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Reminiscences of the Royal Burgh of Haddington
Crossgate Hall

IN the parish of Morham, and on the farm of Mainshill, the property of the Earl of Wemyss, there stood a row of houses called “ Crossgate Hall,” evidently named so because four roads met and diverged there. The houses have been within the last twelve years or more taken down.

The westmost house was long kept as a country roadside inn of a superior cast. It is now numbered among the things that have been. Some remarks about it may be interesting to the present generation, and to the few whose memories now reach to fifty or sixty years back.

William Robertson for many years was landlord of the inn. Originally a farm grieve with Mr Francis Walker of Tanderlane, tenant at that time of Mainshill, he was much respected by all the neighbouring farmers, and by the public generally. Dr Forsyth, late of Aberdeen, and at that time minister of the parish of Morham, in his statistical account of the parish, published in 1841, styles him the “Patriarch of the parish.” After his death, his daughter Kirstie, a well-known worthy spinster, kept the inn until her death.

In the month of August, for many years, the farmers of the district around had a social dinner in the house, for the benefit of the worthy landlord. Mr Francis Walker, late captain of the original East Lothian Yeomanry, was always chairman, and generally the same company met, viz., Peter Forrest of Northrigg, Archibald Skirving of Standingstone, Francis Walker of Whitelaw, Robert Walker of Papple, Adam Bogue of Linplum, John Hepburn of Bearford, John Walker of Coalston Mains, Robert Walker of Whitelaw, Robert Tweedie of Longnewton, the Rev. John Steel of Morham, styled the “Vicar of Morham,” Mr Henderson schoolmaster, and others. Not one of these men now remains to tell of the happy meetings which took place at Crossgate Hall.

Many a story associated with the place has been preserved. A young man of the name of Pringle, a nephew of Captain Walker, had got a cadetship for India, and was present at one of the yearly meetings before he went away. No doubt, the toast “Health, prosperity, and good luck to him, with a safe return,” was drunk out of a flowing bowl. Some twenty years after, the young cadet, now Captain Pringle, arrived home, and going to Tanderlane found Captain Walker absent, being at Crossgate Hall at the yearly dinner. He went direct there, and found nearly the same company enjoying their bowl of whisky-punch, presided over by Captain Walker as usual. He is said to have exclaimed, “Preserve me! have you sat here all the time since I left you twenty years ago?” No doubt the toddy-bowl was often replenished that night, and Captain Pringle made a welcome guest Archibald Skirving of Standingstone, who was one of the best and most extensive farmers in the county of East Lothian, made a bet that he would walk blindfolded from Crossgate Hall to Standingstone, a distance of over a mile, in a certain time after dinner, and go direct into his dining-room. He was attended by two of the company, who walked behind him. He won the bet.

The worthy “Vicar of Morham,” Mr Steel, and his nearest neighbour and elder, Mr Henderson, coming home from Crossgate Hall in a thick foggy night, mistook the road to Morham Manse, and went round the Castleshot field for many hours before they could get out, Mr Steel standing often still and exclaiming, “ Here’s a tree where a tree should not be.”

A little anecdote of Kirstie’s time may yet be fresh in the memory of Haddingtonians.

A picnic party to Pressmennan Loch was got up by the Provost and Magistrates of Haddington on a lovely day in the month of July. The Provost and Magistrates of Dunbar, the minister of Stenton, and other friends were invited. A pleasanter party, according to the opinion of the late tenant, Charlie Amos, never met there before. In coming home, the Provost’s and other carriages drew up at Kirstie’s door to rest the horses a little, and to get a little refreshment out of Kirstie’s bottle. A “jolly” Haddington deacon (Brockie), a little elevated, thought Kirstie never looked so well as that night, and on remarking that he was still a bachelor, and on the look-out for a decent, worthy woman for a wife, thought that Miss Robertson might do worse than take him. Kirstie, on the spur of the moment, declared that she had known the “jolly deacon” for a long time as a decent man. Provost More proposed that as he was a justice of the peace, he would conclude the matter at once; but like other occurrences of that nature it fell through, and the “jolly deacon” and Kirstie died as they had lived, bachelor and spinster.

The inn at Crossgate Hall had evidently been a farm house in its day. It had a large old-fashioned fireplace in the kitchen, with a huge chimney. No doubt many a weary traveller, as well as Willie Arnot, the Stenton and Edinburgh weekly carrier, well known in his day, has enjoyed his “nappy yill” or potent dram, before he took the road up Blaikie Heugh, a very steep and exposed brae, and particularly cold in a stormy winter night.

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