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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - February/March 2006
The Other 70%


Just a few miles to the east of Edinburgh at the mouth of the Esk on the Firth of Forth in the East Lothian area of South Scotland is Musselburgh.  Its original name was Eskmouth, but in 1018 it is mentioned as a burgh (a title which gives towns extra rights).  Since the Firth of Forth is a large mussel fishing area it is fairly logical to figure out where the modern name Musselburgh originated.  In addition to fishing Musselburgh also supported the woolen industry and coal mines in its early history.

The area was settled by 80 AD by the Romans and still contains a bridge built by them, rebuilt in the 13th and 16th centuries and used by pedestrians to cross the Esk.   It is mentioned in 1018 as I wrote earlier and referred to as a burgh.  In 1201 nobility from all over Scotland gathered here to pledge their allegiance to William the Lion’s son, Alexander.  In the 14th century it earned its nickname ‘The Honest Toun’ when the Regent of Scotland was gravely ill and tended by the town’s people until his death.  When the town was offered a reward for their charity they would not accept it since they felt it had been their duty to care for the man.  There is now a yearly celebration and an Honest Lass and Honest Lad are chosen.

Musselburgh became involved in Henry VIII’s “rough wooing” brought about when he attempted to rule Scotland through his son Edward’s betrothal and eventual marriage to the infant Queen Mary.  Though this was agreed to in the Treaty of Greenwich, the Scottish parliament turned it down since they wished for her to marry Francis II, the Dauphin of France (which she eventually did).   This so angered Henry that he attacked Scotland on several fronts to change the parliament’s mind, hence the term ‘rough wooing’.  In 1547, even though Henry had died the Duke of Somerset continued with this campaign and encountered the Scottish troops headed by the Earl of Arran who was positioned at the River Esk near Musselburgh.  Misjudgements on the Earl’s part assisted in the defeat and loss of many of the 30,000 Scots under his command.  Mary, in the meantime, was already in France.

In more recent years it has become a resort area with a 9 hole golf course designed by James Baird and a very popular horse racing track surrounding the golf course.  There is actually a bridge crossing the Esk that is opened only on racing days to facilitate traffic coming to and from the race track.  On other than race days it is closed and barricaded.  I would imagine golfing on race days could get a little hectic and noisy, or for that matter racing horses around an area where golf balls are flying about a little risky.  Rumor has it that in the early days some onlookers would ‘participate’ in golf games by moving or kicking balls about the course to benefit players they had bet on.  Musselburgh’s golf course is considered the world’s oldest and its race track Scotland’s oldest.  It also has one of Scotland’s oldest grammar schools, which is very near the golf course.   Many of the places and streets are named after one of its famous “sons’, Sir Keith Elphinstone, who invented the car speedometer.

Like many cities and districts Musselburgh has its own tartan, which was created in 1958.

Musselburgh today could be likened to our ‘bedroom communities’ in that it is near enough to Edinburgh to provide a fairly easy commute and to benefit from its economics, and yet far enough away to avoid the busy city life.  With its resort atmosphere it provides an excellent place to live and raise a family.

Judith Lloyd


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