Audio guide handset at first museum display

Talking Museum: audio guide scripts

Full transcriptions of the Talking Museum audio guide are here. To listen to the track at each stop, click on the title. A shorter version (with no transcripts or extra links) is here.

Note that the tour starts at 2, because track 1 is the introduction to the audio guide on the handset in the museum.

2: 'Hoeing the Fields', painting by William Marshall Brown

2: ‘Hoeing the Fields’, painting by William Marshall Brown

Track 2: ‘Hoeing the Fields’, painting by William Marshall Brown 

Written by artist Emily Learmont, read by Annie Rayner.

This painting is called ‘Hoeing the Fields’ and was painted by the Edinburgh artist William Marshall Brown in 1911. It is approximately 1 metre high by 1.5 metres wide (or about 3.5 feet high by 5 feet wide), and is presented in an elaborately carved and gilded wooden frame. You can reach out and gently touch some of the raised design of the frame if you like.

The painting depicts the landscape of East Lothian in summertime. It is painted in an impressionist style with soft colours and broken brushstrokes, evoking dappled sunlight and shadows.

On the left of the composition are three young women hoeing a field of potatoes. The two women on the right are hard at work, their backs bent over the long wooden poles of their hoes. But the woman on the left is taking a rest. She leans on her hoe, looking upwards. Her face is pretty, although fatigued from working in the open air; and her expression is vacant, as if daydreaming. She wears a pink cotton sunbonnet known as an ‘ugli’, spelt U-G-L-I. The other women wear wide-brimmed hats and shawls, and all three have long brown linen aprons.

In the foreground are rows of potato plants growing in sandy earth. In the middle-ground is an avenue of trees bordering a country lane. And in the distance are fields of wheat and a blue sky filled with billowing clouds.

The painting evokes a scene of rural life that was typical to East Lothian in the nineteenth century.

Catalogue link ‘Hoeing the Fields’.
Page about artist William Marshall Brown.
View all East Lothian Council painting on the BBC ‘Your Paintings’ website.

3: Fishing boat wheel
3: Fishing boat wheel

Track 3: Fishing display, tactile area

Written and read by Graeme Bettison.

Welcome to East Lothian’s coastline, which stretches for about 30 miles from Musselburgh, just outside Edinburgh, to just beyond Dunbar. Before you is an open display of objects related to East Lothian’s historic fishing industry.

If you reach your hand in front of you, at about waist height you should find the first of our tactile panels – a stretched out piece of nylon fishing net.

There are more tactile objects behind this panel post, but it will be easier to reach them if you step to your left so that the post is on your right-hand side.

Lower down, fixed to the front of a plinth at about knee height, is the steering wheel of a boat from Dunbar. It is quite small – about the size of a normal car’s steering wheel – but with the familiar six handles protruding at all points of the compass.

On the top of this plinth are two plastic slats about a foot long and a couple of inches wide, with fairly thick nylon rope rolled along them. The rope is bright orange on one, and a bright, pale green on the other. These were used like sewing needles to repair nets.

Beside this, further to the right and a bit closer to the wall, is a basket holding some thin brown netting with cork floats. The nylon rope would have been used on thicker nets than this.

On the wall you may be aware of the light of a digital photo display working its way through old photos of the fisher folk, their boats and nets, and of their daily life in the communities along our coast. 

4: Fishermen on boat

4: Fishermen on boat

Track 4: More on East Lothian’s sea trade

Written and read by Graeme Bettison.

Sea trade was always important in East Lothian. For example Aberlady Bay was the port of the Royal Burgh of Haddington since at least the 1300s, exporting mainly agricultural produce. The harbour of Morrison’s Haven at Prestonpans supported the flourishing industries of salt, soap, pottery and mining there, especially through trade with the Dutch. During the 1700s goods were traded in and out of Dunbar with exports of grain and fish and imports of iron, wood, flax and hemp largely from Russia and Scandinavia.

But it was the fishing – especially for the herring – that made the East Lothian coast so important in the 1800s.

The earliest records of fishing becoming an industry appear around the 1550s. The growth in population in the area and proximity to Edinburgh soon provided ready markets. However, with our shallow coastline, local boats had to stay small enough to be hauled to shore since there were no deep harbours. This meant they stayed close to shore where they could harvest flounders and dredge for oysters or collect mussels from the rocks at low tide.

'The Young Mussel Gatherers', by W M Brown

‘The Young Mussel Gatherers’, by W M Brown

Deep harbours started to be built in the 1800s, and this changed the life of the fisher folk. The style of the boats changed, and it became possible to harvest deep-water fish, including the lucrative herring, or ‘silver darlings’ as they were known. The 1890s saw a boom in herring fishing which lasted up to the 1930s, and the boats moved on from sail, then to steam and then to petrol engines. Curing the herring, which were very perishable, also developed.

At the peak of the herring boom East Lothian boats fished as far north as Fraserburgh and as far south as Lowestoft.

At home, the fisherwives walked the ancient ‘creel paths’ to sell their herring, tramping across the Lammermuirs from Dunbar to Lauder on the Herring Road, as well as the relatively short route from Leith up to central Edinburgh.

Fishing still continues from ports such as Port Seton and Dunbar, but our coast is now used more for recreational pursuits.

John Marr, shoarmonger

5: John Marr, shoarmonger

Track 5: Fishing display case

Written and read by Graeme Bettison.

The largest item in the display case is a pair of fisherman’s boots on the left side. These big leather boots go up to the knee – big enough to accommodate not just a fisherman’s feet but the thick, warm socks knitted lovingly by his mother or wife.

Above the boots, on the left, is a portrait in oils of Mr J. Marr, who was the Harbour Master – or shoarmonger – at North Berwick Harbour for 48 years between 1885 and 1933.

