| CHAPTER XXIV.
PRESTONGRANGE AND ITS LAIRDS.
Prestongrange and its Lairds—Monks of Newbattle—Lords Lothian—
The Kerrs of Ferniehirst—Kerr's Prosecution and Trial—Connived
at by the King—John Davidson — Morison of Prestongrange —
Sir Alexander Morison as First Lord Prestongrange—Hamilton
of Preston and Morison of Prestongrange fined for laughing
at a Church Squabble—Morison of Prestongrange First M. P.
for East Lothian after Union of the CrownsOpposed by Fletcher
of Saltounhall—The Apocalypse written at Morison's Haven—Morison's
Sequestration—Lord Grant as Lord Prestongrange — Lord and
Lady Hyndford—Sir George Suttie of Balgone—Sir James Grant
Suttie—Sir George Grant Suttie—Sir James Grant Suttie—Sir
George Grant Suttie—Lady Susan H. Grant Suttie—John Ker's
THIS beautiful house, the chief seat in the parish, lies a
little to the south-west, and barely half a mile as the crow
flies from the burgh boundary of the town. It is situated
on a fine level stretch of land running east and west across
the whole domain, while a gentle declivity sweeps down all
the way from the front of the building to the shores of the
Firth of Forth.
Deeply surrounded as it is by lords of the forest, how far
away it seems, in its quietude, from the haunts of men, and
the everlasting whirl and din of daily life. And yet it is
so very near, for a never ending whirl of wheels and a never
ceasing whish of steam go on in its immediate neighbourhood.
It is a real Scottish baronial mansion, endowed with a massive
tower; while the whole structure from wing to wing is so evenly
balanced, that, had it not been for a slight difference in
the material with which it has been constructed, a casual
observer might set it down as having been built as a whole
at quite a recent date, instead of having been added to at
various times and at very distant periods.
Centuries have elapsed since the original building was
planted here; and though masonry abounds showing work accomplished
ages ago, yet if one stone remains upon another now of the
original building it would indeed be difficult to define them.
That the Grange was a place of industry over seven hundred
years ago the following notes will show: —
In 1165 Robert de Quincy acquired the lands previously held
by Swan of Tranent, and in 1184 he granted to the monks of
Newbattle a goodly slice of land. This land ultimately became
known as Preston, and the Grange they had formed thereon became
Here then was formed the great hive from which these busy
bees set forth in swarms to prosecute the various industries.
Soon we hear of them, like good husbandmen, tilling the lands
all around them. Then probably it was they who formed, for
their own convenience, a grange on a small scale at Dolphinstone.
Anon we hear of them approaching the seaside, laying hold
of the angry waves, and charming, in the form of " salt,
" the very essence out of them. Meantime they had been
gifted with land in the meadows. There they formed a grange
originally known as Holy-Stop, now Bankton. Along these meadows
they grazed their oxen and their sheep, and out of these meadows,
wherein was the "Tranent peaterie, " they excavated
peats, and during these herdings and these excavations it
was that they accidentally discovered the famous " black
diamonds, " known as coal, and straightway began to excavate
them. But these original excavations are fully treated of
That the monks of Newbattle held these lands from 1165 uninterruptedly
till the Reformation times—a matter of four centuries—is an
historical fact. Indeed, if we read the times aright, there
was no definite break in the line of succession at the time
of the Reformation either. It was simply a shuffling of cards
from the right hand to the left, and back again. A Kerr of
Ferniehirst was Abbott of Newbattle during these troublous
times. This same Abbot Kerr, or his brother, suddenly acquires
the title of Lord Newbattle, and Lord Newbattle as suddenly
becomes Lord Lothian, the proud possessor of Prestongrange.
The first we hear of this family is in 1517, when one of its
members is found in conspiracy with others to wrest the Regency
from Albany. " Kerr of Ferniehirst, " says Buchanan,
" a powerful border chief, and one of Home's most zealous
adherents, was brought to trial and condemned, but having
obtained a reprieve from the Regent, afterwards succeeded