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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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                                  OYSTER DREDGING

Oyster Dredging of Old—Famous Oysters—The Pandores—Origin of the Name—English Tackle—Plundering the Oyster Beds—Supplying the English Beds—Who did it?—Dreg Songs — Sailors' Benefit Society — Ancient Institution—Carters' Friendly Society—Free Gardeners' Society— The Hammermen's Society—The Potters' Society—Annual Processions— Annual Regatta—Statistical Abstracts—Rents of Lands—Produce—Price of Labour—Salt Pans—Stone Ware—Brick and Tile Works—Brown Ware— Glass Work — Oil of Vitriol — Aquafortis — Spirit of Salt — Fishery— Breweries—Trades and Professions—How many engaged.

THE oyster scalps at Prestonpans lie directly opposite the town. They stretch from comparatively near the shore fully six miles out into the Firth of Forth, while from east to west they measure fully three miles. They were originally very rich, and the capture, conveyance, and sale of this highly esteemed article of commerce has been carried on here with success from a very early date. The chief markets long ago were Edinburgh and Glasgow, but as the fame of the fish increased, the trade developed, and Newcastle, Hull, and London became the chief market places for the dredgers.
It is a curious fact that the largest and best of these native shellfish have always been caught near the shore, and at an early period during last century, these rich and juicy " scalpers" became known, to the English trade especially, as Pandores. The Pandores became highly esteemed by gourmands, and, as a matter of course, brought a much higher price than the regular sized oysters. Of those who have previously treated of the " Pandore " in connection with this class of oyster, some say they derived the name from the fact of their being nearly as large as " pan doors," meaning the doors of the salt-pans in the district, while others affirm they owe their name to the fact that the scalps from which they were taken lay adjacent to the doors of the salt pans in the village. The first of these asseverations is too largely overdrawn. In the second, we fail to observe what benefit fish, of any sort, could derive from their near location to a " pan" for salt making.
In pursuing our research we came upon an old dredger. " Some folks say," we observed, " you call your best oysters Pandores, because the scalps lie near the salt pans ? "
" Ech," was the reply, " folks juist say onything ;" am] looking cautiously around him, " I'll tell ye what my faither telt me. One day when up at Hull, wi'a boat load, he had severed1 baskets o' the ' biggest and bonniest' set aside, when forrit cam' a big burly Englishman—a new customer. ' Where,' inquired he, 'did you get these?' 'Oh,' said my faither, 'juist at the doors.' 'What doors?' inquired he. ' Oh, the Pans doors,' replied my faither, meaning Prestonpans doors— not far out at sea. ' Oh, then,' replied the questioner, ' these will be Pandores.' ' Just so,' and he bought the lot, and soon sent a big order for mair, and frae that day till this they have remained Pandore oysters frae Prestonpans. He held it was the waste from the breweries, etc., that made the oysters sae big and juicy that were found near the ' Pans doors.'"
" How many boats were engaged, did you say?" " Well I remember, previous to the middle of last century, when no fewer than twenty-four boats were regularly engaged during the season, which began with September and ended with April, but the most of these were engaged by English firms.
" It was always held previous to that period that the ' tackle' used for dredging in English waters would be of no use here. Well, these ' English firm' boats of ours got supplied with English tackle, and this proved the ruin of our scalps. The dredgers that were used carried all, small and great, before them. It was reckoned that some 20,000 oysters a day were removed.from our scalps for a considerable period.
" There are those who complain that our scalps were ' harried,' and the seed borne away and laid down in English waters. That is quite true : thousands were carried away daily which were too small to be of use except for replenishing other oyster scalps : and this was the doing of our own people.
" One thing I know is, that subsequent to 1850, although all these twenty-four boats still continued to go out, they were unable to take more than from 4,000 to 6,000 oysters per day among them, and latterly they were getting even less.
" About 1860, and just when our scalps were reduced to almost total destruction, a terrible storm arose one night and
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