I’M INSIDE Skateraw Limekiln, in case you wondered. I’m standing where once the heat could reach over 800°C as limestone was burned and turned into quicklime. The process is ancient, but during the late 18th century and into the 19th century, larger limekilns became a very common sight.

Limestone and coal were emptied in cartloads into the main chamber and the heat was incredibly intense. The lime produced was spread on fields to reduce the acidity of the soil, but also used in making mortar for construction.

I clambered through one of the small stoke holes to get into the main chamber where ‘the burn’ would have taken place.

I had visited Skateraw last weekend with friends for the first time. I had passed by hundreds of times over the years and had often remarked that “we must check it out sometime”. But until last weekend, I never did. I’m not sure why, maybe it was the looming presence of Torness Power Station which put me off, either consciously or subconsciously.

But last weekend, as we were deliberating where to go, I realised that Skateraw was one of the few coastal locations of East Lothian I hadn’t visited. So it was agreed that would be our destination for the day’s adventure with the kids.

The beach is small but stunning. Yes, the power station is difficult to ignore, but it’s part of the story of this place now and has a fascination all of its own. Soon we were exploring, although sadly we didn’t have lots of time.

There is a memorial on a promontory at the far end of the bay, a cross set in a pinnacle of stone, and I was drawn to it. The inscription says it was erected to the memory of six lads who had died in the Second World War. They had been members of the Canongate Boys Club and the memorial had been made by other members of the club, who had collected and placed the stones.

The club was the inspiration of the Very Rev Ronald Selby Wright, who had been the minister of the Canongate Kirk for 40 years, from 1937 to 1977. He also served as moderator in 1972. But part of his connection to East Lothian was his Canongate Boys Club, which was also one of his great legacies. The memorial also paid tribute to his memory and achievements.

When he became minister of the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh, the area was an overcrowded slum, with dire poverty and terrible conditions. The boys’ club took local lads into the countryside, enjoying fresh air, the beauty of nature, camping and learning new skills, both practical and social.

There is no space here to go into the history of the club and Selby Wright’s numerous other achievements; suffice to say, many others have done a great job in doing so, and a quick search online will give you both the history and intriguing old photos of this place when it was used by the club.

But as I stood by the memorial, I realised something.

“I remember him,” I said to my friend, “and my dad knew him quite well.”

You see, I attended Milton House Primary School in the Canongate during the late 1960s and early ’70s, before we moved to the ’Pans. It’s now called the Royal Mile Primary School, but the school looks just as I remember it, from the outside anyway. Selby Wright was a frequent visitor, as were the children of the school to the kirk.

My dad was also a minister, and ministers tend to ken each other. Although my father was a ‘pisky priest’, he was friends with other denominations.

I had a feeling that personal memory was being entwined with the history of this place in a way I hadn’t expected. I looked over to the limekiln, above which the camp used to be situated, with small cabins and a Nissen hut. I wanted to go there.

As I explored the area where the camp used to be, there seemed little evidence of it left. Yet I knew I was in a place where there must be powerful and much-cherished memories.

I felt with absolute certainty that the lads who had camped here must have been intrigued by the great tunnel-like opening of the limekiln right next to their camp, and it must have been a temptation too great to resist to clamber into it and use it in some way as a den or hideout.

Maybe they resisted the temptation, but I didn’t – hence the photo!

Go see for yourself, there’s much more to this place, but I’m out of space!