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Royal Burgh of North Berwick
[Coat of Arms]

19th Century
Biarritz of the North
Early Settlers
Pilgrim Ferry
Royal Charter
Nunnery and Witches Coven
Landowners
Town Council
Parish Kirk
Education
Harbour and Fishing
Times of Change
Between the War Years
Coastguard and Lifeboat

Coat of Arms 1373
Download the NB Story (82.2 Kb)

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  The Landowners


Castle Hill was the site of a castle held by three noble families, the MacDuffs - Thanes of Fife, the Stewarts - Earls of Fife and the Lauders. The first 13th century castle was a wooden structure with a stone bank and defensive ditch to the south, held by the MacDuffs and illegally occupied by the English after the capture of Dirleton Castle by Bishop Beck in 1298. In 1314, Robert the Bruce defeated Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn and Edward fled down the coast towards Dunbar pursued by James the 'Black' Douglas. The English garrison at North Berwick on hearing of their King's plight abandoned the castle and retreated to Dunbar. In the late 14th century a stone tower with barmkin was raised on the site by the Lauder family, who also constructed a keep on the Bass Rock. Castle Hill appears to have been abandoned in favour of the more secure Bass Rock Castle sometime before the 1420s. Little remained of the castle when the site and its lands were given to the Abbey Nunnery in 1435.

The earliest reference regarding the Monastery, which was founded by Duncan, Earl of Fife who died in 1154. This Earl was proprietor of the barony and the town of North Berwick and has continued in that family during the twelfth, thirteenth and part of the fourteenth centuries. The last member of the family who possessed the estate was Isobel, Countess of Fife, she resigned the earldom in 1371 to Robert, Earl of Monteith, a son of Robert II who conveyed the barony to William, first Earl of Douglas. On 26th April 1373 the King granted to the Earl of Douglas a free port at North Berwick for ships and the market day was Wednesday when wool, skins, leather and all other merchandise was sold. There was a tron for weighing wool and customs paid at the harbour.

The Douglases were modest landowners in Clydeside until the Wars of Independence brought them to prominence through Robert Bruce's friendship with Sir James Douglas. He was entrusted by King Robert to carry his heart into the Holy Land Crusades and his family adopted the Coat of Arms of a vivid red heart. The bond between the two families continued after their deaths culminating in Earl William Douglas being conferred Lord Douglas in 1358. The building of a great castle at Tantallon was William's way of proclaiming his new position among the landed gentry and he appointed Alan Lauder as his custodian.

The house of Douglas remained the proprietors of the barony until 1699. It was forfeited in 1455 by James, Earl Douglas and granted in 1479 to his heir male Archibald, Earl of Angus ('Bell the Cat'). In 1528 the lands fell to the Crown on Angus being attained, but were again restored. In 1699 they were sold by the Duke of Queensberry and Earls of Annandale and Lothian commissioners for the Marquis of Douglas to Sir Hew Dalrymple, Lord President of the Court of Session in whose family the estates have since remained.

[Tantallon
Castle] The name Tantallon derives from the Gaelic 'Dyn Talgwn' which means 'towering fortress'. In 1335, the inlet to the north west of Tantallon was a thriving fishing village and port for the surrounding countryside, which predates the castle. In 1389, Tantallon was in the ownership of Sir Malcolm Drummond through marriage, it then came back to the Douglases when Archibald, the Grim was established in the Douglas title and lands.

When King James II murdered William, Earl of Douglas his son the 6th Earl rose against the monarchy but was defeated and the Douglas lands were confiscated. King James II then re-enforced Tantallon, adding a new gate tower and raising the parapets on the battlements. When King James lost the Battle of Pinkie at Musselburgh in 1547 and died shorty after Tantallon returned to George Douglas, Earl of Angus, who set about heightening the ramparts to their present level. Sir Walter Scott was so impressed, he mentioned Tantallon in his poem Marmion - 'Tantallon, vast, broad, massive high and stretching far and held impregnable in war; On a projecting rock they rose, a round three sides the ocean flows'.

The forfeiture of the 9th Earl of Angus in 1528 was followed by a siege of the Castle in 1529 by James V. Practical advances in mathematics and science gave the monarchy access to new technologies like gun powder. By the 16th century guns came into their own and were a force to be reckoned with. In 1528 the garrison at Tantallon endured a massive siege by the might of the Royal Artillery, brought out from Edinburgh Castle and Dumbarton Castle. Although the guns failed to breach the ramparts this siege marked the end of mediaeval warfare. Sir Ralph Sadley, the English Ambassador, lodged at Tantallon in 1543 and the Castle was described then as being in a state of disrepair.

By the middle of the sixteenth century the Lauder family held the Barony of North Berwick but following the death of William Lauder in 1569 who had no heirs, the land reverted back to the King who granted Alexander Home the rights. In 1633, Patrick Home sold the estate to Sir William Dick of Braid, a merchant and burgess of Edinburgh but later in the century he fell into financial difficulties and the estate was confiscated by the Commissioners of the Commonwealth. In 1650, the Moss Troops based at the castle caused so much damage to Cromwell's line of communication that in 1651 he sent an army out. The Roundheads under the command of General Monk bombarded the castle for twelve days and devastated the building to such an extent that the garrison surrendered. By 1694 Sir Hew Dalrymple took over the heritable debts of the estate and in 1699 purchased Tantallon Castle and later the Bass Rock from the Crown.

During the 1790s, the ruined castle was occupied by a gang of thieves who, headed by an old sailor, made their quarters in the inaccessible upper storeys of the keep, which they reached by means of a rope-ladder. They plundered the nearby farmhouses and mansions during the night, even going so far as to steal sheep off the fields. None of the gang were captured except one man, the others having gradually disappeared. This individual worked unsuspected through the day in the Rhodes lime quarries,until one evening a girl thinning turnips in a field at Castleton observed a man with a red cap looking out of a window of the fourth storey. After a long hunt he was captured by John Rennie tenant at Castleton who found him in a vault. He was lodged in North Berwick prison, and afterwards sent to Haddington. He was later tried for his crimes in Edinburgh and transported.

Another incident at Tantallon Castle was recorded in the Town Council accounts with an entry to 'A Yorkston for allowance to men on apprehending the man at Tantallon' - 6th Apr. 1816. This refers to the Town Council paying for a round of drinks at Mr Yorkston's hostelry, the Dalrymple Arms Hotel.

The King of Belgium visited Tantallon and the Bass Rock in 1819. The Duchess of Kent - mother of Queen Victoria visited Tantallon Castle on 26th September 1860 and His Royal Highness Prince Arthur Duke of Connaught - Queen Victoria's third son and godson of the Duke of Wellington visited on 29th August 1876. He was the guest of Sir Hew Dalrymple and following his visit, Sir Hew presented the Town Council with the gold badge and chain of office worn by the Provost, in appreciation of the loyal and respectful manner in which his guest had been received. Tantallon Castle has been in the ownership of the Dalrymple family since 1699 and is now maintained by Historic Scotland.

The land to the south of North Berwick was divided between Sir Hew Dalrymple of Leuchie (3039 acres) and Sir George Suttie of Balgone (8788 acres). Balgone House was built in the 15th century when it belonged to the Nunnery and Prioress in North Berwick. After the Reformation the estate was owned by several families including Lord Ross of Halkead, the Humes, Hepburns of Waughton, and John Semple WS whose daughter Marion in 1680 carried the property to her husband George Suttie, Baronet of Nova Scotia. His son Sir James Suttie married Agnes Grant and inherited her family estate of Prestongrange in 1818, when he assumed the name of Grant-Suttie. The mine at Prestongrange was the first deep shaft mine sunk in Scotland.

When Sir George Grant-Suttie died in 1947, the estate was left to his 16-year-old cousin Sir Philip Grant-Suttie who lived in Sussex, New Brunswick. Sir Philip visited Balgone for the first time in 1955. The Prestongrange Colliery and Mansion House (now Royal Musselburgh Golf Clubhouse) remained with the Grant Suttie family until 1958.

Leuchie House

Leuchie House was purchased from the Marjoribanks family in 1701. Sir Hew Dalrymple 2nd Baronet (1712-1790) demolished the old house and built a new mansion to his own design over the old foundations in 1779. The building work took six years to complete with oval shaped rooms and fine plasterwork. In 1859 an extension and alterations were carried out. The Dalrymple family also owned Blackdykes and in 1820 a new steading was built and the farmhouse, which may have originally been a granary was converted into a farm tenants cottage.

