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Days Out in the Past – War Walks

These days East Lothian is known for its beautiful beaches and countryside, and it’s hard to imagine the place as the front line in a war.  But the traces of past conflicts are there, and with a little local help their stories can be revealed.

During both World Wars the East Lothian coastline was of great strategic importance, guarding the approach to Edinburgh and the naval base at Rosyth.  It was heavily defended against any possible attack and that has left its mark on the landscape.

Aberlady Bay is a quiet and peaceful nature reserve, but it also hides a wartime secret only visible at low tide.  In May 1946 two midget submarines were moored at the low water mark in the bay, to be used as target practice by the RAF.  Another surprising feature is the network of defences from World War II.  Today the concrete blocks that line the sides of the bay seem almost part of the landscape, perhaps a long forgotten art installation.  But they were built with a deadly serious purpose, to stop enemy tanks from advancing along the coast.

Tour some of the World War II defences of East Lothian on 3rd September
Miles of concrete blocks defended our coast during World War II

For East Lothian Archaeology and Local History Fortnight a special guided walk led by the local history society will take visitors to explore some of these defences, and cross the sands of the bay to see the wrecks of the midget submarines.

Aircraft were also key to defending the East Lothian coast, and it was back in World War I that an airfield was established near Drem, now home to the National Museum of Flight.  A group of enthusiasts have taken on the task of preserving a little of that heritage , lovingly rebuilding a World War I Sopwith Strutter biplane.  Normally kept under-wraps in the group’s temporary hanger at Congalton Gardens near North Berwick, the public will be allowed an exclusive view of this unique fighter plane as part of the Archaeology and Local History fortnight events.

Visit the reconstructed bi-plane at Congalton Gardens 4th Sept
World War I Sopwith Strutter

East Lothian was also a battleground in the 1500’s, as English and Scottish armies contested over the hand of the infant Mary Queeen of Scots.  English monarchs were intent on forging an alliance with Scotland through marriage, but when their plans were rejected they sent soilders north to force the issue, a period known rather ironically as the ‘Rough Wooing’.

In 1547 an invading English army reached Musselburgh before being confronted by the Scots.  The Scottish commander the Earl of Arran invited his English counterpart to settle the matter man to man, an archaic gesture from an earlier age of chivalry before cannons and gunpowder.  A guided tour led by volunteers from the Pinkie Cleugh Battlefield Group will take visitors along the route taken by the advancing Scots, starting from the Roman bridge and including the vantage point of Inveresk Church.

Following the battle, English troops garrisoned the town of Haddington, hoping to draw the Scots and their French allies into committing to a lengthy and costly siege.  When the Queens Consort Mary of Guise came to view the scene she strayed too close to the enemy lines, and English gunners opened fire killing sixteen of her followers and leaving the queen stricken with terror.  The reality of siege warfare of this time will be brought to life in a guided walk, led by Jon Cooper from the Centre for Battlefield Arcaheology.  Leading visitors into medieval closes, across the killing fields and into the trenches, he will reveal some of the shocking truths of how the siege was conducted.

Explore the Seige of Haddington on 6th September
The siege of Haddington was the longest in Scottish History

Something to eat? A short distance from Aberlady Bay, the village of Gullane has many places to eat.  The half-timbered Old Clubhouse pub was built in 1890 as the original clubhouse for Gullane Golf Club.  Tom Kitchen has also recently opened the Bonnie Badger, a pub and restaurant in a coaching inn dating to 1836.  In Haddington, Falko Konditormeister is located in a coaching inn dating to the 1700s. and the Waterside Bistro occupies a row of Georgian cottages with a fine view across the River Tyne to St Mary’s Collegiate Church.

How to get there? Aberlady Bay: By bus – East Coast Buses x5, 124 or x24.  By car -on the A198.  Congalton Gardens: On the B1347, close to the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune. Haddington: By bus – East Coast Buses x7, 106 and 107.  By Car -just off the A1.

