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

Treasures in the Museum

John Gray Dedication Board

John Gray Dedication Board

John Gray replica board

Who was John Gray? John was born in Haddington in 1646, the son of a merchant. He became an Episcopalian minister in 1667, and Minister of Aberlady in 1684. During his life he collected a library of around 900 books which he gave, together with money for their upkeep, to the people of Haddington on the death of his wife in 1717. His library was one of the first in Britain made freely available to the public, and is now housed in the National Library of Scotland.

'Hoeing the Fields', painting by William Marshall Brown

‘Hoeing the Fields’, painting by William Marshall Brown

‘Hoeing the Fields’, by William Marshall Brown, 1911

This painting shows field workers ‘pitting potatoes’, with the flat plains of East Lothian stretching out into the distance. The artist, William Marshall Brown, painted many rural scenes like this, showing his view of life in the countryside of East Lothian in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The potato harvest was gathered by hand right up until the 1970s. Farmers hired groups of workers, mostly women, from the towns and villages to bring in the harvest. The woman on the left in this painting wears a sun-bonnet called an ‘ugli’. This was part of the traditional rural costume of female farm workers and helped protect her from the sun and rain.

Ceramic model of a fishwife

Ceramic model of a fishwife

Fishwife ceramic model

This ornament was made around 1840 and is modelled on a typical fishwife of the East Coast fishing ports. Fishwives were a familiar sight in the area until the 1950s, selling their fish around the streets of Edinburgh and further afield. She is depicted is wearing her distinctive traditional dress which was practical and also served as a recognisable uniform as she sold her wares. The ornament could have been made at any of a number of potteries from Portobello to Prestonpans where there is an ancient connection with the manufacture of pottery. There were readily available local supplies of clay and of coal which were two of the essential raw ingredients for the industry.

The Nova Spero, by John Bellany, 1988

The 'Nova Spero', by John BellanyThis is a painting of Fisherrow fishing boat LH142 ‘Nova Spero’ in Eyemouth Harbour. The ‘Nova Spero’ was built in Arbroath in 1987 and is owned by David Fairnie of Musselburgh, and others. She is a deep sea trawler. For many years, Fisherrow fishermen fished for shellfish, white fish and herring in the Firth of Forth. From the mid 19C they followed the herring around the Scottish coast, beginning in the west in the spring. Today, the few boats that are left now fish from more convenient southern harbours.

Bonus track: Battle of Prestonpans

Battle of Prestonpans display, now changed

Hey Johnnie Cope!

A great deal of music, poetry, literature and art is associated with East Lothian. One of Scotland’s best known folk songs, Hey Johnnie Cope! was written by Adam Skirving and gives an account from the Jacobite viewpoint of the Battle of Prestonpans that took place in 1745. In the battle Sir John Cope, the commander of the government troops, was defeated in a dawn attack by the Jacobites. The song includes several apocryphal incidents, including challenges conveyed by letters between Cope and his rival Bonnie Prince Charlie and an account of Sir John Cope fleeing from the battle all the way back to Berwick. The battle was a decisive victory for the Jacobites.

Highlight – stone lintel above the doorway

candlemaker lintel

Look up above to see the stone lintel which once spanned the doorway of a candle maker in Haddington, called Candleriggs. If you look closely you can see images of candles carved into the stone, together with the date 1599.

QuaichMak’Merry ceramic quaich, from the 1920s or 1930s

The Mak’Merry pottery studio was founded by Catherine Blair, the founder of the first Scottish Women’s Rural Institute, at Hoprig Mains near Gladsmuir around 1919. It was formed as a way of giving women some artistic and financial freedom.

Craighall Friendly Society Banner

Gigantic marching banners were the prized possessions of many friendly societies, who embellished them with classical and mythological symbols. This banner was created around 1831 to take on marches and parades. The design is painted onto a silk and wool backing.

The Craighall Friendly Society was instituted to provide self help and mutual support to its members and their families.  Friendly Societies were a vital safety net in hard times.  Some insured livestock, others paid benefits to members and their families and organised gala events.  Most of these societies faded away as the welfare state was established from the early 1900s.

Images conveying illustrious histories, connections and mythologies were often used in marching banners like this one to promote the aims of the society and increase its membership.

Bronze Age beaker

Bronze Age beaker

Beaker in East Lothian Timeline

We know a little about Bronze Age man by studying human remains and burial cists (graves). This virtually intact beaker was found as part of a burial site along with the skeleton of a young woman near Haddington. She died between 2570 and 2300BC. A pig bone was also found buried with the skeleton. The beaker and meat were placed in the grave for use in the afterlife, evidence that Bronze Age man had a belief system. You can find out more about East Lothian’s archaeology in our online exhibition, ‘Footprints in the Landscape‘.
Cranston memorial plaque

Cranston PlaqueThe First World War had a dramatic effect on family life in East Lothian. Husbands and fathers left home to fight leaving their wives and children at home coping not only with mixed emotions of pride and fear but also with an increased domestic burden. One such family was the Cranston family of Haddington. Alexander and Elizabeth Cranston of St Martin’s Gate, Haddington had 11 children, seven of their sons went to fight, four died and two were terribly wounded, only one returned home unscathed. Many of the remaining family members suffered physical and mental health issues as a direct result of the conflict and the family broke up following the end of the war. Some members of the family stayed in Scotland, others emigrated and the separate families gradually drifted apart.

The Talking Museum

Audio guide handset at first museum displayOur main exhibition is fully described, with vivid audio and text. You can borrow a guide for free any time you visit the museum, or view and listen to it online.

2 thoughts on “Treasures in the Museum”

  1. Gail says:

    Could you tell us who were the parents of John Gray?

    1. KateM says:

      Hi, there is more information about John Gray here:
      I hope that this answers your query?

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