The Douglas family moved from Tantallon to a Tower House by the St Andrew's Well overlooking the market in what is now Quality Street. This along with a stone doo'cot still standing behind the property built in the early 17th century before the Douglas fortunes declined and Tantallon was ruined in 1651. The barony then fell vacant. in 1694 the younger brother of the Earl of Stair, Hew Dalrymple became the 1st Baronet of North Berwick took over the estate. The Walltower House was extended to become the main family residence by 1700. Land along East Road was purchased by the 2nd Baronet in 1774 including a distillery and was replaced by The Lodge in 1790 and formal gardens laid out. This building came to give its name to the whole complex which remained unaltered externally since 1802. The upper grounds were fenced for fatting livestock from the estate farms. The 9th Baronet transferred The Lodge including the grounds to the Burgh Council in 1939.

The present property at Flat B, The Lodge is the oldest inhabited building in North Berwick. To the west is the Garden Wall with the outline of older buildings thought to be the remains of a street leading from Quality Street to St Andrews Well. This was linked to the pilgrim route from the 8th century. It was possibly a holy well and a meeting place for the pilgrims before they continued their journey to St Andrew's shrine in Fife.

The Walltower House was extended into the gardens and became a town house for the Dalrymple family where the present Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple was born in 1926. His grandfather Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple was charged with starting a chimney fire in the Walltower in January 1890. This attracted a fine of 2/6d or 2 days in jail and according to the Burgh Court records Sir Walter paid the fine. Access to St Andrews Well was closed to the public in 1836. The Well is situated to the south of the main building adjacent to the doo-cote.

Since 1780 the farmers in the district and their guests visited the Bass Rock in July and dined at Canty Bay. The Bass dinner traditionally organised by the tenant at Blackdykes was held annually for over a hundred years. It was recorded that on one occasion twenty-four legs of lamb contributed by twenty-four farmers were prepared for the dinner by the Whitecross family innkeepers at Canty Bay for many years.

Alexander Crawford, an extensive grain merchant who owned the granaries at the harbour, was the tenant on the Rhodes Farm, which was part of the Dalrymple Estate. The Rhodes farmland covered most of the ground now developed as the Glen Golf Course. In the area of Tantallon Caravan Park was a limestone quarry which was filled in with the town refuse in the 1960s. The lime was stored and bagged in the outbuildings to the south of the quarry, known today as 'Sluie' west of the Rhodes Holdings. Limestone was relatively scarce in Scotland and there were only a handful of places where it could be quarried. Limestone was used in agriculture and as a building material in mortar, harling and plaster. Before use, the quarried limestone had to be burnt at high temperatures. This was carried out in kilns, traditionally clamp kilns, consisting of U-shaped hollows dug into a quarry slope, some with flues and stone linings. The quarry supported a considerable workforce and the lime described in 1820 as being of a high quality was later transported from North Berwick railway station. James Crawford continued the tenancy and his son James Crawford Jnr. was appointed Town Clerk in 1833.

Anderson and Turnbull

Two young farm workers from North Berwick John Turnbull and James Anderson emirgated to Australia and made their fortune. James Anderson, born 2nd February 1837 at Carperstane, three miles south of North Berwick, son of Alexander Anderson, farm worker and his wife Barbra. James was baptised 2nd April 1837 and taken to Southern Australia in 1838. His father built houses in the Mount Barker township. James Anderson purchased Brentwood Farm on Yorke Peninsula and became a wheat farmer. He married Miss Lockhart Brown and was one of the first farmers to ship grain to Great Britain. Anderson died 6th January 1919 aged 82 years.

James 'John' Turnbull, born 12th January 1837, at Balgone Barns, three miles south of North Berwick, son of Hemet Turnbull, agricultural worker and his wife Joan Colhune. He emigrated to Victoria in 1868 on the invitation of George Fairbairn Snr. Turnbull was employed as a 'pastoralist' (farm manager) on Fairbairn's Peak Downs Station in Queensland. Turnbull married Miss Woolay from Melbourne and they had four sons and a daughter. Turnbull joined with other investors to establish the Lansdowne Pastrol Company at Evesham, Muttaburra, Quennsland. The company acquired land for sheep farming. Turnbull bought several race horses, the most successful was named 'Tantallon' Turnbull died March 1916 aged 75 years.

Beyond Blackdykes lies the farm of Gleghornie, where a village originally named Gleghorn once stood. Above the present farmhouse and steading are three tall ash trees marking the site of the old hamlet. In 1470 John Major was born in a thatched cottage at Gleghornie and was to become the most famous literary Scotsman of his generation and was honored by being mentioned by Rabelais. His best known work is a history in Latin of Scotland and England and was a head of his time in being a strong advocate of a union between the two countries.

After studying at Cambridge and Paris, Major went to Glasgow, where among his pupils was John Knox. At St Andrews he taught Patrick Hamilton and George Buchanan. Later, Paris was to become his permanent headquarters where as professor at the University he published many of his books on philosophy. Major was proud of the fact that as the son of a humble ploughman, he had raised himself to be the friend and social equal of Gavin Douglas, born in the adjoining Tantallon Castle. John Major died at St Andrews in 1550, at the age of seventy-nine.

The Prince of Wales visited the town on 20th August 1859 on his way to Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock. The Town Council erected two Triumphant Imperial Arches, one at the entrance to the High Street below the Council Chambers and another on Forth Street north of Market Place. The Prince of Wales was welcomed by Sir Hew Hamilton Dalrymple and Robert Nisbet Hamilton from Archerfield. Her Royal Highness Duchess of Kent mother of Her Majesty was a guest at Archerfield in October 1860 and passed through the town on her way to Tantallon Castle.

His Royal Highness Prince Albert Duke of Connaught visited the town on 29 August 1876 when his regiment was stationed in Piershill Barracks, Edinburgh. The Magistrates and Councillors welcomed Prince Albert, son of Queen Victoria, accompanied by Sir Hew Hamilton Dalrymple to the town before they sailed to the Bass Rock from Canty Bay.

Halfland Barns, a small hamlet situated on a ridge south of Tantallon Castle, was known for its weavers around 1700, including the Watson and Gloag families. The Watson's had three sons who joined the navy, the youngest rose to the rank of Admiral. In 1775, he was appointed commander of the fleet in the Indian Ocean and assisted Clive to take Calcutta. Admiral Watson is buried in Westminster Abbey, where a monument was erected to his memory.

Further east stretch the estates of Auldhame, Seacliff and Scoughall. With the fall of Castle Rock in Edinburgh there was an increase in Anglican settlers to East Lothian and they appointed Baldred as their saint. In the seventh century St Baldred or Bealdhere founded a community of monks at Tyninghame, Preston Kirk and Auldhame where the holy man was reputedly born. Although the small kirk's at Auldhame and Scoughall are long gone, many of the place-names still refer to the Culdee priest such as St. Baldred's Well and St. Baldred's Boat, a rock formation in the bay. Ghegan rock at Seacliff where the harbour is situated, means the 'Churchman's Haven'.

In 2005, archaeologists discovered the remains of what may have been the original Auldhame Kirk on the cliff top above Ghegan Rock. The foundations of a chapel with a neighbouring vault or tower were unearthed and a burial site containing over 200 bodies. The earliest finds were iron age, probably dating from the Roman period, the most recent were from the 14th century. Most graves were Christian, lying east to west, many intersecting with earlier graves particularly on the south side of the building. Further out were children's graves and a ditch bounding the headland.

The skeleton of a young man was discovered and the grave goods suggested he was from a wealthy background part of the Irish Viking peoples. Little was discovered to indicate there had been a village but traces of two hut dwellings were found which may have housed the priest or monks. In the ruins there was evidence of coal storage which may indicate a later use of the site as a farm kiln, foundry or other industry. It is thought that even after Viking raids drove the main hamlet inland to Whitekirk Hill, this site at Auldhame remained a religious centre possibly until Tantallon Castle was constructed in 1350.

In mediaeval times Auldhame belonged to the Bishop of St Andrews, later the 16th century House of Auldhame was the home of Sir Adam Otterburn who was King's Advocate in the reign of James V and became Provost of Edinburgh. Robert Colt of Gartsherrie then purchased the land but was unable to maintain Auldhame House, which fell into ruin and he built a new house at Seacliff in 1750.

