Please note: due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak the Centre is currently closed, but our website is still open for business.

Your Stories

East Lothian’s full of stories – do you have one to share? Here you can! Just scroll down to ‘Leave a comment’ and write your story  – you can upload a small image too, as long as you have permission to share it.

Tell us something about East Lothian’s past, whether it’s a story about your historic home, village or town, or a tale of your grandfather’s experiences living and working in the region. We’d also love to hear about your own experience of change in the way we do things now, from transport to farming, from education to leisure – and countless things in between! Or tell us about your visits to any of the archaeological sites or historic places around the county – there are so many out there, and every one is different.

Please treat others as you would like to be treated, and don’t write about other people or families unless you have their consent.

42 thoughts on “Your Stories”

  1. Diane Monks says:

    Hello all in Scotland from a rainy South Wales,
    my 4xgrandfather John Horn/Horne was buried in Tranent Churchyard 1848. Death cert from SP says cause of death Burned. Maybe this reported in a newspaper at the time ,seems a pretty unusual cause of death. This has intrigued me and would love to find out what actually happened to him.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. BillW says:

      Dear Diane. Our local newspaper, The Haddingtonshire Courier is a wonderful source which recorded the majority of events that happened around the county. However, the Courier only came into circulation in 1859 and therefor missed your ancestors death. Sorry to be the bearer of this news. Good luck. Bill.

      1. Diane Monks says:

        Hello Bill. Thanks for your reply. I did look at the Haddingtonshire newspaper but no luck on that
        Sadly it will have to remain a mystery. Take care. Diane.

  2. HeatherSC says:

    Alfred Nathan Dennis is my great uncle, and I think he is the man you are looking for. Someone contacted my mother after my grandmother took a DNA test a year before she passed on and helped us make this previously unknown connection. If you see this message, please contact me [email]

  3. Pauline Millward says:

    Hi there would like information on Archibald & Janet (Kirkwood) Edington who lived at Barneyhill Farm. Both died in Dunbar in 1871 had a son John my ggfather. A few Edington families resided in the area. Thanks

    1. HanitaR says:

      Dear Ms Millward,
      Thank you for your enquiry. I’m afraid we do not have any readymade references or info on families. You would have to do a search by typing the name ‘kirkwood’ into the search box in our website. Please browse through the results to see if any are relevant (archive documents, newspaper entries, etc.). If there is anything that relates to the family you are researching, then do email [email protected] to request for the information you need. Best Wishes.

  4. Leigh Straw says:

    Hi there,
    I’m a writer and lecturer in Western Australia (originally from Scotland) and am trying to trace more about my Granny’s early life for a memoir. She was in an orphanage/home in Haddington and I now think it was Templedean Girls Home. She was there in the 1930s but we don’t have any specific records. Where would I be able to access records? I’m planning to come back for a research trip soon. Here name was Janet McGuaig Calder.

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Leigh,
      Thank you for your enquiry. I’m afraid we do not keep records for the Templedean home. The only information we have is that The Christie Homes registers are held by Lindsays Solicitors in Edinburgh. You can contact them at [email protected]. Wishing you all the best.

  5. Lorna Weir says:

    My G Grandmother and her sisters came from Skye to work as outworkers on various farms in East Lothian during the period 1890-1901 (approx). Does anyone know what happened to this Highland workforce out with the hiring seasons? Did they go back up North, or did they obtain other work? Did any of them work on the farms all year? Any help appreciated. Thanks.

    1. HanitaR says:

      Hi Lorna,
      What we have noticed is that most outworkers and agricultural labourers would go where the work is. And this, as you can imagine, requires travelling to various places.
      Thanks for your enquiry.

  6. N. Scott Shirreff says:


    This commentary discloses some recently re-discovered and little known details about my ancestor and one of Haddington’s most famous residents.

    The Life of Patrick Shirreff:

    Patrick Shirreff (1791-1876) lived at Mungoswells, Haddington, East Lothian. Patrick Shirreff had many diverse interests all associated with agriculture. He was a successful farmer. He was an explorer, having traveled extensively in colonial North America, researching its agricultural potential. The results of which are contained in the book “A Tour Through North America” published in 1835, with a first edition housed at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. (ISBN 978-0548474129; 978-1429001755) He was a keen sportsman, raising champion greyhounds for the track. He was a social reformer, most notable during the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. However, Shirreff’s most important contribution was his pioneering work in the field of plant breeding. Historical records Patrick Shirreff as the first commercial breeder of cereals, effectively making him the “father” of wheat and oats and the modern cereal grain industry.

