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The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

About the East Lothian Fourth Statistical Account

It appears that East Lothian is one of the first of the Scottish counties to bring the run of Statistical Accounts (1789-93; 1845; 1953) up to 2000; in this it follows the Third Account, as this too was one of the earliest of that series to be completed.

The driving force behind this work was the East Lothian Antiquarian & Field Naturalists’ Society. At the AGM in 1997, the idea of a Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian was considered; it was agreed to hold a meeting with representatives of the other (around 14) local history and amenity societies. The meeting was held on 18th March 1998, and was supportive; as a result, the East Lothian Fourth Statistical Account Society was set up at a second meeting on 21st May, and formalised on 5th August 1998 with an Executive Committee of Stephen Bunyan as Chairman, David Moody as Treasurer and Michael Cox as Honorary Secretary. Lottery funding was sought and £30,000 was granted in 1999 - to be matched by volunteer hours and input.

The Editor, Sonia Baker, was appointed in November 2000, Parish Representatives sought and found by Christmas, and the structure document - a 94 page Prompt Sheet (or questionnaire) - was sent out to the Representatives in February 2001. A draft list of possible countywide topics was prepared, and authors located, with the last being approached in summer, 2002. The web site was up and running by October 2002.

Publication of the county volume, parish volumes and a separate volume of reminiscences of growing up in East Lothian took place from 2003 to 2009, with this digital version following the completion of the print publications. The digital option means that everything that has been collected can be offered in full, and will be available for future researchers; the books and the online version should not be regarded as the definitive work on the county’s economic and social history, 1945-2000, but just a beginning.

The Account is in two parts - the county essays and the parish contributions; for both, the response was overwhelming. Material in all formats was welcomed and encouraged. Wherever possible, editorial intervention has been kept to a minimum, and the result is a lively mix of oral and written memories, together with researched material, graphics and photographs, around a specified structure. Local knowledge and access to personal networks were provided largely by the Society’s Executive Committee, as well as by other members of the Society. For the parishes with no organised history group, local history enthusiasts were approached for their assistance and input; occasionally, personal circumstances intervened and further support had to be found to complete the work. In several parishes, the work was done by older members of the community, proving that age is no bar to enthusiasm and the wish to find out more. Without exception, the contributors did an excellent job.

Once the Society has completed its work, it will be wound up. The promised new John Gray Centre in Haddington (due 2012) will hold the Account’s archive, and future researchers will benefit not only from a digital version of the Account, but room to research in comfort as well.

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