In this essay:
Cockenzie & Port Seton
Divided to the south from its original 'parent' parish of Tranent by a stretch of the A198 road and the main Edinburgh/London railway line, the burgh of Cockenzie and Port Seton is sandwiched between Prestonpans to the west, Longniddry to the east, and the Firth of Forth to the north. By 2000, the visual dominance of the mining works associated with the Blindwells opencast (south of the railway in Tranent) was diminishing, as the landscape there was gradually being reinstated. In the 1970s, housing expanded eastwards, and from the 1990s, housing development was moving into the Seton lands to the south of the burgh. There was concern that the coastal settlements would soon merge as one continuous ribbon of development, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for places like Cockenzie and Port Seton to retain their individuality; even the power station that bears the burgh's name is actually located in Prestonpans parish.
In 1945, the burgh of Cockenzie and Port Seton had a population of around 2800. For some the victory was a time of great rejoicing, for others, a solemn occasion knowing that loved ones would never return. In late 1944 the Home Guard was stood down. In 1945 the Burgh Auxiliary Fire Service, which was operating out of Wiles' car showroom in Seton Place, manned by Douglas Stewart, Tom Glasgow, William Murdoch, Robert Donaldson and Tom Flockhart, was no longer required and disbanded.
Thousands of East Lothian men and women served in the armed forces as well as the auxiliary services and land army. Cockenzie and Port Seton residents were at the forefront providing personnel. The miners and agricultural workers had toiled throughout the six years of conflict and the local pits and surrounding farms were assisted by prisoner-of-war labour, helping provide much needed fuel and food.
The women engaged in war work were gradually returning to their peacetime occupations, the civil defence personnel were stood down. Men were returning home in brand new 'de-mob' suits, eager to celebrate their return to 'civvie' life. It was a boom time as men had their gratuities to spend. Parties and dances were the order of the day in spite of rationing. The small businesses were restarting around the harbours, as new orders were placed. Weatherhead the boat builders, started to repair the fishing fleet and build replacement vessels; six boats were ordered for the Isle of Man fleet. The burgh looked forward to the rebuilding and reconstruction in the new peacetime.
Environment | Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction
Until early in the 19th century, the two fishing villages of Cockenzie and Port Seton were separate entities. The two communities gradually merged and, by 2000, were regarded much as one unit.
Latterly, a footpath linked the two harbours, and environmental improvements were underway. The coastline is attractive to people and birds alike. To the east, at Port Seton, is the beginning of the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) that runs from here to Aberlady.
Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction
Within the burgh are many older buildings of note, some of which have undergone several changes of use:
Barrack House, Links Road, Port Seton (northwest of Robertson's garage) is a very old building, especially the west gable. It was there during Napoleonic times as a garrison building, although probably much earlier. The stone for the flagpole for the barracks can be seen at Bay View, which lies to the west of the property.
Cockenzie Fisherman's Co-op and Store, New Street, Cockenzie was the first house built in New Street, c1865.
Cockenzie House was built in 1675 by the Seton family for their coal and salt masters. The building was added to on the north side of the house by the Cadell family who later resided there for nearly 200 years. The Hanseatic barn, which is located to the west of the house, was built before the house, and when the house was built it was attached to the barn. The barn was used for storing goods for export and imported goods. The barn was burnt out in 1980 but was restored in the 1990s. The house and barn were converted to form Cockenzie Nursing Home.
Gardners' Close Cottage, High Street, Cockenzie (opposite the Thorntree Inn) was possibly built by the Gardners' Society c1790.
The Old Salt Stone Buildings, Marshall Street, Cockenzie was built by the Seton family and later by the Cadell family. Their saltpans were located in the same area.
Parkestone House, Edinburgh Road - now known as Crystal Sea - was built by Adam Donaldson, a Cockenzie boatbuilder, who had sold up and emigrated to Bluff, South Island, New Zealand c1880. On a trip home c1901, he built Parkestone House, and then returned to New Zealand.
Port Seton House, High Street (opposite Elcho Place) was built in 1709 as a summer house, and was one of the last houses built by the Seton family. The Hare family have been in residence for over 100 years.
In existence in 1788, Rose Cottage, Port Seton (corner of Links Road and Seton Place) was in later times used as a doctor's surgery. By the end of the period, the owners, the Di Ciacca family, had altered the building externally and internally.
Set within the grounds of Seton House, Seton Collegiate Church site was originally occupied by a parish church. Catherine Sinclair, widow of William, the first Lord Seton (died 1409), added a south aisle and dedicated the church in the names of St Mary and the Holy Cross. The church was created a Collegiate in 1493 and was added to by the Setons over the years. In 1544 the church was desecrated by the English, later rebuilt and defaced again in 1715. The Setons lost their estates for participating in the 1715 uprising. The estates now belong to the Earl of Wemyss, and the church is used as a family mausoleum.
Seton Field House, Manse Lane was built by the Kelly family in the early 1800s, who were business people who came from Aberlady.
Seton House is a castle-type house built by Robert Adam 1789-91, using stone from the Old Palace of Seton, which stood on the site. The house was built for Alexander MacKenzie, the agent for the York Building Company. When the company was wound up, the Earl of Wemyss bought the house and estates. The house was leased to a Captain Stevenson and his family from 1947 to date. Both the church and house are situated one mile to the south of Port Seton with access from the A198 road.
Built in the 1920s, The Ship Hotel, Links Road was formerly a tearoom, a clubhouse for the Port Seton Golf Club and latterly a hotel.
The Thorntree Inn, High Street, Cockenzie is one of the oldest inns in East Lothian. In 1788 it was owned by McKenzie WS and a Mr Thomson, and was formerly known as Barclays Hotel. The Inglis family have owned the Thorntree for about 100 years.
Winton Lodge House, Winton Court was built in 1869 for the Hunter family who were bookbinders in Edinburgh. By 2000, the property was used as a senior citizen's sheltered housing complex.
One building of note that was demolished in 1995 was the Pond and Pond Hall (opened 18 June 1932). Many local people had many fond memories of the hall. It had been the focus of the social life of the burgh for much of the period in question (see also Leisure and Economy - Tourism).
The Pond and the Pond Hall commissioned by the Burgh Council of Cockenzie and Port Seton was initiated and driven by Provost John Hall Weatherhead. He recognised the need to emulate Dunbar and North Berwick, and to develop the community as a seaside resort with its potential for business expansion, and also meet the present and future recreational requirements of Cockenzie and Port Seton.
The site chosen was the intersection of Fishersgate Road and the line of High Street. The project cost of £10,000 was financed and built with £625 from the burgh council, personal and community donations of monies and materials and voluntary labour over a period of two and a half years.
On opening in 1932, the pond had an Olympic standard pool, 50 yards x 25 yards with changing cubicles at east and west ends, and 1500 spectator capacity on both north and south sides. The following year, the Pond Hall was completed incorporating additional changing facilities, council chambers, library, tearoom and main function hall able to accommodate 800 with a sprung ballroom floor, one of three in Britain.
