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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 that.

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 Bartholomew’s 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 Chamberlain’s 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 place—the Nun-gate was swept away. On St Ninian’s 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 Scotland’s 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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