I REMEMBER some years ago I was filming beside Johnny Moat, telling the story of the legend attached to it. Johnny Moat is the name given to the large boulder which sits on the shoreline of Prestonpans.

The legend tells us that so long as the stone sits on the rocks, the town will flourish.

It fell in 1952 but was put back in 1992 after a hard time for the town.

It sadly fell again a few years ago, but at the time of the film Johnny Moat was sitting proudly on his “throne” on the Girdle Rocks.

Film maker Marjory Boyle Crooks had been keen to capture the tale on camera. It was a lovely calm and sunny day, perfect for filming,

I was halfway through the story when a group of local teenage lads approached. It seemed they were drinking and I anticipated them disrupting the filming.

But I continued telling the story as it had been a perfect take up until that moment.

The lads paused for a moment then all sat on the concrete walkway watching me and the film makers. They said nothing and seemed to be listening.

I was able to complete my story uninterrupted.

And as I walked away in the final shot I made eye contact with the lads and they respectfully waited until the filming had stopped before shouting, “Johnny Moat forever!” Then they got up and walked away.

It was an unexpected and powerful moment for me.

My assumptions about the lads had been utterly challenged as well.

This was more than six years ago but I was reminded of it when I visited Johnny Moat this week with my wee boy Lewis.

We were having our weekly storytelling walk in the Pans, a three-hour period between his nursery pick up and when I have to pick up his sister Skye from the Infant School.

We just walk together visiting different places, and I tell him stories and he does the same.

Most of his stories this day involved a T Rex or Raptor, which in his imagination wander about Prestonpans.

So our respective tales were a bit different in content and style, but what is vital at this age is that he hears stories and is allowed to tell them freely.

I told him the story of Johnny Moat and he said it looks like a whale.

As we wandered from Johnny Moat up to Preston Tower, we stopped at what we call the ‘Story Stones’.

Here a small circle of stones sit underneath a cherry tree, with the tower looming behind. It is a perfect place to tell stories.

Lewis gave me a new version of his T Rex tale here. I couldn’t understand all his story, but I got most of it.

Then he said it was my turn so I told him a child-friendly version of the tale of the Green Lady. It made him want to go and look in the windows of the tower, which we did.

The final story began at the old doo’cot in the gardens by the tower. I explained it was a house for pigeons, but Lewis was having none of that.

“No daddy,” he said with a serious face, “a lion lives there”.

“Really? Can you tell me the story of the lion?” I asked. And so he obliged.

It was a great story, and we tracked the lion to the ancient Mercat Cross, where the unicorn sits on top of the pole “looking for the lion”.

Then he spotted the lion on the 26 bus coming from Tranent.

“Will it eat the people?” I asked.

“No,” he said as if I’d asked an inappropriate question, “it’s a nice lion”.

And so with the lion having left town, we headed for the Infant School to pick up his sister, but still keeping a look out for the T Rex.

On the surface this may all seem a bit unusual, wandering about telling random stories that often didn’t make huge sense.

But I value this time with my son, and as a storyteller I know the importance of it.

Storytelling in this way when our kids are young helps develop what is called oral narrative ability, which gives a child the skills to explain and describe things, and develop their understanding of words and language.

It fires their imagination and research shows that this can help with the enjoyment of reading and writing later on, and of telling and hearing stories.

That night my son unexpectedly returned to the story of Johnny Moat.

I had earlier told him it had fallen down and is lying face down in the sand and it’s too heavy to put back, but hopefully one day there will be a way.

Like all kids his age, he took a while to process his thoughts on this. And these thoughts came out at bedtime.

“The T Rex can put the big stone back,” he said. I admired his total faith in the abilities of the T Rex.

“Yes, maybe,” I said. He fell asleep holding his T Rex which, for him, symbolises so much more than just an extinct dinosaur.

As I headed downstairs, I thought about the connection between this day and the day over six years ago when I unexpectedly told the story of Johnny Moat to some teenage lads.

Stories weave through us and bind us in a shared identity. But it made me sad that Johnny Moat still lies forgotten with his face in the sand.

So I’m going to start looking for the T Rex of the Pans, whoever that may be, who can help. He or she must be out there somewhere. Or perhaps there is a crowd of them.

The hope is that once my son is a teenage lad himself, he will be able to sit on the Girdle Rocks with Johnny Moat and tell the legend.