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Exeat: Day 161/84: Borderline Virtual 275 Commemorations in Prestonpans

Some will be face to face but much digital. Ever since the pandemic hit on March 23rd we've pondered, re-strategised and refocussed how the 275th Anniversary of the Battle of Prestonpans would be commemorated. Only one thing has never changed: no postponement. You can't postpone a fixed date anniversary. Paradoxically, from our viewpoint at the Battle Trust we had been planning for the previous 12 months and were already deeply committed to a sequence of face to face activities across 18 months and we were fully funded for it all - by the National Lottery/ EventScotland and Bòrd na Gàidhlig as well as our own Restricted Funds and new donations. But even today, as we are just 3 weeks from the anniversary dates, we are unable to have clarity from the Council about availability of physical venues although the outdoors elements seem to be realisable with a tent or two - whatever the weather! So we've spent the 160 days preparing to provide much if not all digitally. Not least amongst these was the filming a fortnight ago of Beneath the Thorntree which was intended as a Narrative Concert in Prestongrange Church for Saturday September 19th with a live audience; it will now be live streamed and of course become a significant part of our asset repertoire.

We hadn't budgeted for making such a film and were glad that we were able to access National Lottery Emergency Funds to defray the cost of it as well as a contribution to keeping our longer term goal of a Living History Centre on the Riggonhead Defile alive beyond the pandemic.
Showings from our digital archive since 2006 plus new webinars … have also been a key feature across the 160 days since lockdown on March 23rd. Some have attracted more than a thousand viewings already and of course via Facebook and YouTube are there for future views/ visitors. Our micro-museum video on the life of Colonel Gardiner from the Bankton Doocot was available as were the CD/ DVDs/ APPs from the tapestries and of course the Battlefield Walkers APP. The webinars have included a session with Jenn Scott on Highland Dress in 1745 and a surprise but most welcome half day exploration of dance at the time. Arran Johnston has given a most thorough exploration of the battlefield and two new presentations on Cope's Journey from Dunbar to Prestonpans and the Fall of Edinburgh on September 17th to the Prince.
Sunday September 20th is 'Family/ Clan Day'. We'd planned to take this day in Prestonpans Town Hall with our Alan Brecks Regiment as hosts. With support from Bòrd na Gàidhlig we'd arranged for the Clans that Came Out with The Prince at Prestonpans to send representatives to a formal remembrance with our magnificent 5000 strong paper army and updated Clan boards displayed in English and Gaelic. But with the Town Hall declared 'unavailable' the various moments will be played out and live streamed throughout with opportunities for just a few to call at the tented facility. New plans have been made for a physically accessible Family/ Clan Day in early 2021 when circumstances permit. Monday 21st, the actual battle anniversary had hoped to see significant battlefield walks for schools but this has for the moment been trimmed back to wreath laying ceremonies around the battlefield's several memorials. And to our delight, the 1722 Waggonway which traverses the battlefield is to receive its own formal Scottish 'Transport Trust' Heritage Plaque recognition at 10am at its micro-museum on Cockenzie Quayside.

Exeat from Milton to Scotland …. Avril and I will be making our first excursion since March to lodge as ever at the Pine Marten in Dunbar and be there virtuphysically over the weekend including some face to face with Arran Johnston/ Herbert Coutts and our PR guru Martha Bryce. Since it's a 350 mile car journey each way we're making sure to break the journey in Ilkley there and back as we all get our driving skills together again … and no doubt Scottish Mystery Tours will figure in the slack times as well as an overdue opportunity to see just how well The Gothenburg is coping with its return to business.
Supper at The Big House. We were regally entertained to supper with Guinea+ Fowl and Apple Strudel dessert and debated with Henry his ambitions at football and his possible future ambitions for university. Elliot kept silent on these issues but was able to demonstrate his newly installed Magic Water Tap that is seemingly suspended in the air. And back to The Lodge in time for Canada Calling at 8pm. Bryan's been having trouble with his teeth - always was adrift since his teens - but Joan and Anne were in good spirits as they all celebrated the completion this week by Christopher of the new wooden block pathway from the house to garage. Finally to tv where the fourth Robert Galbraith/ aka JK Rowling Strike and Robin detective title began screening. We have the 700pp book to read later but thus far it only rates **** out of ***** for production; but there are three more instalments to come!
+ Nobody at supper knew why they are called Guinea Fowl. Ectyping quickly clarifies they are native to Africa's Gulf of Guinea area. There are three ex colonies there - French Guinea which became Guinea in 1958; Spanish Guinea which became Equatorial Guinea in 1968; and Portuguese Guinea which became Guinea-Bissau in 1973 with Bissau is its capital. The word guinea is thought to be a Portuguese corruption [guiné] of a local town Djenné. As well as its fowls the area was famed for a coin of approximately one-quarter ounce of gold that was minted in England and Great Britain between 1663 and 1814. It was originally valued at 20/- but as gold prices fluctuated vis a vis silver so did it. When the £1 coin was introduced in 1814 with a fixed worth of 20/- with fluctuating gold content, all previous gold coins continued with their fixed valuation from 1717 of 21/-. It is ironic to note that the gold from the Gulf of Guinea was imported by the Royal African Company established by King Charles II with his brother King James II and VII as a leading member after the Stuart Restoration to conduct the slave trade from the area.

Published Date: August 30th 2020

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