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Reminiscences of the Royal Burgh of Haddington
Market Street and Newton Port


MARKET STREET, or, as it was formerly called, the Back Street, extends from Tibbiedale and the Townhouse to Hardgate Street It contains not a few relics of antiquity and of historical interest to Haddingtonians. An old tenement at the west end, and opposite the Tolbooth, was long occupied by John Carfrae, of the Carniehaugh family of Carfraes. He was town treasurer and a bailie of Haddington in his day, as far back as 1780 and afterwards. He was an extensive grocer and merchant. The old house had an outshot projecting into the street, which, from its shape, was called the “saut backet” At Carfrae’s death, which occurred about the close of last century, his property was acquired by William Shiells, who for many years carried on a brewery up the close, and brewed “twopenny,” “groatum,” and strong ale. A new tenement was built some years ago by the late Mr Brown, plumber, and the “saut backet” was demolished. Another brewery on the same side was long carried on by John Winton (“the Earl,”) a character in his day, and afterwards by Mrs M'Bean. This property now belongs to the heirs of the late Thomas Burns, plumber.

The Roundel, well known as an old street mark, and an encroachment on the street, was also in Market Street It is recorded that when the house was built, the builder forgot an inside stair—knowingly, it was said—and hence the encroachment of the Roundel on the street, with its spiral stair inside. In the Roundel tenement there was for many years a public-house, well frequented on Friday by farmers and com-dealers; also, a famous pie-shop, kept by Peter Emlay, an old Haddington man. Miss Emlay, a daughter of Peter, kept a school for girls in a court at the back of the Roundel. She deserves notice as having been sent to Greece sometime about 1826, when a movement was made in Edinburgh by philanthropic ladies (Mrs Renton was at the head of them) to instruct the young Greek population in the Christian religion—the spirit of freedom having about that time arisen in Greece in opposition to the bondage and thraldom in Turkey. Miss Emlay was said to have been pretty successful in her endeavours to do good among the Greek girls. Mr Kellie has rebuilt the house of the Roundel, and added it to his extensive drapery establishment.

The wheat and bean markets were long held opposite the present Post-Office, while the oat and barley markets were held opposite the present Corn Exchange. In wet, snowy, and cold weather these were very disagreeable stances, compared with the present comfortable Corn Exchange. The improvement in this case is very marked. Many a time farmers and sellers on market-days stood behind their bags with umbrellas over their heads. A very old public-house, called the Rising Sun, stood where the establishment of Mr Young, cabinet-maker, was. Like the Heather Inn, in the High Street, it was an antiquated house, and well frequented on market-days by dealers, farmers, and others to drink the “couping yill,” “mags,” &c. A very old house, called Blair’s Castle, stood next to the Courier Office. The shop was a good many steps up from the street. It belonged to and was long occupied by Provost M'Claren, grocer and merchant, from 1770 to 1785 ; afterwards by his son, David M'Claren, a well-known character in his day, and latterly by James Johnstone, who resigned his office as master of the Grammar School in 1800. There were large vaulted cellars below the shop. An old tradition was long current that a subterraneous passage connected Blair’s Castle with Lethington or Lennoxlove House. No such passage was, however, discovered in later times. Blair Castle was rebuilt by Mr Robert Richardson in 1832, and was long occupied by Mr William Dods as a seed shop and the office of the Western Bank of Scotland. In old Bailie Hay's tenement (now Mr Kellie’s) there lived for many years a curious character of the name of John Hannen. An adjutant of an Irish regiment which lay in the barracks, he settled in Haddington after he retired from military life. Being a man of means and of a quiet and facile disposition, he was taken advantage of by some persons who got him to sign a bill for a considerable amount—they giving him a five-pound note for his trouble. John declared that he never in all his life knew such an easy way of getting a five-pound note as by signing his name; he had been abroad with his regiment, and all through England and Ireland, but this way of getting money beat all he had seen ! When the bill, however, became due, and he had it to pay, his joy was turned into grief, and he declared that had he a hundred sons he would never teach one of them to sign “holographs.” Mr Hannen died about 1820, and was buried with military honours in the west end of the churchyard.

