In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie, as Charles Edward Stuart was affectionately referred to, led the Jacobite Rising in an attempt to regain the British throne for the exiled House of Stuart. The first major conflict of the campaign took place at Prestonpans on 21 September and led to the government army loyal to the Hanoverian George II suffering a defeat at the hands of a Scottish onslaught. According to the “compleat history of the rebellion” written by James Ray in 1749, the battle “elevated the Jacobites to such a Degree that they esteemed it Madness and Infatuation in every Body who did not immediately join their Standard”. The battle is commemorated by a stone cairn to the east of the town indicating the year of the battle.
On Halloween 2004 a ceremony was held in Prestonpans in which 81 people executed during the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries were publicly pardoned. The 81 were just some of the 3,500-odd people in Scotland, mainly women and children, who were killed in the witch hunts. Even their cats were included in the mass executions, in fact some of the people hunted down and executed were accused on the sole basis of owning a black cat!
Prestonpans gets its name from the salt panning which used to be an important local industry, although the salt industry has now ended. One interesting feature of the modern-day Prestonpans is the town’s series of murals. There is a Murals Trail which can be followed in person, or if this is not possible the murals can be viewed on a website showing a map of the trail and an image of each of the murals. The town held a Global Murals Conference in 2006.
Map of the area.