The Pond also had installed a 33-foot diving stage, the highest in Scotland. This was an immense achievement by a small fishing village in depressed times - with a population of just 2526. This figure contrasts with the estimate of 5150 for 1997, two years after the Pond's closure.
The Earl of Wemyss sold the land to the Provost, Magistrates and the Burgh Council and their successors, subject to the conditions of a Feu Charter protecting and defining the uses and maintenance of the Pond and Pond Hall changeable only by Minute of Waiver.
As the years passed, the amount of necessary maintenance and upgrading increased. In 1964 the Pond had oil-fired heating installed. This was in preference to piping and pumping the coolant water from Cockenzie Power Station. The filter shell developed a hole in 1968 and was replaced with three new filters. At about the same time a proposal was discussed with regard to control and cost sharing with Prestonpans. This was not taken any further.
The burgh council in 1973 recognised the need to modernise, upgrade and add new facilities. Plans were drawn up and a model made. These were not taken any further by East Lothian District Council who took over control and responsibility after local government reform in 1974. Strict budget controls by the council resulted in low investment and maintenance (although heated showers were installed in 1991). In 1973 a leak appeared in the diving pit, which in 1974 was causing the loss of 8,000 gallons per week. The repair costs were considered to be too prohibitive and the west end cubicles were demolished and used to fill in the diving pit. The 1970s and 1980s saw the disappearance of the floodlights, glass canopy diving stage chute and springboard. Cracks in the sea pipe also appeared and combined with filtration problems required the pond to be filled with fresh water from an outside hydrant from 1988 onwards.
At the same time in 1988 a Scottish Development Agency report presented a lifeline with various options to upgrade the Pond and Pond Hall into an indoor leisure facility. This was shelved when the community who chose a swimming pool option rejected the East Lothian District Council's decision to choose an ice rink development, intimating that monies were only available from the European Development Fund for new projects.
With attendances declining, and costs running at £12 per swimmer, the district council did not consider this economically justifiable and the Pond and Pond Hall did not open in 1994. That year also saw the opening of the Port Seton Leisure Centre in the King George V Park and also the decision to convert the Pond Hall site to a housing development.
1995 was to prove the final year; following 1994 when the community sent a 4,000 signature petition and 75 business letters of support, a meeting was held in September 1995 with the East Lothian District Council at which the community presented their business plan to retain and develop the Pond and Pond Hall for leisure and recreation. The community prior to this had received a letter of support for success from Nigel Tranter, the world-renowned Scottish author residing at Aberlady Bay.
The proposal was rejected by the council. Whilst sympathetic to the community's wishes to retain this most important part of their heritage, it considered it to be too ambitious and costly (£1.4million), and also unnecessary in light of other sports developments in the vicinity.
Finally, in November 1995, Lord Osborne, presiding at the Court of Session, ruled that the district council could do as they wished, Lord Neidpath having prior to this having granted a Minute of Waiver to the Feu Charter to allow the site to be developed as a housing estate.
In December 1995, the Pond and Pond Hall were demolished and the Dr Black clock was transported to Hart Estates, Macmerry for safekeeping (see also Leisure and Economy - Tourism).
Cockenzie & Port Seton are included in the parish figures for Tranent
|By burgh, from the General Registrar's office||By locality - census - ie Cockenzie & Port Seton itself|
|By Small Area Statistics - census|
|2001||NO DATA||NO DATA|
|By settlement, from ELDC|
Population figures are difficult to compare, as no two sources extract data in the same way.
By 2000, the burgh's population had expanded with the completion of a 400-house residential estate bordering South Seton Park, and the 14-house Inglis Farm development.
The fishing villages of Cockenzie and Port Seton have long been referred to as God-fearing religious communities with the constant threat of danger as the men of the village ventured out to sea in often inadequate boats. It is true that at the beginning of the period under consideration there was a high incidence of church attendance and also three well-attended Brethren Halls, a Methodist Church and a Fisherman's Bethel. As the threat of war receded and the villagers became more affluent, church and other religious denominations began to show signs of diminishing numbers in spite of the village expanding rapidly. All of the housing to the south of Links Road from Inglis Avenue east to the cottage and the housing to the south of and including South Seton Park was built in this period. Several hundred houses and a few thousand people were added to the congregations of the two Church of Scotland parish churches in the village, Cockenzie Old Church and Chalmers Memorial Church.
The Cockenzie Old Parish Church during this time had the latter years of the ministry of the Rev Thomas Osborne, which began in 1923 and terminated in 1955. The Rev John L. Smellie was called to the church in 1956 and served until 1976. During these periods the church was extensively redecorated and a new pulpit installed while the hall was clad in rendered blockwork in place of the corrugated iron originally used. We have on record in the centenary booklet by the Rev John Smellie that the communion roll of Cockenzie Old Parish Church as in 1956 was 340; in 1964 - 500; in 1973 - 500; and in 1976 - 526.
Mr Smellie was followed by the Rev Iain Penman who was placed there as an assistant to the Rev G.H. Underwood, minister of neighbouring Chalmers Memorial Church, for a period of three years to try and prepare for a union or some other arrangement between the two churches. At the end of this trial period, the Rev S.J. Knox was appointed to the Cockenzie Old Parish Church by Presbytery as the congregation had voted against a union of the churches. The retirement of the Rev Knox led to the appointment of the Rev James Cowan on a terminable appointment. This was put into effect at the end of 1992 when the Rev Underwood retired from Chalmers Memorial Church.
About this time, a large area of farming land to the south of the village was rezoned for residential use and as a result of this, the parish boundary between the two churches was altered. As a result, some 400 acres of housing land between Fishers Road and Avenue Road were allocated to the parish of Cockenzie Old Church. Some 300 houses have since been built on this site. As a result of this increase in parish population, both churches were permitted to call a minister, having resisted attempts by presbytery to a union. Chalmers called Rev Ian Wiseman in 1993 and Cockenzie Old called the Rev Ronald Stitt in the same year. Mr Stitt was called to Hamilton in 1999 leaving Cockenzie Old vacant. In 2000 it was still vacant with the possibility of union again under discussion.
Chalmers Memorial Church had continued to expand its activities and increase its membership in 1950 under the ministry of the Rev Henry Lawson. The Rev Robert Brownlee who ministered until his untimely death in 1957, replaced him in 1951. During that era a new hall was constructed, in part by voluntary labour from the congregation. Miss Cadell laid the foundation stone in 1954 and the hall was officially opened and dedicated on the 31 August 1957. The original hall in School Lane, which had been the church building following the Disruption (1843), was then surplus to requirements and sold to a local potato merchant.
The Chalmers Manse, Winton House and its extensive grounds were sold to the local council for town council offices and future development on 29 August 1956 for the sum of £2,000. The site extended from Winton Park in the west to Osborne Terrace in the east, Edinburgh Road in the north and the primary school site in the south. It did not include the narrow Belfield property at Osborne Terrace. The proceeds of this sale allowed the church to purchase the present Manse 'Braemar Villa' at No 2 Links Road for the sum of £2,250.
