Remember Prestonpans

In the good old days, England used to play regular soccer fixtures against Scotland, usually during May as part of the Home International Series involving England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I vividly remember Scottish supporters displaying banners with the motif “Remember Prestonpans”.

Prestonpans is situated to the east of Edinburgh and was the scene of a landmark battle in Scottish history. In 1745, the Jacobite forces under Charles Edward Stuart (or Bonnie Prince Charlie as he is usually known) defeated the English at Prestonpans as part of his campaign to regain the English throne for his father. Encouraged by this, the Jacobites ventured as a far south as Derby causing panic in London which was virtually unprotected at the time. The Prince was persuaded by his advisers to retreat due to a their failure to gain the expected levels of support and the opportunity was lost. Eventually the Jacobite forces were massacred by the English under the Duke of Cumberland at Culloden Moor near Inverness in 1746. The Prince went on the run and escaped to France where he spent the rest of his life in exile.

During a recent trip to Edinburgh, I decided to pay a brief visit to Prestonpans to satisfy my curiosity. I found a quiet, pleasant bay with excellent sea views and a yacht club but few facilities. The nearby Cockenzie Power Station dominated the skyline although the numerous new housing developments inland indicated that other people shared my opinion about unrealised potential.

I was particularly disappointed to find no mention of the Battle of Prestonpans. There were no sign posts, no visitor centre and no pubs with historically accurate names.

There was a Museum of Industrial Heritage which looked interesting as were various unusual murals and I later found out that Prestonpans is a mural village with a mural trail. Musselburgh Racecourse was nearby as were the varied attractions of Scotland’s capital but there was nothing concerning the Jacobite rebellion. What a shame!

Eventually, I managed to track down a small information board about Prestonpans with some historical information about Bonnie Prince Charlie, the battle and other relevant facts about the area. I saw a signpost for a cairn commemorating the battle but after a brief search I couldn’t find anything obvious.

Modern day Scots are toying with the idea of independence but are they actually aware of the exploits of perhaps the greatest Scottish Nationalist of them all?

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