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Here in Prestonpans we are proud of our historical connections and especially of some of the buildings like the Tower, the Mercat Cross and Hamilton House. Names of streets and places such as "Hawlhorn Road". "Redburn Road" or "Meadowmill" also reflect our past and a comparatively recent housing complex was named "Sir Walter Scott Pend" in honour of a visit the great author made to our humble town in 1779 when he was eight years old. While reading "The Journal of Sir Walter Scott". I was interested to discover that he had re-visited Prestonpans in June 1830 and visited various well known places.
Walter Scott was born in 1771 and was a healthy child until he was about eighteen months old when he had a bad fever, which resulted in him losing the power of his right leg. He was taken throughout his childhood to various places to "take the waters" in order to cure this and after a visit to the healing waters at Bath he was brought to Prestonpans where it was thought sea-bathing might help his lameness.
He was accompanied on this First visit by his aunt. Miss Janet Scott and while there met George Constable, an old lawyer friend of his father, who had retired to Prestonpans. Scott later stated that he based one of his characters. Jonathan Oldbuck in "The Antiquary", on this man. George Chalmers. an old friend of his father's and Mr Constable himself, recognised this when they read the book. Scolt must have been a very observant child, which is further proved by another comment he makes about Constable having "a tendresse for my Aunt Jenny, who even then was a most beautiful woman. though somewhat advanced in life".
Another interesting character he met during his first visit was an old military veteran named Dalgetty who had pitched his tent at Prestonpans. After taking part in several campaigns, he existed on an ensign's half pay, although he was given the courtesy title of Captain. This old gentleman had been in all the German wars, but found very few people willing to listen to his tales of military feats. so was delighted when the young Walter Scott took great pleasure in listening to all his stories. Even at such an early age. the boy enjoyed great discussions with the old veteran, especially about the war which was raging at that time in North America. Having acquired a map of that country, they avidly followed the progress of the campaign, arguing about the various strategies pursued by the military. In his autobiography Scott stated he was "struck with the rugged appearance of the country and the number of lakes in it" and he doubted if the army would manage to reach the end oftheirjourncy but these doubts were "indignantly refuted by the Captain".
The house Scott and his Aunt lodged in belonged to a Mr & Mrs Warroch and he mentions "the large gate or black arch which lets out upon the sea" and playing on the liiiks where he arranged "shells on the turf and swam little skiffs in the pools". He attended church where he "yawn'd under the afflictions of a Doctor McCormack." It is interesting to note that in the 400th anniversary booklet of PrestonGrange Church this gentleman is stated to have later become Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland!
Playing in the garden of the old tower with a pretty little girl called Miss Dalrympic. daughter of Lord Westhall. a Lord of Session, was another happy memory of Scott's during his stay at Prestonpans. The children enjoyed eating gooseberries in the garden although Scott, leaving a vivid imagination, confessed that he had been afraid that a ghost might appear at one of the windows of the tower. He also remembered becoming acquainted with Mrs Cadell of Cockenxie who used to invite his aunt and him to tea. By coincidence her son Robert was later to become his publisher.
It was this gentleman who accompanied Scott on his second visit to Prestonpans 53 years later on 28th June 1830. They arrived by coach about one o'clock and were met by Robert Cadcli's brother Francis at the "cast end of the Distillery". Again they visited "a kind of arch or pend" and "stood on the bullwark for some time". Sir Walter was eager to visit the site of the battle and they set off on foot "by the Village of Preston and past Bankton". They trudged up "Preston Loan" (probably East Loan) and. because it was raining heavily. Francis Cadell opened the gate of Preston Tower Garden, where they sheltered in the ruin. which Sir Walter admired very much. He also admired the old cross at Preston and they discussed the annual meeting of packmen which took place there every year.
After walking up the narrow road to Bankton Gate. Sir Walter repeated to Francis Cadell the entire ballad of "Johnny Cope" after Francis had told him a story about Skirving. the author of the song, and Lieutenant Smith, who was named in it. They went to look at the battlefield and here Scott mentions "the Prince's Park", "Copc's Loan marked by slaughter in his disastrous retreat" and "the Thorn tree which marks the centre of the battle". They also saw two broadswords found on the field of battle, one belonging to a highIander and one to a dragoon.
While Sir Walter was telling them the story of Dr Carlisle and his friends who had joined the King's army before the battle, they "turned down the Coal Road & had a crack about the Scion family and their large possessions" and journeyed on towards Cockenzie. Here, they were met by old Mrs Cadell whom Sir Walter greeted very warmly, acknowledging her as the "fifty years acquaintance of a lame boy who had been made very happy with her attentions long ago".
Particular mention was made by Scott of enjoying an excellent dinner at Cockenzie. especially the "tiled whitings" which were whitings dried in the sun. He recollected enjoying the same meal at Mrs Warroch's house in his youth and "the whole time during dinner and after dinner was one stream of amusing and pleasing conversation". The day ended with the ladies retiring, while the gentlemen enjoyed their whisky and discussed the Yeomanry who were in quarters at Musselburgh. Sir Walter Scott and his friends left for Edinburgh at 8p.m.
It would be interesting to find out how many other famous people have visited Prestonpans and. as we walk the familiar streets looking at places like "Walter Scott Pend", perhaps we should reflect more on the past and be proud that such a great literary figure thought that our wee town was worth a second visit.

The Journal of Sir Walter Scott
edited by W E K Anderson
The Life of Sir Walter Scott by J G Lockhart

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