The society organised seven lectures from visiting speakers throughout this successful season as well hosting our usual Members’ Night in December. Lectures ran from 8th September 2016 up to our Annual Outing on 13th May 2017. We also organised an anniversary talk given by Alistair Moffat in March. Membership stands at 112.
Our season began in September with a talk by Dr Daniel Rhodes from the National Trust for Scotland. His work had taken him to many interesting parts of the world including Iceland and East Africa and he had considerable experience in Marine Archaeology. His talk first focussed upon Princess Aebbe of St Abb’s and the search for remains of her abbey there, then on an anti-slavery campaigner, Robert Wedderburn, and finally upon two Iron Age skeletons discovered in the grounds of the House of Binns.
This talk set the flavour of the year as we ranged across talks about Revenants (loud in volume and full of drama and evil spirits and given by Dr Louise Yeoman), through an examination of what Haddingtonshire might have done had it been forced to repel a German invasion in the 1914-18 war given by Allan Kilpatrick from Historic Environment Scotland.
In December our members joined in the fun and gave us all a very interesting evening. The Convenor, David Haire, updated members on the society’s webpage in eastlothianheritage.co.uk and encouraged members to make use of it. Emma O’Riordan, a new member and an antiquarian herself, spoke amusingly on the topic: “Beards not a requirement. The work of an antiquarian in 21st c Scotland.” David Elder gave us an excellent and puzzling photographic quiz on East Lothian churches and Eric Glendinning updated members on the current society’s project on the history of the Nungate.
In January we were pleased to welcome back another member of the Ramage family, this time Andrew. Andrew, though not an historian, had become interested in his family’s history and sketched out the life and times of his great grandfather, an agricultural labourer moving from farm to farm who, after injury in another job, became a Crossing keeper at Biel.
Dr Fraser Hunter, curator of Roman and Celtic artefacts at the Royal Museum of Scotland, drew a large contingent of guests as he gave an erudite and wide-ranging talk on the information to be gleaned about the Celts from their artistic remains. He showed that the Celts were not a homogenous group, didn’t see themselves as such and that the Romans had been responsible for rediscovering the Classical view of them as a distinct Europe-wide group. He used jewellery, weapons and other finds to show how Celts used such art to identify themselves as distinct from the Romans, post Roman invasion of GB. It was a political statement of identity. It was a fluid and interesting tale, well told.
In March we were treated to a coup de theatre by the custodian of Dirleton Castle, Andrew Spratt, as he rattled through dozens of his self-painted images of what he thought our castles would have looked like in their heyday. His pictures were the weft to the depredations of the Black and Red Douglas families’ warp.
Our year’s highlight was a lecture given by the noted author, historian, University Chancellor and Book Festival organiser, Alistair Moffat. This was an additional lecture arranged to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the society. His talk was entitled ‘Our Scotland: its history from earliest times.’ Our audience was a healthy sixty-nine. Wine and nibbles all helped to make this an occasion to remember and we are very grateful to Alistair, a very busy man, giving of his time to help us celebrate the occasion.
Bill Wilson rounded off our lecture season with a nicely illustrated talk centred around Musselburgh Links. I for one was amazed at how many present day prestigious golf clubs were once resident there. The talk, however, was not all about golf as Bill showed us that much more found its home on or around this well-known patch of ground.
In May twenty-three of us drove to Mellerstain House in the Borders. We thought we were going to be drenched but chose the exact right moment to head indoors for our excellent tour of this lovely house. Recent water damage had necessitated quite a lot of restorative work and we were treated to the wonderful results in the form of bright pastel paintwork and wonderful plasterwork. The house also contains many pieces of interesting furniture. It was all a grand round off for our society’s year.