The Rev David Wright was inducted to the charge in 1957 until 1964 and was followed by the Rev Geoffrey Underwood from 1964 until his retirement from the ministry in 1992. During this ministry, the enthusiasm of the minister and congregation had seen the membership grow to a peak of about 560 members plus adherents in 1975, from about 490 members in 1950. 1980 saw this figure drop to about 500 members while the Practice Profile compiled for the 1992 vacancy gave the membership as 450 persons with a further 15 - 20 eligible for inclusion in the electoral roll.
The Rev Ian Wiseman was called to the church in 1993 but had to resign due to ill health in 1995; the Rev Robert Glover replaced him in July 1997, who continues to attend to the needs of his 350 members. Although this number shows a considerable reduction, it does accurately reflect the true number of active members in this church, the communion roll having been purged over the last year or so.
The villages have also been very well served by enthusiastic Christian groups. In the 1950s, they shared the same religious zeal as the churches and had a membership of up to 100. They comprised the Methodists who met in their church at Edinburgh Road, Cockenzie. The London Brethren who met in the hall at South Doors they had inherited from the Fishermen's Bethel when that organisation, formed initially by fishermen of the village, moved to its new premises in New Street in the 1890s. The Clanton Brethren met in Elcho Place Hall while the Plymouth Brethren met in Viewforth Hall.
In 1980 when the adult population of the villages was about 3000 persons, the following numbers were attributed to these meeting places: Clanton Brethren - 100; Plymouth Brethren - 60; Methodists - 40; Bethel - 20; and London Brethren - 20.
These numbers, like the Church of Scotland membership, have continued to decline with the Clanton now 60, the Plymouth now 55, the Methodists now 20. The Fishermen's Bethel was closed and sold for conversion to a house in 1992 while the London Brethren had their last service in their South Doors meeting room on 6 December 1992. It was subsequently sold again for conversion to a house but some of the members continued to worship in the Methodist Church, which although still open now has no minister allocated to it by its controlling body.
There are obviously Roman Catholic people in the village but they worship at the Roman Catholic Chapel in Prestonpans or Tranent. The numbers are not recorded but at a time in the 1970s, Mass was regularly held in the Pond Hall with visiting priests officiating.
There was only one settlement - that of Cockenzie & Port Seton - in this area between 1945 and 2000. From 1945-1970s the majority of people in Port Seton lived in accommodation rented from the local council. Privately owned property was mainly around Gosford Road, Edinburgh Road and Viewforth overlooking the harbour. From the 1970s onward privately owned housing expanded rapidly eastward and southward of the village. Home ownership increased even more during the 1980s under the right to buy legislation and by the end of the period approximately 75% of council housing was under private ownership.
By 2000, the types of housing in Cockenzie and Port Seton consisted mainly of the following:
stone-built, single and two-storey terraced cottages; two-storey detached cottages; two- and three-storey flats; two-storey terraced houses (both council and privately owned); single terraced houses (privately owned and council owned for the elderly) and two-storey detached houses (as opposed to cottages).
Existing pre-war housing fell roughly into two areas: the older area of Cockenzie with its stone built cottages, located mainly on the north side of Edinburgh Road, and another area west of the village green also contained traditional stone built terraced cottages.
On the south side of Edinburgh Road were the houses built by the town council between 1920 and 1939. Areas such as Kay Gardens, Inglis Avenue and Osborne Terrace were built at this time; houses on the north side of South Seton Park that had been started before the war were completed.
From the 1950s to 1961, house building by the local council continued with houses being built on the land east of Fishers Road, comprising Castle Road, Castle Avenue and so on. As well as new areas around the village being allocated for council housing, areas within the village were being re-developed; in Cockenzie High Street a block of six flats for the elderly were built and at Barracks Street flats were built and named Bayview.
Over the next decade, council house building continued with houses being built on the south side of South Seton Park, beginning at Fishers Road and continuing westwards as far as Osborne Terrace. Phase 1 was built in 1965 for key workers from Cockenzie Power Station.
Meanwhile the village was still expanding eastwards with the development of private housing. The period 1972 - 81 saw the development of private housing east of Fishers Road continued with houses built by Miller Homes at Links View, comprising maisonette type houses and single storey terraced houses. Between 1982 and 1991, private house building continued east of Fishers Road, where houses and flats were built by Wimpey. Miller Homes also built houses in Seton Wynd and View. Inglis Farm was also developed in this decade.
The final decade of the period saw private housing being built on land south of South Seton Park. Approximately 800 homes were to be built between Millers, Taywood and Wilcon.
Changes & Conversions
A big change over time occurred in Cockenzie High Street; from the early 1970s onwards, shops were gradually closing down and the property reverted back to family accommodation. By 2000 only two shops remained. There were a number of buildings that, by the end of the period, had been converted to homes of one sort or another.
Most of the changes occurred in Cockenzie.
In School Lane, Cockenzie the building that was the original Chalmers Memorial Church (1855) and then the church hall was bought in 1957 and used as a storage shed for potatoes. This was demolished in 1999 to make way for flats, the builder being Rollo & Sons, a local builder.
The Bethel in New Street, Cockenzie (built in 1889) - the place of worship for the fishing community - was converted into a house in 1993, as was another Bethel in South Doors in 1992.
The area in Cockenzie opposite South Lorimer Place, once the site of a pig farm, was cleared for private housing in 1994. The estate was named Inglis Farm and consists of 20, two-storey, detached houses built to the owners' specifications.
In Port Seton
The most controversial housing was that built where the Pond Hall stood. This was a combination of hall and swimming pool built in the 1930s. Demolition of the Pond Hall scheduled for 1995 provoked public outcry and efforts were made by the public to save it, but to no avail. Two-storey terraced housing and a day centre for the elderly were built on the site in 1998 by Hart Ltd.
There were two non-family homes in the burgh:
Cockenzie House (see also Townscapes, Buildings and Landscapes of Distinction) is a large, four-storey house set in its own grounds at the west end of the village. Once the home of the Cadell family it was opened in 1986 as a home for the elderly. At 31 Edinburgh Road, a two-storey detached house was used as family accommodation until 1994 when it was bought for the accommodation of people with learning difficulties.
Shops & Services
The shops & services on offer in Cockenzie High Street changed beyond recognition. In the period 1945 - 51 there were four butchers shops, a Co-operative, a chemists, two licensed grocers, a bakery, a barbers, a babywear shop, an electrical shop, and a post office. The area was a thriving community quite independent of Port Seton. However, by the early 1970s there was a marked decline of retail business in the area, as this had shifted to the Port Seton end of the village and High Street shops were being shut down and reverting back to houses, being mostly bought by young first-time buyers. By the mid 1990s the post office was shut down and converted to a house leaving only the baker's shop, the Thorntree Inn and a Chinese take-away in Cockenzie High Street.
