Prestonpans | Leisure
Places used for functions include function rooms attached to public houses, the library, the elderly people’s day centre on East Loan and the Labour Club. Several church halls, the town hall, and the local community centre, also include basic facilities for staging performances.
The halls are used for many different events including: wedding receptions; performance; parties; dances; youth activities; religious celebrations / events; visiting speakers; church meetings and horticultural shows. Events needing more space can be accommodated at Prestongrange House, where a large function hall was built c1958.
Organisations & Clubs
In earlier times the boys’ brigade (to the 1970s), the scouts and various church groups were active in the parish.
By 2000, the following were all well-supported: the children’s gala; guides; brownies; bible class; youth clubs (including that based at the Red School, and various parish youth groups / clubs), and an after-school club.
A few groups seem no longer popular: the Home League and the YMCA. The cycle racing club (Preston Wheelers), and the speedway (Prestonpans Pirates) are both now gone.
Other activities that do not attract the support they used to include: bingo; cinema (The Picture House on the High Street – ‘The Scratcher’ – closed in 1960); coach tours; funfairs; the Miners’ Institutes (they died with the demise of the mining industry), and whist.
Most of the following groups had ongoing support throughout the entire period: bowling; Royal British Legion; Burns Airts Club; Church Guilds; horticultural society (and shows); Labour party; Masonic groups; Rifle Club; Yachting Club; and the Prestonpans Local History Society.
Sports sites within the parish include several outdoor bowling greens, the sports fields attached to Prestonpans Primary School on Preston Road (with plans to build a swimming pool currently under consideration), Preston Lodge High School, Prestonpans Community Centre (indoor and outdoor), the Pennypit Sports Ground and the Boat Club premises on the sea front. The major sports facility is Meadowmill Sports Centre, formerly a colliery (closed in 1959), located just outside the parish boundary between Prestonpans and Tranent, which offers a wide range of facilities including sports grounds, indoor weights room, badminton courts and bowling.
Sports supported include: athletics; bowling; football; golf; judo; rifle; rugby; tai-chi; water-skiing; weight-lifting, and yachting.
While many parishes have golf clubs, Prestonpans is unusual in that the club’s main ethos is not to make a profit, but to serve the local community – hence its placing in this account under Leisure, not Economy.
The Royal Musselburgh Golf Club has (despite its name) been based at Prestongrange House since 1924. Established in 1774, the club leased the land from the Prestongrange estate from 1924-56; the 18-hole course opened in 1926. After the war, when the land was used to grow crops, permission was granted to restore the golf course, and in the late 1940s, the club produced several national champions. By 1958, after many negotiations, the course and the clubhouse (Prestongrange House) were bought by the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO) on behalf of the Musselburgh Miners’ Charitable Society.
The club took up charitable status in 1993, with one of the stated constitutional objectives being to
“…provide facilities for such forms of recreation and other leisure-time occupations as are conducive to the improvement of the conditions of living of the inhabitants of Musselburgh, Port Seton, Prestonpans, Cockenzie and the neighbourhood thereof…”
(CISWO files: from the Constitution & Regulations of the Musselburgh Miners’ Charitable Society (1993))
In 1946 membership was down to 288 men and 52 ladies, and there were three greenkeepers.
Numbers of greenkeeping staff in the last 40 years have been about four, with possibly five at peak periods. Membership has gradually built up and in the year 2000 there were 920 men and juniors, and 80 ladies. The club has continued its success at national level throughout the 1970s and 1980s, up to the present day.
Closely associated is the Prestongrange Bowling and Social Club; this was formed in 1974 to promote golf in and around Prestonpans, and its members are also members of the golf club. The annual dance is held in the function room at Prestongrange House.
The Territorial Army in Prestonpans: 1947-67
On January 1 1947, on the reconstitution of the Territorial Army, the 51st Heavy Regiment RA TA was reformed as 357 (Lothians) Medium Regiment RA TA. It was designated 357 (Lowland) Medium Regiment in 1955 and converted to a Light Regiment in 1956 armed with 4.2 mortars. In 1961 it amalgamated with 278 (Lowland) Field Regiment – armed with 25 pounders. 278 Regiment came to an end in 1967.