Event details:

Words by : David Hicks

Days Out in the Past – Trapain Law

Trapain Law has an impressive presence, an unmissable ancient landmark that dominates the surrounding landscape – exactly the sort of place to find buried treasure.

One thousand five hundred years ago this was the power base for a local tribal chief, someone important enough to be a dealmaker with the Roman Empire. We have a little glimpse into that world because of a remarkable discovery made by archaeologists digging on Trapain Law exactly a hundred years ago.

What they uncovered was the largest hoard of Roman silver from outside the boundaries of the empire, over 250 pieces weighing in total over 20 kilos. 

The silver was once exquisite tableware, dishes, flagons and platters, the very finest quality produced in the Roman Empire. However each item had been hacked and flattened into many pieces.

The beauty of the objects no longer mattered, they were valued simply for the weight of silver they contained.

The hoard has been dated to around 450AD, the dying days of Roman Britain. The province was under attack from all sides, and it is likely that this collection of silver was simply a way of easing frontier diplomacy. The Romans commonly used bribery to help secure their borders, paying off tribes to ensure peace. Whoever ruled Trapain Law was someone the Romans wanted to maintain friendly relations with.

Now for the first time, some of the most important pieces from the Trapain Law hoard have returned to East Lothian, and can be seen in a special exhibition in the John Gray Centre in Haddington. Look out for the decorative figures of a panther and leopard which once formed the handles of wine flagons, and the bowl decorated with a sea monster. Silverware such as this is rare in the Roman world, let alone beyond the borders of the empire.

As part of East Lothian’s Heritage Fortnight https://www.eastlothian.gov.uk/info/210596/archaeology/12109/archaeology_whats_on, there are two unique opportunities to discover more about Trapain Law, the hoard and life in the last days of Roman Britain.

There is the chance to explore Trapain Law in the company of Dr Fraser Hunter from the National Museums of Scotland, an expert in the archaeology of Roman Britain. On Sunday 1 September he will lead a guided walk across the hill, telling the story of this remarkable historic site from Bronze Age hillfort to Roman frontier politics.

The Roman military will also be brought vividly to life in a living history event in Haddington on Saturday 31 August and Sunday 1 September, featuring cavalry, artillery and displays of everyday life. For more details on this event watch for updates on the John Gray Centre’s website.

How to get there? For details of how to visit Trapain Law see the East Lothian Council Website https://www.eastlothian.gov.uk/.

Hailes Castle is also close by and well worth a visit, a picturesque ruin by the side of the River Tyne.

Event details:

  • The Treasures of Trapain, Sunday 1 September, 2pm – 4pm, for booking phone 01620 820690 or call in person at the museum, upstairs at the John Gray Centre.
  • Roman Encampment Family Weekend, Haddington, Saturday 31 August – Sunday 1 September, 10am – 4pm, for more details visit https://www.johngraycentre.org/

Words: David Hicks

Heritage to dig into – East Lothian Archaeology & Local History Fortnight

We are gearing up for Archaeology & Local History Fortnight, which will take place from August 31 to September 15. This year the programme is bigger than ever, with lots of events throughout the county. We’ve got excavations and exhibitions, walks and talks, workshops and open days… something for everyone interested in finding out about the history and heritage of East Lothian.

To find out more, download the programme and book an event click here.

This year we are lucky to have a guest blogger, David Hicks, who will be blogging here over the next few weeks all about the Fortnight events – watch this space!

It’s here! East Lothian Archaeology & Local History Fortnight, Sept 1 – 16!

Here at the Archaeology Service we are getting super excited for, yep, you guessed it folks….the East Lothian Archaeology & Local History Fortnight 2018!

That’s right, our annual fortnight is back, with a veritable bang this year, landing multitudes of exciting, fun-filled, and thought-provoking events in a place near you!

Organised by the Archaeology Service at East Lothian Council, but delivered by a number of amazing and enthusiastic local groups and individuals working across East Lothian, we’ve got everything; from welcome returns like the Big Waggonway Dig down at Cockenzie Harbour, (a big hit last year), to guided walks and talks through the lost gardens of Yester.

