Lost Haddington

Lifetime Haddington resident John Hamilton has taken on the mantle of past collectors of photographs of Haddington such as George Angus and Jack Tully-Jackson and has digitised thousands of photographs and slides plus a few videos. In his interesting and informative talk to the society he described how these photographs were originally detailed with hand written notes and a colour coding system but could now be catalogued on computer to create a searchable collection. The detail of information includes date and time of capture, place, aspect and names of people. He uses the social media platform Facebook to display these photographs and finds that the platform has many advantages over running a website. John also collects Haddington ephemera often purchasing items on ebay. He brought along a selection including beer bottles, photographs of the town taken in the 1860s, festival brochure and a local man’s war time ration book. He also collects present day items for future interest.

The computer can be used to enhance photographs and John used the example of a glass slide of Haddington Scouts taken in 1909 not long after the Scout Movement started. The slide, which is a negative could be changed to show the photograph and then the definition could be improved and colour added allowing more detail to be seen. The editing technique can also be used for other purposes and some years ago John created an April Fools photograph of the Town House with a digital clock added. Many people were taken in. In 2018 photo editing allowed John to recreate the flood of 1948. The area around The Sands and Victoria Bridge was surveyed using a theodolite and water levels marked with orange ping pong balls. The starting point was taken from a 1948 photograph showing a person standing beside the old fire station in the Sands indicating the height the water had reached. New photographs were taken and the computer used to fill these modern day photos of the street with water to the height of the balls. The water reached above the level of the ground floor windows of the Waterside Inn.

John is often contacted to answer questions about Haddington. He recently looked up photographs of the Waterside to answer a question about its frontage. A gentleman in America who had been brought up in care found information about his father who had lived in Haddington.

John has gradually been correcting a few mistakes found in the dating of photographs or anomalies between photographs and written evidence. He keeps a spreadsheet of a timeline events such as the opening of a shop or a society inauguration so that he can post relevant photographs on Facebook to commemorate anniversaries. John’s collection is not just a record of the past history of the town but is an ongoing record of events and people. He has been recording the new housing and shopping centre including footage using a drone. Restrictions and closures during the Covid pandemic were photographed and a brochure from on of the new shops put into his archive.

At the end of the talk members of the audience were able to ask to see photographs from the collection of places of particular interest to them and John was thanked not only for his talk but for the ongoing work in keeping the collection up to date.