A cultural legacy
The legacy of the Battle of Prestonpans extends far beyond its immediate military and political consequences. Whilst a local poet penned the popular song ‘Hey Johnnie Cope!’, the playhouses of London rang with the new anthem, ‘God Save Great George our King’. A biography of Colonel James Gardiner, a Prestonpans resident slain in the battle, ran through repeated editions as demand soared. The battlefield’s hawthorn tree became a popular choice for engravings and early photographs, as was the stone obelisk which was raised in 1853. Sir William Allan painted the field of battle, and William Skeoch Cumming presented his ‘Prayer for Victory’ tapestry in 1933.
Walter Scott made the Battle of Prestonpans the centrepiece of his novel Waverley, and Stevenson’s characters look back on its importance in Kidnapped. The battle later reached the big screen with David Niven’s Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1948, and more recently Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels and TV series have brought the Battle of Prestonpans to audiences all around the world.
Throughout its existence the Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust has worked to continue this long cultural legacy, commissioning new works and supporting the arts in our local community. The results range from Andrew Hillhouse’s magnificent series of paintings depicting events from the course of the battle, to dramatic plays by the renowned Andrew Dallmeyer, and a broad range of new fiction and non-fiction publications.
Chief amongst all however is the spectacular Prestonpans Tapestry; 105m of embroidery stitched by over 200 volunteers from along the line of the Prince’s march. This remarkable community arts project has brought the story of the battle to hundreds of thousands of visitors over ten years of touring.
Such a rich and diverse cultural legacy provides the scope for a distinct and engaging programme of events, activities and exhibitions. It ensures that this inspiring historical narrative can be presented in music, literature and art, with the creation of new work being just as relevant as the presentation of the past. It is a legacy the Trust seeks to both continue and enhance in its future plans.