The portrait is about the size of a small tray, roughly 1½ feet high and 1 foot wide, and shows his head and shoulders. It is set in a wide, plain gilt frame which adds to the grandeur of what I perceive to be a kind, considerate man. His eyes look warmly out of the frame, he is dressed in a fisherman’s cap, and he looks as if he is in command but would deal with your errors with kindness and sympathy.

Leaving Mr Marr we move to the back wall of the display, where there are four enlarged black and white photographs of fishing life. Two of them show sailors at the harbour working on mending nets, and another shows an early fish delivery van, which would have travelled around the local community selling its freshly caught wares. It has open sides and no windows – so was well ventilated!

Just below the photographs is a large wicker basket known as a ‘creel rest’.

Creel rest

Creel rest

This one – from North Berwick – was used for carrying fish to market. The wicker resisted the damage by salt water better than any other material at the time. It comes up to about waist height and would take some lifting when full of herring. And that was women’s work!

There is a creel among the handling objects which you can explore at the end of your visit.

To the front of the creel rest is a small collection of tools used by the coopers to make barrels, tubs, buckets and pails. In those days everything from cured fish to beer and whisky was carried in barrels – though not all at the same time in the same barrel!

Safety at sea was a great concern and further down the case is a subscription list naming those who contributed to the first lifeboat in Dunbar, in 1807. Below it, and forming a base for another of the coopers’ tools, is the tin chest used to collect and store the money collected for the RNLI in Skateraw, near Dunbar. Each community also had its own Sailors’ or Fishermen’s Friendly Society, set up to provide help to those in times of need. There is a display about Friendly Societies later in the tour.

Tucked away at the bottom of the case is my favourite piece in the whole museum. She is only about 9 or 10 inches (or about 25 centimetres) high, but on her shoulders she seems to carry everything else I have described to you.

Ceramic model of a fishwife

Ceramic model of a fishwife

She is the delightful small figure of a fishwife in her traditional costume. A ceramic model thought to have been made, probably locally, in the 1840s, she represents the fisher lassie who saw her dad and brothers go to sea and helped sell their catch when they came home. She would have grown up to become the fishwife who ran the family business, who would raise the next generation and who would grieve for her husband and sons if they were lost at sea.

She is decorated wearing her Sunday best costume – her dark hair and rosy cheeks surrounded by a shoulder-length cream-coloured shawl with pink borders. Her arms are folded – her white top flecked with green and red, around her waist is a bright green cloth belt which would have been her shop till. Her yellow skirt striped in thin red lines goes below her knees.

She is standing stoically, feet well placed on the grassy mound where she has stopped to lay her woven creel on her left side.

Our little lady, destined for the mantelpiece, shows that she is ready for business – she is the anchor on the shore and the business end of the fishing family.

There is a doll dressed as a fisherwife among our handling objects, and a costume you can feel and try on if you wish.

Catalogue record for fisherwife figurine.
Catalogue link to creel rest.
William Marshall Brown paintings on ‘Your Paintings’ site (he painted many seaside scenes).

6: 'The Nova Spero', by John Bellany
6: ‘The Nova Spero’, by John Bellany

Track 6: ‘The Nova Spero’, painting by John Bellany

Written by artist Emily Learmont, read by David Affleck.

The painting is titled ‘The Nova Spero berthed at Eyemouth’ and is 46 centimetres high by 58 centimetres wide, about the size of a coffee table, and has a plain, dark wood frame. It is painted with sweeping brushstrokes in brightly coloured oils on canvas.

The subject of the painting is of a Fisherrow fishing boat, a deep-sea trawler called Nova Spero (meaning ‘new hope’), which was built in 1987. It dominates the lower half of the composition, with its bow pointing to the left, possibly facing the harbour exit. The boat’s hull is dark blue with a broad white stripe around its deck, a thin yellow stripe around its middle, and thin red and white stripes at the waterline. The boat’s name is marked on its prow, as well as its Leith registration number: LH 142. There is a Saltire flag painted on the broad white stripe around the deck. The deck cabin is yellow, with a row of dark windows, and a red and white life-ring. White railings line the deck, and above the bow a white mast stretches up to the painting’s top edge.

The boat is moored in Eyemouth harbour, its colourful paintwork reflected in the water. On the left is a row of whitewashed houses with red roofs, and on the right is the yellow dome of the Auld Kirk. The sky is rendered with streaks of brilliant red, yellow and blue.

John Bellany was brought up in the fishing community of Port Seton. As one of Scotland’s most celebrated artists, he has always drawn upon east coast folk memory.

Catalogue link to ‘Nova Spero’ entry.
Page about artist John Bellany.

7: Farming display case
7: Farming display case

Track 7: Farming display case

Written and read by Annie Rayner.

This display case is all about the history of farming in East Lothian, from the Iron Age to the recent past.

At the back of the case are some photographs showing how farming has developed.

One of them shows sheep shearing in the Lammermuirs. In the early 1900s, this was done by hand using large metal shears, and was sore, hard work. It is now usually done with electric shears.

Another shows an ox harnessed with leather collar girth and chain traces, ready for work pulling ploughs and other heavy loads.

The next photo shows schoolboy John Watson driving a John Deere tractor at Drem in 1942, watched by two well-dressed men, possibly proud relatives! Horses and oxen were rarely used for farm work by this time.

There is also a photo showing turnip hoers in the 1920s. The photo shows four men and seven women. The women are all wearing head coverings, some of them ugli bonnets, like the woman in the earlier painting at the start of the exhibition. Traditionally, male farm workers brought additional workers at busy times, generally wife or daughter, or if unmarried, another female relative.