Q Battery of 357 and later of 278 was based in Mid and East Lothian, with troops at Dalkeith and Prestonpans. The Drill Hall in Prestonpans was sold post 1967 and became the local Labour Club.
Reminiscence by Lt Colonel S.A. Bunyan TD DL
In those years shortly after the war, the TA was made up initially of volunteers who enlisted when the regiments were reformed. They were (for the most part) enthusiasts who had served during the war; they were relatively few in number. Ex-national servicemen were required to attend TA training and do a week’s camp for three and a half years.
I joined 357 (Lowland) Light Regiment TA from Edinburgh University Training Corps shortly after it became a light regiment. The older members were not reconciled to this role. It had been a heavy regiment during the war and then a briefly a medium regiment and they felt the 4.2 mortars were an awful come down.
Initially I trained at Prestonpans with two other officers from Edinburgh who were young advocates. Coming from the city, the soldiers at Prestonpans treated us with reserve. I stayed with the battery for rather a long time and won their friendship. Many of the soldiers were coal miners and valued the opportunity to go out at weekends on training and firing exercises. I remember on more than one occasion being told how much they enjoyed the fresh air on Otterburn/Redesdale ranges, compared with their weekday life underground. The officers appreciated it less. Many of the men had greyhounds, and walking the ‘dug’ was their other great interest.
The Army Cadet Force
There is a detachment of the army cadet force at Ropewalk, Prestonpans. It is part of A East Lothian Company of Lothians and Border Battalion ACF, and wears the badge of the Royal Scots.
Order of the Orange Lodge
It is thought that the Order of Orange Lodge was established within the parish c1920. Prestonpans District Lodge (44) was part of the new County Grand Lodge of Lanarkshire, the Lothians, Stirlingshire & Fife when it was created in November 1967. Late in 1968, five districts, including Prestonpans, formed the County Grand Lodge of the East. The lodge bought Castle Park House, using it as a Social Club until 1996. In its time, the lodge supported youth meetings and had a flute band. The building was demolished, and in 2000 the site lay vacant.
Other activities enjoyed by many in the parish are very diverse and include: dancing; galas and other festivals; gambling; gardening; karaoke; piano and other instruments – playing and tuition; pigeon breeding / racing; sequence dancing, and (of course) watching and listening to television and radio. Public bars continue to be popular, and offer drinking, dominoes, and darts. Outings are arranged by Church Guilds, the horticultural society and different sports groups (especially football).
The Links Lunch Club was established by volunteers in 1974, and is still located at St Gabriel’s Hall. The Harlaw Hill Day Centre provides a social venue for the elderly and organises activities and entertainments. Outings are arranged for senior citizens (by several groups). Similar activities are offered for the local disabled group. The library offers books (including large print), records, tapes, discs, games and access to the Internet.
Until the 1970s, Preston Church Drama Group performed locally and in contests. St Gabriel’s Players produced Christmas shows and Gilbert & Sullivan musicals.
Monktonhall Colliery supported Prestonlinks Colliery Silver and Pipe Bands from 1962. In 1987, the silver band combined with Dalkeith burgh; the local British Legion sponsored the pipe band. Both bands remain closely involved with community events.
Live dance bands remain popular for private functions, while folk duos perform in clubs and discos. Local musicians and the Red School Youth Club support young people’s interest in rock music.
Encore and Musical Youth produce successful musicals and there are dance classes for children. In the 1960s, there was a strong singing influence in the primary school. The secondary music department is highly successful and in the late 1990s, a musical written by a local teacher and performed by local pupils was performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
In summary, the following were popular in the past: Bob Brown’s Dance Band; Connachan’s Dance Band; Penman’s Dance Band; Preston Drama Group, and St Gabriel’s Players.
By the end of the period, these interests were supported in Prestonpans: Alex Hodgson Dance Band; Arthur Wilson’s Band; Encore – musical productions; flute band; Maisie Russell’s Dance Class; Musical Youth; pipe band; silver band, and art, pottery and quilting classes.
Prestonpans Local History Society
The society began meeting in Prestonpans library in 1986 with the aims of keeping alive the social history of the town and promoting interest in aspects of history. The society has met in various locations since then and its activities include outings, talks and publication of memoirs of Prestonpans by local residents and members of the society.
Footnote: Street Games from 1945 is written by Prestonpans resident Betty Wilson.