[Seacliff House] The estate passed to John Brodie then tenant of Scoughall, who in 1807 built the eastern portion of the Harbour Terrace at North Berwick for the storage of grain. He was followed by George Weir who was tenant for a single lease (19 years). George Sligo a merchant of Leith then purchased the land and employed David Bryce to extend Seacliff House in 1841. John Watson Laidlay, an Indigo manufacturer in Calcutta acquired the estate which then passed to his son Andrew. In 1890, he constructed the harbour on Ghegan Rock using a steam engine and compressed air to cut the stone. The harbour believed to be the smallest in Britain, was once busy with small cobbles working stake nets for salmon off the River Tyne. The ancient landmark on the South Car rock named St Baldred's Beacon was originally built by monks and rebuilt by the Laidlays.

Andrew Laidlay perished in a fire which destroyed Seacliff House (pictured left) in 1907 and is buried in the churchyard at Whitekirk. His brother John E. Laidlay, was a well known amateur champion golfer. In 1914, the surviving outbuildings at Seacliff House were commandeered by the Royal Navy as a top secret WW1 research station dealing with navigation techniques and U-Boat defence. The station was known as HMS Scottish Seacliff. There were no field systems at Seacliff until the 6th Earl of Haddington introduced fields with the help of Mr. Dale he brought from England. In 1919, John R. Dale bought the estate after being tenant farmer of Scoughall since 1848, and Auldhame since 1834. The three estates remain to this day in the ownership of the Dale family. The novelist Robert Louis Stevenson was related to John Dale and spent several boyhood holidays at Scoughall. It was here in front of the farmhouse fire that the young Stevenson first heard the story of how folks in these parts on dark stormy nights, when winds used to lash the coast, lured sailing ships onto the rocks by displaying misleading lantern lights. These tales gave Stevenson the idea for his story called 'The Wreckers'.

The 'Pagans of Scoughall' had the worst of reputations, and were said to tie a horse's neck to its knee and attach a lantern to the rope. Then drive the horse slowly along the cliffs, so that a vessel out at sea would think it a ship riding at anchor, and come in, only to be wrecked on the rocky reef known as the Great Car and be plundered by the ghoulish people. Stevenson also wrote in his book 'Catriona' of the 'lights of Scoughall' and purposely put 'Tam Dale' in charge of the prisoners on the Bass Rock.

During the Napoleonic Wars the mouth of the river Peffer at Scoughall was thought to be a potential landing area for the French forces and army units were billeted in North Berwick in 1798. The soldiers were garrisoned with families in Russell Square and the Billet Master was the School Master John Kirk. He was also Box Master of the Trade Society and that year he was made a honorary burgess and Freeman of the Royal Burgh. The stone building on the summit of Berwick Law was erected in 1803 as a signal station. Lieutenant Leyden was in command with a party of Naval Ratings who were instructed to light a beacon on the sight of enemy forces which would then start a chain of fires on high points across the country, providing an early warning system. The North Berwick regiment of volunteers commanded by Captain Robert Burns including those of Aberlady and Dirleton parishes were then ordered to assemble at North Berwick. They were to join and act with other troops and proceed to occupy the strong position of Whitekirk Hill and to oppose the landing of the French at Peffer Sands. The general orders were given at West Barns camp, 19th November 1803, by Major General George Don and if the enemy landed the local inhabitants were instructed to make for the Lammermuir Hills.

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[*] [Chambers]
  Town Council


In 1755, the Parish of North Berwick covered 4,000 acres, the whole of which was arable, except about 89 acres of links. The soil was described as generally rich, fertile and well cultivated, producing large crops of all different grains sown in Scotland, such as wheat, barley, oats, peas and beans. The population of the Parish in 1755 numbered 1,300 this increased to 1,583 by 1801.

The poor were numerous but able to live comfortably without begging. They were supported partly by the Kirk Session and partly by the patron of the parish Sir Hew Dalrymple, amounting to £90 per annum. At this time no manufacturers were present, the only regular trade from the harbour consisted of the exportation of grain and a small quantity of kelp, made from sea weed cut from the rocks at low tide.

During the troubles with the French in 1781, and the danger of privateers landing boats at North Berwick, the Council procured the assistance of ten stand arms for the protection of the burgesses. Sir Hew Dalrymple and Sir George Suttie of Balgone had also adopted the same measures. That year the burgh treasurer Alexander Crawford received payment of £19 from Alexander Burn, factor for Sir Hew Dalrymple to cover the cost of ten stand arms brought from Birmingham to protect the town. Among the most eminent and respected gentlemen in the parish during the late 18th century were, Captain Brown of the Inniskillen Dragoons (The Vale in Quality Street); Major Buchan and Admiral Minchin (Beehive); Yules (Blackdykes Farm); William Goodsir, a fine fiddler whose family had long been connected with the town; John Thomson (North Berwick Mains); James Allan (Balgone Barns); James Anderson then John Rennie (Castleton Farm); Alexander Crawford (Rhodes Farm) and Sergeant John Martin of the Royal Artillery who accompanied Captain Parry on his first voyage to explore the Arctic in 1819 and 1820.

In 1822, John Martin was instructed by the Town Council to organise a welcome salute from the Bass Rock for King George IV as he sailed for Edinburgh in the Royal Yacht. Martin fired two six pound cannons, one of which was brought from Leith Fort and the other remained on the Bass for many years. John Martin retired as a grocer and spirit merchant in the High Street and died in 1835.

Since the mid 16th century a tolbooth and mercat cross stood on the site of the present Council Chambers which was built in 1728. The forestair was rebuilt in 1770 with rubble from the old mercat cross and the original roof-slates were replaced in 1825 with pantiles. A clock by English maker Rodger Parkinson was installed in the timber-built clock tower in 1735. This was replaced in 1809 with a clock made by Andrew Smith, a local clockmaker which cost £105, paid for by Sir Hew Dalrymple and the present clock is modern. The dormer windows were removed in 1778 and a weathercock mounded on the spire in 1854. The clock tower also housed a bell inscribed 'EX DONO DOMINI JACOBI DALRYMPLE DE HAILLS EQUITI BARONETT R M FECIL EDT 1724' ( A gift by Sir John Dalrymple of Hailes, knight baronet. Robert Maxwell made in Edinburgh 1724).

To the west on the upper floor was a single prison-cell for the debtors and the two cell's beneath were for criminals. In 1838 there were no prisoners. The corresponding area on the first-floor was the Debtors' Court and to the east the Council room. The prison was the setting for the incarceration of Lord Dalquharn in the book 'White Cockade' written by James Grant (1822-87). The Burgh Court had the powers to deal with minor assaults and crimes which attached penalties up to a fine of twenty shillings, not more than three hours in the stocks in day time, or up to one month imprisonment. The Burgh 'stocks' sited outside the Council Chambers are now on display in the North Berwick museum.

In 1770, the council-room was made available for the performances of 'strolling companies of show and playactors'. It was also used as a reading room and in 1827 the former Debtors' Court became the town library. In 1840 the tenant of the ground floor shop was the shoemaker John Bamber. Twenty years later the premises were occupied by James Drummond's printing press and in 1971 the interior of the two storey building was renovated.

For many years a historic letter from General Monk was kept in the Town Clerk's office, which read " For my very loving friends the Magistrates of the Burgh of North Berwick.... to hold no correspondence with any of Charles Stewart's party or his adherents, but apprehend any such as shall make any disturbance and send them to the next Garrison." - dated Edinburgh 16th November 1659.

The earliest recorded Bailies in the town were Charles Maitland and William Lauder whose names are listed on a petition to the Privy Council in 1689. They stated that the burgesses had been hindered by watching and warding and other impediments during the holding out of the Bass. This referred to the first time the island had fallen into the hands of adherents to King James. It happened again in 1691 when four officers held out. Descendants of the Lauders of the Bass continued as baillies and burgesses on North Berwick Town Council right up to about 1800 and one of them, in a turn of the screw, was baillie to the Dalrymple's Barony.

James Jack a wright by trade, carried out the alterations to Leuchie House for Sir Hew Dalrymple in 1745. At the rouping that year he offered the highest bid of 18/- Scots for the 'leck', found on the east bay and used as building material. He was elected a Town Councillor in 1735 and was Elder Bailie until his death on 20th June 1752. On the payment of one shilling the burial bell was tolled and the mourners followed to the St Andrew Kirk graveyard, where he is buried without a headstone.