In the centre at the back of the case is a pink and white gingham checked ugli bonnet.

ugli bonnet

Ugli bonnet

Despite its name, it is not ugly at all! In fact it is very flattering. These bonnets were handmade by generations of female farm workers to a standard design, and often in bright fabrics. Nine large hoops were covered in cotton to form an airy space above the head to allow any breeze to circulate and prevent the head from getting too hot, while shading the face from the sun. At the back there is a further flap of cotton, to protect the neck from sunburn, and the bonnet is held on with broad ribbons. In the days of these bonnets there was no lotion to protect the skin from the sun, and a tan was merely an unwanted giveaway of the days spent labouring outdoors rather than of the indoor leisure of higher status ladies. So these bonnets not only kept the farm workers cool and shaded, but helped them preserve their looks and health.

To the back and left of the display case is a seed hopper, which was used for hand-sowing seed. It is made with a curved wooden frame that would sit at the worker’s waist, with a canvas area that would hold the seed. Straps attached to the sides of the frame would be hung around the neck, leaving both hands free to work rhythmically, sowing the seed. Someone would follow with a harrow to cover the seed with soil.

Tattie-howkers near Dirleton

Tattie-howkers near Dirleton

To the bottom right of the case is a tattie basket, or potato basket, used at the tattie-howking, or potato harvest. It is made of wire woven across an oval shape formed of a steel rim, and reinforced with two crossed strips of metal. Gangs of mainly female workers and children were hired for the potato harvest in autumn; the school October break was originally put in place to allow children to help with the harvest. They filled tattie baskets with potatoes that had already been dug up either by hand or machine. The full tattie baskets were then emptied into a cart or bogie by male workers. This method of picking potatoes continued until mechanisation took over relatively recently. It was one of the jobs of the Landgirls during the Second World War, and even in the 1960s local women were still helping with the tattie harvest. They would be allowed to take home a ‘boiling’ of potatoes at the end of the day to help feed the family.

Pair of milk churns

Pair of milk churns

There is a large metal milk churn in the centre of the case, towards the front. It is about 40 centimetres high and would hold about 20 litres, or 4 gallons (32 pints). These is also a one-pint milk bottle from around 1970. It is marked Braefield Dairy Farm, North Berwick. This was one of several East Lothian farms producing, pasteurising, bottling and delivering its own milk directly to customers’ doorsteps every morning.

Catalogue record for ugli bonnet.
Catalogue link for tattie-howkers image.

8: Friendly Societies display case

8: Friendly Societies display case

Track 8: Friendly Societies display case

Researched by Kathy Fairweather and Maureen Shields, read by Maureen Shields.

East Lothian’s Friendly Societies helped their members and their members’ families in times of need, such as when unemployment hit, or after the death of the main wage-earner. They have similarities in some respects to the Freemasons, and probably developed from similar ideals and traditions, though each society had its own goals and ways of organising itself. Some of these Friendly Societies still exist today.

Members of these societies wore very bright, colourful uniforms during formal meetings and ceremonies such as the inauguration of a new member.

Schoolgirl Kacey modelling our Ancient Order of Foresters outfit

Schoolgirl Kacey modelling our Ancient Order of Foresters outfit

The back of the case has four tailors’ dummies dressed in some of these costumes. The first one on the left is a beautiful green velvet tunic jacket with a matching purse-belt. The jacket and cuffs are trimmed with white fur, with extra lace around the cuffs. It was worn by a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters – there is a full-sized replica costume in our handling collection which you can feel and try on later. This society was first established in Haddington in 1865, so is not quite as ancient as it claimed!

The other dummies show the colourful aprons and sashes from the Ancient Order of Foresters, the Oddfellows and the Fraternity of Free Gardeners, the oldest society in East Lothian. We have records of it dating back to 1676, and it may be even older than that. The aprons and sashes are decorated with symbols relevant to each society. A common symbol many share is the open eye that signifies the all-seeing eye of God and is associated with charity – seeing where help is needed.

The Ancient Order of Foresters apron is trimmed in green satin with a silver tinsel-like fringe, and has a central black printed area on a white background. The top print shows a man on his deathbed being comforted by a Forester in uniform. His wife is sitting at the foot of the bed crying and a child is looking on anxiously. The bottom print shows the woman and child from the previous scene standing in a graveyard beside a gravestone with the inscription ‘To the Memory of a Brother Forester’. The pictures are a reminder of how the society looked after members’ widows and children. This apron may have been a mourning apron, worn at the funeral of a fellow Forester.

Oddfellows Apron

Oddfellows Apron

The Oddfellows apron is trimmed in pale blue satin, again with a silvery fringe, but with a colourful print in the centre, and a blue sash. The print has pictures of a handshake – signifying friendship, two white doves – signifying peace, and a beehive – signifying prosperity as a result of hard work. The sash has a panel repeating the print and a raised 8-pointed silver star with a glittery tassle hanging from it. The Oddfellows society was first formed by Fellows whose trades excluded all but Masters from guild membership. Fellows were a step up from apprentices in the hierarchy of the guilds.

The sash for the Fraternity of Free Gardeners is a deep blue velvet, beautifully embroidered with a leafy pink rose topped by a crown. Beside this is a plinth with four dark blue neck ribbons also belonging to the Fraternity of Free Gardeners. Each has a large silver garden symbol attached: a watering can, a shovel, crossed feathers and a key. We have a collar like this in our handling collection.

Towards the front and left of the case are two large cream-coloured jugs belonging to the Free Gardeners Society of Haddington. Each has the same sepia printed gardening scene – a gardener digging, with a fine fenced driveway leading up to a perfectly manicured lawn behind him.

