A PLAN to turn a derelict school site near Wallyford into a heritage and visitor centre for the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh is taking a major step forward.

A public meeting is to be held to set up a ‘Friends’ organisation and board of trustees to progress the plan for the former Crookston School which was first mooted three years ago.

The event, which is open to all who are interested in finding out more or getting involved, takes place in The Brunton, Musselburgh, next Tuesday (September 3) at 7.30pm.

Members of Inveresk Village Society have been in talks with the owner of the site on Salters Road which overlooks the battlefield.

The project is also being backed by the Old Musselburgh Club and Pinkie Cleugh Battlefield Group, which commemorate the battle, known as ‘Bloody Saturday’, each year on its anniversary, September 10. Musselburgh Museum and Heritage Group has also thrown its weight behind the initiative.

Ian Irving, an Inveresk resident and village society member, said: “Much work and consultations have been carried out by a small steering group and a lot of information now exists which would assist with the future way forward.

“However, the project will require a lawfully binding agreement with the present owner and assistance from the Scottish Government, East Lothian Council and other interested parties culminating in the eventual purchase of the completed centre from a lease after a period of years.

“To be successful, a ‘Friends’ organisation and board of trustees would have to be set up to attain the objective.

“The opportunity exists to turn the old school site into another place of learning by the creation of a very modern heritage and visitor centre which would benefit many schools within East Lothian and from other areas far and wide.

“The battle took place on Saturday, September 10, 1547, and was the last great battle in the last war between the kingdoms of England and Scotland.

“Furthermore, Pinkie was the largest battle ever fought on Scottish soil and today many features referred to in reports can be seen because the battlefield has remained undeveloped and so is very rewarding to visit.

“It is also important to note at this point in military history, hand-held firearms were just coming into widespread use and Pinkie was one of very few battles in which bows and arrows and firearms were both used.

“Many periods of medieval history before and after the battle could be introduced to knit the history together. For example, the reign of Edward I and the Auld Alliance, Mary Queen of Scots’ life, the English cavalry and their dangerous charge, the Border Reivers from the six counties on either side of the Border Marches, the archers and foot soldiers of both sides, and finally the English naval ships in the Firth of Forth all contributed to this spectacle.

“Several years ago, Historic Scotland released a new inventory of historic battlefield sites in Scotland to give them greater protection in future planning decisions. The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh was included in that list.

“Compared to Bannockburn, the lesser-known but brutal and bloody Battle of Pinkie lacks a visitor museum and was once termed ‘culturally invisible’ but efforts of local voluntary groups have resulted in the erection of a monument overlooking the battlefield and a battlefield trail.

“Not only do battlefields form an important part of our sense of identity, they also have enormous potential for attracting tourists and need saving for future generations.

“Projects like this will promote East Lothian because it covers leisure and history.

“It could become a significant component of East Lothian’s economy and drive additional employment opportunities and help further stimulate the development of the area’s tourism sector.”

Speakers at the meeting are: Roger Knox, chairman of the Pinkie Cleugh Battlefield Group; Alister Hadden, a member of the battlefield group and Old Musselburgh Club, who will give an account of Crookston School, where he was a pupil; Andrew Coulson, of the battlefield group, who will look at historical aspects such as the Rough Wooing, Mary Queen of Scots and Battle of Carberry; and architect Paul Valente, representing the John Russell Partnership, who will outline the type of heritage visitor facility that could be developed on the site.