You can try a bit of time travel walking from the earliest humans to traces of Neolithic settlement and the WWII coastal defences at Aberlady Bay; or get stuck in learning some traditional building skills at the Traditional Skills Festival in Tranent. And with a big focus on Haddington this year as part of the Haddington 700 celebrations, there’s even more of a zing in the air, as we help to showcase our local town’s history and culture. So whatever floats your boat, there really is something for everyone!

To find out more and sign up to get involved, visit: https://www.eastlothian.gov.uk/archaeologyfortnight or pick up a programme in libraries and museums throughout East Lothian.

Diary of work experience with Museum Services June 2018

This week I was helping out the East Lothian Council Museum Service for my work experience. I did many different things at several different museums, and I am going to tell you what I did on each day.

MONDAY
Monday was the first day of my work experience, and at the start I was nervous about pretty much everything – where was I to go? What time was I to be there? What if I got those things wrong and embarrassed myself on my first day? Fortunately, those fears were allayed when I reached Museum Headquarters that morning and was told I was supposed to be there. I met my “supervisor” (just joking) Claire Pannell who told me my schedule for the day. Firstly, I was to help prepare for a tour that was coming to see the Museum Store (where all of the objects that are not being displayed in a museum are kept). I helped with setting out chairs, getting water for those coming, and helping to get biscuits to eat. Once we had done that, Claire drove me down to the John Gray Centre to see one of the paintings there. “The Hoeing of the Fields” be taken down and be put back up again later in the day. We then went back to HQ to meet those who were arriving for the tour. As Claire explained to the group what she did and what the threats were to the objects in the store were, I listened while reading about how to become a volunteer. Unfortunately, I am too young but it’s a good idea for the future. Once Claire was finished, we were off.
As we walked into the store, I couldn’t help noticing how much colder it was in there than the rest of the building. Despite the store still being about 16°C it felt icy and wondered how long we were going to be in there. My feeling of coldness was replaced by one of wonder as I saw all of the different objects in there, my favourite being the silver ring with a sapphire inlaid in it. Eventually however, it was time for the tour to end. As the tourists (in a certain sense) left, we packed up and had lunch. After lunch, we went back down to the John Gray Centre and I watched as they rehung the picture. After that, we went back to HQ, I collected my stuff and went home.

TUESDAY
On Tuesday morning, Katherine took me up to Prestongrange Museum so that I could see what happens there. I sat in on a Bookbug session, and was amazed to see the number of both adults and children there. As they sang, played and read, I couldn’t help feeling a bit astonished at the general good behaviour shown by the children. As I tided up, I was asked if I wanted to go on a tour of the museum. Obviously I did, so we went after lunch. As we walked, the tour guide, Margaret, explained about the history of the museum and showed me the beam engine. It was huge, and I was astonished as to how big it was, as even a spanner needed to make it work was about the height of me! After the tour, I got on the bus and went home.

WEDNESDAY
Wednesday was spent in the John Gray Centre. After exploring the museum and the photo exhibition, I was asked to create a question tour of a sort, using objects in the museum that were from Haddington for the Haddington 700 event. As I did that, I found it hard to keep a balance between making the object to find, and making the questions about it hard enough to be interesting yet easy enough so that children could find and then answer them. Time flew by and before I knew it, it was lunch time. After lunch, Katherine looked over the questions that I had written and said they were fine. I then started to look for cameras (specifically Victorian and Edwardian ones) on the John Gray website. Once I had found a few, it was 15:00 and time to go home.

