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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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it to be publicly intimated the first Sunday in her parish kirk. They reproved Rutherford for his rashness, and discharged him to proceed so hereafter, and found that no inferior judge or baron bailie had power to apprehend or detain any of the King's lieges under pretence of their being suspected as witches. But they must immediately intimate it either to the Lords of Privy Council or to the Lords of Justiciary, and obtain their warrant for taking them. As also found they might not use any torture by pricking, or by withholding them from sleep; but reserved all that to themselves and the justices, and those who acted by commission from them. And as a mark of their displeasure against the pricker, they committed him to prison, there to lie during their pleasure.

There was no riot at Prestonpans on the day of Tranent mob (1797), but that the seaside villagers fully sympathised with their mining neighbours on the brae-face in their struggle for relief there is ample evidence to prove. It was the enforcing of militia by ballot. The cry of " No militia " had been raised in Tranent. It extended to Prestonpans; and it soon became evident that the potters of Prestonpans did not wish their sons to be taken from them by force any more than the miners of Tranent, Macmerry, and Pension. There were several meetings held in the village, condemnatory of the government of the day, for the Act they had passed; but as yet no active step had been taken in the matter.
It was the evening previous to the day in which the Ballot Act was to be put in force at Tranent, whither the young men of all the surrounding villages had been summoned. A certain number were to be drawn out of each district to act as militiamen, whether they would or not; and Prestonpans was not passed over. The meeting, under the presidentship of Nicol Couterside, a potter, had continued almost till midnight, during which many propositions, rash and otherwise, had been before the assembly. At length a petition, containing four clauses, was drawn out; this was to be forwarded next day to Tranent, and presented to the Justices assembled there, as a protest from the people of Prestonpans. The petition ran as follows: —

" Prestonpans, 28th August 1797.
" To the honourable gentlemen assembled at Tranent for the purpose of raising 6000 militiamen in Scotland.
"GENTLEMEN. —The following are the declarations and resolutions to which the undersigned do unanimously agree: —
" 1. We declare that we unanimously disapprove of the late Act of Parliament for raising 6000 militiamen in Scotland.
" 2. That we will assist each other in endeavouring to repeal the said Act.
" 3. That we are peaceably disposed; and should you, in endeavouring to execute the said Act, urge us to adopt coercive measures, we must look upon you to be the aggressors, and as responsible to the nation for all the consequences that may follow.
" 4. Although we may be overpowered in effecting the said resolution, and dragged from our parents, friends, and employment, to be made soldiers of, you can infer from this what trust can be reposed in us if ever we are called upon to disperse our fellow-countrymen, or to oppose a foreign foe. "
A protest indeed ! and not awanting in bravado. This was to be signed by some thirty persons; but a difficulty arose, — who was to lead off? The leader was sure to be a marked man, and the consequences none could foresee. Again came Couterside to the rescue. "Let it be signed, " said he, "as at sea: in the form of a circle, or ' round-robin, ' then none may tell who is the leading party in the affair. "
The petition was ultimately signed in a circular form, and quite a little company proceeded to Tranent next day to see the fun and the protest presented.
Before they arrived, the parishes of Humbie, Salton, and Ormiston had been subjected to the Ballot Act; even the half of Prestonpans had been gone over before Nicol Couterside entered the room and placed his paper in the hands of Major Wight. The deputy-lieutenants, who included Mr Anderson, St Germains; Mr Cadell, Cockenzie; Mr Gray of Southfield, etc., were assembled in John Glen's inn, after seriously considering the import of the foregoing document, thought it the wiser plan to pay no attention to it; and the bearer, who seemed (real or feigned) a stupid sort of fellow, was severely reprimanded and dismissed from their presence. The horrible story of the massacre of old and young, in and around Tranent, which followed that day, as it is fully described in the " History of Tranent, " need not be recapitulated here. All the petitioners from Prestonpans escaped scot free.
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