    The Scientific Contributions of Patrick Shirreff:

    The beginnings of Patrick Shirreff’s life-long scientific devotion is first noted in the spring of 1819 and resulted in Mungoswells wheat. After a frost, it is said he observed, quite accidentally, a single plant which attracted his attention as being unaffected and by being more heavily headed out. He chose this specimen as a starting point. From this lone plant, seed was carefully collected. After two years of rapid multiplication it proved to be a good new variety and was brought into commerce. This inconspicuous experiment has proved to be the first documented evidence of a new cereal plant variety creation using single plant natural selections to replace the landraces from which they were derived.

    In 1824 this same selection criteria resulted in a new strain of oats. These Hopetown oats quickly found their way into culture extensively in Scotland. Renowned for their high-starch content, short growing cycle and hardy adaptation to marginal land and cool climates, oats became an important food source. Indeed in the Victorian era, oatmeal was so closely linked to Scottish customs that in England it was declared: “oats are fit to be fed only to horses and Scotsmen”. Ever rivals, this implored the Scottish response: “in England they produce the finest of horses; and in Scotland we produce the finest of men”.

    Shirreff’s other early successes include the Hopetoun wheat and the 1832 discovery of Hunter’s wheat which he nurtured from a single ear growing wild in Sussex county England.

    After establishing several new varieties of both wheat and oats under this technique it was replaced with Shirreff’s second method. Striking plant specimens appeared too rarely, and the expectation of a profitable result was too small. The previous assumption that new varieties with striking features were being produced by nature from time to time was abandoned and replaced with a new systematic inquiry into the worth of all components. While it was now proven that every plant belonged to a constant and pure race, the majority were only of average value while a few excelled.

    Once started, this new method of isolated multiplication in conjunction with attention to the field culture variables, resulted in even more improved varieties that could be adapted to the different conditions.

    By 1857, Patrick Shirreff’s nursery boasted 70 specific strains of wheat and oats. Largely due to the many honours bestowed upon him by both the East Lothian Agricultural Society and the Royal and Highland Agricultural Society, Patrick Shirreff’s notoriety as a cereal breeder extraordinaire soon spread beyond Scotland. In all corners of the British Isles, continental Europe and America, Shirreff’s varieties were offered for commerce, often under local trade names. These included Mungoswells, Hopetoun, Hunter’s, Squarehead, Master’s, Early Fellow, Fine Fellow, Long Fellow and Make-Him-Rich.

    Published in 1880, Les Meilleurs Bles, was the most comprehensive reference resource for wheat taxonomy of the day. Notable is the variety Ble Blanc Shireff , the premium white winter wheat variety renowned for is milling quality, vigor and resistance to disease rust and frost.

    Encompassed with the term “evolutionary hybridization”, the remarkable achievements of Patrick Shirreff predate, in most cases by decades, some of the most famous discoveries in life sciences. This predominant list of names includes Charles Darwin, Alfred Wallace, Gregor Mendel, Louis Pasteur, John Le Couteur, Wilhelm Rimpau, Asa Gray, Hugo DeVries, Ernst Haeckel and Ernst Mayr.

    Patrick Shirreff’s revolutionary experiments are specifically noted by Charles Darwin in researching his ground-breaking theory of evolution and natural selection. The first citing comes from Darwin’s 1858 book Variation of Animal & Plants Under Domestication an important prequel to his more celebrated The Origin of The Species published in 1859.

    In 1909’s Species & Varieties, Their Origin by Mutation, acclaimed Dutch botanist, Hugo DeVries explicitly details Patrick Shirreff’s plant breeding techniques for his own mutation theory of evolution and genetics.

    In the latter half of the 20th century, American, Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in wheat variety improvements in the developing world – essentially the same type of advancements Patrick Shirreff made well over one hundred years earlier.