The following overview sums up the changes in Cockenzie & Port Seton over the period:
|Greengrocers||2||1||Seton Mains Farm|
|Boots & shoes||1||-||-|
|Fish & chip shops||5||1||1|
The decline of the fishing trade within the parish certainly changed the face of the retail and business community. The demand for food and other supplies to be used on board fishing trips had declined considerably. Cockenzie & Port Seton was always a dormitory settlement, supplying manpower to the industries in the surrounding area. At one time, manpower was provided for the coalmines, now all closed; the engineering firms and businesses, and latterly to the power station in Prestonpans. The village still retained its own character, in spite of being almost a suburb of Edinburgh.
An increasing portion of the population commuted to work, which meant that the 'shopping' was done elsewhere. The tendency was to use large supermarkets where practically everything was available under one roof, resulting in less support for the local shops.
The earliest years of the second half of the 20th century still saw the travelling shop and the door-to-door salesman bringing commodities to your doorstep. The man selling brushes, polish and pot menders, another with clothes, and the 'wee boys' trousers' man. Vegetables arrived on the horse and cart and of course the 'Onion Johnny' - the onion sellers from the continent, who sold long strings of onions from their pedal cycles - also called. The Co-operative van, with groceries and bakery goods, was a regular visitor.
Several businesses have come and gone since the 1950s. There was a small industrial estate between Cockenzie Harbour and Marshall Street; unfortunately the businesses are no longer, and the area awaits development, as does the boatyard at Cockenzie West Harbour and several fish curing establishments. Three motor repair garages and an office/industrial cleaning firm continue to thrive close by.
The village still has a few shops left including the faithful Co-op. The main shop was on Edinburgh Road, with the fruit shop and the bakehouse in School Lane, and the 'wee store' in Wemyss Place. These have all been converted into private housing. The Co-op has just one building in Links Road with a chemist shop included, and is still the centre for the daily/weekly chat. We can still enjoy fresh fish from a local fishmonger. It would not be Port Seton if this were taken away from us. Fresh bread is available from the bakers and the Co-op, fruit and vegetables from the Co-op and at Seton Mains Farm Shop at the south end of Fishergate Road.
Daily newspapers and milk are still delivered to your door. The Royal Bank of Scotland has now closed their branch in Port Seton; this was done some years ago not without a great deal of protest from the residents. A cashline machine was installed at the Co-op building, another case of inanimate response rather than an animate one. The post office, which was located in the High Street, has now been absorbed into the Spar retail shop on Gosford Road, so the pensions can be collected, bills paid and post sent. The old post office building was sold and is now a private house.
Hopefully the decline in shops and businesses within the parish has ended. We all require to purchase goods locally on occasion. We must remember that they are a very necessary part of the community.
Throughout the period 1945-2000, local people have had to travel outwith the burgh for many aspects of healthcare. There are no hospitals or specialist facilities locally.
GP services are shared with Prestonpans and Longniddry. Until the mid 1960s there were two GP practices, both with two doctors, based at two sites, both being the doctors' own homes. One doctor used separate rented accommodation for consultations, the other built a surgery in the grounds of his house. These premises were in use until Cockenzie Health Centre opened in 1980.
Since 1980, the number of GPs practising in the parish has increased to its present complement of six. In addition, one of the GP practices based in Prestonpans has daily consultations in Cockenzie Health Centre. Two practice nurses are employed by the GPs.
Until 1999, the local GPs provided a 24-hour on-call service. Since 1999 the out-of-hour service has been centralised and is co-ordinated from Tranent Health Centre.
Community nursing: until 1980, care for patients in their own homes was provided by three district nurses working from their own homes. They were employed by the county council until 1975, then by Lothian Health Board. Until the early 1980s, the district nurses were also qualified midwives. The district nurses have been based in the Cockenzie Health Centre since it opened. They provide home nursing for the entire practice population. Their role has expanded steadily in the last 20 years. Health visitors are also based at the Health Centre and since 1980, a chiropodist and a physiotherapist work from Cockenzie Health Centre on a sessional basis. They also work with patients in their own homes.
Maternity care: home confinement was the norm until the late 1950s. Thereafter there was a rapid move to hospital confinement. Home confinements were managed by GPs assisted by the district nurse/midwife. In 1982, a separate community midwifery service for East Lothian was established, managed by a senior midwife based in Haddington. One community midwife continues to be based in Cockenzie Health Centre, providing midwifery care in Prestonpans, Cockenzie & Port Seton and Longniddry.
Dental services: until the 1980s one dentist had a practice in his own home. After he retired, the premises were acquired by two dentists who continue to provide a service locally.
Services for adults with learning difficulties: in the 1990s, a group home for three severely handicapped adults was opened. East Lothian Care and Accommodation Project (ELCAP) runs it. In 1995, the Resource Centre which is within the Port Seton Centre, opened. It provides day care/education for 36 adults.
The old Cockenzie and Port Seton Primary School building, which dates back to 1865, stands on the north side of Edinburgh Road. An annex was later added on the other side of the road, because the school was on an extremely restricted site.
The Education Committee of East Lothian County Council, pursuing a policy of replacing out of date school buildings, in 1960 approved that a new primary school should be built on a site to the west side of Osborne Terrace. The old school building was to continue in use until 1967. The building itself was to come into private ownership and remains the same today with several small businesses operating from it. The annex building was to later become a public library; when it was demolished, the library moved into the Pond Hall building. Sheltered housing is now built on the site, now known as Cadell Place.
The new Cockenzie & Port Seton Primary School, offering places for 440 pupils, opened in 1967; it was officially opened by Mr Richard Wilson, the vice convenor of the county council Education Committee.
The report of the event in the Haddingtonshire Courier of May 5, 1967 is interesting:
Mr Wilson said it would have been fitting if the school had been opened two years earlier, on the 100th anniversary of the opening of the old school in 1865, but people had to admit that it had been worth waiting for... The school proper consisted of a senior block and an infant block, with staff rooms... an excellent hall and stage, dressing rooms, a gymnasium and a crafts room. "We are getting away from the old outmoded idea that a school is a building that opens at 9am and closes at 4pm. It is a building which should serve the pupils and the community at large", Mr Wilson said. The headmaster, Mr Charles L. Bruce had informed him that four years earlier, the old school had opened its doors to some 20 adult students. Now there were well over 100 and he could see ... that in the future the increase would be more marked. Badminton and drama clubs would have the use of the building as well as facilities for painting, woodwork, metalwork and pottery...
[The headmaster] felt that ... the building was a fine one, and he believed it would, in no small measure, contribute towards training and equipping the rising generation to take its full share in shaping the burgh's advancement in the years to come.
The director of education, Dr J. Meiklejohn said it was a "tremendous achievement" for ... a local authority ... to open no less than three schools in a year...
