Trustee’s Reports

Convenor’s report

Haddingtons’ History Society 2015-16

I am pleased to report that all this year’s talks went pleasurably smoothly: no hitches and all speakers present and correct. Our year began with an update on three recent archaeological digs in Edinburgh and East Lothian. Dr Melanie Johnston, from CFA Archaeology, started our season off with a talk upon a 1st and 2nd World War army barracks in Mortonhall, an examination of a Napoleonic barracks off Pinkie Road, Musselburgh, and an in-depth study of a 19th/early 20th c fireclay works, off Niddrie Road.

In October, a well-known local councillor and enthusiastic local historian, David Berry, utilised his wide-ranging interests and his years of sailing off East Lothian’s coastline to treat us to an excellent talk entitled: ‘North Neuk: a maritime perspective, Aberlady to Belhaven.’ David’s talk was often speculative but stimulating as a result and was well received by our members.

We were treated to a wonderful collection of Victorian and Edwardian landscape photographs in November by Dr Lesley Ferguson, head of Collections at Historic Environment Scotland. She is in charge of the maintenance of over 30 million photographs and she came to talk to us about Erskine Beveridge, a Victorian photographer of note. Erskine was a relative of the better known Ernest Beveridge. His photographs, however, had only survived by the merest chance, having been found basically abandoned in a disused factory.

Three of our members bravely stood up in December on Members’ Night and treated us to a lovely range of interesting talks and a quiz. Vicky Fletcher, soon to publish her second book of reminiscences, talked about ‘Growing up with Yester Castle: fact and fiction.’ Gerry Urwin, also about to break into print once again, spoke upon an important Civil War soldier, General Monck. David Elder rounded off the evening with an illustrated quiz on East Lothian castles.

Our new year of 2016 began in fashionable style with a talk given by a reincarnated Cockenzie fishwife, Olive Richardson. Olive arrived in full rig and using her clothing began her talk on ‘Fishwives and fishing’. Olive’s talk was much appreciated and led to many questions from the floor. Her talk was an excellent example of social history.

We were very fortunate to obtain the services of a very busy man in February. Professor David Breeze, an authority upon all things Roman, came to talk to upon the topic of “Roman frontiers in their landscape setting.’ This proved to be a highly illustrated talk which roamed around Rome’s frontiers with a focus upon why they are where they are (influences of water, hills, trade routes, lack of water, to keep out bandits, etc.) David made the strong point that Rome’s frontiers did not mark the limit of Roman interest.

In March Liz Curtis brought the focus of our attention close to home by talking about ‘Place names of the original John Muir Way: a journey through time.’ While doing this, Liz couldn’t resist side-stepping to look at the origin of Haddington’s name and of that of the Lammermuirs. Members could only marvel at the complexity of her research and of the range of peoples involved in leaving their mark on these lands.

Our season of talks was rounded off by Peter Ramage. Peter comes from a family with a keen interest in family history and he and his relations had done a sterling job of researching the fate of one of the family. The clue lies in the title of his talk: ‘An East Lothian soldier of the Great War: August to October 1914.’ Peter’s relation was one of the unlucky members of the B.E.F. who lost their lives during the Race to the Sea, the early phase of the war of movement prior to the stagnation of the ensuing trench war. Peter linked his relation’s letters home with memoirs of others involved in the same unit. It was a very moving talk.

Other matters

The society supports the website researched largely by our Honorary President and written by myself. Progress has been slow as I have been pulled into other matters but the website still benefits from attracting interesting contributions from all over the world and is actively increasing our knowledge of East Lothian during World War Two.

Eric Glendinning is chairing a sub-group of members in a long-term (five years) project as part of the Scotland’s Urban Past project. This is examining the history of the Nungate area.

In February, our society hosted and organised an important annual congregation of interested bodies, the Heritage Gathering. Held in the Town House this attracted an audience of some sixty plus with over twenty organisations presenting displays and/or giving talks. It was a great success all round and allowed interested parties the opportunity to meet eachother and to discover what each society was up to.

Our summer outing, yet to come, is to Arniston House, near Gorebridge.

All in all, a busy, varied and interesting year.

David Haire


8th May 2016