THE destruction of disused Tenterfield Cottage in a ferocious fire last Wednesday has brought to light some little-known links between Haddington and a small settlement in rural Australia.

The name of the town of Tenterfield, in New South Wales, originates from Haddington's Tenterfield House - the 19th-century former children's care home on Dunbar Road.

The inland Australian community, which has a population of just 3,500 and is about 275 kilometres south-east of Brisbane, took its name from Tenterfield Station - a 100,000-acre Australian property which was owned by London-born Sir Stuart Donaldson in 1841.

He is said to have named the property after his aunt's home at Tenterfield House in Haddington.

The incident at Tenterfield Cottage, which saw fire rip through the East Lothian Council-owned building on Victoria Park for several hours early last Wednesday morning, has brought about renewed interest in the links between Haddington and Tenterfield.

Marie Low, editor of the Australian town's newspaper, the 'Tenterfield Star', got in touch with the Courier following the incident - while there is talk of a campaign from the town's mayor, Toby Smith, and a Tenterfield historian to link the towns through a sister city arrangement.

Any link would have to be set up through the local authorities in each country.

Councillor Sheena Richardson, East Lothian provost, said that she would need to know more about the towns' historical links before commenting on the proposal.

The town of Tenterfield was the home of J.F. Thomas, who defended Harry 'Breaker' Morant - an Anglo-Australian soldier and poet who was executed following the Second Boer War.

Thomas also owned the 'Tenterfield Star' and pushed for the federation of Australia. He named his own home after Haddington, while Tenterfield also has a Haddington Nursing Home.

Meanwhile, initial fears that a homeless person might having been sleeping inside derelict Tenterfield Cottage at the time of last week's fire were unfounded.

Firefighters spent more than 12 hours at the scene as they searched the property following reports that a homeless person had been using the building for shelter a few weeks previously, but found no one inside.

Tenterfield Cottage had been earmarked for demolition by the council before the fire, with plans for a housing development of 20 adaptable flats suitable for elderly and disabled residents.

No planning application has yet been submitted but a traffic survey examining access to the site was recently commissioned.

However, last week's incident has brought about renewed concerns from local residents, with fears over congestion and road safety were the housing development to be accessed on its western side at Victoria Park, as opposed to Dunbar Road on its eastern edge.