The Lodge in Market Street of the Ancient Fraternity of Gardeners of East Lothian is a place of old historical interest. The Fraternity was founded previous to 1676, and always was, as it still is, a large and respectable society. By its frequent and excellent shows of fruit, vegetables, and flowers among its members, it has long kept up the taste for cultivating the fruits and flowers of the earth in the highest state of perfection. It is also noted for its happy social meetings. An annual procession of the members, accompanied by symbolic figures of Adam and Eve, dressed up with flowers and surrounded by all the implements of the gardener’s craft, and “Jock in the Green/* was in former times regularly kept up, and looked forward to with great interest by the juvenile as well as the elder part of the community; while the hare-pie feast about Christmas time was contemplated with equal pleasure, as it still is, by the veterans of the fraternity. Old William Nisbet, assisted by his two sons, John and Wull, officiated for long as “Jock in the Green.” The office came to be claimed by them as a hereditary right in the family. A bower-shaped erection, covered with shrubs and flowers, was carried by William on his head and shoulders, and was supposed to form a representation of a bower in the Garden of Eden. Like many other old customs, the Gardeners’ procession and “Jock in the Green ” have been given up for many years.

The Crown Inn, so long conducted by Mrs Kemp and her late husband, was for many years before railway times the refreshment house (for man and beast) of the Eyemouth and Coldingham fish-cadgers. At an early hour of the morning a score or more of carts have often been counted opposite the door of the Crown, and also on their return home. Almost all the east-country carriers used to put up here.

Up a lane off Market Street stood the old church of the first United Presbyterian congregation. The present church was built in 1806. The old church, or meetinghouse, as they were called in former times, will long be remembered as the church of the celebrated John Brown, for twenty years Professor of Divinity of the United Associated Synod. BfcBrown was placed as first minister of the congregation in 1751, and the following anecdote relative to his settlement is worth recording:—“When it was proposed by the congregation to give a call to the afterwards celebrated John Brown, one of the adherents of the church expressed his decided opposition. Subsequently to his ordination, Mr Brown waited on the solitary dissentient, who was menacing to leave the meeting-house. ‘Why do you think of leaving us? I mildly inquired Mr Brown. ‘Because I don’t think you a good preacher/ said the sturdy oppositionist ‘ That is quite my own opinion/ admitted the minister, ‘but the great majority of the congregation think the reverse, and it would not do for you and me to set up our opinions against theirs. I have given in, you see, and I.would suggest you might do so too.’

‘Weel, weel/ said the grumbler, quite reconciled by Mr Brown’s frank confession, ‘I think I'll just follow your example, sir.’

It is rare to find so much talent, ability, and worthiness of character descending in succession for several generations in one family as in that of this talented divine. He had four sons all ministers of the Secession Church:—First, the Rev. John Brown, of Longridge, long known as a popular minister. His son was the celebrated Dr John Brown, of Edinburgh, and his son again was Dr John Brown, M.D., author of Rab and his Friends, &c. Second, Rev. Ebenezer Brown, of Inverkeithing—an eloquent preacher, and a great divine in his day. Third, Dr Thomas Brown, of Dalkeith; and fourth, the Rev. George Brown, of North Berwick. The fifth son was Samuel Brown, merchant in Haddington, who was elected the first provost after the Burgh Municipal Bill became law, and originated the East Lothian Itinerating Libraries and the Haddington School of Arts—both most useful means of diffusing knowledge. His distinguished son, Dr Samuel Brown, who died, alas! too soon for the sake of science and philosophy, shed lustre on the name of Brown. Dr William Brown, of Edinburgh, a distinguished scholar and author, was also a son of the provost. The late illustrious Rev. John Brown Patterson, minister of Falkirk, was a grandson of Mr Brown. He will be long remembered as one of the most distinguished scholars and preachers of his day. At the time of his premature death (in 1835), he was busy with a new enlarged edition of his grandfather’s Bible, which was continued and finished by his brother, the Rev. Dr Alexander Patterson, the able and esteemed minister of Hutcheson Street Free Church, Glasgow. Dr John Crombie Brown, our esteemed townsman, has proved himself by his scientific researches a worthy descendant of his grandfather and father. Dr Brown’s family were all born in the small house which stands at the corner of the lane. His stipend at one time did not exceed £40 or £50 a year. The Rev. Benoni Black succeeded Dr Brown in 1789.

