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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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They complained there was no room for them in Tranent church, and refused, with few exceptions, to attend. The Presbytery of Haddington complained: " It was not this twallmonth as it suld be, because of the variances within the parochin, where many vices lay over untried, especially in the Pannis. " It was not only that the people refused to attend church, but they had also refused to come under the discipline of their ecclesiastical superiors.
Things had come to a pretty pass among the parishioners when John Davidson, in 1595, was translated from Holyroodhouse, second charge, and presented to the vicarage by James VI. (see John Davidson elsewhere).
Whether Davidson preached the gospel to the " Pannis " people on the sea-shore, the public street, or in some house hired for the purpose, is unknown; but one thing is certain, he had no church to preach in. And the people, having no longer an ecclesiastical obligation to attend at Tranent, it was meet a church should be found for them at home.
A difficulty soon arose, not only regarding a site for the church, but the providing of means for the erection of it.
The Kerrs of Newbattle, who succeeded the monks and took over the lands of Prestongrange, would not help unless on certain conditions; neither, at first, would Hamilton of Preston, but he afterwards gave ground, as already shown, whereon to build, and the minister engaged to erect it at his own expense if need be.
When the church was first erected, the principal door was at the north side, and over it the following inscription was set:
Sedam dedit Prestonus,
Aedificavit Davidsonus,
Texit Williamsonus.
The church of 1596 seems to have been of very small proportions, or the Rev. Joseph M'Cormack, D. D., must have been adding greatly to his congregation, for in 1774 the church had to be partly rebuilt, and greatly enlarged. The original steeple was not interfered with, but the church at this time was constructed with two tiers of galleries, and made capable of seating 900 to 1000 people.
It is unfortunate when the church of Davidson was partly pulled down in 1774, that the tablet referring to that great and good man was destroyed. Surely a niche of honour might have been found for it somewhere in the walls of the reconstructed edifice.
Probably it may not have been destroyed, but only put to use at the hands of a ruthless builder, in order to bridge over some gap in the wall, and may turn up at the next rebuilding of the church, just as the Hamilton relics did, which had been hid away out of sight when the church was partially rebuilt and the galleries reconstructed in 1774, only to be discovered when the church again underwent a thorough overhauling in 1891. AVe refer to the heraldic panel, which was brought to light at the above date, and caused not a little stir at the time.
The panel referred to was emblazoned with four shields, bearing coats of arms in beautiful colours and various initials. These were the arms and initials, in the first place, of that same George Hamilton who originally granted the site for the church, in 1596, and his wife, and also of his son Sir John Hamilton and his wives, for he had three of them during his days.
This panel, with its adornments, had, no doubt, the most conspicuous place in the gallery, in front of the seat occupied by the Hamiltons in 1596; but the Hamiltons of that period had died out, and when the seats were altered in 1774, the heraldic panel was not only removed from its frontal position, but covered over with a canvas sheet, that it might no more be seen.
The church, as repaired in 1891, is now not only one of the most comfortably seated, but, for interior beauty otherwise, stands second to none in the county. The following account of the ministers is mostly from " Scott's Fasti" :
" Prestonpans was formerly a vicarage belonging to the Abbey of Holyrood. The church was burned down by Lord Hertford in his destructive expedition of 1544. The lands and barony of Preston, and the Pannis, which had been annexed to the vicarage of Tranent, were dissolved therefrom, and erected into a distinct vicarage, by James VL, 27th December 1597, to be called the ' Vicarage of Preston.' It was erected into a parish by Parliament, nth July 1606. The following are the names of ministers since the above period :
" 1595 John Davidson, A.M. Translated from Holyrood-house, second charge ; presented to the vicarage by James VI., 27th December, and installed 12th January 1597. He died between the 16th of August and 5th of September 1604, aged about 56, lamented by the parishioners as their father. He left a widow but no family. He built the kirk and manse (mostly) at his own expense, and left all his effects, both heritable and movable, which realised xivcji as subsequently
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