The first trees to be planted in Quality Street were put in by Bailie Hew Lauder who was also allowed to erect a paling round his property in October 1754. Among the earliest recorded Town Clerk's were William Galbraith (1604), he was also the schoolmaster, and the others were Alexander Watt (1760) and George Sibbald (1780). Captain James Dalrymple was appointed Chief Magistrate in 1791, he was succeeded by Vice-Admiral Minchin in 1802 who planted trees on the west side of Quailty Street. Captain James Dalrymple was re-appointed Chief Magistrate from 1805 to 1820. John Kirk, the parish schoolmaster replaced Mr. Todrick as Town Clerk in 1805. Kirk was boxmaster (Treasurer) of the burgh Trades Society in 1790, and appointed Billet Master in 1798 when army units were stationed in the town during the Napoleonic War. John Kirk was elected Councillor in 1789 and Treasurer from 1790-96. He resigned office as Councillor on his appointment as Town Clerk, a position he retained for twenty eight years.

Captain James Dalrymple was succeeded in the chair by Alexander Oswald (who died in 1821), Major-General Sir John Dalrymple was Chief Magistrate from 1821 to 1831, when he resigned on his appointment as commander of the British forces at Corunna, India. In 1831 the 'Czar' one of nine vessels owned by the London, Leith, Edinburgh & Glasgow Shipping Company went down off Scoughall with the captain and a number of passengers, among them several of the staff of Sir John Dalrymple, who had gone to London to see his departure for India. Nine of the crew clung to the wreck and were saved by James Kelly and his brother, both fishermen at Canty Bay, who swam several times to the vessel at the risk of their own lives. During Sir John Dalrymple's term the council included Bailie John Thomson, James Sommerville, treasurer; Councillors - Hew Dalrymple, W.F. Brown, Robert Bertram, James Grieve Snr., James Grieve Jnr., Andrew Walker, James Reid, George Ramage, and George Bain.

Indenture witnessing receipt by John and Robert Warner, brassfounders, London, from the Court of Receipt of H.M Exchequer, Westminister of several weights and measures for the use of the Royal Burgh Of North Berwick to be delivered to the custody of Gen. John Dalrymple, chief magistrate. - 16th Jan. 1826
Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple of North Berwick and Bargany succeeded as Chief Magistrate from 1831 to 1833, he was a Captain in Her Majesty's 71st Regiment and by 1839 was on service in Canada. In 1833 James Crawford Jnr. W.S. was appointed Town Clerk, a position he retained until his death in November 1863, when Messrs. Thomas Dall C.A and Henry Tod W.S were appointed joint Town Clerks.

James Dall Sen. was appointed Junior Bailie in 1826 and promoted to the office of Senior Ballie or Chief Magistrate in 1833. That year the Council was elected for the first time by a vote of the owners and occupiers of premises in the burgh who had a rental of £10 and upwards. There were so few electors in the burgh that it was difficult to obtain the requisite number of Councillors. The electors appeared in the Council Chambers and each had to sign the list of persons for whom they voted. The highest vote was only sixteen for James Dall Sen. who was elected Chief Magistrate. At that time there were twelve councillors, this was reduced to nine in 1852. Dall was re-elected in 1839 and again appointed Chief Magistrate until he finally retired in 1852. The principal work of the Town Council during the stewardship of James Dall Sen. was the negotiations in connection with the branch railway line to the town and the purchased of a site for the gas works on Pointgarry Road. He was also instrumental in the establishment of a grain market in the burgh on 28th September 1840 but although it appears to have been a success at its commencement it did not last long.

David Stuart Meikleham occupied the chair from 1851-54. Meikleham lived in a house in George Street, now East Road. He was a well known grower of hothouse grapes and in 1860 he broke all previous records by placing his crop of grapes on the market in the middle of January, when it was bought by a London firm of fruiterers for 14 shillings the pound, and afterwards part was disposed of to grace the table no less a personage than Napoleon III, Emperor of the France. Meikleham was followed by James Dall Jnr.(1855-1866). The members of the council were Robert Smith junior chief magistrate; James MacDonald treasurer; Councillors, Thomas Hope, William Walker, George Heslope Girlie, Richard Whitecross, John Blair, D.S. Meikland. James Dall Jnr was the first Provost to appreciate the impact the game of golf was to have on the prosperity of the town and he promoted the game at every opportunity. James and his brothers William and Tom, were founder members of Tantallon Golf Club, established in 1853. Tom Dall was Club Secretary for seven years and Captain from 1861-1862 while James Dall Jnr. was Club Secretary from 1862-1868 combining this position with his official duties as the town's Chief Magistrate. Tom Dall was Town Clerk from 1863 until his death in 1880. In 1861, James Dall Jnr. represented North Berwick at the laying of the foundation stone for the Wallace Monument at Abbey Craig outside Stirling. The event was witnessed by a crowd of over 50,000.

It was the practice for anyone breaking the law to be brought before the Chief Magistrate who was both judge and jury. The proceedings of the Burgh Court was conducted in the Council Chambers with the jailhouse below. An extract from a hearing in 1862 reads, Henry Pullar, fisherman, North Berwick, was charged with assault and breach of peace upon Peter Gullane, his uncle. Pullar had previous convictions and was fined £5 or thirty days' imprisonment - he went to prison. Mrs. Forrestor, for assaulting her servant in a violent manner, was fined 15s or six days' imprisonment. Peter Gullane fisherman, North Berwick for assault and breach of peace in the Ship Inn. Gullane had previous convictions and was fined 10s or ten days' imprisonment. At a later hearing, Mary McIntosh and Agnes Doyle, vagrants, were charged with exposing children of tender age to the inclemency of the weather, both were severely reprimanded and ordered to leave the town.

Peter Brodie was appointed Senior Bailie or Chief Magistrate in 1866 and remained in the chair for twenty-one years. The Town Council's programme of upgrading the burgh put great strain on their limited finances and in 1866 they were £2,398 in debt. By 1872, this had been reduced to £537, mainly due to the prudent stewardship of Treasurer Francis Edington and an additional £60 from feus, (East Links) and £20 from increased rents.

In 1867, the Great Reform Bill extended the voting system further to include the skilled worker who was able to afford to rent a property with a rateable value of £10. Property owning women also had the vote in local elections. This added one million electors across Britain and ended the control of Scottish landowners over local ballots.

The topic of illegal drinking was often discussed by the Town Council. At a meeting of the Licensing Court in 1872, Chief Magistrate Brodie granted the publicans' licenses on the understanding that no back doors should be used, and that all houses should be closed on Sunday except between the hours of one and two o'clock when it was necessary they should be open for the convenience of country people attending church.

Robert Lyle succeeded Henry Tod as joint Town Clerk with Thomas Dall in 1871 and was appointed sole clerk in April 1880, a position he retained for twelve years. The first voters roll was complied in 1872, and those not eligible to vote included the titled gentry, the insane and those detained in prison. This was also the first secret ballot. In 1859 the Town Clerk James Crawford donated three drinking fountains. One was at the Council Chambers with a trough for dogs, one at the Harbour and the third near the United Presbyterian Manse in Westgate for people coming from the railway station.

Following the visit of the Duke of Connaught in 1877, Sir Hew Hamilton Dalrymple presented a Provost's Gold Chain and Badge to the Town Council in recognition of the way his guest was received by the town.

PETER BRODIE (1866-1887, 1890-93)

Following John Grieve's three year term of office, Peter Brodie was re-elected Provost from 1890 to 1893. During his term as leader of the Town Council he succeeded in securing from the Right Hon A. J. Balfour of Whittinghame an abundant supply of excellent water for the town in 1885. Brodie was chairman of the committee appointed to frame and promote The Burgh Police Act of 1892 which gave to places like North Berwick powers of enlarging their boundaries and purchasing ground needed for golf and other recreations. North Berwick was one of the first to take advantage of the Act by extending the burgh boundary on the west towards Dirleton. Following John Grieve's three year term of office, Peter Brodie was re-elected Provost from 1890 to 1893. Provost Peter Brodie died in Elcho House in 1904 aged 85 years. For more information on the Brodie family

JOHN R. WHITECROSS (1893-1896)

John Runciman Whitecross was admitted a burgess in 1854, elected Councillor in 1857 and served for 32 years. He was re-elected in 1890 and appointed Chief Magistrate from 1893 to 1896. The important work carried out during his term of office, was a new drainage scheme, the purchase of the 'Old Foundry', which later paved the way for a much-needed improvement of the East Bay. The town's first fire engine was purchased in 1894, using manual pumps and drawn by two horses. Also sites were acquired for an infectious diseases hospital (Gilsland) and a new slaughter house (Dunbar Road).

County and District Sanitary Inspector

The first report by the Medical Officer Thomas F. Carverhill, to the County Council of Haddingtonshire in 1891 stated the number of Births in North Berwick during the year was 33, and the Deaths 19, of these seven were over 60 years of age, three over 70, and one over 80. Dr. Carverhill was a registered physician, born 1855 at Innerwick, East Lothian and resided with his family at 16, Randolph Crescent, Edinburgh.