Ceremonial collar of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes

Ceremonial collar of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes

To the right-hand side and in the centre of this case are various jewels or medals belonging to the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. This was formed in London in 1822 by two stage artists who were unable to become members of their trade guild. Originally all members of this society would have belonged to the theatrical profession, and meetings were just social. The buffalo title is from a music hall song called ‘Chasing the Buffalo’. This society still exists and does philanthropic work; some lodges affectionately call themselves ‘the Buffs’.

There is a rather grand buffalo neck chain near the front right-hand side of the case. It has a gold-coloured buffalo head at the centre of the chain. The society motto of ‘Justice, Truth and Philanthropy’ is written on many of the medals on display. The Order has four degrees or ranks: Kangaroo, Primo, Knight Order of Merit and Roll of Honour.

In front of the neck chain are two white clay pipes. The pipes play a significant role in Buffalo ceremonies. To mark climbing the ranks in the Buffaloes a clay pipe wrapped in ribbon matching the rank reached is broken. At the ceremony marking the Kangaroo Degree it is tradition that everyone present autographs a plain pipe. The left hand pipe on display has lots of names scratched onto it and presumably this was from one of these ceremonies.

Catalogue link for Buffaloes collar
Link to page about the Friendly Societies

9: Banner campaigning for the Reform Act, Scotland

9: Banner campaigning for the Reform Act, Scotland

Track 9: Friendly Societies banner

Written and read by Maureen Shields.

The banner is one of many colourful silk banners which belonged to the local Friendly Societies, and was used for parades and other special occasions. We have several of these in the museum collection, so the one on display is changed periodically. At the time of this recording the banner on show belonged to Musselburgh activists campaigning for the Reform Act (Scotland), 1832, which increased the electorate from 4,239 to 65,000 and reformed the House of Commons. It has a lavish red fringe round the edges and a big, shiny gold anvil and hammer at the top, with a bright green and pink garland beneath it. In large black letters under the garland, and with many emphatic capitals, it reads ‘May the iron fetters which are riveted by oppression be knocked off on the anvil of liberty by the hammer of reform’, followed by three exclamation marks!

Catalogue link for Reform Act banner.

10: Timelines

10: Timelines

Track 10: East Lothian Timelines

Written by Kathy Fairweather and read by Arran Johnston.

This display features four themed ‘timelines’. Each object is backlit and displayed in chronological order from left to right on each timeline row. At the foot of the case are open shelves holding toys from different eras. They are at a low level to make them particularly accessible for younger visitors – you can reach in and touch them. Press pause on your audio player now, if you’d like to.

I’ll now describe one or two objects from each timeline:

Beginning with the Homes and Living timeline, on the top row, at about head height:

At the left end of the row is the oldest object in the museum collection: a

Bronze Age beaker

Bronze Age beaker

Bronze Age clay beaker in a dark terracotta colour. It is a pot that was found buried with the skeleton of a young Bronze Age woman just outside Haddington, and radiocarbon dating tells us the burial was around 2300 to 2400 BC, or 3,000 years ago. It is about 15 cms high by 10 cms wide at its widest point (or 6 inches by 4 inches), the size and shape of a standard vase or flower pot. It is decorated with bands of impressions made by two square-toothed combs, and was obviously made with care. It would have held food or drink for the dead woman’s journey to the next world. We have some clay panels with some of these designs on them which you can feel to get a sense of what this pot looks like, and we also have a larger replica model which you can explore by touch.

The next object is a very small bronze brooch about 4 cms (or 1 inch) long, in the shape of a trumpet, dating from Roman times, about 2,000 years ago. These brooches were used to fasten clothes. East Lothian was never conquered by the Romans, as the local tribe were allies who provided grain to feed the Roman armies.

The second row, at about chin height, is about Trade and Commerce:

About halfway along the row is a large white £5 note issued in about 1810 by the East Lothian Banking Company, which was based in Dunbar. The note is about the size of a large postcard, and is engraved with a tall bale of corn with some harvesting tools on the left, and a pair of fishergirls, with ships at sea in the background, at the top centre.

Five pound bank note

Five pound bank note

The writing on the note is very swirly and elaborate, and promises to pay the bearer five pounds ‘by order of the directors’.

This shortlived bank was founded in 1810, but had to close down 12 years later when its chief cashier absconded to America with most of its funds (it’s not clear how much, but maybe as much as £100,000). There are reports that he was eventually caught in South America or Savannah, but it’s not known whether he was ever brought to trial. The trustees of the bank managed, with difficulty, to repay all the people who had saved their money in the bank, although it took many years – and there was no government support to help them back then!

The third row is about Religion and Belief, and is at about chest height:

Pilgrim Badge impressions

Pilgrim Badge impressions

Near the beginning of this row are two replica pilgrim medals made of pewter, and each about 4cms (roughly 1 inch) square. They are about the size of large brooches; one is in the shape of a cross, while the other has a raised cross on it. Each cross has the embossed figure of Christ on it. These crosses are not like the traditional crucifix; all four of the arms are the same length, and they cross in the centre, like the symbol for the Red Cross, with scalloped edges at the end of each arm. We have two larger replicas of different pilgrim medals, heavily embossed, which you can touch and explore at the handling table on your way out.

East Lothian was an important location for early Christianity in Scotland, and pilgrimage brought travellers here from across Europe. Many sites catered for pilgrims, who were able to get free or reduced lodgings on their route, and would wear medals like these, which were bought and blessed at pilgrimage sites. Other travellers would pretend to be pilgrims in order to try to claim free lodgings, so such medals were useful evidence of authenticity.

From the 12th century, a ferry carried pilgrims from North Berwick to Earlsferry in Fife on the route to visit the holiest of shrines, the tomb of St Andrew. Even today, some pilgrimages still take place, like the annual pilgrimage from Whitekirk to Haddington.