Thanks all round abounded - to the staff and pupils for a successful flitting; to Mr Rollo, the contractors; and to the architects who had presented the school with a magnificent bible. Guests at the opening were to see a display of model fishing boats made by Mr George Thomson, a former pupil, a collection of historic photographs were also on display.
Activities taking place at Cockenzie & Port Seton Primary School consisted of various visits to the museum in Chambers Street in Edinburgh, with follow up visits to the zoo in Corstorphine; other classes went to Middleton School Camp for a week's holiday or to Dalguise House, Dunkeld, where they undertook history discovery work. Regular school concerts were held in which all classes took part. Pupils also danced in the gala, which they attended; at one time, they attended with their teachers.
In the 1950s and 1960s, when the leaving age was 14, children were streamed according to ability. Those in Primary 7 sat the 11+ examination [sic] and went on to Preston Lodge Secondary School in Prestonpans, where they were placed in classes A, B or C. A stream studied two languages, French and Latin, B studied French and commercial subjects and C studied no foreign languages, but took technical and domestic subjects. Preston Lodge is changed today.
Special classes were opened in 1947 in the old school annex, opposite the old primary school on Edinburgh road, for 'retarded and difficult' children. The classes were moved eventually to Prestonpans School (1955) and a new class formed for 'ineducable' children. Mrs Allan was in charge of the Special School.
A nursery was opened during this period and ran until a new school was opened in the grounds of the new primary school.
Provision for adult learning has been on a day and evening basis, at one time held in the primary school, and now in Port Seton Community Centre. These classes have been, and are, those grouped under a heading of leisure classes, such as arts, crafts, computing and languages. More recently other courses such as fitness and stress management have become available. Certificate and other personal development courses are on offer elsewhere in East Lothian.
The story of the Pond Hall has been addressed already (see Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction), but there is a further side to its role in the burgh. For years the Pond and the Pond Hall were the main facility and focus of leisure for residents and visitors alike (see also Economy - Tourism).
During the 1930s, the opening of the Pond was signalled each year with long queues of children and grown-ups from the local community and all over East Lothian. Its excellent facilities and reputation made the Pond a major training venue for clubs all over Scotland. The Portobello Scottish and British Water Polo Champions were frequent visitors.
The Pond Hall, in addition to supporting the summer season, was the civic, social and recreational centre of the community. In addition to the library, the function hall was in continuous use holding weddings, dances, youth and church associated activities. The Burgh Council Community 'Greetin' Meetings became a special event in the calendar.
The Pond and Pond Hall remained open throughout the war and more than ever were central to the community's social and recreational activities, providing locals and visitors alike with enjoyment and recreation. The Pond and Pond Hall became a symbol of stability and security during these troubled times.
The post-war years saw the emergence of new community activities. In 1947, the Cockenzie Players staged their first production in the Pond Hall and continued until 1961. The Cockenzie & Port Seton Bowling Club and Gala fund raising dances were held there. The car park with the Pond Hall as the backdrop was the annual setting for the crowning of the gala queen, with the first being held in 1949; this event attracted huge crowds from all over East Lothian.
The swimming club reformed in 1949, and by 1955, had a membership of 400. Swimming galas resumed and during the 1940s and 1950s (as in the 1930s), more Scottish native and all comers' records were established and another frequent visitor was Peter Heatley, the Commonwealth gold medallist diving champion along with local club diver, A. McNeil from Tranent.
In 1951 the paddling pool opened and in December 1953, the clock tower was unveiled on top of the Pond Hall. It was donated by public subscription in memory of Dr Black. The 1950s saw floodlit bathing introduced, with dancing every Saturday night in the Pond Hall. Over the coming years, a putting green and trampolines were added to the new numerous attractions in and around the Pond and Pond Hall.
The mid 1960s saw the start of a major decline in the swimming club (originally formed in 1928). By the 1980s the Pond was a shadow of its former glory; new indoor swimming and leisure centres were appearing and planned in Dunbar, North Berwick, Haddington and Musselburgh. With the opening of the Port Seton Leisure Centre in 1994, it became increasingly evident that the Pond and Pond Hall facilities were no longer as attractive as they had once been. Closure came in 1995.
The Cockenzie & Port Seton Local History Society was originally formed with the help of East Lothian District Council. In 1989/90 a small group was formed which met in the old public library in the Pond Hall, and was guided by Mrs Clare Johnston and Mrs Elizabeth Clark from East Lothian District Council Library Service. Mrs Elizabeth Taverner was the secretary and the first chairman, Barry Johnston.
As membership increased, the library became too small, so the Lesser Pond Hall was used, although occasionally it was necessary to meet in the Pond Hall itself. Following the building of a new Community Centre in the King George V Park in Port Seton, and with the Pond Hall being demolished, the meetings are now held in the Port Seton Community Centre. The society meets on the second Tuesday of every month, from October to April; the syllabus consists of a programme of speakers on a variety of interesting topics, with the aid of film and video presentations. One or two outings are arranged each year.
The society has enjoyed good attendance at all its meetings, and is always welcoming anyone new or interested in all things historical. There is a nucleus of about 20-30 members, with the monthly talks generally attracting an audience of 30-40. A few years ago, the society collected the taped recollections of a number of local worthies. The society supports and contributes to the Community Fortnight in May/June each year by either arranging an exhibition within the Community Centre or by a walking tour of the burgh, taking people to see the sights of historical interest and showing our rich heritage at first hand. As just one of several societies in the burgh, the Local History Society was involved in the re-enactment of the Box Meeting, held to celebrate the millennium on 15-16 September 2000.
The burgh's key tourist attractions were, from the 1930s to the middle of the 1980s, the Pond and the Pond Hall and, from the mid 1970s the Seton Sands Holiday Park, although many visitors had enjoyed Bruce's Camps in the early years as well.
From its opening in 1932, the attractions of the open-air swimming pool combined with the scenic seaside location to bring holidaymakers and day-trippers pouring in from the Borders, Fife, and the west. During the Glasgow and Paisley fortnights, the burgh became particularly popular, as did the Holiday Camp at Seton Dene - later to become known as 'Bruce's Camps.
In the early days, the focus for the holidaymakers was the Pond with, in addition to swimming, entertainment. This was provided by both the local swimming club's events, and the international swimming galas with many Scottish native and all-comers records established. Pete Des Jardin, the 1935 World Diving Champion was one of the many famous visitors to give displays.
The number of holidaymakers was soon averaging 7,000 a year - two and a half times the population. Established businesses flourished and new shops and cafes opened up bringing much needed employment to the local community. By the end of the 1930s, Cockenzie & Port Seton was firmly established as one of the major seaside holiday resorts on the east coast and the Pond and Pond Hall one of the premier attractions and landmarks contributing greatly to the tourism industry in East Lothian. Post-1945, holidaymakers and visitors flowed into Cockenzie and Port Seton in greater numbers than ever, anxious to enjoy themselves after the severe restrictions of wartime.