Part of the duties of the Burgh Police was to regulate sanitary conditions. On 9th January 1892, Police Sergeant George Reid resigned his position with the Police Constabulary and was appointed County and District Sanitary Inspector. Reid and his wife resided at 6, Melbourne Park, North Berwick before moving to his new position at 24 Court Street, Haddington.

The Medical Officer stated in his report that during the past year, the Landward part of the Parish of North Berwick has been in a very sanitary condition, and the services of the Medical Officer of Health were not once called for. The General Practioner in North Berwick was John L. Crombie M.D. M.O.H, Melbourne Villa (now 13 Melbourne Road), North Berwick.

JAMES BRODIE (1896-1899)

Peter Brodie's son James was elected Councillor in 1894 and appointed Chief Magistrate in 1896. The work carried out during Provost James Brodie's term included the long negotiations in connection with the introduction of an additional water supply from the Thorter Burn were commenced and completed. Among the other works accomplished were the erection of the hospital (Gilsland) and slaughter-house (Dunbar Road) and the feuding of the old foundry property on the East Bay.

On 22nd June 1897, the town was decorated with flags and banners for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations which was declared a public holiday. At 10.30am the procession lead by the Magistrates and Councillors in their new robes left the Council Chambers and walked to the East Links where a religious service was conducted. This was followed with children's treads and games. At 5pm a banquet was held in the Forester's Hall when Sir Walter Hamilton Dalrymple addressed the community and toasted 'Her Majesty'. In the evening a display of illuminated boats could be seen in the West Bay. At 10pm a combined choir sang the National Anthem at the cross in Quality Street and at 10.30pm a bonfire provided by Sir Walter was lit on top of Berwick Law. Provost James Brodie was invited to attend the reception of Mayors and Provosts in Buckingham Palace on 23 June 1897.

The Town Council requested that the programme of celebrations for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee should be recorded for future generations. The minute continued, "Ten sheep being a proportion of the gift from the Australian Pastoral and Shipping Interests with a corresponding proportion of beef had been received. Two of the sheep had been sent to the Parish Clerk of Dirleton and two to the Parish Clerk of Whitekirk and Tyninghame for distribution among the poor of these parishes the remainder being distributed to the poor of North Berwick."

[Quality Street] James Brodie died on 18th June 1899, and the Town Councillors lead the procession from the Council Chambers to the graveyard. Provost McIntyre asked the shops and businesses to close from one until two o'clock on the day of the funeral and instructed the Town Bell to be tolled. Following James Brodie's death John Macintyre was elected Chief Magistrate and the following year he called the first of the legendary rate players meetings on 29 October 1900. In October 1902 Macintyre welcomed King Edward VII to the town. His Majesty was the guest of Prince Christian of Saxe-Weimar residing at the time at The Knoll in Clifford Road. To commemorate his three day visit, the King planted a sycamore tree at the foot of the steps leading to the Council Chambers. Macintyre was the first Chief Magistrate of the Royal Burgh to be officially recognised by the title of Provost. During his tenure a new gas works was constructed on Williamstone Farm, a new cemetery in Dunbar Road, the Burgh golf course was laid out, and new shops and a fire engine station constructed in Station Hill. In 1908, the Town Clerk reported that during the past year only 86 persons had been locked up. This was compaired to Dunbar 105 and Haddington 282.

Following the visit of His Majesty King Edward, his host His Highness Prince Edward Saxe Weiman was presented with the Freedom of the Burgh and an Honorary Burgess Ticket with a silver mount. Her Highness the Princes, planted a sycamore tree in Quality Street adjoining the tree planted the previous day by His Majesty.

JOHN MACINTYRE(1899-1919)

During the Second Boer War many organisations in the town were raising funds in aid of the Scottish South Africa Hospital appeal. When news filtered through that Petoria had been recaptured on 5th June 1900 the North Berwick Town Council decided to celebrate the occasion with a half-holiday with trades and others processions throughout the town. On 7th June at four o'clock a band of musicians lead the procession, followed by Provost MacIntyre who invited the Town Councillors and Corporation employees to have cake and wine. The town was decorated with flags and eliminated in the evening when a bonfire was lite on the West Links.

Macintyre was also a founder member of the Pipe Band instituted in 1901. The conductor was Pipe-Major William Hume and the instruments and highland dress cost £121, raised by public subscription. In August 1902, the Pipe Band headed a procession from the railway station to the cross in Quality Street to welcome back two hero's of the Boer War. The whole town turned out to greet the gallant troopers James Kendall and Walter Gilholm of the Scottish Horse on their safe return. The Pipe Band also played round the table while King Edward VII was at dinner during his visit to the town. In October 1902, Provost John MacIntyre travelled to London to attend the Coronation of King Edward V11.

In 1918, women over the age of 30 were added to the electoral register and in 1928 the franchise was extended to women over the age of 21. John McIntyre remained Provost until the end of the First World War, when Peter Farquharson was appointed from 1919 to 1922. The Town Clerk's office was situated on the ground floor of Beulah House, 5, East Road. Following Robert Lyle's death in 1892, his partner Andrew D. Wallace was appointed Town Clerk. The legal business of Lyle and Wallace was conducted as part of the Town Clerk's office at 5, East Road. Wallace took on his nephew John W. Menzies as a partner, who was appointed joint Town Clerk in 1926 and the Town Clerk's Office moved to 11 East Road.

Robin Wotherspoon was appointed Town Clerk in 1956. He came from Inverness and moved to North Berwick in 1955 when he joined the law firm Wallace and Menzies W.S. Following the death of John Menzies in 1956, Robin took over as senior partner and stepped into the stepped into the role of Town Clerk, which he held until government reorganization in 1975. Robin Wotherspoon retired in 1990.

The remaining Provost's were George Sim (1922-28) George Eeles (1928-37), George Gilbert (1937-59), James Wishart (1959-65), Millicent Couper (1965-68), John Fowler (1968-71) and John Macnair (1971-75). On 16th May 1975 the Local Government (Scotland) Act (1974) came into effect, replacing 430 local authorities with nine regional, 53 district and three island councils. East Lothian District Council and North Berwick Community Council were elected to represent the town.

[*]
[Churchyard, Kirkports]
  Parish Kirk


The first mention of the parish church of St Andrew, North Berwick occurs in a document dated 1177 in which one of the witnesses is Richard, "Chaplain of St Andrew of North Berwick". During the archaeological survey of the Auld Kirk and Anchor Green in 1999 a burnt circle and Roman coins were discovered suggesting there was a Christian settlement there in the 7th century. The island where the Auld Kirk is sited was thought to have been used by Saint Baldred as a sanctuary in the 8th century. The church was substantially enlarged in the 13th century when a bell-tower was added. The ruined walls exposed by Dr. James Richardson during the 1951 excavation give an indication of the outline of the Auld Kirk, although a considerable section on the east fell into the sea following a great storm in 1656. On April 12 1657 the Council of State gave 100 pounds sterling to help build the new kirk opened for worship on 4th June 1664.

The bell was transferred to the church in Kirk Ports in 1664 and is presently on display outside the St Andrew Blackadder Church. One of the earliest recorded ministers at North Berwick was Thomas Greig in 1585 and the earliest Church Officer was Alex Gibsoune in 1608. The only surviving building on the Anchor Green is the entrance porch of the Auld Kirk which was converted into a bothy in the 1850s when a fireplace was installed on the north wall.

The Parish Church in Kirk Ports surrounded by elm trees was erected in 1664 and renewed in 1770 when the bell tower was added. In 1819 the interior was renewed, except for the old oak seat of the Dalrymple family, in the front of the gallery. The church contained an hour sand-glass to regulate the service, a metal baptismal ewer, an iron alms-box to secure the offerings and four silver chalices which were believed to have descended from the Episcopalian period and then passed into the service of the Presbyterian Kirk. One is dated 1670 but at least two of the cups are from an earlier age. In 1770, the Council discussed renewing the access to the burgesses loft in the Parish Church. They instructed the Town Clerk Archibald Lauder to employ tradesmen to erect a stone staircase.

Throughout the 17th century Communion Tokens were used to demonstrate the owner was schooled in the bible and the token was offered to a new employer as proof of character and allowed the holder to take communion. Several tokens have survived and are on display in the local Museum.

The North Berwick Manse Account Book from 1760-1770 complied by the Rev. Matthew Murray, minister of the Parish Church contains some fascinating entries. Rev. Matthew Murray (1735-1791) followed his father George Murray as minister at North Berwick.