The next object in the row is a fragment of elaborately shaped floor tile from the priory at North Berwick, which also served pilgrims. It is made from thick, glazed clay shaped into a pattern, and is now a dark brownish green colour. It dates from the 13th century.

Musket balls

Musket balls

The bottom row, at about waist height, is about Conflict and Defence:

East Lothian has often been the scene of conflict because of its location on the east coast route between England and Scotland.

The row starts with two iron cannon balls, about the size of outdoor bowling balls, a bit bigger than tennis balls (though much heavier!). They are pitted and rusted, with white patches on them. These were found at two East Lothian battle sites: the Battle of Pinkie in Musselburgh which took place in 1547, and was a severe defeat for the Scots; and the siege of Haddington in 1548/9. Both these events were part of the so-called Rough Wooing, when Henry VIII of England was trying to persuade the Scots to allow their infant Queen Mary to marry his son, the future Edward VI. Although his attempt failed when Mary was removed to France, it caused huge damage and devastation in Scotland, particularly in East Lothian. You can still see indentations in the walls of the town of Haddington and of St Mary’s Church, where cannon balls and musket balls left their mark.

A cannon ball just like these was even found in the ancient foundations of this very building when it was being renovated to become the John Gray Centre!

Next to the cannon balls are a handful of smaller iron balls, about the size of maltesers. These were fired by muskets at the second Battle of Dunbar, won by Oliver Cromwell in 1650, when he was trying to bring Scotland into his Commonwealth after the execution of Charles I. Some of these were also fired during the second Jacobite rising in 1745.

Catalogue link for £5 note
Catalogue link for musket balls at site of Battle of Pinkie

11: The 9 Trades of Haddington

11: The 9 Medieval Trades of Haddington

Track 11: The Nine Trades of Haddington display case

Written and read by Sylvia Fraser.

Do you know anyone called Baxter, Tailor, Skinner, Souter, Mason, Butcher, Cooper, Weaver, or Smith? These were the nine trades of Haddington, and if you know someone with one of these names, maybe someone in their family once worked at one of these trades. Each trade formed its own monopoly – only approved, skilled men were allowed to practise these trades, and they formed incorporated organisations to protect their members and prevent others from breaking in and stealing their customers. Listen on to find out more about some of them.

This display is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, with three irregular rows. I will describe one object from each row.

At the far right of the top row, at about head height, is a butcher’s cleaver. It is a heavy, sharp rectangular piece of dulled grey metal, with a shaped wooden handle, a bit like the handle of skipping rope, firmly attached by metal rods.

I’d like to tell you the story of a dishonest Haddington butcher that we found in the archives:

Trades insignia

Insignia of the Nine Trades

In Haddington there was a family of butchers who were regularly caught cheating, either by acquiring the meat illegally and selling it under the counter, or by tampering with the weights. As the sale of meat was strictly regulated by the Town Council and the fleshers’ trade incorporation, malpractices were severely punished. The family was regularly fined £5 Scots, and sometimes as much as £50 Scots. If they couldn’t afford to pay, they were sent to jail in the tolbooth, a cold, dark, damp place. This doesn’t seem to have stopped them though, as they continue to appear regularly in the Haddington Criminal Register.

In the centre of the display, at about shoulder height, is a cobbler’s last. This was sometimes locally called a ‘de’il’s fit’ (or ‘devil’s foot’), and many households would have had one for making quick repairs to shoes. It would have been used by shoemakers, also known as cordiners or souters. The last is made of cast iron and has a curious three-pronged shape. Two of the prongs end in different-sized foot shapes, and the third prong is more of a rounded heel shape. Each prong projects from the central corner at a 90 degree angle. The shoe material, usually leather, would have been stretched around the appropriate foot-shape on the last and then cut. The bits would then be sewn together and a sole glued and tacked to the bottom, to make a shoe. The leather and glue would have been bought from the skinners and tanners, another of the trades of Haddington.

We have a single-footed last in the handling collection.

In the middle of the bottom row, below the last, is a small silver box. It is 8 cm long by 4 cm high – a bit smaller than a pack of cards – and it has been beautifully engraved. It represents the trade of the hammermen, or smiths as they were more commonly known. It was made in 1821 and was probably used for snuff, or to hold visiting cards, which were much like modern-day business cards.

Hammermen made metal objects such as cups, bowls, nails and horseshoes. Most of the hammermen in East Lothian were blacksmiths, and were generally seen working at the forge – the smiddy – shoeing horses. But sometimes they made delicate expensive objects like this silver box.

13: Milk bottle from display of glass bottles

13: Milk bottle from display of glass bottles

Track 12: Message in a Bottle display

Written by Kathy Fairweather, read by Sylvia Fraser.

This is a small display of five different glass bottles, set out in a row at about chest height. The bottles were all locally produced, and some of them have raised glass writing on them to explain what’s inside. They range from a square, wide-shouldered bottle that once held ‘oil of salts’, a by-product of the salt industry at Prestonpans and supposed to ease rheumatism, to a more recognisable tubular one-pint milk bottle, whose label proudly proclaims that the milk is tuberculin-tested. There was a special isolation hospital at East Fortune to treat sufferers of TB, which since the introduction of regular TB-testing of cows has become a much less common disease than it used to be.

Catalogue link for Crown Dairy milk bottle

14: Industry
14: Industry

Track 13: East Lothian industries

Written by Irene Hopkins, read by Christina Dougan (East Lothian Messenger reader).

