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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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was applied for and obtained, enabling them to excavate these black diamonds. The following is a copy of the earliest charter granted:


(The original may be found in Newbattle Chartulary, and
in the Author's "History of Tranent. ")
" To all the sons of the Holy Mother Church, Seyr de
Quency, Earl of Wynton, greeting: Know that I have given
and by this, my charter, confirmed to God and the Church
of St Mary of Newbattle, and to the monks serving God in
that place, for an unconditional and perpetual gift towards the
increase of the Church, which Robert, my father, bestowed on
the same, to wit, in the territory of Tranent the full half of the
marsh which extends from west to east as far as the rivulet of
Wygtrig, that is to say, that portion which lies nearer to their
cultivated land. Further, the coal heuch and the quarry
between the aforenamed rivulet of Wygtrig and the bounds of
Pinkie and Inveresk, both in the ebb and the flow of the sea.
Therefore I will and direct that none of my men may have any
share either in the pasture, or in the coal heuch, or in the
quarry, within the bounds of Prestongrange, without the
consent or goodwill of the same monks: these being witness.
W., Bishop of St Andrews, Ingram de Ballia, Simon de
Quency, Alexander de Seton, and others.
" And observe that this charter has a different seal from the others. "
Here, then, we have the real fountainhead of the great coal history of Great Britain. For a while Dunfermline was held forth as the earliest coal-producing district in Scotland, but the earliest " coal working " charter Dunfermline can produce is dated 1290, nearly a century behind East Lothian.
The Tatler, in reviewing the " History of Tranent, " and referring to its early coal workings, says: " It was the earliest spot in the kingdom at which coal was dug from the earth. The charter of Newcastle-on-Tyne to dig coals dates from 1234, but the monks in Newbattle, near Edinburgh, obtained a charter to dig the coal (carbonarium) at Tranent in 1210. Coal was known earlier, but it is remarkable to find the little Scots village coming a quarter of a century sooner to obtain the right to work coal than the great Tyne, head of the industry. "

Early as this charter is, that another had been granted much earlier on the same estate, and for a similar purpose, is very evident. Observe that Seyr de Quincy, the granter of this charter of 1202-10, refers in it to, and ratifies, among other items, the " coal heugh and quarry which his father, Robert, bestowed on the monks of Newbattle. " Now, as Robert de Quincy died in 1184, his charter must have been bestowed previous to or in that year, which shows that coal had been worked on the Tranent estate some twenty-six years previous to 1210, the date at which Seyr de Quincy granted his charter.
What may be termed national slavery, or neyfship, according to Innes's "Legal Antiquities, " served out its time in Scotland in the fourteenth century, the last claim proved being in 1364. The collier at this period did not only become as free as any other labourer, but had benefits bestowed on him no other working man was favoured with.
By Act of Parliament passed in 1592, miners were exempted from all taxation, charges, and proclamations, whether in time of peace or war, and all their " families, guids, and gear, " taken under regal protection. Further, it was declared that " any wrong or oppression done to them directly or indirectly would be severely punished, as done contrary to His Majesty's special safeguard. "
In the same year (1592) the Legislature, stepping in, passed another Act. This refers to a certain lawlessness which had got in among the miners, and which the Government had determined to stamp out. This Act declares: " That for the better punishment of the wicked crime of wilfully setting fire to coal heuchs by ungodly persons, from motives of private revenge and spite, this crime should for the future be treason, and that whoever was found guilty of the same should suffer the punishment of treason in their bodies, lands, and goods. "
Shortly after the passing of this Act we find, in " Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, " a miner named John Henry, in Little Fawside, accused and found guilty of the crime of wilfully setting fire to the coal heuch of Fawside, belonging to Mungo M'Call, against whom he had conceived "ane deidly rancour and evill will, " &c. For this crime John Henry was hanged at the Market Cross of Edinburgh, and afterwards beheaded, and his head sent out to Fawside, and placed on a pole beside the mine, as a warning to others. This is the only case of hanging for pit firing we know of.
The next Act of Parliament (1606) connected with mining
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