Johnnie Moat and Prestonpans
Johnnie Moat stone
Not surprisingly the people of the Pans had thriving industries and natural resources which made them renown throughout Britain. The pleasant town is not far from the capital Edinburgh and lies on the sweep of the Firth tide. It reminded me of tales of Sunday salt, Fowlers beer in a sawdust floor Pub and strolls along the lapping brine looking to the horizon for a passing cargo boat.
Johnnie Moat stone is like a sleeping rhino on the edge of rectangular sandstone rocks. It is dismissive of the oncoming tides of sea and time as if to protect the community from harm. I for one believe something’s are greater than flesh and mysteries abound we cannot fathom.
We admired murals close by on the side of buildings, telling of an occupational past of fishing, mining, steam engines, soap and Scottish Cooking Salt.
The Acheson kith and kin were charged by James V in 1526 to build a useful harbour to enhance the local affluence. Naturally it was known as Acheson Harbour and remained so until the Morisons pressed their luck to name it Morisons Haven. Johnnie Moat was a man of some stature employed by the Morisons as a Master of the Harbour. His size did not go unnoticed by the populace. A wag named the familiar large suspended rock after him and spread his observation around the hamlet.
From a settlement to a place called Priestown after the Cistercian monks, to progress to Salt Preston. Saltwater was placed in pans to encourage evaporation and leave a salt deposit, the pans left to weather on a Sunday produced a fine Sunday Salt. The Prestonpans appellation grew out of this process and so far remains.
The legend of the rock grew with the success of the town. It was well known that as long as Johnnie Moat remained on its ledge so would prosperity. No doubt it would give substance to the tale when new industries appeared along with the Saltworks. Rope for the Sailing ships, Mines for indispensable coal and Bricks to build houses and more manufacturing works.
Side by side, one steadfast and permanent the other quick to change and develop. But still part of the heart of the same society and town.
1952 winter brought severe winds and vicious tides that over came the Johnnie Moat and it tumbled on to the shoreline. Flotsam, rubbish and rumble covered the rock and its significance to Prestonpans.
Market forces were at work and gradually took away the livelihood and commerce of Prestonpans. One by one the workshops closed to become casualties of caprice, modernisation and takeovers, just as so many other places nearby.
Someone in 1992 believed sufficiently in the correlation between the Johnnie Moat and the Pans to have it replaced to its slumbering rock divan.
Once again in sunlight or cloud Johnnie Moat is at hand and can be relied on to improve the lot of the town folk.