Reminiscences of the Royal Burgh of Haddington Introduction
THE town of Haddington is
of a very ancient date, having been created a royal burgh by King David
I. of Scotland in the twelfth century. It appears, however, from history
and tradition, to have been a place of importance some centuries before
Chalmers, the learned
author of Caledonia, affirms that it was originally a hamlet of one
Haden, a Saxon settler, and that in the Anglo-Saxon practice of the
time, tun was affixed, and hence his territory got the name of
Hadentun. It is also historically written, that the territory was
given as a marriage dowry, in the year 1139, to Ada or Hadina, daughter
of the Earl of Warren and Surrey, on her marriage with Prince Henry, the
son of King David I., hence she named her burgh Adington, or Hadington,
the dwelling of the Princess Ada. Certain it is, she was attentive to
the interests of her burgh, and endowed a nunnery at the Abbey village
near Haddington. She died in the year 1178. Miller, in a note in his
History of Haddington, gives another definition, traditionally handed
down, and which he had got from an old inhabitant, that the name waS
derived from the circumstance of old Scottish guides calling to the
English during an invasion to Had-doon-Tyne.
Old country people even
as late as fifty to sixty years ago (and perhaps yet), used to speak of
ganging to Herrington/ This is certainly a corruption of the name,
and far away from the probable and true derivation of it It is not easy
now to say what is the true interpretation and derivation of the name.
This must be left much to the conjectures of antiquaries. Haddington is
certainly a very pretty name, and well worthy of being adopted as the
title of a Scotch earldom. It is not stretching traditionary history
perhaps too far, to say that the rich valley of the Tyne was known to
the Romans, and that their legions were fed from the crops which, even
at that early period, grew abundantly on the fertile soils around
Haddington. The late Sir George and Baron Hepburn of Smeaton remarks, in
one of his articles on the old Corn Laws, that Suetonius, an old Roman
historian, affirms that Britannia Romana, or the Roman province in
Great Britain, was considered to be one of the corn countries from
whence the Romans drew a regular supply of bread corn for their armies,
and occasionally to Rome itself, when the crops of Sicily and Africa
failed to yield their regular supplies.
The monks of old, who
have always been particularly good judges of fruitful and eligible
localities for their religious establishments, had no doubt early
discerned the suitability of the banks of the Gentle Tyne for erecting
their grand and famous building, the Abbey Church, which still exists,
and has been long known as the Lamp of Lothian, as well as other
monasteries and chapels around Haddington.
The royal burgh of
Haddington can boast that a Scottish king, Alexander II., was born in
the palace of Haddington, on St Bartholomews day, the 24th August 1198.
The ill-fated Queen Mary
often visited Haddington in company with Darnley, and also after she
connected herself with the Earl of Bothwell.
Haddington, by a statute
of David II., in a Parliament held at Perth in 1348, was ordained to be
the burrow where the Chamberlains ayres, or court, was to be held
ains in the yeir, anent fixing and falsing of dooms, and managing
questions affecting burrows and burgesses, as gif it were finally ended
and done in Parliament
Haddington has, in its
day, suffered many dire calamities, and seen many stirring events.
History narrates that it has been three times burned, four times
drowned, several times suffered the ravages of siege and battle. True
it is, and of verity, that it was consumed by fire in 1244, burnt by
Edward III. in 1355, and again in 1593 taken by the English in 1548,
retaken again by the Scots, aided by the French, in 1549, and invested
by Cromwell in 1650. In 1358, an extraordinary inundation, by the rising
of the Tyne, took placethe Nun-gate was swept away. On St Ninians day,
27th September 1421, another serious deluge took place. On the 4th
October 1775, the Tyne rose seventeen feet above its ordinary level, and
laid the town under water. This rising is known as the Haddington flood.
Again, in September 1846, the Tyne rose to a great height, flooded the
Nungate, and part of the town up to the Custom Stone.
Haddington is justly
proud of being the birth-place of John Knox, in his day one of the
foremost men of Scotlands isle.
Haddington is thus a more
remarkable burgh than most people now-a-days imagine. In proceeding with
our task, of presenting old traditions and reminiscences of Haddington,
it is hoped that they may prove interesting, not only to Haddingtonians,
but to the public of East Lothian and elsewhere.
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