In 1769, an account from Angus Macpherson the minister's tailor in North Berwick for velvet breeches amounting to £1 5s. Another entry from Mr Swinton for two pairs of worsted breeches and from Dewar & Mcfarlane an account for a suite of clothes for £13 13s. Mr Grieve for the purchase of a new hat and a pair of black hose £1 4s (1771). Mr Coming the North Berwick shoemaker for soaling a pair of shoes 1s.The Rev Matthew Murray's hair was cut and dressed at frequent intervals and the barber charged 6d for a shave, and the shaving utensils cost 2s.

By this time the minister was allowed to take a Monday off duty to play golf. Rev. Murray enjoyed a round of golf on the burgh golf course to the east of North Berwick. He had often played in his boyhood and in 1765 the entry in the Manse Accounts lists 'To three golf clubs, 3s 9d'. also 'To half-dozen golf balls 2s 6d' frequently appears in 1775.

In 1742 at a dinner in Haddington there were knives and forks supplied for dinner, though only one glass which went round with the wine bottle for all to use. Ten years previously his father always had to carry his knife, fork and spoon for his own use when travelling. Posting a letter cost six-pence and a quill for writing were bought in quantity. 'To quarter of a hundred quills, 6d. Paper was ordered by the quire 8d and seal and sticks of red wax were also purchased. The minister would often give assistance to individuals from his stipend such as the entry 'Towards getting a fishing line for Geo Brown, 3s indicates practical aid towards self-help. 1767.

The entries in the Kirk Session Book for the St Andrews Church in Kirk Ports include the following. June 12th 1692 - the minister Matthew Reid prayed for thanks giving for the victory gained by the Imperial Fleet in defeating France. October 1709 - the minister lead prayers for those who suffered from the fire at the head of the Canongate in Edinburgh. February 27th 1715 - the Treasurer received for Mr Blackadders grave stone ten merks. October 2nd 1715 - the minister Matthew Reid read from the pulpit an Order of the Sheriff, and also an Act of Parliament regarding the rebellion in the north (Jacobite) against his Majesty King George. He also read a request for men from his Majesty's Lieutenant, the Marquis of Tweedale, intimating that anyone willing should meet in the Churchyard the following morning. His grace Duke of Argyle, Commander in Chief of his Majesty's forces in Scotland, also requires horses and oats to be send to Stirling. June 3rd 1716 - the minister read his majesty's proclamation which included thanks giving for those who helped to defeat his enemies in England and Scotland. March 20th 1720 - The minister read the Act of the Synod of Lothians and another Act of the Commissioners which included prayers for those suffering from the infection of the plague that rages in some parts of England.

It was the custom in 1826 when turf was taken from the West Links to cover a grave in the churchyard, sixpence was paid to the Feuars of Wetgate as compensation. In the 1860s a parapet wall was erected with iron railings along the north and west sides, with the manse built in 1825 to the south west, on an elevated position at the Glebe. Prior to the bell being installed which had a soft mellow tone, the town bell in the tolbooth was rung at funerals from the mid 1720's. The evening peal rung at eight o'clock was a survival of the old curfew bell which was still being rung in 1908.

It was compulsory to attend Church and the elders roamed the streets looking for anyone not attending and if caught they were fined. During the middle ages the Church administered law and order and of all the sins, those of adultery were most strictly stamped upon. Culprits were to stand at the kirk door (adulterers in sackcloth and ashes) to be displayed before all attending church. A metal neck collar known as a 'Joug', attached to the wall of the Auld Kirk and used to hold offenders is on display in the local museum. An entry in the Kirk Session Book on June 12th 1661 records that William Burn was chained to the church door for committing adultery. This was the second week he had to appear in front of the congregation for his misdemeanor. He was committed to sit at the front of the church on the pillory stool, facing the congregation, to listen to the ranting of the minister against him and his sins. Due contrition was shown by the penitent for his misdemeanour and after a suitable number of humiliating appearances, he was forgiven.

The earliest reference to golf in North Berwick is recorded in the Kirk Session Book in January 1611, when Alex Lockart and Thomas Gown were accused of playing golf on the Sabbath. They where reported to the 'gudeman of North Berwick' Sir John Home, the local landowner who sent them before the Kirk Session for punishment. The minister of the Auld Kirk was Thomas Bannatyne who was ordained in 1610 by George Gledstanes, Archbishop of St Andrews. The extracts below are taken from the Kirk Session book of the Auld Kirk on the Anchor Green.

January 20th 1611
On quilk (which) day the repentance of Thomas Gowan and others was required by humbling themselves on their knees and craving god forgiveness for prophaning the Sabbath ye 6th January instant for playing at the goulf.

January 22nd 1611
The 'gudeman of North Berwick' delatit (accused) Alex Lockart as a prophanor of the Sabbath for playing at the golf.

The Church did not have the power to inflict physical punishment, but if the offender refused to repent, they were excommunicated from the Church and sent to damnation. In more serious cases the offender was handed over to the secular powers of the State for the Privy Council to decide their fate. The principal Commissary Court in Edinburgh had the general jurisdiction for the Lothians until 1830 when its business was transferred to the Court of Session and then to the Sheriff Court in 1876. The Church of Scotland also administered the registration of births, marriages and burials from 1538, this record did not include Roman Catholics and other religions. During the 18th century if a person was accused of being a thief they would sue in a 'secular court' or Sheriff Court while moral offences continued to be heard in the 'spiritual court'.

The Sheriff Substitute of Haddingtonshire was asked by the Town Council to decide the seating arrangement in the St Andrews Church. According to the Minute of the Hereditors meeting on 8th January 1820, the Sheriff decided that the Eastern Gallery was for the Magistrates of the Royal Burgh, the Elders sat in pew No31, the Clergyman used pew No.14, the Parochial School Master sat in pew No.6. The north half of the front of the Eastern Gallery was reserved for Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple and the Grant Suttie family and Nisbet of Dirleton sat in the southern half of the Eastern Gallery. Walker of Sydeserf and the Earl of Dalhousie, proprietor of Chapel sat in pew No.40. The new pews cost £29 which was shared amongst the hereditors.

For funerals the parish church hired out a mortcloth to the parishioners which was a black cloth used to cover the coffin on the way to the grave yard, often made of velvet with a fringe. North Berwick had four cloths, the best cloth, the second cloth and two for children with the profit being placed in the poor box. In 1795 funding the Poor was discussed by the Town Council and it was suggested that a voluntary subscription be raised in the town with wealthier individuals contributing more.

In the graveyard is a headstone erected by public subscription in memory of Johnnie Bowers, the last of the North Berwick town criers, who died in 1878. The stone bears a portrait carved by local mason Walter Skirving which was generally recognised as a faithful likeness of the old worthy. It was said that Bowers scorned the conventional hand-bell using instead two earthenware bowls which he rattled together as a preliminary to his public announcement. The graveyard is also the burying place of many native families including the Dalrymples, Yules, Crawfords, Buchans, Walkers, Burns, Begbies, Robertsons, Grieves, Edingtons, Whitecrosses and Brodies. Two of the town's more eccentric individuals were Matthew Cassie and Peter Herkes. Both were travelling hawkers, Cassie died in 1829 and Pate Herkes died in 1859 at the age of eighty-one.

In 1769 there was a Praying Society who built a meeting-house in Westgate in 1778. They were known as the United Associate congregation but thirteen years would pass before they obtained a minister. The minister at Haddington and others, preached to them in the intervening years and was paid from the collection and seat rents. Their church was rebuilt in 1832 and in 1847 they became known as the United Presbyterian Church with 232 members and their meeting-house was situated on land now occupied by Nos. 39-41 Westgate. Rev. J. McGilchrist Dyer was minister from 1852-58 followed by Rev. William Calvert from 1858 to 1888 and the manse was built in 1865 at 20 Westgate. In 1868 the United Presbyterian Church (Abbey Church) designed by Robert R. Raeburn was erected on the site formerly an eyesore of the 'Burnt Houses' with the Church Hall added in 1890.

On 18th May 1843, 190 clergymen walked out of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland over the vexed issue of patronage, whereby local lairds could appoint the minister of a parish. A few days later some 500 ministers met at Tanfield in Edinburgh to sign the Deed of Demission and established the Free Kirk. The North Berwick Parish Minister Rev. Robert Balfour Graham showed sympathy with the Non-Intrusion movement, but did not 'come out' at the Disruption. James Crawford, farmer at the Rhodes and enthusiastic Free Churchman, began services in the Direlton Granary on the south side of Forth Street. The first minister was Rev. Allan Thomson but he was removed from office and in September 1844 Rev. John Shewan was appointed minister of Blackadder Free Church built that year in Shore Street (Victoria Road). The church named after the covenantor John Blackadder was reconstructed in 1875 and almost entirely rebuilt in 1889 with a congregation of 300. The manse was constructed on Marine Parade in 1854.