    The Revival of Heritage Cereal Varieties:

    With origins in the fertile crescent of the Middle East 10,000 years ago, grain truly comes from the Garden of Eden. Anthropologists and historical geologists have long associated wheat production with the migration of peoples out of the Middle East and into Transcaucasia and East Asia. Wheat growing played a vital role in allowing the first farmers to gain dominance over the nomadic hunters. Eventually this domain extended all throughout Europe and Asia. With them came the hermon grass or landrace grains on which they depended. The earliest varieties identified were Einkorn and Emmer, which then varied from location to location with adapting to geographical conditions along the way. Invaders brought with them their own varieties which then in turn acclimatized further to become the first grains.

    Lead by organic producers, health-conscious consumers and a list of celebrity chefs, heritage grains are enjoying a revival. In North America this retro-revolution is lead by Red Fife, one of a handful of varieties that are the genetic parents of most wheat grown in North America.

    From a North American perspective, the story surrounding Red Fife’s arrival is a source of much debate combining equal parts of fact and myth. Its namesake comes from one David Fife, a Scottish immigrant farmer living near Peterborough, Upper Canada (modern day Ontario). In 1842, Mr. Fife wrote home asking for some new wheat seeds and received a small shipment from a Scottish acquaintance. The most commonly purported theory is that Red Fife is an accidental hybrid of red and white winter wheat varieties from Galicia known locally by the name Halychanka. The story goes that a shipment from Gdansk (also known as Danzig), Poland was being offloaded at Glasgow, where the unknown Scotsman obtained several handfuls, which he stored in his hatband before sending them to Canada. The offspring from a lone ear that narrowly escaped being eaten by a stray cow went on to become the celebrated variety. From this point Red Fife disappears from history until 1860, when a Wisconsin farmer named J.W. Clarke reported a bumper wheat harvest of this variety. Soon thereafter a multitude of other reports from numerous wheat producing states refer to wheat varieties containing all variations of Fife or Fyfe, most common were Red Fife, Scotch Fife or Canadian Fife.

    In 1904, a government researcher with Agriculture Canada named Charles Saunders crossed Red Fife with Hard Red Calcutta to produce Marquis wheat. The resulting wheat retained the superior milling and baking qualities of Red Fife, but now matured significantly earlier. Marquis would become the most important wheat ever introduced to North America and by 1918 there was more than 20 million acres sown. For the new immigrants of the Canadian prairies and American Midwest the impact was paramount. They now had a reliable cash crop which transformed the vast, unsettled territory into the bread basket of the world. For his achievements, Charles E. Saunders received a knighthood in 1934 and in the recent list of the “100 Most Influential Canadians of the Twentieth Century”, Sir Charles E. Saunders is ranked first.

    It is the author’s hypothesis that the original variety called Red Fife was instead one of Patrick Shirreff’s, possibly of the Hopetoun or Hunter’s line. First as Shirreff’s variety was developed from a landrace, it would then exhibit characteristics close to another landrace such as Halychanka. Second, David Fife was born at Kincardine, county Fife, which is less than 30 miles from East Lothian. By 1842 Patrick Shirreff’s reputation as a cereal breeder and his seed stock were well known throughout all the eastern counties in Scotland. Furthermore, by 1842 Patrick Shirreff had already toured and published a book about agriculture in the very parts of colonial Canada where David Fife had settled. As early as 1846 the Gardener’s Chronicle reported the observation that “red wheat is hardier in northern climates than white wheat”. Twelve years later the same publication reports that “Mr. Shirreff, and a higher authority cannot be given, says “I have never seen grain which has either been improved or degenerated by cultivation, so as to convey the change to the succeeding crop.” This reveals that there was already distinction between red and white varieties and it shows that experimentations had already been made in northern climates. It also demonstrates that at this point in history Patrick Shirreff is the leading authority and breeder in cereals.

    Irregardless of Red Fife’s origins, Patrick Shirreff’s pioneering science has had immeasurable impact on modern agriculture. In this age of litigation and treatment of plant species as intellectual property, heritage grains – due to their lack of legal standing, may once again champion grower’s rights.

