I grew up in a small mining town in East Lothian, Scotland, called Prestonpans. According to local legend, Prestonpans was originally founded in the 11th century. The story goes that a Viking traveller, by the name of Althamer, became shipwrecked on the rocks of the local beach. The ship must have been extremely badly damaged because the venturers could not repair it and therefore were unable to return home. The survivors decided to remain where they had landed and founded a small settlement named Althamer, after their leader.
Stories from this period are very difficult to verify but the legend persists to this day. There may be some substance to the tale, because when monks from Newbattle and Holyrood arrived in the district in 1184, they found an existing settlement named ‘Aldhammer’ on the site of what is now Prestonpans.
The monks gave the settlement their own name, Prieststown or Prieston. Because of the salt manufacturing carried out by the monks using pans on the sea shore, the town’s name would later develop into Salt Prieststown and Salt Preston, and finally Prestonpans.
The image shows Althamer’s ship passing Bass Rock, near Dunbar, as the sun sets over the River Forth, on the evening before their hard landing on Scotland’s shores.