Commemorating the 1745 Battle does not belittle our community's history

Bonnie Prince Charlie has his critics!

Dougie Mathieson has reminded us before last week of the reasons why he so disapproves of The Prince and the Battle Trust's campaign to commemorate the 1745 battle and the current vigorous campaign for the new town name Charlestoun instead of Blindwells. But he is wrong to suggest all the other heritage elements we take pride in are being overlooked. Since 1997 the Arts Festival, of which the Battle Trust was a spin out, has through research/ publication, The Gothenburg restoration, Fowler's microbrewery, murals, painting, theatre, memorials, embroidery celebrated many an aspect. The Battle Trust was a modest sponsor and persistent supporter of 548: Scots in the Spanish Civil War play.

… but it's verging on the malicious to cite a biased online 'survey' to suggest the Galashiels Home for the Great History of Scotland Tapestry is a waste of money

The Trust wrote in response as follows:

Lives and Tapestries worth celebrating

Dougie Mathieson [Courier July 25th] and Tim Porteus [Courier July 4th] both point out there is a 1000 year heritage to commemorate and celebrate in The Pans, Cockenzie and Port Seton. The Battle of Prestonpans in 1745 is indeed just one moment but it’s absolutely unique to us. Many other communities have coal miners, brick makers and fisherfolk, witches, sporting achievers and fine potters and many have already been properly remembered through our prolific published research and murals over the past 20 years, the restored and vibrant Gothenburg and lately in the Miners’ Memorial and 548: Scots in the Spanish Civil War. But only our community’s battle triumph by ‘Bonnie’ Prince Charles triggered the English National anthem and via Sir Walter Scott the advent of the new genre of the historical novel. His novel Waverley focussed at Prestonpans even gives its name to Edinburgh’s main rail terminus. Not to mention Outlander! It’s an especially significant moment in Scottish history; the Stuarts who had been usurped were Scotland’s royal house. There is an extended story to share, lessons to be learnt not least about the benefits of the Union from 1707, kingdom wide religious discrimination and the dreadful human consequences for Clans and aristocrats alike from James VII’s exile in 1688 to the death of Henry IX in 1807.

The Battle Trust’s hoped for world class Living History Centre will address all these issues and more. And our campaign to encourage the name Charlestoun for the new community being built at Blindwells is seen as a further restatement of that heritage. The new town literally stands on the legendary Riggonhead Defile along which the successful Highlanders, led by and loyal to Prince Charles, marched in silence through the night three abreast. It is the exact place where that occurred and from that heritage the new town’s incoming residents will be able to draw confidence and pride. And yes, it will attract the forecast 100,000 visitors each year, the majority from our own and neighbouring communities, bringing economic benefits to us all through thoughtfully planned and community shared facilities. They wont come as ‘hordes despoiling our community’ but with their visits sensibly integrated within it.

And yes, it is also certainly planned to create the deserving permanent home for both the magnificent tapestries created hereabouts that have already toured the globe honouring the name Prestonpans and attracting nigh on 750,000 delighted visitors since 2010. We have at no time encountered a response akin to that unkindest of online ‘surveys’ Dougie Mathieson cited [July 25th] - that for 97% providing a home in Galashiels for the Great History of Scotland Tapestry was a waste of money. To the contrary, we have been exhorted to redouble our efforts to provide the long overdue sharing of the magnificent heritage we have here in The Pans with thousands upon thousands of interested well wishers.

Published Date: Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Prestonpans Tapestry created by Prestoungrange Arts Festival and the Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Heritage Trust in support of the campaign for a Living History Centre in Prestonpans.
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