The Seton Sands Holiday Camp or Bruce's Camps is situated on the East Lothian coast road between Port Seton and Longniddry. The camp was started quite by accident in 1924 when some Boys' Brigade lads asked farmer, William Bruce Senior, who owned Seton Mains, permission to pitch their tents for the weekend. Soon others applied, and as this part was sandy scrubland and no use for agriculture, 52 acres were cleared, and more tents, caravans, huts, converted bus bodies, tramcars and railway carriages were added. Mr Bruce's son, William Junior, was put in charge. The county council applied strict regulations.
Wartime brought rationing, blackouts, concrete blocks, poles on the beach, and barriers at both ends of the Camp Road where travel permits had to be shown. Only those who were ratepayers were allowed to stay, and only if their wives agreed to help on the land and the children went to local schools. Two holes of Port Seton golf course and the camp tennis courts were ploughed for crops, and sheep grazed on the recreation squares in winter. Camp occupancy dropped by 30%. After the war, some huts and caravans were in a poor state, building materials were scarce but repairs had to be done. The church and amusement marquees were replaced by large huts.
During the 1950s, there was more prosperity. Static caravans were properly fitted out. The council insisted on caravans instead of tents and these now totalled 800.
The Council's County Development Plan stated:
The camp at Port Seton fulfils a valuable regional need. Such huts are the poor man's equivalent of the weekend cottage, and are appearing around all big cities. ... The two faults of Seton camp are first that it is overcrowded, and second its poor landscaping. Planning permission should not be granted to the erection of any more huts than already have planning permission, and when the temporary permissions expire in September 1951, they should not be renewed. (E.L.C.C. Development Plan, 1950, p8, paragraph 40)
William Senior died in 1951 aged 79. Meantime, William Junior became ill in 1953 and his daughter Margaret helped him to run the camp; he died in 1957 aged 55. His son Bill, a civil engineer, had just been demobbed from the RAF, and he joined Margaret. He organised the campsite and labourers, and she attended to the shop and staff. William Senior's third son, Craig, was caretaker and lived on the premises. Local joiners built 30 new chalets at the east end and a launderette with six machines; 85 hard standings were laid for caravans, and new toilet blocks, water mains, drains and electricity added
By the 1960s, clearance work of 300 sub-standard huts and tram bodies was soon in hand over the winter. The owners of Cockenzie Power Station were looking for accommodation for construction workers; the council suggested making a site at the east end of the camp for 72 large residential caravans, so new roads, car parks and storage sheds were made. Seton Mains was sold in 1966, but Margaret and Bill kept the camp. Bill built three Canadian cedar chalets too.
During the next decade, more of the sub-standard huts were replaced by caravans - the huts had no electricity. A third of the owners bought new caravans with all modern conveniences. In 1973, the camp was sold. The new buyer then re-sold it to Bourne Leisure, so ending 'Bruce's Camps'.
Bourne Leisure bought Seton Sands Holiday Camp in 1974. Impressed with the scenic bay location and an established reputation, they invested heavily, improving facilities and upgrading the holiday camp. It soon became one of their top holiday camps in Britain. New buildings included new shops and a terrace bar, indoor heated pool and entertainment complex. The entrance to the holiday camp has also been much improved.
In 1994, the year the Pond closed, Bourne Leisure recorded 30,000 visitors with an average of 2,500 per week over the July and August period. The ratio of holidaymakers to residents in Cockenzie & Port Seton increased from 2.8 in the 1930s to 6.8 in 1994. The increase from 7,000 visitors in the 1930s to 30,000 in 1994 was 430%. By 1995 there were 601 caravan owners.
Unfortunately, from about 1985 on, the attractions of the Pond and Pond Hall were no longer what visitors sought. In addition, by the 1990s, the East Lothian District Council felt that Cockenzie & Port Seton no longer qualified to be considered a tourist resort. By this point the burgh had only two hotels and limited numbers of bed & breakfast accommodation on offer.
The boatbuilding and repair yard at Cockenzie harbour was owned by William Weatherhead & Sons. William Weatherhead had moved from Eyemouth in 1880 to Port Seton, and then to Cockenzie in 1899. During world war two, the firm had built motor launches and landing craft for the Admiralty, and cabin cruisers for the War Office. These vessels were often of a prefabricated nature but the orders increased the workforce considerably. In charge were Alexander Weatherhead and his son Bill.
In 1946 Weatherheads expanded by taking over the original Weatherhead yard at Eyemouth, and continued to build fishing boats there. In 1950 they re-opened the disused boatbuilding yard at Berwick-upon-Tweed. Meanwhile, at Cockenzie they took over the old salt works site between west harbour and the boat shore in 1949, and within two years had erected offices and warehouses there. The firm continued to build fishing boats, the Star of Hope being built for Adam Jarron, who carried the first Seton Queen on her in 1949. Expertise in the construction of yachts also bore fruition although the Sheherazade proved to be a costly experience. A new venture was the building of lifeboats.
By early 1953, the firm was employing more than 140 men at its three yards, but had overstretched itself, and within a few months cash flow problems led to cutting back. The Berwick yard was taken over by the Fairmile Construction Company, and the Eyemouth yard was sold off. The Cockenzie business, employing about 60, was taken over by J. Samuel White of Cowes, Isle of Wight, to become William Weatherhead & Sons (1954) Ltd. Most of the employees were retained and business carried on very much as usual. Orders from official sources were still important. Between 1953 and 1955 three minesweepers were built for the Admiralty. H.M.S. Egeria, an inshore survey vessel, was launched for the Navy in 1958. And in 1959 an order for launches for Trinity House was received.
Yacht and fishing boat construction continued. The pleasure yacht Venetia was launched in 1959, and a year later the seine netter Scarlet Cord II was built for George Buchanan. There were also orders for motor cruisers. Forty special lifeboats, of an innovative design, were built for the Russian trawler fleet during 1955 and 1956. Over the years further orders were received for lifeboats, their hulls being made of wood, aluminium, or fibreglass. The firm also carried out repair work for the R.N.L.I. Tragically the Broughty Ferry lifeboat Mona, whose crew had been lost trying to aid the North Carr lightship, was brought to the yard in December 1959, and later secretly burnt.
Weatherheads had a reasonable profile and exhibited at the Boat Shows in London throughout the 1950s, and later in Glasgow. Yet, in a very competitive market, the firm found it difficult to survive. It carried a large office staff, especially draughtsmen. A change of name to J. Samuel White (Scotland) Ltd. in 1965 signalled closer control from the Isle of Wight, but to no avail, and the yard closed in 1969.
The yard at Cockenzie harbour was taken over by Cockenzie Slip and Boatyard Ltd. run by Henry Macnamara and his two sons. Mr Macnamara had come to Weatherheads as yard manager in 1940 to supervise the construction of craft built for the war. He stayed on afterwards, and into the J. Samuel White era. The Macnamaras had no need of extensive offices and so the old saltworks site was sold off. The MacNamaras mainly carried out repair work, but they did build some new vessels. Although not for the local fleet, they built the occasional fishing boat, usually of larch or mahogany. They also built yachts, and carried out conversions to yachts, such as that of the fishing boat Jesmond.
