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Yester

The following lengthy quotation about the ancient parish of Yester comes from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, edited by Francis Groome, published in London, 1903.

Yester, a parish in the S of Haddingtonshire, containing GIFFORD village, within ½ mile of the northern boundary, and 4¼ miles SSE of Haddington, under which there is a post office of Gifford, with money order, savings bank, and telegraph departments. It is bounded by Haddington, NE, E, and SE by Garvald, S by Lauder and Channelkirk in Berwickshire, SW by Humbie, and W and NW by Bolton. Its utmost length, from N to S, is 5 miles; its utmost breadth, from E to W, is 4¼ miles; and its area is 8847¾ acres. The proposed Gifford and Garvald railway, deviating at Ormiston from the Macmerry branch of the North British system, will traverse the northern portion of the parish. GIFFORD WATER, entering from Garvald, winds 3¼ miles west-north-westward across the north- eastern interior and along the Haddington boundary, and receives here the tribute of Gamuelston, Newhall, and other rivulets which rise in the S of the parish. Sinking at the northern border to 345 feet above sealevel, the surface thence rises southward to 700 feet near Long-Yester, 921 near Long-Newton, and 1733 at LAMMER LAW, the loftiest of the LAMMERMUIR HILLS. The rocks of the northern district, belonging to the Carboniferous formation, include limestone and hard red sandstone, but no coal; those of the southern district are Silurian. The soil, in most parts clayey, in some parts a light loam, on the uplands is moorish, and nearly everywhere is more or less incumbent on clay. Agricultural improvements in the way of reclamation, draining, fencing, etc., have been remarkably successful. About three-fifths of the entire area are in tillage, some 940 acres are under wood, and the rest of the land is either pastoral or waste. The manor of Yester or Yestred (Cymric ystrad, 'strath or dale') was granted by William the Lyon (1166-1214) to Hugh Gifford, whose father, an Englishman, had settled in Lothian under David I. From that early age till the present day Yester has remained with his descendants. Sir David Dalrymple relates in his Annals, that his grandson, Hugh Gifford de Yester, died in 1267, and that in Yester castle, which stood on the eastern verge of the parish, near the left bank of Gifford Water, 'there was a spacious cavern formed by magical art and called in the country Bo'hall, i.e., Hobgoblin Hall.' This cave, which is alluded to in Canto Third of Marmion, is very spacious, and has an arched roof. It is reached by a descent of 24 steps; and though it has stood for so many centuries, and has been exposed to the external air for between 100 and 200 years, it is still in a state of good preservation. From the floor, another stair of 36 steps leads down to a pit, which communicates with one of the neighbouring rivulets. A great part of the walls superincumbent on the cavernous apartment are still standing. Tradition reports that the Castle of Yester was the last fortification in this country which surrendered to the English general sent into Scotland by the Protector Somerset. Another Hugh Gifford, who died before 11 March 1409, had not a son to inherit his large estates; and Johanna, the eldest of his daughters, marrying Sir William Hay of Locherwart transferred the manor, with the patronage of the church, to him and their conjoint posterity. Thus arose the family of Yester and Locherwart, who obtained the titles of Lord Yester in 1488, Earl of Tweeddale in 1646, Marquis of Tweeddale and Earl of Gifford in 1694, and Baron Tweeddale (in the peerage of the United Kingdom) in 1881. William Montagu Hay, present and -tenth Marquis (b. 1826; suc. 1878), holds extensive acres in Haddingtonshire, Berwickshire, and Roxburghshire. His seat Yester House, stands among finely wooded grounds near the left bank of Gifford Water 1 mile SE of Gifford village, and is a large classical edifice, built from designs by W. Adam towards the close of the 18th century, but greatly altered and improved since then (J. Small's Castles and Mansions of thc Lothians, 1883). Another mansion, noticed separately, is NEWTON HALL. Robert Fleming (1630-94), a much esteemed divine, and Charles Nisbet, D. D. (1736-1804), president of Dickenson College, Pennsylvania, were natives, as also were James Craig and John Witherspoon, D.D. The two last are both noticed under GIFFORD, where, too, is discussed the question of John Knox's birthplace. In the southern or Lammermuir portion of the parish are the sites or remains of five hill-forts, one of them at a spot called the Witches Knowe. Yester is in the presbytery of Haddington and the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale; the living is worth £287. The church was originally called St Bothan's or Bathan's, after Baithene, Columba's cousin and successor at Iona. Afterwards known as Yester, in 1451 it was restored to its former name, and at the same time converted by Sir William Hay into a collegiate establishment for a provost, 6 prebendaries, and 2 singing boys. The reformation upset the collegiate establishment, and placed the church in a simply parochial position under the revived name of Yester. A chapel, dedicated to St Nicholas, and subordinate to the parish church, anciently stood at Duncanlaw. The present parish church and the new free church are both described under Gifford. There are two public schools, one at Long-Yester, and the other, of recent erection, at Gifford. Valuation (1885) £8844 5s., (1893) £7283 6s.

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