LORD Cameron of Lochbroom has retired as patron of Musselburgh Conservation Society after 16 years.

He announced his decision at the group’s AGM late last year but plans to present him with a gift to mark the occasion were shelved when the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

A small gathering was held at his Musselburgh home recently as lockdown restrictions eased.

Lord Cameron – a retired judge who served as Lord Advocate from 1984 to 1989 – felt that the time had come to stand down to make way for someone younger.

His decision was “greatly regretted” by both the committee and members, who valued and appreciated his “kind words of advice and encouragement” during his time as patron.

George Kinnaird, a founder member of the society, made a speech of thanks and gratitude to Lord Cameron. He presented him with a retiral gift – a framed copy of a drawing by John Slezer from 1693, showing the ‘Coast of Lothian and Musselburgh from Stony Hill’ and his home, historic Stoneyhill House.

The conservation society, which was founded more than 30 years ago, exists to preserve Musselburgh’s built heritage and encourage good-quality new designs.

The group runs annual design awards which are presented for developments deemed by members to be of a high standard either of new-build or conservation work. The society also monitors local planning applications and, where appropriate, supports or makes objections to new developments.

Members have initiated a number of local conservation projects, such as repairing stone walls, tree planting and creating the Queen Mary’s Mount woodland walk. They are actively involved in promoting the awareness and recognition of the site of the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh.

Lord Cameron said: “It was a privilege to succeed Sir Hew Dalrymple as patron at a time when the conservation society was bedding itself down. Its committee then and since has seen its role not only to conserve what is valuable in its existing buildings but to encourage, where change takes place, a sense of design appropriate to the history of Musselburgh and Fisherrow.

“The society’s establishment of the annual awards for good design chosen by its members from newbuild or recent alterations to existing buildings, and the presentation of plaques to the winner has been an important step in bring home the message. The programme of lectures has served to uncover what is often unseen or misunderstood in its history, its present layout, its buildings and surroundings.

“The society’s recognition of the importance of tree planting and encouragement of sound environmental policies in the burgh are notable.

“In standing down, I pay tribute to all those individuals who have taken time to serve as committee members and more generally to the membership for their enthusiastic support for a very worthy cause, the maintenance and improvement of the royal burgh.”

Alan Stevens, a long-serving society member, said: “Lord Cameron, with his wife Jean, has been a regular attender at the society’s monthly lecture series for many years.

“As well as offering advice and encouragement to the committee, his addresses at the society’s AGMs have always been inspirational and topical. He would focus on a particular issue that was of current interest and which the society could pursue. These included such things as the value of trees in our local townscapes or the need for conservation and refurbishment of the Old Town Hall. He also focused on the new housing which is being constructed around Musselburgh and suggested that much could be learned from new forms of housing incorporating pedestrian, cycle and play spaces, and low energy technology. This approach had been adopted in an award-winning housing project in Norwich and was, he suggested, one that could be followed by other local authorities.”

Mr Stevens said the committee had been carrying on business during the Covid-19 lockdown using email and Zoom meetings, which would be “the norm” for some time.

He added: “In regard to the present Covid-19 situation, the society is very much up and running, and intends to mount a full programme of talks for members this coming season. However, it will be very different from the usual pattern as the lectures will all be held on Zoom and members kept informed by email. The society is also developing a number of heritage trails using a mobile phone app which can be downloaded and followed around the town.”

These will be available during East Lothian Local History and Archaeology Fortnight, which this year is taking the form of an online festival.