Trustee’s Reports

Convenor’s Report Season 2023-24

April 2024

Membership Numbers: 86 (fully paid)

Guest numbers: 2-19

Average attendance: 42


Our 2023-24 session opened in September with a last-minute change to our contribution to East Lothian Archaeology and Heritage Fortnight (ELAHF). In place of the scheduled talk on Tell-Tale Timbers by Coralie Mills of Dendrochronicle, author and historian Ailsa Fortune stepped in to inform us about the involvement of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin, in the removal of the Parthenon Marbles and the scandal of her divorce from Elgin.

In October Amy Hayes from the Open University spoke about Mary of Guelders and her Connections to the Trinity Church in Edinburgh.

In November, heating problems at the West Church necessitated a move to the Maitlandfield House Hotel where author Jonathan Cobb presented his talk on The Republican Era in British History.

In December another change of venue for Members’ Night held at the Holy Trinity Church, Haddington. 3 committee members, Eric Glendinning, Vivian Hastie and Marie Macpherson, gave talks on Four Forgotten Haddingtonians: Francis Farquharson, W.H. Ewen, Nora Jenkinson and Doris Ann Goodchild, followed by our annual quiz compiled by Bill Rarity.

Wine, soft drinks and mince pies were served and second-hand books were on sale. The interval gave us the chance to socialise and to meet new members.

In January 2024 we were pleased to welcome again Ailsa Fortune who addressed us on another local, Mary, this time the socialite Mary Wyndham, Countess of Wemyss: A Tale from Gosford.

Our February talk attracted a large number of guests to hear Ian Brown, curator at the National Museum of Flight on the topic of Radar and the Air Defence System in Scotland.

Our March speaker Dr Anna Groundwater, principal curator at the National Museum of Scotland, gave us an insight into the roundels newly acquired by the museum and their connection to Marie de Guise’s Townhouse, Blyth’s Close, Edinburgh.

For our final talk on 18 April Bryan Hickman, an architectural technician specialising in historic buildings, will speak about Norman Churches in the Lothians.

Peter Ramage’s informative summaries of all the talks are posted on the website.

Our Members’ Outing on 16 May will be a rescheduled visit to Marchmont House cancelled last year.


In the last year Lorna Colvin-MacLean has initiated a series of history tours in collaboration with the John Gray Centre (JGC) and St Mary’s Church in Haddington to run during ELAHF in September 2023.

The Hidden History of the Hidden Toun: An archive visit at JGC was followed by a walk of the town to key locations highlighting Haddington as a Royal Burgh.

St Mary’s: Surviving the Siege. A presentation by Dr Jon Cooper on the survival of St Mary’s during the period of the Rough Wooing.

St Mary’s: Cradle of the Reformation, with Marie Macpherson focused on the early years of John Knox, his training as a Roman Catholic priest and his work as a Notary Apostolic in St Mary’s.

In April 2024, the Dorothy Dunnett Society (DDS) requested a presentation on the Siege by Jon Cooper followed by a tour of St Mary’s for their annual outing.

A self-guided historical tour and map of Haddington is in preparation.


Gateside Industries

Jim Westcott and Eric Glendinning completed a series of interviews with former workers in the three high-tech companies which once occupied the Gateside Industrial Estate. Faul Coradi (1969-74), Tandberg (1974-79) and Mitsubishi (1979-1998). Recordings have been deposited with the European Ethnographical Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, who plan to use them in a video production on Haddington. A short video of the Mitsubishi assembly line is posted on the website.

Haddington Abbey

A resistivity survey of the church site (later a graveyard) was conducted with the assistance of Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society. Recent findings from Judith Baldry’s independent research into the history of St Mary’s Abbey, will be included on our website.


Since its new, improved design with pages and new features regularly updated by Tim Holden and Jim Westcott, viewing on the website has gradually increased with a monthly average of 1,000 hits. History videos can be accessed via our YouTube channel, including 4 videos produced by Jack Tully Jackson. Nungate Memories, a short video produced by the JGC using interviews with Nungate residents from an earlier project, combined with photographs from JGC archives, is also available.

Other Activities

Tim Holden oversaw Dig It! Anarchaeological dig at Holy Trinity Church requested by the Siege of Haddington Research Group during ELAHF. A report by Jon Cooper has been submitted.

The Society contributed to a new plaque at the John Knox Tree to be unveiled on 25 March.

The committee elected Dr Jon Cooper as an Honorary Member of the Society for his continued work with the Siege of Haddington Research Group.

The Society will be in attendance at East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists’ Society Centenary Conference on 11 May. See their website for programme and joining details.


The Society is actively promoting our activities and attracting new members with a new leaflet in preparation, posters and a higher profile on social media and local press.


We would like to thank the following outgoing members of the committee; John Revuelta, for his past service as treasurer, and Jim Westcott, who will continue to work on the website. Since that now leaves three vacancies on the committee, we actively encourage nominations.

The other office bearers and committee members have expressed their willingness to continue in post.

We would like to record our thanks to Haddington West Church for hosting our monthly committee meetings and talks over the past two years. As from next season, our committee meetings will be held in the Trinity Centre and our talks in Holy Trinity Church. Our grateful thanks goes to the rector Rev Liz O’Ryan and her husband Phil for their assistance and for making us welcome.

Marie Macpherson