    Fortunately, preservation societies such as Slow Food’s Ark of Taste catalogue are celebrating these rare food sources and their unique status as a regional specialty. To date, Red Fife wheat has been accepted into this listing; however, no UK-origin varieties of wheat (or oats) have been registered. These pioneering wheat varieties are perhaps the most significant advancement in the history of agriculture and ought to be a source of Scottish/British national pride rather than a mere historical footnote. These wheat varieties are literally “Our Daily Bread”. With an annual worldwide production of 550 million tonnes, wheat is the single most economically important food product. It is the second most common crop grown on Earth, and most importantly, it is the dietary foundation for millions of people and the livestock that sustain them.

    I encourage and welcome any comments or additional information.

  7. BillW says:

    I’ve had a look through the index that we have here and I’m sorry to say that I could not find any mention of Laurence Gray. There were a number of William Gray’s in the index but none of them from the Musselburgh / Fisherrow area. The death of Lawrence Gray in 1873 was never mentioned in the Haddingtonshire Courier. The only incident I could find took place on 21st October 1881 when it was described in the Courier that a boat got into difficulty of the coast of Cove and two brothers, whose surname was Gray, were rescued from the boat. One suggestion I could make is, if you live locally, you could drop in and look through the Valuation Rolls for Fisherrow to look for details of William Gray.

    1. John Roscoe says:

      Thanks for doing this. At some point I may do as you suggest,I don’t live locally. Meanwhile I will continue looking but it is strange that trying to trace my Gray ancestry is so difficult. Thanks

  8. John Roscoe says:

    Hello, I wonder if anyone can help me I am researching my family history my great grandfather was William Gray and is boat was the Mine and Thine and he worked out of Fisherrow. I have managed to trace his Father Laurence Gray who was skipper of the Good Design and was sadly drowned near the Isle of Ebriss late May 1873.
    I would be grateful if any one could share any information they have about the family particularly Laurence Gray’s ancestors.
    I have (I think) attached a photo of my great grandparents William and Margaret Gray taken outside their house 39 New Street.

    1. H. Leighton says:

      I am aware of a Laurence Gray who lived in Musselburgh/Fisherrow in the 1950s. He was in some way connected to the Livingstons, also fisher folk. Walter Livingston, formerly of Fisherrow (now New Zealand), and I think Laurence’s cousin, had an article in East Lothian Life recently – perhaps you could track him down to find out more about the Gray family.

  9. david thomson says:

    Whilst researching mum’s family tree I came across the attached newspaper story and was wondering if you had any ideas on where I could find other records covering this incident. My great grandfather was an Andrew Dores of Dunbar and he’s probably the fisherman in question.
    David Thomson (Perth, Aus)

    1. David says:

      Hello David

      I had a very quick look in the Haddingtonshire Courier – and found exactly the same report, word-for-word, apart from the closing sentence. I think that’ll be the only ‘press release’ – reports like this were circulated by a one-man Press Agency operating in Dunbar; the operator had good links with the fishing community and often picked up incidents like this.

      You could ask my colleagues directly if there are index entries or other reports relating to members of the Dores family in Dunbar.

    2. david thomson says:

      Thanks for looking into this. Given the time period I wasn’t hopeful that there would be a lot of info available.

    3. Wendy B says:

      Hi David,
      I am a wee bit late to this conversation, we must be related as Andrew Dores was my 2x or 3x greatgrandfather. Or if referring to his son, an uncle. I have been trying to trace the Dores family but keep hitting a block. I appreciate you posting the article.

      My line is fromAndrew Dores&Isabella Thomson- Andrew Dores& Isabelle Liston- Emillie (Amelia/Emily) Dores Noble -Watson Dores Noble-Gordon Alexander Noble-my mother Jeannie Noble Barwise-me.