A group known as 'All Saints' held their meetings in the Burgh Schoolhouse before the Scottish Episcopalian Church was built in 1861, designed by John Henderson. After its erection it was found too small to contain the congregation in summer and was considerably enlarged. It was consecrated in 1863 by Samuel Wilberforce then Bishop of Oxford and named St Baldred. Sir Hew Hamilton Dalrymple gave a free site for it and Lady Mary Nisbet Hamilton contributed largely to the costs of the construction. The porch and ornamental carved entrance doors were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer in 1901. The Rev. Fortescue L. M. Anderson was rector for over thirty years until 1899 when Rev. H.S.D. Gill was appointed. Following the Restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in Scotland in 1878, the Roman Catholic Church (Law Brae) was erected by Dunn and Hansom in 1879, where the 'League of the Cross' instituted by Father Mackenzie also held their meetings.

Roman Catholic Chapel

The first mention of the Roman Catholic Chapel was in February 1879 when the Rev. William Grady, a clergyman in Haddington who was instrumental in establishing a Roman Catholic Chapel in North Berwick, asked the Town Council for the use of the School Room for his congregation. In May 1879, John Ferguson, a member of the congregation applied to the Town Council for 11 cart loads of sand for the new Roman Catholic Chapel which was approved and charged at the standard rate.

At this time the School Room was organised by Mrs Woodrow as a Working Men's Tea and Coffee Room and in October 1879 the Rev. Grady asked the Town Council to open the Coffee House on Sunday for the use of his congregation, as many had travelled a long distance. The Town Council response to the request was minuted on 21st October 1879 ‘The Council cordially approve of the same and hope that it would be the means of preventing a repetition of the riotous behavior of some members of that congregation such as took place on Sunday last.’ The minute was complied by the Town Clerk Robert Lyle, the Provost was Peter Brodie, James Kendal (Baillie) John Bell (Treasurer) and Councillors John Whitecross (Grocer) and George Fowler (Baker). The chancel was built by Basil Chanpreys in 1889 and the Lady Chapel designed by Sir Robert Lorimer was added in 1916.

The vicarage house or manse stood where the present St Andrew's Church stands in the High Street. In May 1881 Rev. George Sprott DD applied for the feu of the Glebe so that the new Parish Church could be built. William Calder, the headmaster of the Public School was in charge of the Building Fund in 1882. The new Parish Church of St Andrew, designed by Sir Rowland Anderson was completed in 1883 with the tower (built by James Elliot, North Berwick) added in 1907 when the clock was presented by the Town Council. The Kirk Session chair is believed to have been one of the ancient oaken chairs brought from Tantallon Castle on its final demolition.

The circular Burgh Window, facing east towards the old Kirk was originally erected in 1902 by the Royal Burgh of North Berwick to commemorate the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837-1901. It features the town's distinctive coat of arms at its centre surrounded by a floral garland and the royal arms of the home nations and the harp of Ireland.

The old Parish Church bell now on display outside the church in St Andrew Street dates back to the Auld Kirk at the harbour and is inscribed round the top - 'Jacobus Monteith me fecit, Edinboch, pro Templo de Northberick. Anno Domini, 1642. Spero Meliora', which translates as - 'James Monteith made me at Edinburgh, for the Church of North Berwick, in the year of our Lord 1642 - I hope for better things'. After twenty-two years of service at the Auld Kirk Green, it was moved in 1664 to the new church in Kirk Ports. There it rang people to worship for two hundred and nineteen years until 1883 when the congregation moved to the new building in the High Street. It continued to ring in the old tower for another twenty-four years until 28th July 1907 when the clock tower was completed and the bell transferred. In 1928 a new bell was gifted by John Menzies,(5 West Bay Road), founder of the bookstall and newsagent company.

The Evangelical Meetings were held in the Fisherman's Hall with Mr. J. Scroggie conducting the service. It was not uncommon for visiting dignitaries, enjoying a holiday in North Berwick, to be asked to perform various duties. In 1892 the Lord Mayor of London opened the Blackadder Church Bazaar and in 1902 the Prime Minister, A.J. Balfour opened a Sale of Work in the Foresters' Hall.

Following the decline in church attendances in the 1980s the congregations of the St Andrews Church and Blackadder Church merged and for a period they held their services in alternate Churches every month. On September 22 1989 the Kirk Session and Congregational Board recommended that St Andrews Church be selected as their place of worship.

[*]
[1950 NBHS Class]
  Education


Although there was mention of a boys school in 1581, and William Galbraith as schoolmaster in 1604 little more exists. Galbraith was also Town Clerk and it was his meticulous recording that has provided the information we have today. Another reference to education in 1664 noted 'The Kirk Session decided as there was no place for school they would give the Bailies and Council of North Berwick the sum of three pounds Scotch yearly for the West Laich House under the tollbooth till a new schoolhouse was provided by the heritors.

In 1690, all schoolmasters teaching Latin were obliged to swear allegiance to King William of Orange and it is recorded that the schoolmaster at North Berwick, Alexander Goodale had agreed to this. The following year the schoolmaster was Walter Ainslie, he was also session clerk in the parish church. The other schoolmasters were James Purdie (1730) and Richard Dick (1739)

In an act of the Scottish Parliament in 1696, which was reaffirmed in 1803, the landlord was obliged to provide a school house and salary for a school master, supplemented by fees paid by the parents. Although provision for education in the Parish was on the statute, the landlord and church organised the education system with little state interference. At this time a Royal Burgh was given the authority to administer a Burgh School. The original Parochial School was situated in Church Road, known as School Alley. In the 1870's a new school was built at the corner of Church Road and Westgate, the first building was the boys school, and the identical building (now 124-126 Westgate) was the girls school.

The Town Council minutes of 1756 states that Robert Anderson was elected a burgess of the Royal Burgh on his retirement from the position of Burgh schoolmaster. His son William Anderson born in North Berwick in 1750 sailed with Captain Cook as ships doctor and naturalist on his second voyage of discovery to the Antarctic and South Pacific in 1772. Anderson died during the third voyage in 1778 and Cook named a newly found island in the Bering Sea, 'Anderson's Island' after his respected friend. In the 1780s, John Kirk was the schoolmaster, he was succeeded by Marion Richardson and then by Dr.Andrew Crichton in 1820 who published a book about the 'Memoirs of Blackadder' in 1823. Later he became editor of the Edinburgh Evening Post and in 1832 editor of the Edinburgh Advertiser.

David and Ebenezer Syme

The Burgh School was situated in the building occupied today by the chemist's shop at 66 High Street. Originally a single storey building with arcades to the east, forming an open butchers market with a bakehouse on the north end. The building owned by the Town Council had a second floor added in 1830 to provide a Burgh School room with access by an outside stone staircase. The first teacher to be appointed to the Burgh School was James Paterson from Ayrshire with an annual salary of four pounds. He was followed by Cathcart Kay from St Andrews in December 1833. In 1837, the Town Council received complaints regarding the incompetence of Mr Sloane the schoolmaster, the parish school being described as nearly deserted with only 24 pupils. George Syme a native of Montrose was appointed Parochial schoolmaster the following year. His son Ebenezer Syme born in 1826 in North Berwick was educated at St Andrews University before going to Liverpool to study the Chinese language with the intention of becoming a missionary. In 1850 he was a street-corner preacher in Liverpool and Manchester, worked for a London bookseller and wrote articles for the Westminster Review. In 1853, Ebenezer emigrated to Australia with his wife and three children, where he joined David Blair as editor of 'The Age', a newspaper in Melbourne.

His younger brother David Syme, born 2nd October 1827 in North Berwick was also educated by his father who died in 1845 when David was 17 years old and was buried in the Churchyard in Kirk Ports, North Berwick. Like his two brothers David studied under James Morrison at Kilmarnock Academy. David was intended for the Presbyterian ministry but his conscience stood in the way and after studying at a German University he abandoned all thoughts of entering the church. David was fascinated by reports of the gold rush and travelled to San Francisco where he remained in the gold fields for eighteen months before sailing to Melbourne in 1852.

