AN EXHIBITION on the history of brewing in Musselburgh will toast the start of the town museum’s opening season.

Entitled ‘Raise Your Glass!’, the display, organised in partnership with Brewing Heritage Scotland, will run at Musselburgh Museum, on High Street, from April 6 to June 3.

John Martin, of the Scottish Brewing Archive Association, is hoping locals will get involved and has appealed to those with family connections, information, photographs or artefacts relating to malting and brewing in the Honest Toun to get in touch.

He said: “We want to capture people’s memories as a legacy and want something to leave behind after the exhibition ends.”

Mr Martin added: “Musselburgh and Fisherrow have a proud tradition in malting and brewing that can be traced back to 1697, when there were 26 brewers and maltsters within the liberties of the burgh, although none of a commercial nature at that time.”

The town’s first public brewery – Shorthope Brewery – was built by Sir James Richardson on Shorthope Street in 1704.

In living memory, two successful breweries were prominent – Whitelaw’s Fisherrow Brewery and John Young’s Ladywell Brewery.Although both these breweries have long been demolished and replaced with housing, they did provide employment for many, and local pubs could pride themselves in providing good-quality local ale for their customers.

The book Honesty Brewing by Musselburgh resident Jim Lawrie has proved an invaluable source of information for exhibition organisers.

He started researching the book while he was still working full-time with Scottish Widows and it was published eight years ago after he retired.

Mr Lawrie, who is also a member of the Scottish Brewing Archive Association, said: “I have been into brewery history for at least 30 years and have written quite a few histories of breweries, quite a lot of East Lothian ones but Edinburgh and Glasgow ones as well.

“In the late 1970s I became friendly with a group of pals and they used to collect beer labels and beer mats. They were also all capable of writing brewing histories. I just got really caught up with it.”

The Fisherrow Brewery was founded by Thomas Vernor in 1740 and David Whitelaw took up the lease in 1820. Later, control of the brewery was passed to David’s son William and the company set up as William Whitelaw’s Fisherrow Brewery.

In 1855, Lawrence Lyall purchased Ladywell Brewery in Fisherrow, followed by John Young in 1886. The brewery was hit by fires in 1894 and 1914. It was bought over by Campbell Hope & King in 1939 before it closed.

John Young & Co set up a subsidiary company, Olympic Bars Ltd, to control their pub chain in 1949 and the company was taken over by Whitbread in 1968. Brewing ceased at Ladywell Brewery – the last brewery in Musselburgh – in 1971.

Mr Martin, who has 40 years’ experience in the brewery industry, said that the Musselburgh exhibition was the fourth display that Scottish Brewing Heritage has been involved in. Previous successful events were held in Edinburgh and Alloa.

“Our organisation is about promoting the history of brewing in Scotland, and Musselburgh and Fisherrow have a great brewing heritage,” he said.

“A lot of people might not know about it or have forgotten about it. We are trying to make this heritage come alive.”

Artefacts on display will be contributed by the Scottish Brewing Archive, Mr Martin, Mr Lawrie and Staggs Bar in Musselburgh.

The exhibition will include information boards, photographs, beer-making information, barrel-making tools, beer bottles and details of the Musselburgh breweries, which will be shown on a map. Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, founder of the Scottish Brewing Archive as it provides brewing qualifications, will also be highlighted.

Simon Fairnie, from Musselburgh Museum, said: “We want to make sure we are co-operating with the community. We wish to show people things that they may remember and show things that people may not remember or know about.

“Very few people know about the breweries in Musselburgh – the younger people will not know.”

The event will run at the museum, 65 High Street, from April 6 to June 3.

Mr Martin will also give a talk about the history of malting and brewing in Musselburgh and Fisherrow on Thursday, April 27, at 7.30pm in St Peter’s Church, High Street.

Anyone who can help out with information, photographs or artefacts for the exhibition should contact Mr Martin on 0131 441 7718 or email him at