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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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Preston Tower—Its Restoration—Raids and Forays around it—Sir James Liddel of Preston—First of the Hamiltons—History of the Second, Third, and Fourth Hamiltons wanting—David, the Fifth Hamilton, marries a daughter of Sir William Bailie of Lamington—George Hamilton marries Barbara Cockburn of Ormiston—John Hamilton—Church Squabbling between the Hamiltons and Setons at Tranent—People of Prestonpans will not attend Church—Sir Thomas Hamilton—Burning of the Tower— James de Preston—Thomas Hamilton—Sir William Hamilton under Argyll —Sir Robert Hamilton, the Covenanter, at Drumclog—The Last Male of the Race—His Dying Testimony—The relative Oswalds—Obtain and Lose the Lands of Preston—New Sir William Hamilton—How he obtained the Baronetcy—The present Sir William—A Bright Career—At the Siege of Delhi, etc.
THE Tower at Preston is supposed to have been built during the 14th century (1365). The original height of the Tower, from the ground to the battlement, was 46 feet, and from the battlement to the extreme top other 20 feet, making over all a total measurement of 66 feet. The grand Tower stands directly above the great whinstone dyke, which takes its course westward through Morrison's Haven, and eastward into the German Ocean. A number of years ago a movement was set on foot to have the quaint old fortalice partially restored, especially the top-work, which, being exposed to the elements, was beginning to crumble. For this a sum of £350 was sought by subscription, and was speedily forthcoming. About. £500 was expended on the ruin at that period.
Now, as we behold in the distance the fine old ruin standing in all its solitary yet picturesque grandeur, amidst
the old grounds over which it has stood a weary but watchful guardian for so many past centuries, how grim, and strong, and defiant-like it still appears, and as we approach the venerable structure curious are the thoughts that arise.
There stands the aged tower, with the great wide space all around which, according to tradition, has borne witness in the ancient days to many a fierce tournament for honours at the hands of some fair maiden; which has given ear to the shrill trumpet sound at the dead of night when preparing for the foray, perhaps against their neighbours at Fawside; or, more alarming still, to the hoarse shout of the leaders to battle, and to the wild yell of the accompanying horsemen as they rushed upon horsemen, to the murderous clang of sabre upon sabre, the shouts of the warriors and the groans of the wounded, when perhaps these neighbouring opponents were furiously retaliating upon the chief and his retainers at Preston. But the days of these murderous forays, if they ever existed at Preston, are happily departed for ever; and, leaving such speculations behind, how very different are the feelings which now pervade the soul when, casting the eye around, we behold not trampling steeds and rnail-clad warriors, but only the deep drooping fruit-laden trees of the husbandman.

The first of the name of Hamilton in Scotland was a Sir Gilbert de Hamilton, who flourished during the early part of the 13th century. The elder son of this Sir Gilbert was Sir Walter, and he was the founder of the family of Cadzow; while the younger son, Sir John, was the immediate ancestor of the Hamiltons of Rossavon, Fingalton, and Preston.
The Hamiltons of Preston are thus the eldest of the junior branches of that name. Originally in possession of the lands of Ross, or Rossavon, this branch of the Hamiltons had its earliest seat in an old "Peel Tower, " perched on a wooded promontory, and encircled by the river Avon, where, after a long descent from the upland moors of Drumclog, it pours its tribute into the Clyde.
To their lands of Rossavon were soon added the barony of Fingalton in Renfrewshire, and at a later period that of Preston in East Lothian.
The foregoing is an historical fact, but at what period
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