After some success in gold prospecting at Ballarat near Melbourne he joined his brother Ebenezer in 1856 'The Age' was then two years old and was struggling to keep going. David invested his gold 'money' on the advice of Ebenezer in journalism and the two brothers purchased 'The Age' for £2,000. The first paper under David's management was published in June 1856. David married Annabelle Johnson from Melbourne in 1859 and they had five sons and two daughters. In 1860, Ebenezer's health deteriorated and he died aged 34 years.

David Syme out lived his brother by over forty years and was described as Australia's first press baron. In the 1860s, 'The Age' was a considerable force in moulding public opinion and influencing politicians. David Syme was an advocate of compulsory education and industrial independence by a policy of protection, he also had a fondness for quoting 'Burns' in his newspaper.

He read every copy of 'The Age' before it went to press and his influence in politics was so strong that merchants and importers first attempted to bribe him and then they withdrew all advertising in order to ruin the paper. 'The Age' shrunk to half its original size as a result but nothing could break the determination of the granite Scotsman. Syme continued his fight to protect Australia from the importation of goods which the country could manufacture herself and also played a prominent part in promoting the Australian Federation. Syme was modest about his work and refused a knighthood from the King.

'The Age' had a circulation higher than any other in Australia, rising from 15,000 a day in 1868 to more than 120,000 a day in 1874 and continues to be a respected publication with a wide circulation in Melbourne and Victoria. Syme resided in Blythswood, Studley Park Road, Kew in Melbourne where he died in 1908. The Syme family continued to manage 'The Age' until it became a public company in 1948.

William Kesson was Burgh schoolmaster from 1804-1821. The schoolhouse for the landward children was situated near the crest of Heugh Brae, beside what is now the entrance to 'Sea Breezes'. In 1849, John Steel was appointed Parish Schoolmaster with Miss Janet Flett as his assistant. He was also the Parish Registrar and his fine hand writing can be seen on many of the old town documents. John M. Davidson was the teacher and his wife Rose Davidson was mistress of the Infants' School in the same building. The Burgh School taught reading, writing and arithmetic as primary subjects and in the second grade other subjects were added such as latin, geography, book-keeping and navigation. Later William Calder was appointed Burgh School master and Parish Registrar as well as secretary of the Penny Savings Bank, instituted in 1860. Over 70 children attended the Burgh School in 1870 paid for by the Town Council for families too poor to afford schooling. Following the Education (Scotland) Act in 1872, education became compulsory for all children between the ages of five and twelve. That year Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, 6th Baronet (1814-1887), became chairman of the School Board in North Berwick.

In 1867, the mistress at the private school in Kays Wynd (Law Brae) was Marion Dobbie. The subscription school at Halfland Barns built in 1704 was under the supervision of John Lamb since 1840 and by 1877 had 42 pupils. There were also two seminaries for young ladies organised by Miss Stiff at Wesdon House, West Links and Miss Boyd in Viewforth. There was also a boarding establishment for young gentlemen supervised by Rev David McCalman at Turpie, (Murray House) West Bay Road.

The Town Council continued to rent out the Burgh School Room to private teachers including Miss Edwards (1873) and Miss Fraser (1875) who applied to rent the School Room on Saturday evening for the Young Men's Literary Association. The Council agreed with her request as long as she paid for the gas and breakages. In September 1881 a Coffee Room was opened in the vacant Burgh School Room but was not used by the community. In March 1882 the Town Council decided to close the Peoples Tea and Coffee Room and Seamans Home as it was called, and rented out the property to local groups and entertainers.

Public School and William Calder (1838-1905)

A purpose-built public school was opened in 1876, on the site of John Neillan's cooperage, known as 'Coopers Well' off East Road and William Calder was appointed head teacher. He was succeeded by George (Tom) Tait who retained the position of head master for over 43 years. In memory of the former headmaster the 'Calder Dux Medal' was instituted and awarded to the leading pupil. William Calder born 9th September 1838 at Mid Street, Bathgate, son of John Calder, a mason to trade and his wife Janet Robertson. He qualified as a teacher and at the age of 22 years he was appointed schoolmaster at Paxton Village in Berwickshire. William Calder married Wilhelmina Jameson and in 1872 they moved to North Berwick when William was appointed Parochial Teacher in the Burgh School at 66 High Street and Town Registrar from his house at 27 Westgate. He was succeeded by George (Tom) Tait who retained the position of head master for over 43 years. In memory of the former headmaster the 'Calder Dux Medal' was instituted and awarded annually to the leading pupil. The teachers included Mary Finlay, George Philip, Harper McKenzie, Helen Duncan, Miss Watt, and Agnes Forrett. The school sports day was held on a field at Haugh Park where today the first and eighteenth fairways are laid out on the Glen golf course. Among the pupils educated at this school were US Open Golf Champions Willie Anderson (1901, 1903, 1904. 1905), and Fred MacLeod (1908). Daniel Kenny was Canadian Golf Champion in 1910.

In 1886 Peter Whitecross (builder) converted the School Room and Butchers Market into a Drapers Shop and the first tenant was Alexander Grieve who paid a rent of £40 per annum. The building was named Victoria House after the Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. In 1885, the Scottish Office was created with responsibility for education and in August 1893 the School Board suggested the new school should be built on the railway embankment above the Gas Works (Craigleith View), but the Town Council suggested that site was not suitable. When the proposal to build a new school for higher education was originally mooted by the Burgh School Board, opinion within the community was divided as to it's ultimate success.The Board suggested that the fees should be such, that the working class could afford to give their children an education beyond the elementary instruction at the Public School. In 1895 the Board appointed Mr Glover as the rector and in September the new High School in Law Road was officially opened by Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple.

Wresden Boarding School

Eleanor and Elizabeth Stiff from Gloucester purchased the property at 2, York Road as a boarding school they called Wresden House after their family home. In 1891 they sold Wresden to James S. Lockhart as a private hotel and the Stiff sisters purchased Rockstowe's at 9 Melbourne Road, North Berwick. In 1900 the artist Reginald P. Phillimore fell heir to the property where he produced picture postcards taken from his own drawings. Mary Pearson a 12 year-old school girl coloured the postcards and after completing her education she was his house keeper. Phillimore was hired by the local company Brodie's Bakery to decorate their shortbread wrappers with local historic scenes which were very popular. Reginald enjoyed playing golf over the Burgh (Glen) course with his friend Dr. Richardson, (Burgh Surveyor). Phillimore died in 1941 aged eighty-six years.

Pupils attended the public school until the age of 11 and on passing a qualifying examination would enter the High School, while the others would remain at the Public School. The new building (Community Centre in Law Road) cost £2,500 and accommodated 128 pupils in four teaching rooms, a library and gymnasium. The pupils walked to the playing fields and sports pavilion situated in Grange Road. During the First World War the Abbey Church minister, Rev. Robert Small acted as rector of the High School.

The school has the distinction of producing two Moderators of the General Assembly. Nevile Davidson, the son of the Blackadder Church minister and four years later Leonard Small, the son of the Abbey Church minister. At this time less than one fifth of university students came from a working class home.

The Town Council received a letter from Major General David Briggs regarding the arrangements to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. He suggested when the beacon fires were sighted from the south, North Berwick should ignite two rockets visible from 20 miles as a signal to those on Largo Law, who would in turn signal the north. The North Berwick westend residents got up a subscription to cover the expense of fireworks and a bonfire which was lite on Berwick Law on Monday 21st June 1887.

A new High School built on the Mains Farm in Grange Road, opened in 1940 with J. T. Brown as rector. The population increase during the 1950s and the leaving age being increased to 15, an extension was required and in 1962 new science laboratories, technical department, art facilities and extra gymnasium provided. A further extension was completed in 1998 to accommodate 2,000 pupils. The Law Primary School was constructed in 1974 at a cost of £347,000 and opened in April the following year by Provost John Macnair.

In 1945, Carlekemp was converted into a Priory School under the supervision of the Friars from Fort Augustus Abbey. Father Oswald Eaves and his staff dressed in traditional brown habits taught many well known pupils including the Duke of Hamilton, Earl of Haddington, George Hope of Luffness and in 1975 Cameron Mitchell (film director).

From 1950 the school entertained many international rugby teams staying at the Marine Hotel and practised on the Priory School rugby pitches laid out on ground now occupied by Nos.6 -12 Strathearn Road. On one occasion Cliff Morgan presented the school with his jersey. Many of the teams took part in a question and answer forum at North Berwick High School including Dickie Jeeps with members of the English team and in January 1961, John Gainsford and the famous Springbok visited. The Priory School closed in 1977 and was converted into apartments.


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