THURSDAY
On Thursday, I caught the bus up to Dunbar. Katherine let me in to the Town House Museum and I saw the exhibitions that are on there. At 10:00, I went across the street to John Muir’s Birthplace to help with a P5 class from Gullane that were coming. When they arrived, I thought that they would be a noisy, disruptive class from how they were acting on the say in. But that was not true; they were generally polite, well-mannered and interested in John Muir. They did have basic knowledge gaps (like not knowing that New York was in in the USA), but that is to be expected with young children. When they left it was lunchtime and I enjoyed a nice walk by the sea. After lunch, I went back over to Dunbar Town House and met Fiona, who explained the exhibits to me so that I actually understood the art ones; (they’re worth a visit, you should go.) And I saw a video about the old outdoor swimming pool that was demolished in the 1980’s. Afterwards, I helped to start writing some questions for a new exhibition that is coming soon. Once that was done, I caught the bus home.

FRIDAY
Friday was the final day of my work experience, and I must confess that I feel a great deal of sadness that it can’t last longer. I wrote this blog today, whilst under the affliction of a cold, so I’m sorry if it’s a bit of a mess. I very much enjoyed my work experience week, and am now going to have to get ready to start S4. I learnt a lot about how museums operate, and about them and their contents history.  I hope to maybe volunteer one day in the future, when I’m old enough and not busy with exams, so hopefully I’ll see you again then.

Memories of The Pond and Pond Hall

Swimming has been a favourite summer pastime for as long as we can remember. In the early 20th century, outdoor swimming became increasingly popular with lidos scattered throughout the country, particularly in coastal towns. In the 1920s and 30s, recreational swimming became an increasingly popular pastime and more accessible to the public because of improved public transport and increased leisure time. Consequently, a relatively large number of outdoor swimming pools were built in Scotland, especially at sea-side locations in which seawater was drawn into these pools. Some of the seawater was cleaned out and refreshed naturally by the tide. Other pools were plain walled areas on the waterfront to provide a safe bathing space. In later times, more sophisticated heated baths emerged. This trend, however, disappeared when the facilities diminished and the lure of holidays abroad became more popular.
In Cockenzie & Port Seton, many local residents have fond memories of The Pond and the Pond Hall, which opened in June 1932 and was the focus of social life in the burgh for much of the period right up to the 1950s. The construction of The Pond and the Pond Hall, commissioned by the Burgh Council of Cockenzie & Port Seton, was initiated by Provost John Hall Weatherhead who recognised the need to emulate Dunbar and North Berwick. Therefore, the area was developed as a seaside resort with potential for business expansion and with the intention to fulfil present and future recreational requirements for Cockenzie & Port Seton. The intersection of Fishers Road and the line of the High Street became the chosen site. Costing at £10 000, the project was financed with £625 from the Burgh Council as well as personal and community donation of monies and materials, and voluntary labour over a period of two and a half years.
When it opened in 1932, The Pond had an Olympic standard pool measuring at 50 x 25 yards with changing cubicles at the east and west ends. The spectator capacity was at 1500 on both the north and south sides. There was also a 33 foot diving stage – the highest in Scotland – installed. This was an impressive feat by a small fishing village particularly because it happened during the Depression period. When the Pond Hall was completed in the following year, there were additional changing facilities, Council chambers, a library, a tearoom and a main function hall which accommodated 800 people. The hall also had a sprung ballroom floor, one of three in Britain, and was in continuous use for weddings, dances, and youth and church related activities. For this reason, the Pond Hall became the civic, social and recreational centre for the local community. During the 1930s, the opening of The Pond was also signified by long queues of children and adults from all over East Lothian. The exceptional facilities and reputation also made The Pond a key training venue for swimming clubs from all over Scotland. Amongst the frequent visitors were the Portobello Scottish and British Water Polo Champions.
The Pond and the Pond Hall remained open throughout the World War 2 years and became even more central to the community’s social and recreational activities. After the war, new community activities emerged. For example, in 1947, the Cockenzie Players staged their first production in the Pond Hall and such shows continued until 1961. In addition, the Cockenzie & Port Seton Bowling Club and Gala fund raising dances were also held there. The car park at the Pond Hall was also the annual venue for the crowning of the Gala Queen, and this attracted large crowds from across the county.
In 1949, the swimming club (originally formed in 1928) was restarted and by 1955 it had a membership of 400. The 1950s also witnessed the resurrection of swimming galas with frequent visitors like Peter Heatley, a Commonwealth gold medallist diving champion, and local club diver, A. McNeil from Tranent. Floodlit bathing was also introduced in the 1950s, and there was dancing every Saturday night in the Pond Hall. In December 1953, a clock tower was unveiled on top of the Pond Hall. It was donated by public subscription in memory of Dr John Black, a former medical practitioner in the town, who lived in Link Roads for many years.
By mid 1960s, there was a major decline in the swimming club activities. As the years passed, the amount of essential maintenance and upgrading increased. In 1973, the Burgh Council recognised the need to modernise and upgrade the facilities. However, due to strict budget controls, no further steps were taken by East Lothian District Council. Investment and maintenance of the pool, from then on, was affected. By the 1980s, new indoor swimming and leisure facilities were developed in Dunbar, North Berwick, Haddington and Musselburgh. The state of The Pond, however, continued to decline. And when the Port Seton Community Centre in the King George V Park opened in 1994, it became increasingly evident that The Pond and the Pond Hall facilities were no longer as appealing as they had once been. With attendances failing, and costs running at £12 per swimmer, it was no longer economically justifiable for The Pond and the Pond Hall to stay open in 1994. Finally, a decision was made to convert the Pond Hall site into a housing development.
In spite of a 4000 signature petition and business letters of support, the Pond Hall was demolished in December 1995. Although the District Council was sympathetic to the community’s wishes to hold on to this significant piece of their heritage, refurbishing the Pond Hall was considered to be too costly and unnecessary especially since other sports developments were available in the surrounding area. With the closure of the Pond Hall, the Dr Black Clock was moved to Hart Estates, Macmerry for safekeeping.

