East Lothian is bisected by the east coast railway line, and by the A1 motorway, which parallels the line of the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh, with staging posts at Dunbar, Haddington, and Musselburgh. A branch railway rambles along the coast from Musselburgh to North Berwick.
In summer time there is a ferry between North Berwick and Anstruther operated by the Scottish Seabird Centre.
The first official record of coal mining in the UK is a charter dated 1210 granting the monks of Newbattle Abbey the right to work the heugh near Prestonpans. The majority of East Lothian’s population is still concentrated in the western part of the constituency, where the old mining towns of Prestonpans, Tranent and Ormiston exploited the rich seam of coal running under the Firth of Forth until the mines closed in the 1960s.
From 1967 to 2013, coal was used to fuel the power station at Cockenzie, demolished 2015. Heavy industry is now centred in the eastern part of the constituency, where Torness nuclear power station, Tarmac cement works and Viridor waste disposal are all situated close to Dunbar.
FARMING AND FOOD PRODUCTION
East Lothian has been known since 1884 as ‘the garden of Scotland’, and not much has changed.
The constituency grows its own barley for the
whisky distillery near Pencaitland, its own oil seed rape for
Black & Gold
cold-pressed rapeseed oil near Haddington, its own organic wheat for the flour mill at
, its own spirit for
in North Berwick.
Knops Beer Company
at Archerfield crafts a variety of beers, including India Pale Ale and Musselburgh Broke, and at South Belton Farm near Dunbar
Thistly Cross Cider
comes in six varieties, including strawberry. A few miles down the road, Oldhamstocks produces
mineral water from springs deep in the Lammermuir Hills.
Belhaven Smokehouse, Clark Bros. at Fisherrow and James Dickson at Cockenzie all smoke their own fish, and locally-produced lamb, beef, pork, goat, wild boar and game are available from East Lothian’s excellent butchers.
There are two state-funded nurseries, 34 primary schools and six secondary schools in East Lothian, of which Musselburgh Grammar is the oldest, having been founded in 1626. In addition there are a small number of private schools, the best-known of which is Loretto, Scotland’s oldest boarding school, founded in 1827.
Queen Margaret University
established itself on the outskirts of Musselburgh in 2007 and currently has over 6,000 students. QMU has the highest proportion of research-active staff of all the 'modern' Scottish universities and develops pioneering expertise that cuts across its specialist fields. The university has three flagships: health and rehabilitation; creativity and culture; and sustainable business.
In addition, Edinburgh College is seeking to set up an East Lothian campus in the near future.
Tourism came early to East Lothian.
North Berwick harbour
, built in the 12th century, served for 500 years as the ferryport for St. Andrew’s, at the height of its popularity carrying 10,000 pilgrims a year to and from Earlsferry in Fife. A summer ferry crossing between North Berwick and Fife has recently been instituted by the Scottish Seabird Centre.
The pilgrims travelling south may have been on their way to Whitekirk, which was a significant place of pilgrimage, possessing a holy well said to work miracles, and, from the 12th century, a stone statue of the Infant Jesus in his Mother's arms. The shrine of Our Lady at Whitekirk was desecrated by the armies of Edward I in 1296, but the church continued to be a place of pilgrimage, attracting 15,563 pilgrims in 1413 and receiving visits from the future Pope Pius II and Kings James IV and James V of Scotland.
Around 1450, the remnants of the despoiled shrine were conveyed to the new foundation of St. Mary the Virgin at Haddington and the shrine re-established there. Following the restoration of St. Mary’s in 1973, the Whitekirk and Haddington Pilgrimage was reinstated, and continues today.
Another reason for the popularity of the
was that it was on the
, the route from St. Andrew's to the shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Whitekirk is described as a stopping point on the ‘Iter pro peregrinis ad Compostellam’
in Book V of the Codex Calixtinus. The pilgrim traffic brought new ideas into the county.
Much later, during the 19th and early 20th century, the increasing popularity of golf attracted well-heeled tourists to East Lothian and led to the spread of hotels and boarding houses. The Cliveden set are reputed to have patronised North Berwick in the 1920s, and from 1947 onwards the romantic novelist, Georgette Heyer, accompanied her husband every year on his annual trip to Muirfield, staying at Greywalls, still a secluded luxury hotel.
The Royal Company of Archers has been competing for the
Musselburgh Silver Arrow
since at least 1603, which makes it the oldest sporting trophy in the UK.
was the favourite pastime. In 1457 King James II was so concerned that his subjects were playing golf rather than practising their archery that he issued an Act of Parliament banning the game. Yet ninety years later, Mary Queen of Scots was reputed to have played on
Musselburgh Links - The Old Course
in 1567. East Lothian has a just claim to being the birthplace of golf, as we know it today.
has records going back to 1744, which makes it the earliest known golf club in Scotland.
Musselburgh Racecourse, founded in 1816, is the second biggest racecourse in Scotland in terms of average prize money offered per meeting and the fourteenth biggest in the UK. It attracts over 70,000 racegoers a year.
Throughout the constituency football and rugby union are the most popular sports, with tennis hard on their heels. Athletics are also important: George McNeill from Tranent is famous for winning the two most famous foot races in the world – the New Year Sprint in Scotland and the Stawell Gift in Australia – and Yvonne Murray from Musselburgh won a Bronze medal in the 3,000 metres at the 1988 Olympic Games. In 2014 Gary Anderson from Musselburgh became the World Darts Champion.
FAMOUS SONS AND DAUGHTERS
- William Dunbar, poet (b. 1549/50, d. by 1530)
- John Knox, Protestant reformer (1510 – 1572)
- Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, politician and patriot (1655 – 1716)
- Andrew Meikle, inventor of the threshing machine (1719 – 1811)
- Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon, signatory to the American Declaration of Independence, (1723 – 1794)
- Robert Cadell, publisher of Sir Walter Scott’s novels (1788 – 1849)
- David Macbeth Moir, Scottish physician and writer (1798 – 1851)
- Jane Welsh Carlyle, letter writer (1801 – 1866)
- Samuel Smiles, author of Self-Help (1812 – 1904)
- John Muir, father of US National Parks (1838 – 1914)
- Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick, Vice Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge (1845-1936)
- Arthur Balfour, Prime Minister 1901-1905 (1848-1930)
- Mollie Hunter, writer (1922 – 2012)
- John Pitcairn Mackintosh, writer and politician (1929 – 1978)
- John Bellany, painter (1942 – 2013)