This display contains about ten objects. It is about 5 ft long. As you face the display, imagine a clock face to help orientate yourself. A 1 o’clock there is a flat shovel made of rough wood, leaning against the wall and the shelf. It is about 4 ft long. Shovels like this were used in coal mines and distilleries for turning malt or grain. They were made of wood because there was a danger of striking sparks from metal tools which could ignite coal in a mine, or cause a fire that would burn the grain at a distillery.

Behind the malt shovel you will find the handle of a wooden fork lying along the shelf. It is again made out of rough wood and the same length as the shovel. It has six prongs, and its owner has carved his name into the handle – see if you can find it and read it! These forks were used for turning grain and malt at distilleries and are also still in use today. The Glenkinchie distillery near Pencaitland, established in 1837, would have used similar forks and shovels.

On the back wall there are several photographs showing some of these items in use.

In the centre of the exhibit, at 6 o’clock, are four bricks. You can put your hand out and touch them – some have the name of the place they were made moulded into them. Three of them are brown-coloured, and were manufactured at Prestongrange brickworks, which dates back to the 1700s; and one is red, and was manufactured at Musselburgh at the Levenhall, Pinkie brickworks, which also dates back to the 1700s. One thing is for sure, bricks have not gone out of fashion!

Circular kiln at Prestongrange brick and tile works

Circular kiln at Prestongrange brick and tile works

To the left of the bricks, on a projecting display board, is a small clay fragment of garden edging, which you can touch. It is bumpy, with smooth edges and has a brown salt glaze. Behind and to the left of this are two pieces of horseshoe drainage pipe, used for draining fields and gardens – pipes like this are still in use today. These pipes and the garden edging were probably manufactured at Prestongrange brick and tile works at any time from the late 1800s until it closed in the 1970s.

North Berwick outdoor pool in 1963

North Berwick outdoor pool in 1963

Up at about head height, on the wall at the back left of the display, is a screen showing clips from the Scottish Screen archive. One of my favourite clips here shows North Berwick outdoor pool in the 1970s. Actually I know how it felt because I was there in the ’70s with my three girls and Granny. They all loved it. On the day the film-maker visited, the pool was full. It certainly looks like a very hot day there. There are children and adults swimming and sliding down the water slide and lots of people watching – you can really feel the holiday atmosphere.

The screen also shows film footage of fishing boats in Dunbar harbour, salt-panning at Prestonpans, weaving at Haddington and wire-making at Brunton Wireworks.

Page about seaside holidays in East Lothian
Page about Prestongrange

14: Lothian & Border Horse display case

14: Lothian & Border Horse display case

Track 14: Lothian and Borders Horse display case

Curated, written and read by Nigel Kenworthy.

The display case in front of you shows items that help to explain firstly the historic role of the local regiment of this area, the Lothians & Border Horse; and secondly, the military service of Warrant Officer Alan Goodwin, a member of the regiment during the First World War. A wall panel to the left of the case also gives further written detail. There are five objects in the case and one object outside it.

At the front of the display case is a colourful silk table or tray mat. It is purple and is rectangular with a silk fringe and scalloped edges. The purple is flecked with embroidered gold oak leaves and in the centre is a diamond-shaped panel displaying a gold sheaf of corn (the emblem of the regiment). This may have been used in the officers’ or sergeants’ mess.

Displayed at the back left corner of the case is a small 20 cm by 25 cm print of a soldier in dress uniform. It dates from 1901. The soldier is an officer and is wearing a smart red jacket and blue trousers. On his head he is wearing a chrome and gold helmet with a white hackle, or feather plume spilling from the top. He wears white gloves and his left hand is resting on the hilt of a long sabre. This uniform was known as review order and was used only for special occasions, not actual campaigning.

In the back right corner of the showcase is a dress helmet, similar to the one in the print and about the shape and size of a traditional English policeman’s helmet. It is mainly made of chrome with an embossed brass leaf design on the front, with a French motto which says Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense, which translated means Spurned be the one who evil thinks. It dates from the late 19th century.

At the front left of the display is a poem about Alan Goodwin, who owned many of the items in this display. The poem is called The Horsiest Man I Know and ends like this:

He’ll talk of horse for a livelong week,
And the man he chats with needn’t speak,
While to you and me what he says is Greek. 

In the very centre of the display case, behind the table mat, are four campaign medals awarded to Alan Goodwin for his army service during the First World War. Three of these medals were irreverently referred to as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, who were characters from a cartoon strip featured in the Daily Mirror at the time.

The fourth and final medal is on the right, and is the rarest of the First World War campaign medals, the Territorial Force War Medal. It was issued in April 1920 to service personnel who had volunteered for duty with the British Territorial Force before 4 August 1914. This tells us that Alan Goodwin was a volunteer and not conscripted into the army.

If you feel left around the edge of the cabinet, you will find Alan’s lance leaning in the corner (and firmly fixed to the wall). He used this during the First World War. It is made of bamboo and is nearly 3 metres long. If you feel down at the foot of the lance, at ground level, there is an iron shoe or butt. As you move your hand up the bamboo there is a leather grip at the point of balance and above this a strap also made of leather. The tip is an iron three-sided point. Note that this is a working lance, for practice, and not one that would have been used for displays or ceremonies.

15: 'Lieutenant Colonel Gardiner Baird', painted by John Syme

15: ‘Lieutenant Colonel Gardiner Baird’, painted by John Syme

Track 15: More about Alan Goodwin and the L&B Horse

Curated, written and read by Nigel Kenworthy.

