and talked about her latest book. This is entitled, ‘Lady Helen Hall – lang-heided lady’. Lady Helen lived in Dunglass and had caught the imagination of Sally when researching her book on Cockburnspath. Her husband, Ken, read excerpts from Lady Helen’s correspondence and provided wonderfully evocative illustrations of events and places referred to in Sally’s talk.
Last but by no means least, Bill Patterson, chair of the Scottish Place-Names Society, came to talk about ‘boundaries and place names of East Lothian in monastic charters’.
The Society organised two outings: the first to the John Gray Centre, where we were shown unusual maps and documents with an East Lothian theme and second to Colstoun House where some twenty members were taken on a fascinating tour of this most interesting local ‘mansion’.