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Finding Nimmo - are you a salter?

Waggonway Project Researcher Annie Rayner has been on the search for the traditional salter names of Prestonpans, Cockenzie & Port Seton.


When Ed suggested to Waggonway Group members that we should adopt a 17th or 18th century persona and dress appropriately for Waggonway events, I was initially at a loss. History is his story, of course, and her story hardly gets a look in. I kept a low profile while they dressed as Waggonway woodwrights and waggoners, salters and excise men.


During the pandemic, Scotland’s People, fount of an amazing range of Scottish records, released scans of Old Parish Records of Kirk Session meetings and accounts. I started with Tranent because that’s where I was. Amongst the records of fights, fornication and public shaming, I found a note from November 6th 1715 – “To Barbara Nimmo for teaching ane poor scholar a quarter - £1 pound Scots.” As a retired teacher, I thought I could manage that, though 20p for three months wouldn’t go far…


I thought I had seen the name before, and sure enough, I found her in Peter McNeill’s “Tranent and its Surroundings” [1884] where he reproduces a “Ane account of the wholl Salters at Cockeny, Servants, Wifs, and Children” recorded by James Nicholson, Esq., S.S.C., Edinburgh, on December 31st, 1695. Barbara Nimmo was the wife of James Flouker, Master Salter of one of the ten salt pans of Cockenzie working at that time, and mother of the five children residing there – young James, Alexander, John, Christopher and Barbara Flouker.


So far, I have not found records of her birth, marriage or indeed death, so I reckon she can live on with me for a few more years. I have found baptismal records of some of her children in the Prestonpans Kirk Records and the Tranent Kirk Records – the first being the baptism of James on August 9th, 1669 – “James Flooker, Barbara Nimmo, a son baptised names James. Witnesses Alex. Bell, Alex. Ffluicker and David Nimmo present… in regard of this bairn was 2 months before the time.”


Whether this is a reference to a premature birth, or an admonition for a child conceived before marriage, I do not know. Two years later, they had another son baptised George, who does not appear in the household on 31.12.1695 – he may not have survived, or he may have left home to seek his fortune other than as a salter.


Salters were effectively serfs at the time, tied to their profession and position within the Winton Estate. But her son John ran away to sea on the “George” of Port Seton at the age of 13. Indeed it was the last voyage of the “George” – it as wrecked near Scarborough in 1690, having delivered its load of coal to London. In 1695, he is at home with the family.


The Flooker family is also mentioned a number of times in the Prestonpans Kirk Session minutes for having their salt pans going on a Sunday. Salt making is a 24 hour a day business, but the Kirk session could not accept that. From 1674 to 1677, there are five occasions when the salters are rebuked and fined, and on each occasion there is a Flooker amongst them. However, there are no salters names on the list of elders of the Kirk!


Are any of your family names here?


You may be descended from salters of Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Port Seton!


Balvaird

Bell

Brett

Brown

Buchanan

Carr

Chambers

Cowie

Daire

Dickson

Donaldson

Drummond

Ffin, Finn, Phin

Fiddis

Flasting

Fleuchar, Flooker, Flouker, Fflooker, Flockart, Flockheart, Fluckart, Fluiker, Flokker, Flucker, Flockar and any other variation you like!

Gowans

Graham

Greig

Grindison, Grundison

Hunter

Johnson, Johnstone

Lamb

Lang

Lea, Lee

Liddell

Mathieson

Meldrum

Melville

Moore

Paterson

Phin

Red

Scotland

Scott

Smith

Smout

Steill, Stiell

Waddell

Watson

Wilson

Woodall


These names are all mentioned as local salters’ families in historical records at Scotland’s People and the National Records of Scotland. Get in touch if you'd like to find out more!




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