East Lothian People
History is not just a set of events that take place in isolation. It is about how those events shaped the people who lived through them, and also about the people who made them happen. Here we will gradually be adding pages about some of those who have found themselves a place in the history of East Lothian, and we welcome your suggestions and contributions for new articles.
The rich farmland and fishing grounds of East Lothian have always attracted people, and there is evidence of settlement here reaching as far back as the Stone Age. Our documentary evidence only covers more recent times, however! Surname research shows that many settlers over the last thousand years came from Europe and England. Norman families took over big estates in the 13th century by invitation from the king: de Gifford, Broun, Martine. Others came as Huguenot refugees, merchants and skilled tradesmen.
The list of famous residents is vast, and includes Alexander II, King of Scots; John Knox, the revolutionary Protestant reformer; John Witherspoon, who signed the American Declaration of Independence; writers such as Samuel Smiles, Jane Welsh Carlyle, Margaret Oliphant and Nigel Tranter; artists such as Archibald Skirving, William Gillies, John Bellany, Ken Lochhead and the celebrated ceramicist David Cohen; engineers include John Rennie and Andrew Meikle; and East Lothian can even claim a former prime minister, AJ Balfour.
If you have suggestions about people you would like to see featured in this section, please leave a comment below. If you’d like to contribute an article yourself, please use our simple template and send it to us. Or simply write a piece in Your Stories.
If you wish to carry out any of your own research on East Lothian people or families, please contact the local history centre at the JGC.
Black, George, Surnames of Scotland: Their origin, meaning and history. Most recent edition 2007, Birlinn.
McNicoll, Diane, The Surnames of East Lothian: based on the old parish registers of births & baptisms for Haddingtonshire. 1999, East Lothian
Gray, W. Forbes and James H. Jamieson, East Lothian Biographies. Transactions of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists’ Society, 1941
Dick, David, A Millennium of Fame of East Lothian. Clerkington Publishing, 2000