He died in 1828, in the thirty-ninth year of his ministry. He was a much respected and worthy man, and was much lamented by his congregation, as well as by friends of all denominations.

In Market Street, east of Brown & Murray’s shop, there is a tenement which belonged to the Knights Templar of St John. A coal-fauld, where the Good Templar Hall is now built, was for a long time the town’s coalhill—a useful appendage for small consumers. Mr James Burn, a famous builder and architect in his day, long occupied the large premises, yard, and mansion-house at the east end of Market Street. Latterly, his relative, Mr Hay Walker, carried on the business. Mr Burn (whose nickname was “Old Timmer”) built a great number of excellent family houses in Haddington and throughout the county, among which may be mentioned Mr Roughead’s and the late Mr Banks’s houses in High Street; Mr Todrick’s in Hardgate; as also the Hopes House, and Newbyth House. His own house still remains a good specimen of the domestic architecture of old times. It contains a vaulted kitchen, and there are now only other two of the same kind in Haddington. The late Mr Ebenezer Black, surgeon, and brother of the Rev. Benoni Black, lived for many years in this old house.

In Newton Port, where Messrs Bernard’s malt-house is now, the old flesh-market of Haddington stood until 1806, when the new market was erected. It would be a great omission not to take notice of the old and original Secession Church which was in Newton Port, now a relic of history. Mr Robert Archibald was the first minister. He was ordained in 1744, and died in 1765. Mr Lawrence Witherspoon succeeded him in 1766, and died in 1779. Mr Robert Chalmers was his successor, and died in 1857, in the eighty-third year of his age and fifty-eighth of his ministry. Mr Chalmers was no ordinary man in his day. Firm and steadfast to Original Secession and Reformation principles, he for more than half a century proclaimed the Gospel to an attached congregation from the town and country— many coming long distances every Sunday. When the foxhounds and a well-mounted field of hunters met at the Byres or Garleton Hills, it was remarked that Mr Chalmers was always there on foot, dressed in top-boots, to see the hounds thrown off—a scene which he no doubt enjoyed with much energy and delight. The older and younger Drs M'Crie both married daughters of Mr Chalmers. The late Rev. William White was appointed Mr Chalmers’s assistant and successor in 1836.

Knox’s Church has now, by an arrangement with the Town Council, been converted into the Town’s Library.

In Newton Port an old-established public-house and billiard-room was long kept by Tom Clark, and much frequented by the officers of the barracks. The cavalry barracks stood in the field known as Clark’s Park, while the infantry were accommodated in the field to the south of Flora Bank. A row of houses now taken down stood on the side of the road, and were called Whisky Row, or Elba. The late Richard Hay, arithmetical master in the Burgh Schools, when he left office, opened a school at this place in 1814. He used to say he was banished to Elba, like the great Buonaparte. The Lady’s Well, at the corner of the glebe of the second minister of Haddington, has been long a wellspring of pure water, and never runs dry. The origin of the name is, however, unknown.

The burgh from an early period had the privilege of holding St Peter’s and the Michaelmas fairs in the fields in Newton Port, which were called the Crofts. There is no doubt the fairs were held there in olden times, but for many years past—probably the greater part of a century—the practice has become obsolete. To keep up the town’s rights, however, the Magistrates used to order the town officer to open the gates of the fields every term-day morning. Bailie George Amos was the last magistrate who stood up for the town’s rights in this matter some twenty-five years ago. The fields in question are now the property of Mr Todrick, and Mr Thomas Burn’s heirs.


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