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The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

Prestonkirk

Parish Representative& Parish Editor:
David K Affleck

Introduction

Prestonkirk is a lowland, largely agricultural parish of some 2885ha (7129acres), between Haddington and Dunbar; the A1 road bisects the parish from west to east. The small burgh of East Linton long ago overwhelmed the settlement that gave the burgh its name, and is the only centre of population in the parish. Sited on the Tyne, East Linton retains the feel of a small market town. Today, the town is increasingly hemmed in by new housing developments to the north-west, and the A1 and London to Edinburgh main line railway to the south. Two prominent towers, a consequence of the mobile phone industry's desire to improve local reception, now dominate the skyline to the north and south of the burgh while the provision of a fire training tower on the boundary of the conservation area, (agreed to by the planning authority with the request that it be re-sited later), rises above the building skyline to the north.

More picturesque in appearance to the south of the parish is the prominent chimney of the engine house at Sunnyside above the farm steading while the chimney at Traprain farm adds interest to the skyline when viewed from East Linton. Historic Traprain Law still dominates the appearance of the wider parish with the visible man-made scars to the north-east, a consequence of the former quarry on this site.

Ian Craik, whose father-in-law, the Rev R.R. Fisher MM, MA, was the author of the parish report for the 1953 account, was a returning serviceman to the parish in 1945. His memory is that many residents were tired after years of war but he adds:

While chronic shortages of basic materials and general rationing held back rejuvenation and development of essential services, there emerged a general feeling of satisfaction at a job well done and a quiet optimism for the future. Wartime organisations such as the Home Guard and the Air Raid Wardens were closed down and halls requisitioned by the army were returned to their former use.

The era of the new Labour government following the election of 1945 involved a period of major change to the management of the community. The traditional role of the head of the Buchan-Hepburn family as laird and chief heritor of the parish had already been affected with the sale of the Smeaton-Hepburn estate in 1934 to Mr John Rennie Gray. There had been a Hepburn presence at Smeaton from at least c1450 when an Adam Hepburn was described as the first of the house of Smeaton. Patrick Buchan-Hepburn had played a part in the war as secretary to Churchill's war cabinet and had taken the title Lord Hailes on being made a peer. Although he returned to live in Stenton parish, his links with Smeaton estate had long since ended.

The powers of the barony had already been diminished when East Linton had become a burgh in 1863 with the power to elect a council. The status of having a council with a provost and bailies had been important to those of the parish that lived within the burgh boundaries. Sweeping changes in the new legislation enacted after the war for local government, health, education and welfare services would lead to more centralised decision taking and the eventual demise of the council 30 years later.

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