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The Baron of Prestoungrange

Dr. Gordon Prestoungrange
Interview by Sarah Powell

Picture 1 Gordon Prestoungrange, Scottish Baron of Prestoungrange as the new millennium dawns, is of a decidedly 21st-century mould. Unlike many of his fourteen feudal predecessors, he has neither pledged military service to his Sovereign beyond two years as a Flying Officer in the Royal Air Force, nor does he enjoy any especial privileges beyond the baronial foreshore he owns on the Firth of Forth. But then, unlike many before him, Gordon's interest in his baronial lands and title has little to do with privilege, but much to do with an affection for things Scottish and, specifically, for an area of East Lothian with a colourful history where he has maternal family roots.

For Gordon his barony re-affirms a distinct sense of identity, while it underpins his very personal vision of the further regeneration of an economically disadvantaged community through a combination of enthusiasm, hard work and creativity - characteristics notable in Scotland through the ages. The community in question is that of Prestonpans which is next door to the "Honest Toun of Musselburgh" where his maternal grandparents lived at the turn of the last century.

Gordon's grandfather, James Park, worked at that time as a miner in Prestoungrange Colliery. After the First World War, as the Depression took hold, he left Scotland, moving south as far as London to find work with his wife Sarah and their four children, an only daughter, Lilian Audrey, and three sons, Albert, William and Archibald (all pictured below). Lilian Audrey settled in England, married Stanley Clifford Wills and never returned home to the country she often spoke so fondly of from her early life on the east coast of Scotland. In later life she emigrated to Canada (see picture below) with her daughter Lesley Anne and son Bryan Clifford. Picture 2

Gordon was born and bred in London and Worthing, and never visited Scotland as a child. From his mother he gained an impression of the Scots as a resilient, self-confident nation with a distinct identity. He was attracted by the fact that throughout history they had consistently taken advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves and had been extraordinarily successful and influential in many areas of endeavour in countries around the world.

Picture 3 When he eventually visited Scotland for the first time, Gordon was not disappointed. It was Christmas 1957 and he was en route home from RAF Officer Training School at Jurby, Isle of Man. Years later, when pondering what to do after retirement, the opportunity arose for him to gain access to the old feudal titles and baronial lands of Prestoungrange. He did not hesitate.

Scottish barons retained their jurisdiction and powers much longer than barons in England. And in their time they played a major role in restraining the absolute powers of the Sovereign and participating over many centuries in the Scottish parliament.

"Today, of course," explains Gordon, "the role of a Scottish baron is almost solely titular. The linkage between land and title has now been separated by Act of the newly devolved Parliament. There are no powers over the locality and the remaining estate ownership listed on the Register of Sasines

for Prestoungrange (the archaic spelling - today the form Prestoungrange is more commonly used) now mainly consists of the foreshore at Morrison's Haven and Cuthill Rocks. Much of it is under water at high Spring tide."

Picture 4 Picture 5

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