THE SALVATION ARMY - Agnes and John McLeod
1919 was the year the Prestonpans Corps started in the High Street
in an old bakery and it stayed there for sixty years. During this
period the Corps grew bigger and stronger in number, largely due
to the influx of new families coming to live in the town from
Ayrshire and Ianarkshire in the nineteen twenties.
A band of twenty was formed and also a Songster Brigade and this
Corps or Church had a big influence on the community. People attended
the meetings in large numbers and many joined during this period.
The name of the Bandmaster was Mr George Marshall and his son,
George Jun., was leader of the Songsters.
The Corps was growing strong. Lieut. Dodds was the first Commanding
Officer to become our leader and served a period of two years.
In these early years there was not much money to spare and a lot
of the local Soldiers gave hospitality to the Officers. The Home
League was formed for the women of the Corps, every Wednesday
at 7pm till 8pm and attendances were an average of forty at the
However, in the late twenties we lost four families who emigrated
to Australia and in later years. another two families went also
and one family to New ZeaIand.
Among the first Officers who came was Lieut. Mary Hamilton but
she stayed on in Prestonpans to become Mrs Owenson. Home League
The Sunday School was started for the young people of the Corps
and two meetings were held on the Sunday. First one at lOam was
called a Directory which taught the young people the Doctrines
of the Salvation Army and at 12 noon we had a Sunday School to
tell the story of Jesus and there was an average of fifty children
attending these meetings. During the week days we had special
meetings for the boys whose group was called the Legion and who
learned fretwork and at the meeting for the girls, called Sunbeams,
there was knitting and sewing. The meetings were held in our own
hall starting at 5.3()pm till 7pm. Wednesday for the boys and
Friday for the girls, every week. with an average of 30 attending
The Corps increased their activities to Cockenzie and we hired
a Hall in South Doors for meetings. The response was excellent
and the young people were also helped by telling them Bible stories
and having games to keep them interested. These meetings were
held during the week but we also went round the pubs and clubs
selling our papers. War Cry and Young Soldier. This was a practical
way of getting to know the people and learn their views on what
they thought of the Salvation Army. We went out to different districts
as well as locally, selling our papers in Tranent. Macmerry. Longniddry
and Ormiston. Open Airs were held in every street in Prestonpans
on a rota basis, every eight weeks covered them all. Special Open
Airs were on a Sunday at lOam. 3pm and 6pm. each of one hour's
duration and all done before we held our meetings. This was a
vital service for the Army as it was an opportunity to contact
people who had no connections with the Army and it gave us the
privilege of talking to people about Jesus and His Love. A programme
was pIanned, a Leader chosen to carry it out and then the different
items performed by the Salvationists who gathered round in a ring
to attract the people to the services. Gospel songs were sung,
testimonies given, the Bible was read, young people played their
tambourines and sang choruses and the people joined in with them.
Truly this was a great opportunity to witness for God. In the
summer. Open Airs were also held at Seton Sands on Sundays from
3pm to 4.15pm and again the people were glad to hear the Gospel
Visitations to the people in their homes were carried out by the
Corps Officers. This was their duty but also gave them the opportunity
to get to know families, gaining a knowledge which would otherwise
be unobtainable. They visited the sick in hospitals or at home
and a lot of support was given in times of bereavement and hardship.
Funeral services were conducted by Officers, if asked by the people
Another service performed is the Dedication of Children. By arrangement
with the Commanding Officer, a Soldier would bring the child or
children to a Sunday Morning Meeting only if at least one Parent
is resolved to train the child as a Soldier of the Salvation Army
and allow them to be used for the Sendee of God in the Army in
the place and way He would choose. Water is not used on or about
a child in any Army Dedication Service. When the time of dedication
arrives the parents will stand on the left of the Officer conducting
the service. The Colour Sergeant will hold the Flag over the Officer's
head and the Young People's Sergeant Major will stand on the Officer's
right. The Officer then makes this statement to the parents. "In
the dedication of your child you now declare your willingness
for the Lord to take possession of him and you wish that he shall
always and only do His will. not withholding him at any time.
You must, as far you can. keep from him all intoxicating drink,
tobacco, hurtful reading, every influence likely to injure him.
sec in you an example of what a Salvation Army Soldier should
be. If you are willing to comply with these conditions. I will
receive the child in the name of God and of the Salvation Army."
The Officer will take the child in his arms. call upon the Salvationists
to stand, and he will lift the child and pray. "Bless this
child this day .........(give the name)" Then he will say.
"In the name of the Lord. 0 Lord God of Hosts, take this
child of the Prestonpans Corps of the Salvation Army. who has
fully been given up by his parents." and the Officer will
then charge the parents that they fulfil the promises they have
made and the Commanding Officer will hand the child back to the
parents saying. "God Bless the Child. Parents and Salvation
Army". The service finishes with a children's song.
There were many changes during the eighty years we have been in
Prestonpans. The meetings were held in Prestongrange Miners Welfare
Institute for a few years, near where the Bowling Club is now,
and they were well attended during the time we were there in the
1970s. We had a special visit from our General of the Army, General
Coutts. who took a weekend of sen ices for us. His son. Captain
John Coutts. was our Officer at that time. We also held our meetings
in Mary Murray's Home for a few years, well attended by the people
- and the young people!
We went from there to the Hall we arc in at the moment in 19S3
so the last sixteen years lias been the only time we can say the
Hall belongs to us! Our Hall is to be altered, starting some time
in 1999 but it will be ready for the great occasion of the year
2000 for a wonderful celebration.
We have had our ups and downs in our eighty years in Prestonpans.
During the eighties we lost a lot of our young people who went
to the Colleges and University and this depleted our Young People's
Corps. However, we believe they will be replaced by others coming
into our Corps and look forward with faith to a strong future.
The renovated Salvation Army Hall
opened on 20 May 2000.