Wiles Buses – Catch them at Longniddry Library during April 2018

Wiles Buses – Catch them at Longniddry Library during April 2018.

The History
The Buses – over 30 on display
The Garage – See how the construction of the original garage is progressing!

Representation of the People Act, or the Fourth Reform Act

Today marks the centenary of the passing of the Representation of the People Act on the 6th February 1918. What did that mean? Why is it important? Well, if you haven’t been following the radio, the news and social media today and yesterday, it reformed the electoral system in Great Britain and Ireland after years of campaigning. For the first time some women were granted the right to vote, as well as all men over the age of 21. However, only women over the age of 30 were allowed to vote. Another 10 years had to pass before working class women over the age of 21 were granted that right.
It’s unimaginable today, but to be eligible to vote in 1918 a woman had to not only be over 30, but also be either a member of, or married to, a member of the Local Government Register; or be a property owner, or a graduate voting in a university constituency. Perhaps this was because women outnumbered men (due to losses of male lives in WWI) and it was feared that a specific women’s party might emerge if they were all granted the vote at once?
Although not equality, where would women be now if it hadn’t happened at all, I wonder? I’m sitting here musing on just how lucky women in the UK are; that we have the right to vote, and also upon the struggles and sacrifices my predecessors went through. Suffragettes were ridiculed in the press, imprisoned, beaten, and force fed when they went on hunger strike. Gender inequality still exits and we are still fighting it, but at least we have the right to vote and we don’t have to resort to such violent struggles and sacrifices to get our voices heard.

reform banner

Reform banner

The act passed in 1918 was the 4th Reform Act, each Act building on the one before.
The first reform Act in 1832 increased the Scottish male electorate from 4,239 to 65,000. Although the 3rd Act allowed 5 million men the vote but a few years later was considered a ‘charter of slavery rather than enfranchisment’. It only allowed 60% of men over 21 the vote and millions of soldiers returning home after the First World War would still not have been entitled to vote!
ELCMS cares for a marching banner that was once owned by reform campaigners in Musselburgh over a hundred years ago. It has been exhibited in the John Gray Centre in Haddington.
Despite violent agitation, including local acts such as the burning of Whitekirk church in 1914 to protest at the force-feeding of female prisoners in Edinburgh, Suffragettes put their protestations on hold during the First World War when women assisted the war effort by doing ‘men’s work’.
Granting the vote to women was to be recognition of their contribution during WWI.