An important commission led to the launching of a three-quarter sized replica of the Charlotte Dundas on 4 November 1988. The Charlotte Dundas is reputed to have been the world's first steamship. Built by William Symington, it was demonstrated on the Forth and Clyde Canal in 1803. The replica was built for Falkirk District Council.
With a recession in boatbuilding, Cockenzie Slip and Boatyard Ltd. was put into liquidation. The liquidators sold the yard to Alex McCran, a joiner, in 1996. At present (2002) Mr McCran's firm Coastcraft Ltd. builds and repairs boats, and also does shopfitting. They build small yachts in timber and fibreglass, and repair fishing boats and yachts, and pilot boats for the Forth Ports Authority.
Weatherhead and Blackie was started at Port Seton harbour in 1958 by Bill Weatherhead and John Blackie. As a direct result of the problems encountered by the original Weatherhead business these former employees started out on their own, building ring-net fishing boats for owners on the Ayrshire coast, as well as seine netters for the home fleet. The 70-foot dual purpose Jesmond was built in 1959 for Robert Home, and the Ebenezer (Peter Ross), Olive Branch (Tom Little and King Donaldson), and Freedom II (D. Johnstone) were all built in 1960. There was also the odd motor cruiser built.
The yard at Port Seton was uncovered, and feelers were put out in 1961 about obtaining more suitable premises at Dunbar. The Port Seton yard closed in 1965 and the business moved in the following year to Dunbar where it operated until 1976.
This account of the fishing industry from a Port Seton and Cockenzie angle comes from the well-known and respected fisherman, Billy Thomson (Bumps), who first went to sea in 1963, aged 13, and is one of the few locals still earning their living at 'the fishing'.
Billy first went to sea when John Johnston (Jock Toosh), skipper of the Girl Ann, broke his leg playing football. Billy was roped in as an extra pair of hands to work on the boat during the school summer holidays. He brought home between £6-£9 per week, more than his miner father earned at the pit face of Prestongrange colliery. At the age of 22, Billy became skipper of his first boat, the Rosehaugh.
Sea fishing out of Port Seton reached its peak in the 1970s. There were as many as 240 men employed locally on the 50 boats operating out of the harbour. The biggest boats - between 50'-70' in size - carried crews of six to seven men with the smaller boats carrying two to three men. The boats fished all over the North Sea, with bigger boats going out for a week at a time for catches of white fish. Smaller boats took on prawns as well as fish. Catches were landed at Eyemouth in winter and North Shields in summer. The Port Seton boats would radio the size of their catch to Tommy Johnston, who would then place the expensive link call into the coastal station where the catches were to be landed, to ensure sufficient lorries were waiting to take the fish to market. In one week's fishing in 1979, one boat, the Girl Janice, landed 400 boxes of cod out of the Forth, grossing £5,000.
The money would be divided as such - assuming a boat crewed by four men grossed £1000 for a week's work, £200 would go aside to cover fuel, repairs etc, and the £800 left would be split £400 to the owner (who would pay the skipper an extra £100 from this money) and £400 to the skipper and crew to be shared equally. This is still the method used - and no catch means no pay.
One reason for the boom in sea fishing was technology. Sonar to detect shoals of fish, radar to ensure the skipper knew exactly where the boat was, regular radio contact giving up to date weather reports, all led to an increasingly efficient fishing fleet. However, knowledge of the traditional methods still came in handy. For example, when a row with his partner led to his boat being stripped of crew and equipment, Billy Thomson, assisted only by his wife Janice on a boat normally crewed by five experienced men, used his skill with the 'meezies' (landmarks used by fishermen in the pre-technology years) to locate the shoals and land a catch of 16 boxes at Eyemouth - only three boxes less than his well-equipped and over-crewed ex-partner!
In what has become a legend in fishing folklore, a Port Seton boat, in 1975, was found guilty of salmon poaching off the Carr light ship near Montrose. The skipper was fined £2500 for destroying evidence and £50 for abduction of the officials sent to apprehend them! The fine was borne with great dignity, at a time when boats could make £5000 from a good week at poaching!
In 1977-8 a divorce between a Peterhead fisherman and his wife caused repercussions for fishermen all over Scotland, when as part of her settlement she demanded a share of the stoker. The stoker was the name given to monies received for the black market sale to fish and chip shops of codlings - white fish just the right size for frying. This started an investigation by the Inland Revenue and resulted in tax bills between £40K-£200K for many fishermen, including several Port Seton locals.
Local boats have also netted hundreds of wartime mines, but the most notable find was in 1995 when the Girl Janice brought a torpedo up from the seabed three miles off Elie on the Fife coast. When the Royal Navy bomb squad arrived, they could hardly contain their excitement - the torpedo was one of the largest ever manufactured by the Germans during world war two, and contained 1500 pounds of TNT! When it was detonated at around 12.30am, Cockenzie Power Station switchboard was jammed with calls from locals who had been shaken from their beds by the vibrations, and were convinced something had exploded there!
Unusual catches have included bottles of eight-year old Bell's whisky from around Inchkeith Island in the Forth. Peter Donaldson (Patey Dole), skipper of the Jackie D. landed the first two bottles and made a huge fuss about his luck over the radio to the envy of the other boats! Then Billy Thomson's boat, the Janreen, landed a bottle, quickly followed by Robert Johnston (Bo-Bo) on the Fruitful Harvest and Andrew Mark on the Arturis. It was reckoned that the whisky was dumped contraband.
Government legislation introduced in 1993 to reduce the British fishing fleet by 33% saw the Port Seton fleet decimated. The decommissioning of fishing boats took place over three phases and the men who once crewed them either retired or moved on to work elsewhere - one took his knowledge of the sea to behind the fish counter at a local supermarket!
At the present time, there are approximately 40 fishermen working out of Port Seton, crewing ten boats, the largest of which is 44 foot. Boats are - Teran, Girl Jean, Vestra, Emma Christie, Morning Star, Montana, Provider, Janreen, Silver Crest and The Maker. Port Seton boats are registered in Leith and have the prefix LH to their registration numbers. The catch is mainly prawns, which are sold in Eyemouth and then exported to France and Spain. The boats still have their whitefish licences, but do not land enough to make it a viable catch. Overfishing, European legislation and an increasing number of seals locally are blamed for the lack of white fish landed. Prawns are caught in the Forth, and some boats will go through the Caledonian Canal to spend a week at 'the prawns' on the West Coast. The bigger boats can earn £2000 on a good week.
Port Seton was once a renowned fishing village, but is now little more than a dormitory town for Edinburgh. Most of the local men still fishing would not recommend 'the fishing' as a career choice to youngsters today and with such feeling it is almost certain that fishing in Port Seton will not survive until the next Statistical Account.