The regiment of the Lothian & Borders Horse was formed back in 1797 during the reign of George III in order to assist in the defence of the realm during the threat of invasion by the French during the Napoleonic wars. Although the bond of the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France had been strong, the people along the Scottish east coast were worried by Napoleon’s expansionist plans. One of the instigators behind the formation of the regiment was poet and author Sir Walter Scott. Thus, the Edinburgh Volunteer Light Dragoons were formed, with Sir Walter taking the roles of Quartermaster, Paymaster and Secretary. The soldiers were decked out in a £22 uniform of peacock splendour, with scarlet coat, blue collar and cuffs, silver breeches, black boots (fiercely spurred) and a helmet crested with leopard skin and red and white hackle. The regiment weren’t going to fight on foreign fields, but they certainly looked the part. They were soon joined by another force, the Midlothian Yeomanry, to become the Royal Midlothian Yeomanry Cavalry.

In the first decades of the 19th century, the regiment undertook a number of diverse roles, mainly quelling disturbances and riots, acting as a kind of militia. They were involved in putting down disturbances caused by the Corn Laws. These laws were brought in to prevent the import of cheap corn from abroad which would have deflated the price of home-grown arable produce and hence the price of bread, a staple of the diet. As an aside, the reason that the Corn Laws came into being was that farming land owners were often members of parliament and they therefore brought in the laws to preserve their own profits.

Numerous disbands and reformations occurred until 1888, when two local regiments, the Berwickshire Yeomanry Cavalry and the East Lothian Yeomanry Cavalry, were amalgamated to form the Lothians & Berwickshire Yeomanry Cavalry.

During the South African Boer war of 1899–1902, the regiment was deployed along with other British yeomanry regiments to bolster the campaign which up until then had suffered a number of defeats at the hands of the Boers. This was a hard campaign and the men had to undergo tough physical marches with early starts and no food until nightfall. The demands placed on the regiment took their toll on horses and men and the regiment was relieved, returning to Edinburgh in June 1901.

The helmet in the display belonged to Alan Goodwin, who fought in the First World War. Before the outbreak of war Alan was an architect and coming from Edinburgh served with D Squadron of the L&B. He was supplied with a horse whose name was Zulu, although many of the recruits who came from rural communities to the south of Edinburgh brought their own. Alan must have had some equine experience prior to his army service, or he was a naturally gifted horseman who was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about horses.

After training, Alan was sent to France in 1914 with D Squadron, before being re-deployed shortly afterwards to Salonika, which is in present-day Greece. The British and French were there to support the Serbian army in their fight against the Bulgars, who were allied to the Germans, Turks and Austro-Hungarians.

The advent of the First World War had changed the tactics of cavalry and no longer were they expected to charge down opposing infantry in a long line with lances and swords drawn. New tactics required the regiment to operate with rifles, more like a mobile infantry, sometimes operating dismounted. Nevertheless, Alan’s granddaughter Cherry MacIntyre has shown me a photograph of her grandfather taken on the Salonika front mounted on his horse Zulu, wearing khaki uniform and a pith helmet and a cavalry sword. This photograph has been reproduced and shown outside the show case on the wall panel to the left of the lance.

Alan Goodwin’s medals, shown in the display, would have been worn at special events on number one parade uniforms, or after demob, at occasions such as Remembrance Day parades.

After the armistice, Alan Goodwin returned to Edinburgh and resumed his career as an architect. He was still working in the profession into his seventies. The lower photograph on the panel to the left of the showcase shows Alan as an older man, laying a wreath at the war memorial in Dunbar in the 1960s. He is dressed in a woollen knee-length coat and has thinning white hair. We cannot see his left breast, but it is assumed that he would have been wearing his medals.

After the Second World War the L&B was re-established as part of the Territorial Army or TA. Many local men joined one of the four squadrons as part time soldiers. However, the Lothians and Border Horse was finally disbanded in 1956 due to reorganisation of the Territorial Army.

Catalogue link to painting of Lt-Colonel Gardiner Baird.

16: Skaters

16: Skaters

Track 16: Curling display case

Curated, written and read by David Affleck.

This exhibition is displayed in a 3 metre high, 1 metre wide display case with an audio handset on the outside, left-hand side of the case. There are written excerpts and images to the left of the glass cabinet. If you lift the handset on the left, and press the top button on the wall beside it, you will hear a recording about keen curler Andrew Howden, who was an experimental farmer in the 1800s.

At the foot of the display is an almost heart-shaped curling stone with the letter H roughly inscribed on the top. It is approximately 40 cm long, 20 cm wide and 20 cm high. It has an iron handle and weighs about 20 kilos. These early curling stones were sometimes called channel stones because they were usually found in rivers and streams where the running water had created a smooth surface over the years. On the left panel, there is a photograph of a similar stone at the mouth of the Pease Burn getting smoothed by the power of the advancing waves. We know that stones like this were collected from the Pease Burn on the border of East Lothian and Berwickshire.

Howden stoneThe stone with the H was donated to the museum in 2012, having been found on the pond at Lawhead Farm on Tyninghame estate around 1970. We know that stones like this were found in the old Bowling Green area at Haddington in the late 1700s.

Why is this particular stone important? In trying to research its story, an earlier history of what happened in the early years of East Linton curling club has emerged. It has also helped to uncover stories of the lives of the people who took part in the game of curling in the East Linton area, and the part that the club played in forming the Royal Caledonian Curling Club of today.

There is a photograph of another early curling stone on the left hand side of the back panel. It has a date of 1698 cut into the side and has a link with the Buchan Hepburn family of Smeaton in East Linton. But like the stone with the H, its history is a mystery. It may have belonged to the Buchan family of Letham near Haddington, who owned that estate in the late 1700s. It is larger in size and weight. These two stones are the only evidence we have of the sport of curling in this area before round curling stones were introduced when new rules for the game were first published in 1811. These rules became adopted in Scotland when the new Grand Caledonian Curling Club was formed in 1838.