  10. andrew haddow says:

    Hello…can you help me? With your cooperation I have an interestingstory for you. In the 1960s I lived at Ugston Farm House and in the 1980s
    I had a dream that someone committed suicide there. This has been confirmed by earlier occupants. Please could you look at your records for a bachelor living there with his housekeeper and committing suicide on a Christmas Day between 1950 and 1960. And what room was he found in?

    thank you

    1. Fiona Edwards (nee McKinlay) says:

      I lived in various houses at Ugston, with my family, from 1954, when I was born, until 1969, when we moved to Haddington. We were living in the Grieve’s house at the farm, as my father was grieve for Commander Crawford, when we left. My father had been living at Ugston for a few years previously. He said that a previous farmer had committed suicide in a room in the old barn, now a listed building, next to the farmhouse and opposite our house. I can’t remember his name. I remember your family being in the farmhouse but, unfortunately not yourself. I do, however, remember your father’s Indian servant as being a very quiet, kind man.
      Do you have much information about the history of Ugston? I like to research the history of places I have lived in but don’t have much about Ugston.
      Anything at all would be great. Thank you
      (P.S. Looking at your dates, I don’t think this happened between 1950 and 1960 – I think it happened long before that.)

  11. K Roy says:

    All these stories are so fascinating.
    I have spent years (to no avail) trying to trace my great grandfather. My great grandmother – Isabella Roy was 19/20 when she met a man called Alfred Dennis who we have been told was over from America. This meeting resulted in the birth of my grandfather, Alfred Dennis Roy in 1919, who was raised by his grandparents and for most of his childhood he believed his uncles were actually his brothers etc.
    We have so little to go on – just a name and a rumoured story.
    I now live in Australia and have used etc – but with the events having taken place in the last 100 years I am really struggling. Does anyone know if Americans were stationed in East Lothian? Or where I could begin to look? Desperate to find out what happened to this man I only have as a name on a birth certificate…

    1. David says:

      Hello K Roy

      For the first question we know that East Fenton/Drem was home to the American 41st Aero Squadron from April – August 1918. (See also: and (dig for some named officers of the 41st, but note observations on lack of records for enlisted men)). But that’s all – we have no records in our archives. I suspect that you’ll have to explore American Government Archives to see if muster rolls/establishment lists of the squadron are available. The timing is suggestive of a link, however. So perhaps if you could supply us with more information we could see if Isabella or her family turn up living near East Fenton: any place names associated with the family would be useful, and the names of other family members.

  12. Iain Walinck says:
    I don’t have a story to share today, but rather a song. I was born and raised in Musselburgh and have a long standing respect for the working communities of the area. I now live in Arizona but the ties that bind me to home remain strong. In this instance, I wrote ‘Fishwife Song’ as a celebration of the strength, hardiness, endurance and beauty for the fishwives of Scotland, and in particular the fishwives from Musselburgh as depicted throughout. May we all espouse such spirited determination.

  13. HelenB says:

    Thank you for this story Alan – your mother sounds like an adventurous and strong-minded woman! It just shows how much society has changed in that short time.

  14. Alan Hamilton Messer says:

    My mother, Edith Cockburn Hamilton, was born in Haddington on the 3 September 1919. The family lived at some point in 8 Templedean Crescent. I was told that my grandfather, William McLeod Hamilton was at one time a librarian in the area.

    The story that some may know of is quite personal. In about 1935 when my mother was about 15 or 16 she had a boyfriend. This lad was not popular in the town as he drove a motorcycle. My mother used to go on the pillion for rides, much to her mother’s consternation. The outcome of these rides was that she got pregnant. She had a son who is still alive now, my half brother, who was brought up by her own mother.

    But there’s more as they say. In about 1940 she went off to Liverpool to join the WRENS and got pregnant again! This child was adopted but I am now in touch, How many people in a lovely place like Haddington would have been so offended by that in those days.
    I can write this now because she died in 1996.

  15. alistair graham says:

    Full, True, and Particular account of the Trial of Samuel M’Lauchlan, master baker, and Thomas Badger, before the High Court of Justiciary, for the Riots at Lauder at the election of a member of parliament, and for assaulting Lord Maitland, the Sheriff of the County, the Fiscal, and Mr Simpson, one of the Magistrates, by forcing him into a coach and driving him out of the town, in purpose to keep him from voting, This day came on before the High Court of Justiciary the trial of Samuel M Lauchlan, baker, and Thomas Badger, shoemaker, both residing in the town of Haddington, for mobbing, rioting, and assault; also for violently carrying off Mr Simpson one of the Magistrates, so as to defeat the franchise at the country election, which took place at Lauder, on the 4th day of May last. The prisoners, although implicated in forming part of the said mob, yet they became responsible as being art and part in attacking Lord Maitland, one of the candidates ; also with attacking the Sheriff and the Fiscal of the county, and with assaulting Mr Simpson, by hurling him a considerable distance on the street, and putting him into a post chaise, when he was driven off, whereby he was prevented from attending the meeting that was to take place that day. It appeared from the evidence adduced by several respectable inhabitants belonging to Haddington and Lauder, that on the day fixed for the election of a member of parliament, gangs of disorderly persons marched into Lauder, from Haddington, Galashiels, Tranent, Kelso, and surrounding districts, headed by music, carrying bludgeons and flags, and bearing yellow cockades on their breasts and hats. These outrageous mobs were addressed by the prisoner M’Lauchlan, who instilgated them on to riot.
    During the course of the day the Court House was broken into; Mr. Simpson, councilor, hurled through the streets, and carried off in a post chaise; Lord Mainland the unpopular candidate, the Sheriff and the Fiscal, were attacked and severely beaten and maltreated.Two of the Magistrates of Haddington gave the panel good characters, only that they considered M’Lauchlan as an eccentric character. He was often seen spouting, addressing crowds, and several times had played the part of a Merry Andrew. The Solicitor General addressed the Jury at great length. He said that although the prisoners did not actually make personal attacks upon the functionaries mentioned, yet it was clearly proved that the prisoner M’Lauchlan had stimulated the mob to riot, and that, any person who is present at such notons mobs become in part responsible for the damage done and violence used.
    The advocate for the pannels having addressed, the Jury, the Lord Justice Clerk summed up the evidence. The Jury returned a vordict of not guilty against Badger, and not roved by a majority, of one against M’Lauchlan.
    FORBES & KAY,Printers, 171.Cowgate..

    1. HelenB says:

      Alistair, this is an amazing story, thank you for sharing it! Do you have any dates or other sources for it? Would be very interesting to know. So vivid and colourful, I can just imagine the scenes and the characters.

      1. Alistair Graham says:

        Hi, i actually researched this further by reading the actual trial documents in the national archives. There was not a lot of extra information of real value – other than his excuse for being in Lauder was to visit his cousin at Blainslie who was married to a John Robertson. Since i was doing family history research and did not have details of Samuels parents this was invaluable and i found his uncle living with his cousin on the 1841 census so at least that gave me information that the family had originated in Innerleithen parish one generation before, anyway.

      2. Alistair Graham says:

        It is also mentioned i the John Martine book about Haddington

        1. Alistair Graham says:

          1831 National reform riots–one online source is the NLS word on the street series –

          1. HelenB says:

            Thanks Alistair – great to see those sources, I’m sure they’ll be useful not just for us, but for other readers too. We’ve got a new exhibition opening at the end of January which features some of the characters and stories that appear in Haddington’s criminal records, and bear a resemblance to your story – if you can, do pop in and have a look around, and have a chat with us about your research!

  16. HelenB says:

    Hi Stan,
    Apologies for my delay in replying – I’ve been away! I’ve made a couple of changes, I hope they’re OK!
    All best,

    1. Stan Bissinger says:

      Thanks Helen.
      Conscience now clear!

  17. HelenB says:

    Thank you very much for this wonderfully interesting story Stan – it brings Haddington during the Second World War vividly to life. It sounds as though you certainly saw Scotland during that period! I will pass your story on to our Local History team, I’m sure they’ll be equally fascinated.

    1. Stan Bissinger says:

      Dear Helen
      Glad you found the account interesting.
      My conscience as a retired teacher has been troubling me since I re-read what I wrote. Three uses of the word ‘young’ in two lines is poor style. I suppose it’s too late to remedy this?

  18. Stan Bissinger says:

    Hello !
    I google-earthed Haddington the other day and wondered if there is a local historian who might be remotely interested in some fragments of memory I have of your town as a three-year-old in 1943.