Whitekirk Church 1914

Whitekirk Church 1914

East Lothian women had been making an important contribution to the growing female inclusion in the social and political scene. The prominent suffragette, Catherine Blair from Hoprig Mains, founded the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute (SWRI) in Longniddry in 1917, to bring women together and try to remedy the isolation many women felt living in the countryside. Their motto ‘For Home and Country’ and ‘Deeds not Words’ The SWRI movement grew rapidly and by 1922 there were 22 branches in East Lothian alone.
Catherine also set up the Mak Merry pottery, believing that the lives of women in the countryside could be enriched through arts and crafts and the teaching of those skills. Today the SWI continues that tradition and has over 16,000 members across Scotland.

SWRI banner 1917

SWRI banner 1917

We must never forget the bravery and determination of all of those women that came before us in the fight for equality, and we must never take our rights for granted. Global inequality still exists.
To not vote, in my opinion, is to disvalue those brave women who came before us and the men who supported them. #100years #Votes100 #Suffrage100
(By: Dr. Claire Pannell, Collections Officer, Museum service with thanks to Pat Gawler for the research)

Organising an Exhibition

Katherine Weldon asked if I could recount my experience, the highs and the lows, of putting together the current exhibition in the John Gray Centre Gallery – The Story of St Andrew and the Saltire – which opened on 28 October 2017 and runs until 30 January 2018.

I rashly agreed!

It was back in March 2016, at a meeting of the Scottish Flag Trust in Athelstaneford Church, that the idea was first raised. It was during discussions as to how best to mark the 20th anniversary of the Flag Heritage Centre which had opened its doors to the public in 1997. “Why don’t we hold an exhibition?” a Trustee innocently asked, and so it was agreed and minuted.

Little did I know what I, as Trust Chairman, was letting myself in for over the next 18 months.

The first task was to find a suitable venue for the exhibition. The John Gray Centre was the obvious choice – central location, accessible, and with good gallery space. But to secure this venue, formal application had to be made to East Lothian Council Museums Service, and this required details of what the aims of the exhibition were, and the likely content. And so the Trust put together an outline of what was envisaged, and what it might cost. After meeting and making the case to Museums staff, consent was granted and an exhibition slot at the end of 2017 agreed.

The second task was then to put together funding bids to various bodies, in the knowledge that mounting and promoting such an exhibition would be expensive. Applying for funding can take a lot of time and effort, as potential funding bodies ask for evidence of local support for projects, as well as detailed costs. So the Trust had for example to ask for written support from Haddington & District Community Council, and seek quotes for graphic work and publications. In the event, these funding bids proved unsuccessful.

The most frustrating rebuff was from the Heritage Lottery Fund. 2017 had been designated the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, and HLF had grants of between £3k and £10k available, and the Trustees felt sure a proposed exhibition about the Battle of Athelstaneford and about Scotland’s patron saint would meet the criteria. But after waiting some months for a decision, the Trust was informed in December that its project was deemed not to represent good value for money.

Arising from this, the Trust had to cut back on some elements. For instance, it had initially wanted to take the exhibition on from Haddington to other venues, such as North Berwick and Musselburgh, and to engage more directly with schools. This was no longer possible.

The third and main task was to work up an exhibition layout, and then the design and content of the main boards to be displayed on the gallery walls. This was an iterative process in which each board went through a number of changes over a period of months. This was only possible thanks to the creative skills and flexibility, not to mention enormous
tolerance, of Scott Ballantyne, the Trust’s graphic designer. Scott is now retired, and generously agreed to work for far below the normal commercial rate. Images had to be sourced for exhibition boards and pamphlets, and this required many visits, for example to the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral, and to photograph relics of the patron saint. Texts had
to be checked and re-checked for accuracy. There was a huge sigh of relief in the summer of 2017 when the boards were finally signed off, ready for printing.