To the right of the display, at about eye-level, there is a small printed book with a list of names. Beside it is a slightly larger minute book. The original members of the Grand Caledonian Curling Club are shown in the smaller book as two distillers, a schoolmaster, a wright or carpenter, a merchant, a farrier, a baker, a flesher resident in Leith, a baronet, a corn agent and eight farmers. Out of the 21 members, 13 lived in the Parish of Prestonkirk.

On the left of the display just above the stone with the H, there is one of the earliest photographs of curling. It is a game held on the man-made lake formed by 1830 at Smeaton estate which lies just to the south of Newbyth. The photo is believed to have been taken about 1860. By that time the requirement to play with round curling stones had been established. The curlers have brooms made from twigs or bunched corn stalks and are wearing different styles of hat, including a top or lum hat. They look quite formally dressed. There are also three boys posed facing the photographer, and looking quite serious. Canadian curlers still sometimes play with corn brooms. The modern curling brush

East Lothian curling badge

East Lothian curling badge

achieves the same effect, heating the ice to enable the stone to slide further, but avoids leaving debris behind, which can affect the route of the stone.

At the bottom of the display on the right is a tartan bonnet, similar to bonnets and Glengarries used in the rare outdoor curling matches. It has a selection of club curling badges pinned to the top. Curlers give presents of their club badge to their opponents when they take part in important matches. Some of these are quite elaborate, with little polished replica curling stones forming part of the emblems.

There is some more information about this here.

17: VAD Nurse Annie Young display

17: VAD Nurse Annie Young display

Track 17: VAD Nurse Annie Young

Curated by Claire Pannell, read by Christina Douggan.

Nurse Annie Young was a volunteer nurse who trained in First Aid, and joined the VAD, or Voluntary Aid Detachment, as soon as the Second World War broke out. She received further training in helping gas and blast casualties, and at the back left of this display are some of her proficiency certificates and service medals, all featuring the red cross. To the right and at the back of the case is a full-sized dummy wearing Nurse Annie’s uniform, a soft blue long-sleeved dress with a white apron over the top, which has a red cross sewn onto the bib. At the bottom front of the display are some of the lace collars that Annie made to brighten up her uniform. Above them is an open nursing manual, showing how to deal with certain injuries, and a pamphlet of ‘Tactical Notes’ on defence against gas. Interestingly, it’s dated 1934, well before the Second World War broke out.

We have a replica nurse’s outfit from this period, which you are welcome to touch or try on.

The Battle of Prestonpans

Bonus track: Battle of Prestonpans

Battle of Prestonpans display (display has since been changed)

Bonus track: The Battle of Prestonpans

Curated, written and read by Arran Johnston.

In September 1745, a Highland army entered East Lothian in an attempt to overthrow the government of King George II and restore the ancient Stuart dynasty. At Prestonpans these Jacobites won a spectacular victory against all odds, granting temporary control of Scotland to their leader Charles Edward Stuart – better known today as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

This display features some fascinating reminders of the famous Battle of Prestonpans. It consists of an information board on the left-hand side with text and images, and a large glass display case to the right. The information board on the left is recessed and stands above a wooden bench. It explains the background to the dramatic battle.

The main display is housed within the large glass-fronted display case. There are two pictures on the back wall at eye level, with a series of objects arranged on plinths lower down the case.

On the rear wall, the left-hand picture shows a 19th-century engraving in black and white of the monument to Colonel James Gardiner. This monument, a large stone obelisk still standing in Prestonpans, commemorates a local officer who was killed in the battle.

On the plinth beneath it are two fragments of wood. These are pieces of the hawthorn tree beneath which Colonel Gardiner was killed. It was the only tree on the battlefield.

On a lower plinth, beneath the fragments, is the cabinet’s most striking exhibit: a large Highland broadsword. The elaborate basket-hilt which protected the user’s hand rests closest to the glass, with the heavy blade running towards the back of the case. Today the steel has gone very dark in colour, making the weapon look even more menacing. Highland soldiers wielded swords like this to terrible effect at the Battle of Prestonpans.

The right-hand picture on the back wall of the case shows a contemporary hand-drawn map of the battlefield, showing local settlements as well as the positions of the armies.

Beneath it, on the same level as the hawthorn fragments, is a carved powder horn. This crescent-shaped horn would have been carried by a Highland soldier to store black-powder, the explosive charge which fired their muskets. The British Army were all equipped with firearms, but there were far fewer amongst the Jacobites at Prestonpans. Whoever owned this powder-horn scratched patterns into its surface to personalise it.

Immediately beneath the powder horn is a newspaper. The paper has turned yellowish over time, and to a modern reader the text seems very small and dense, with no illustrations. The headline at the top reveals that this is the London Post, and it is the edition which announced the defeat of King George’s army at Prestonpans. The news was extremely shocking: nobody had believed an untrained Highland rabble could defeat professional soldiers.

Beneath this, the lowest object in the case is another newspaper. This one is open and looks more like a book than a newspaper. The text is written in French as this is an edition of the Gazette, a news bulletin from Paris. It dates to just a few weeks after the Battle of Prestonpans and features details of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s victory. The French supported the uprising, and the detail of the news report demonstrates how significant the Battle of Prestonpans was believed to be.

After their victory at Prestonpans, the Jacobite army invaded England but they were eventually forced to retreat. Charles was later defeated at the Battle of Culloden and only narrowly escaped into exile. The Battle of Prestonpans, however, has remained famous as the site of his first and most extraordinary victory, and it has left a rich cultural legacy of songs, poems and artworks.


There’s more about the project and its participants here.

Visit our blog about our visually impaired days in 2013. We’re planning more like this, for wider audiences, in 2014. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more or take part!

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