People who were born in Prestonpans
Sir William Fergusson, first baronet (1808 - 1877), surgeon, was born at Prestonpans on 20 March 1808, one of the five children of James Fergusson and his wife Elizabeth Hodge. He was educated first at Prestonpans School then Edinburgh before going to medical school. He was a pupil of the anatomist Robert Knox (infamous for buying the corpses from Burke & Hare) and in 1829 was enrolled as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. He was elected surgeon to the Royal Infirmary and fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
In 1840, Fergusson accepted the professorship of surgery at King's College London and his operative skill acclaimed thoughout the country. He was known as a "conservative" surgeon that is, he believed that no portion of the body which could usefully be preserved was too small for him to make efforts to save. He was made sergeant-surgeon to the queen in 1867 and President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1870. The brilliant surgeon died at home in London having suffered from Bright's Disease.
John Horsburgh (1791-1869), engraver, was born at Prestonpans on 16 November 1791, the son of William Horsburgh and his wife Margaret Weddal. He studied drawing at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh and at the age of fourteen was apprenticed to the landscape engraver Robert Scott. He later established his own practice in Edinburgh. He is known for his works on steel and contributed 14 illustrations to Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels. The Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum hold collections of his engravings.
John Abercrombie (1726 - 1806), horticulturist and writer, was born in Prestonpans, the son of a market gardener. He trained under his father before securing his first job at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew when he was 25. He then worked for the next 20 years as what we would today describe as a "freelance gardener" for the nobility of London. He established a market garden in Hackney and also leased a public house near Mile End which he turned into the "Artichoke Tea Garden" selling up to finance the setting up of a nursery and market garden at Tottenham. He published a number of highly regarded books on gardening, some generalist such as the Gardener's Pocket Journal and Daily Assistant and some rather more specialist e.g. The General Culture of the Pineapple and Method of Pruning Early Grapes. He was invited to superintend the gardens of Catherine the Great in Russia but declined choosing instead to send a copy of "Every Man his Own Gardener".
James Howden (1832 - 1913), marine and general engineer, was born on 29 February 1832 in Prestonpans, the son of James Howden and his wife Catherine Adams. He received his schooling locally and in 1847 took up an engineering apprenticeship with James Gray & Co in Glasgow. His excellent technical drawing skills soon elevated him to the position of chief draughtsman. At the tender age of 22, already having sold a patent for rivet making, he set up his own business as a consulting engineer and designer. He supplemented his income by teaching mechanical drawing at Glasgow School of Art.
His first major contract came in 1859 from Hendersons for the Anchor Line's ship Ailsa Craig. The order was for compound engines and water tube boilers of Howden's own design. His inventive genius allowed him to gain a technological advantage on his competitors and establish Clydeside as a ship building centre of excellence.
The invention for which Howden is best remembered was the forced-draught
system for boilers. By 1900 his company was making high-speed engines of the
enclosed, forced-lubrication type. This was followed by the Howden Zoelly
impulse type of steam turbine which was being sold to local authorities thoughout
the country. At the time of his death in 1913 his company was making systems
which would revolutionise the shipping industry.
Little Known Facts
The oldest Lodge records in the world are those of Aitchison's Haven in Prestonpans which was in existence from 1598 until 1856. The first entry in the manuscript entitled "The Buik of the Actis and Ordinans of the Nobile Maisteris and fellows of Craft of the Ludg of Aitchison's heavine" is dated 9th January 1598.
Extracts can be viewed at the Grand Lodge's website