    My dad was in the Ist Polish armoured division which stationed in Haddington during that year. My mum and I had rooms in the town centre with Mrs Gracie and her daughter. Mrs Gracie was very kind to my mother. She had lost her son Bertie (I think) who was killed earlier in the war flying with Bomber Command over Germany.
    Mrs Gracie’s house was on the northern side of the main street. I remember this because I jammed my fingers in a door one evening and we sought help from a pharmacy across the road.
    The house was very old. Behind it were some dilapidated buildings (whether bomb-damaged or not I can’t recall) where I played with other kids.
    It was the strange things that happened from time to time that made my mother nervous and led her finally to look for accommodation elsewhere. A grandfather clock that hadn’t worked for years suddenly chimed out one day. On another occasion we returned home to find the gas mantel had been lit in our absence. The last straw was an event that happened to me personally. I awoke one night to see the form of a man crouching over my cot, breathing aloud. He seemed to be wearing a cloak and a broad-brimmed had, the sort of clothes worn in the seventeenth century. I saw just the outline but it scared me stiff and I screamed for help.
    In adult life I have always been amongst the sceptics regarding the supernatural, but I’ve always had this incident at the back of my mind to stop me from being excessively sceptical. And I don’t think that anything in my experience could have provided food for my youthful imagination. I was too young for books, not being a precocious genius-to-be. Does all that make sense ?
    I have other scraps of visual memory of the town. My mum was out walking with me outside the town centre towards a river, when a contingent of marching men approached. My mum grabbed me and we hid from them. ‘Germans’, she said. They must have been prisoners of war under escort, but still she felt threatened.
    Another memory I have is of a public park hosting several anti-aircraft guns, single-barrelled, pointing at the sky. I think this was Haddington but can’t be sure…

    The following year we were in Peebles, then Melrose. It was from there, I remember, that the Armoured Division set off for Normandy. They fought well at the closing stages of the Normandy campaign, near Falaise. I visit the divisional memorial museum there every year. Before Haddington we had lived in several towns in Scotland – Forfar, Galashiels, Auchtermuchty.
    Our grand tour of the country ended in Kinross in 1947-8 with its horrible winter. Then the Division was moved to southern England for demob, meaning another series of lodgings for my mum and me. Grass didn’t have time to grow under our feet !

    Very best wishes

    1. CraigS says:

      Stan, I recently did an extremely successful exhibition for the Local History Centre about the Polish troops. It toured our libraries and was so well received that the Polish Consulate actually asked for a copy. I was inspired by the fact my grandfather was in the Polish Armoured Division and was injured at the very place you mention – Falaise. The Poles, along with the Canadians, closed the Falaise Gap, and I have a number of Canadian penknives amongst my grandfather’s things.

      I’ll see if there is a way we can show the exhibition online.

      1. Stan Bissinger says:

        Hello Craig
        What a pleasure to hear from a kindred spirit! The Polish Divisional Memorial at Mont Ormel, not far from Falaise, houses a museum which you possibly may know. It is managed by a true enthusiast, Monsieur Stéphane Jonot. He would be honoured and delighted to receive whatever items of your exhibition as could be ‘transmittable’ by internet, or otherwise. I could think of no more fitting place for the few photos and military documents that came into my possession following my dad’s death. I now know they won’t find their way into a second-hand junk shop to be handled by indifferent strangers.
        Have a look round their website:
        There is quite a lot of material of all kinds relating to the First Polish Armoured Division’s time in Scotland.
        Best wishes

  19. HelenB says:

    If you’d like to know more about the Fall family, have a look in our People section:

  20. The incomparable Fall family of Dunbar were arguably Scotland’s greatest merchants in the first half of the eighteenth century – far outstripping the better known tobacco lords of Glasgow. By 1740 they had contracts with every fisherman on the east coast of Scotland as well as landowners who controlled the salmon take; their ships ventured to the Baltic, the Med, and across the Atlantic. Their empire was disrupted the deaths of the four founding brothers and by the Highland Rising of 1745 (although their flagship ‘Happy Janet’ was leased to the Royal Navy for the duration). Their successors were forced into receivership by their banks in the late 1780s. Only the fine houses they built in Dunbar remain to recall the glory days of the family.

  21. The Story of Collectionsbase

    Collectionsbase was originally built for a number of West Midlands projects. It was then used for Surrey for Exploring Surrey’s Past. It has been expanded over the years to be used by archives and HER, and now includes full geocoding, new API feeds for maps, images on maps and augmented reality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *