| CHAPTER XV.
Town Hall—Curious Ups and Downs—Golf Club—Medal Winners— Office-Bearers—Young
Women's Christian Association—Cricket Club— Mutual Improvement
Society—Ornithological Association—Football Clubs—Beach House—Land
o' Cakes—Ringan's Hole—Castle o' Clouts—Piper's Wynd—Harlo
House—The Burrows—Characteristics of the People—A Tannery—Wealthy
People of Olden Times—A Busy Man of the Present Time, James
PRESTONPANS at the present time can boast of being in possession
of one of the prettiest and most comfortable halls in the
county. It was not always thus. There was a time when, if
Pollock's Show, Cadona's Show, or any other show, happened
to turn up in the village, if they could not get the use of
some old granary, barn, or byre, they had just to steer for
some other fair haven.
In course of time a hall in connection with the Free Church
was erected, but this was mostly for sacred and social purposes.
If a famous vocalist, or respectable juggler, turned up, they
might be entertained for a night; but the " light fantastic
toe" parties, and all the "theatrical" fraternity, were simply
given to understand " that the Jews had no dealings with the
Samaritans." As the population increased it soon became evident
that a public and a capacious hall was wanted.
With a view to this end, in 1874 a committee was appointed,
when a course of lectures, socials, concerts, etc., were brought
off, and the following year a fancy bazaar was got up for
the same purpose, and after all expenses were paid the very
handsome sutji of ^400 was left as a "nest egg."
Various sites were proposed, but latterly the late Sir George
Grant Suttie stepped in with the offer of a "free site" in
the West Loan. This was approved of, accepted by the committee,
and arrangements for commencing all but ready, when a hitch
occurred and this site was abandoned.
Some half a score years later on, the committee had their
attention turned towards a site opposite Aldhammer House.
This again was heartily gone into, and during the proceedings
Mr Brown, a villager through the mother's side but located
in London, was approached. This was the same gentleman who
had built and made a free gift of Cockenzie school only a
short time previously. He at once took an interest in the
work, and offered, if the committee were pleased to spend
their £400 on furnishings, to build a hall with all its other
necessary equipments at his own expense. He even went the
length of having a plan, on a magnificent scale, drafted and
sent down for approval. His share in the transaction would
have cost some £4000, but the committee had got the offer
of the " hall and its equipments " all too easily, and they
raised questions concerning their £400 till the generous offerer
became disgusted with their proceedings and withdrew from
the matter altogether.
Certain of the villagers at this stage felt the situation
keenly, and Messrs Mellis, Ford, and others had again taken
the matter up, when Lady Susan Grant Suttie proposed another
bazaar. The idea was readily caught up, her ladyship promoting
the affair with all the tact and power at her command. The
outcome was a bazaar in 1887 on a most extensive scale. It
was held within the policies military tournaments; etc., took
place, and the proceeds of these, added to the former sum,
raised the funds to £1000, exclusive of a site which had already
In 1893 the Hall Committee offered to hand over to the Burgh
Commissioners a "free site" and £1000 to build, or help to
build, a town hall, but it was refused. A plebiscite of the
ratepayers was taken, and went against the acceptance. Latterly,
when Dr M'Ewan became chief magistrate, that gentleman took
the matter up at once, got able assistance from many ladies
and gentlemen, and speedily had the present very handsome
building erected at a cost, including the site, of fully £1500.
Mr Peter Whitecross was the architect, and the building was
opened in 1899 by R. B. Haldane, Esq., K.C., M.P. for the
THORN TREE GOLF CLUB.
This great national sport and famous pastime has had a place
among the village sports from an early date. There have