The fishing communities of the county still use much of their local dialect; Cockenzie & Port Seton is no exception. The rich fund of words and expressions are, however, slowly disappearing, although bynames (nicknames) are still in common use. The following tale is made up of phrases and words writer Annette Gilroy has either overheard or been told about over many years. Like the story, any names are fictitious!
A Meeting of Two Fishermen at the Harbour
Hoo' did ye git oan? Hoo' mony boaxes?
No' mony. An' it was a' sma'. An' durty. A' durty!
Ah think ah'll bide till efter the haur afore ah go bauk.
Duv 'e' no ken tae dae thaut. Ah thocht ye wid 'a' kent thaut.
A weel. Ah'll bide till it's time for the prawns. Bowdie says they'll no' be lang.
Aye but wha' aboot Taurley. He's gaun thi mom.
Guid luck tae 'im. Ah hope it's no a waste o' time an' diesel - but then, he's goat plenty o' baith! Is your wee Boabbie no' weel? Ah saw yir mither comin' oot the surgery wi' 'im.
He's been as seek as a dug, an' they goat that new doactor wha' said tae 'im, "PUT OUT YOUR TONGUE, YOUNG MAN", the daft-like gowk that he is. The bairn didnae ken wha' he was speirin so ma mither said, "Stick oot yir melt, ma lamb".
An' wha' aboot James. When's he gaun tae the fushin' wi' ye?
Efter the simmer hoalidays. Ma mither saw him wi' a laussy and said if he's auld enough for winching, he's auld enough to work. An' she telt him what she said to me years ago, to mind wha' he was aboot and whae he was gaun oot wi'. He'd dae better to find yin o' oo. There's to be nae Cautholics and naebody fae Tarnent or the Pauns. Wha' aboot your Chaurleseenie? Is she no' lookin' for a laud?
Gi'e her a chaunce! She's only ther-teen. It'll be a while afore she thinks aboot a laud.
That's no wha' ah heard. She was no hauf enjoying 'ersel' at yin o' thae discos they have.
That's as may be but ah leave a' that tae the wife. An' Chaurleseenie wid no hauf get lauldy if she's been blauk-affrontin' us! Ither laussies can show their fooshin-upness if they like but ah dinnae think she wid.
Did yi see thaut television crew filmin' doon at the herbour the ither day. At first ah thocht they were daein' a programme on Goolwau but no, it was a' aboot Joahn Bellany again, him buyin' a hoose oot in Italy, in Tuscany. Yin o' them ausked me if a minded onythin' aboot the Boax Meetin' an' ah telt him o' the swee boats an' the chair-o'-planes at the shows, and the banefire that was licht on the Boat Shore.
He wis trying tae git me to auct oot a fush sale. To say a' shillin, a' shillin, ochteen pence, ochteen pence. Ah telt him ah couldnae dae it but he recoarded it oanywye and went awa' beamin'. Aye. It disnae tauk much to keep some folk hauppy!
Annette produced this piece for the Port Seton Writers' Group.
Revisiting the Past
In 1994, excavations at Fisher's Road, Port Seton by Roderick McCullagh for AOC revealed an Iron Age enclosure (Scotsman 1994 May 30). The site is now built on, and a new housing development has covered the area.
In the mid 19th century, a number of stone cists (c1500BC) were unearthed in Cockenzie; the skulls are now in the British Museum. The find was noted in the pre-history Annals of Scotland. Cists were later unearthed at the building of Winton Park in the 1920s and at Winton Court in 1989.
The Box Meeting, which dates back to early in the 19th century, was an annual celebration in which the whole village took part. In its earlier days it was when the Friendly Society of Cockenzie & Port Seton - the fishermen - met to distribute benefits to those in need - widows, orphans and the sick. Later, the Box Meeting became a Fishermen's Walk, with a bonfire the previous evening. The meeting was discontinued in the late 1950s.
The millennium celebration began with the opening of the Millennium Garden, followed by a bonfire and firework display. The next day, the Box Meeting Walk progressed through the burgh, and was made up of East Lothian, Fife and Borders fishing communities, in traditional costume, as well as pipe and silver bands. (East Lothian Courier 2000 September 8).
John Bellany is one of the most distinguished artists in Scotland today. He was born in Port Seton in 1942 into a family of fisherfolk and boat-builders, and this experience of fishing villages and people gives his art a rich source of powerful symbols and characters.
After Preston Lodge School he attended Edinburgh College of Art and was awarded post-graduate and travelling scholarships, visiting Paris, Holland and Belgium. His studies continued at the Royal College of Art from 1965-8 under Carol Weight. Together with his close friends, painter Sandy Moffat and poet Alan Bold, he visited Germany in 1967, including the Buchenwald concentration camp, an experience that gave new impetus to his work. He held lectureships at Brighton, Winchester, and Goldsmith's Colleges of Art, and the RCA, and was Artist in Residence in Melbourne, Australia in 1983.
He was awarded the CBE in 1994 and Honorary Doctorates at Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt Universities in 1996 and 1998.
There is scarcely an art gallery in which he is not represented, from Orkney to the Tate, Australia to New York, and his output is phenomenal, always courageous and memorable.
He is a painter with a passionate vision in a world of art that is often negative and meaningless.
THIS ACCOUNT OF COCKENZIE & PORT SETON WAS COMPILED BY THE COCKENZIE & PORT SETON LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, RESEARCH AND ESSAYS WERE PROVIDED BY THE FOLLOWING:
- Julie Aitken: Economy - Industry - Fishing (interview with Billy Thomson - Bumps)
- Robert Bryson: Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction - The Pond and Pond Hall, the building, and its role in Leisure and in Tourism; Economy - Industry, Tourism data
- John Busby: Miscellany - People, John Bellany
- Sheila Chambers: Healthcare
- M. Chapman: Economy - Tourism, Seton Sands Holiday Camp
- Tom Donaldson: Belief
- Jimmy Hogg: Economy - Industry, Boatbuilding and Repairing
- Jane Innes: Education
- Gordon Jamieson: Education
- Jean Johnstone: Leisure - Cockenzie & Port Seton Local History Society
- Barry Johnstone: Townscapes, Buildings & Landscapes of Distinction; Revisiting the Past
- Duncan Morgan: Homes: Location, Type & Ownership; Changes in the Burgh; Cockenzie High Street
- Elizabeth Taverner: Introduction; Business and Retail Outlets; Education; Cockenzie & Port Seton Local History Society
- Veronica Wallace: Box Meeting Traditions (www.longniddryrotary.org/frames/box)
- Thanks are due to Mrs A. Hickie, daughter of Provost John Hall Weatherhead; Mr T. Dickson, Pond Master 1972-89, and Mr Dickson, his son, for their assistance with the material on the Pond and Pond Hall. Also to Annette Gilroy for her piece on local dialect - A Meeting of Two Fishermen at the Harbour.