All of the smaller exhibits to be displayed within the three gallery cases had been amassed over the previous months, and card descriptions were then prepared, checked and printed. A 16 page pamphlet providing a fuller background, to be made available to visitors to the exhibition, had to be prepared, checked and printed.

In parallel to all this, approaches were being made to National Museums Scotland and to other collections to try to secure some important items for display. Again, formal application can be a lengthy process, and the Trust was advised to allow up to 9 months in some cases. Fortunately, approval was given in time by NMS for the Pictish Benvie Stone
and a Roman coin from Traprain to be displayed, and the Edinburgh Trades also kindly agreed to allow the ceremonial copy of the Blue Blanket to be displayed.

The final week in October 2017 was especially nerve-wracking, as this was the setting up week in the gallery. We were working against the clock, knowing that the exhibition had been publicised as opening on the Saturday. Boards had to transferred safely and hung, exhibition cases had to be cleaned, moved and set up with exhibits and text cards, and the
arrival of loan items from NMS and other collections co-ordinated. The Thursday afternoon was particularly fraught, but fortunately Katherine Weldon, having seen it all before, was an oasis of calm. Amazingly, everything fell into place, nothing was overlooked, and the exhibition was able to open to the public on time and without any disaster.

The official opening on 31 October, with Cabinet Minister Fergus Ewing MSP doing the honours, was a highlight. Invites had gone out in time, the press turned up, and everyone enjoyed a guided tour of the exhibition, quite unaware of the panic of the previous week.

A final thought comes to me that an exhibition is much like an iceberg. What is on display represents the final 10%; what visitors don’t see is the 90% beneath the surface comprising all long months of research, preparatory work, design changes, text changes, not to mention discarded ideas and blind alleys.

Dave Williamson, Chairman, The Scottish Flag Trust

Edinburgh, Lothians and Borders Archaeology Conference 2017!

Another year, another fabulous conference! If we were to start a recipe book for creating the perfect mix of people, papers and provisions at a regional archaeology conference, perhaps it may have read a little like this year’s programme:

….take one probable barrow in Prestonpans; add in a chunk of medieval buildings, settlement and industry in Edinburgh’s Old Town; lace with place names and long-lost churches in Berwickshire and Coldstream; dot with isolated prehistoric pits; mix well with some prehistoric settlement in Dunbar, serve with a slice of Lamer Island; douse with a good slug of Flodden; and, finally, bake with copious amounts of coffee and delightful nibbles….!

(For those of you lucky enough to have heard Beverley Ballin Smith’s thought-provoking paper, you will note the nod to her baking reference!)

Putting almost all tom-foolery aside (never quite all, we are archaeologists), we were treated to another splendid array of papers, delivered by a wonderful mix of heritage groups, commercial units and academics. Each gave us a fascinating insight into a diverse, and in some cases, wholly unexpected range of topics: the intricacies of the medieval tanning process and its associated material culture; the specific sequential numbering of the roof beams in Panmure House; the very localised design of the stone-carved grave markers in medieval border Kirks…the list goes on!

We’ve also had a conference that has highlighted the benefits of coming together and sharing the results of the heritage work we are all engaged in.

This reinforces our existing relationships, but also helps to forge new links, create new collaborations and pose further avenues for research. All of which is most timely given the work just starting on SESARF, our South East Scotland Archaeological Research Framework!

The conference has shown that there is clearly much to be gained, on several fronts, from such a regional syntheses; for understanding more broadly the heritage that we do have, and for working out what we don’t know; and, importantly for strengthening our amazing heritage community in the south-east!

Thanks very much to all our speakers, sponsors and stalls for making this year’s conference another success…we’re already looking forward to next year’s – if you have any comments, photos or suggestions we’d love to hear from you!