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The Baron of Prestoungrange

Dr. Gordon Prestoungrange
Interview by Sarah Powel (part 3 of 3)

A vision of the future

Gordon Prestoungrange has a vision of what the latter day role of a local baron might well be. Since 1998 he has sought to work together with the community in a programme of activities that can advance regeneration by encouraging pride in the past, promoting small industry and, most particularly, stimulating local tourism.

The Prestoungrange Heritage Museum, established on the site of the old colliery, is already very active in this respect. The museum provides a graphic illustrated history of the area's thriving past through the remaining brickworks, Cornish beam engine, mining steam and diesel engines and their wagons, the old mining museum exhibitions and colliery bathhouses. Greatly impressed by its work, Gordon and his son Julian have re-established their Baron Courts of Prestoungrange and Dolphinstoun as a non-profit organisation committed to furthering the museum's aims and the espoused baronial vision. Gordon's own background and ongoing interests in academic publishing and management education have meant he was ideally placed to contribute. Picture 10

A programme of activities and selection of brochures and online publications has been launched to heighten awareness of local history, industry and traditional skills. A Scottish artist, Janice McNab was commissioned to produce a series of paintings. Small-scale manufacture of pottery is being re-launched to make limited edition reproductions together with a wholly fresh 21st Century Prestoungrange Collection through a web-publicised competition amongst local potters.

Local people are also being invited to volunteer to join in the painting of a selection of murals depicting their community that further tells the history and achievements of past generations. And, most recently, the feasibility of again brewing some of the famous old John Fowler's Prestonpans beers from a micro-brewery is being studied.

Some Surprises Too

Gordon also has some surprises to offer locally. He intends to convene in the area some of the other initiatives in which he is involved outwith his barony. In Summer 2001 a marquee went up at the Heritage Museum for a week with a spare six days available to local societies. Its presence was required to stage the launch of Burke's Landed Gentry: The Kingdom in Scotland, of which he is Publishing Advisor. The BBC, Scottish TV and myriad journalists came to the museum to report the event, the first time that title has appeared for 32 years.

Other heritage activities are expected to join the new centre being created at the 1865 Cockenzie Old School on Edinburgh Road. And in 2002/2003 international meetings of The Global Association for Arts Tourism and International Management Centres are anticipated also.

Picture 11 Gordon knows from overwhelming evidence around the world that if local people can join together in such initiatives, the area can only benefit economically. He describes his contribution as "democratic cyber-feudalism - not absentee landlordism" and "as deeply satisfying as it is fun". However viewed, his role looks like a potentially winning combination of the best of traditional "baronial values" with a new spirit of democratic entrepreneurship, and one which he hopes local people will feel able to accept, enjoy and exploit.

Dr Gordon Prestoungrange, Baron of Prestoungrange, is Publishing Advisor to the new 19th edition of Burke's Landed Gentry, which will move on from its first Volume, The Kingdom in Scotland published in August 2001, to a further six volumes on England, Wales and Ireland by 2005, and to Burke's Peerage Baronetage and Knightage, appearing next in 2003.

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