IT’S great news that East Lothian Council is to re-allocate funding to allow work on the 15th-century Preston Tower in my home town of Prestonpans. It’s a fascinating building with an interesting history, of which I have written about previously on this page.

Years ago, I was happy to have been granted supervised access into the tower, and the interior was full of eye-catching features but in a rather neglected condition then.

As far as I can gather, the plan is now to make it safe for public access of some sort, which will be great for the local community. It has stood proudly for more than 500 years and been witness to so many events, and bears the scars and additions of its own history.

I have misty memories of seeing the tower as I left primary school in my childhood days, but now this medieval building sits between the two campuses of the recently merged and renamed school. And the school was named after it: Preston Tower Primary.

I know there were different views on the name at the time, but I liked it when it was chosen.

If you walk between the two school buildings, the most direct route takes you through the beautiful gardens in which the tower is set. So this ancient old building literally forms a link between the two parts of the school.

The Pans (the local name for Prestonpans) has a thousand-year history, and while much of the architectural evidence of this has been long ago demolished, enough remains to give portals into the past. Preston Tower, with its 500 years of stories and history, is a gem which should rightly be treasured and available to the community and, of course, other visitors.

But let us also make this welcome development about building community identity as well as restoring a building. It’s that possibility which really excites me. The Pans in many ways has missed out, not only in funding opportunities but also in the perception of its character and what it can offer. It is a place worth visiting as well as living in.

It’s so much bigger than it was when I lived in it as a child, with new housing developments on the edges of the town. But as you approach from various directions, the top of Preston Tower peeks out at you, reminding you that this is an ancient town with a history to rival anywhere.

We could now have new, engaging ways to celebrate that history, right in the heart of the community. The best resource for this is local people themselves, with their stories and memories of the tower and the town’s history. Let it be about more than the story of the building itself, but also about what it has been witness to.

To be truly engaging, history must entice and involve those who don’t have an immediate interest in it. And interest is often best created when it is about what we have on our doorstep and is part of our daily lives.

For our kids at primary school in the Pans, Preston Tower fits that bill.

I’m biased, of course, because I have always loved history. It seems to make life so much more interesting, and I always felt a huge privilege when working with others on community history projects, sharing our views and knowledge, and yes, often having heated but respectful discussions on different interpretations.

On Monday, it was the 275th anniversary of the Battle of Prestonpans and I met a fellow history lover, local historian and historical re-enactor Adam Watters. He’s a weel kent face from the Pans, both locally and internationally. He has turned his passion for history into money-raising for charity.

We spoke of the battle, which the tower witnessed, and the story of those who had climbed to its parapets to watch the drama, only to leave quickly when events turned out unexpectedly. The battle, while full of drama, was of course a brief flash in the pan in the town’s long history.

I wanted to know how Adam got interested in history and we shared our childhood memories of becoming fascinated by stories from the past. He has a keen interest in the 18th century in particular, which I understand, but also Scottish history in general fascinates him.

The history of ‘his village’ the Pans was a stepping stone for his passion to learn and understand more about the past. It makes history more real and relevant when you step on it or see it on the way to the school in the morning. It helps the stories speak to you directly. Adam is so inspiring in the work he does, and he’s a fascinating source of information.

Let’s hope this Preston Tower development can become a stepping stone for many other youngsters, and that the varied and fascinating history of this incredible community can enthuse new generations with history and the pride of place it can bring.

With the new heritage park at Prestongrange also being planned, I think it’s high time we looked at funding to restore the legendary Johnny Moat Stone to its rightful resting place, so that future prosperity is assured.

Legend and history are a wonderful mix, and it’s all here in the Pans.