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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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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 Howden.
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 been purchased.
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 county.

This great national sport and famous pastime has had a place among the village sports from an early date. There have
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