St Peter's Episcopal Church, Inverkeithing
Hope Street, Inverkeithing and Inverkeithing High School, Hillend Road                             

Haddington Pilgrimage Memories

The Pilgrimage

The Whitekirk and Haddington Pilgrimage has now died out but I thought, as a pilgrim of many years standing, it might be worthwhile to leave you a few memories of it.

The Pilgrimage used to take place annually on the second Saturday in May, with services in St. Mary’s Parish Church, Haddington, and also at Whitekirk and in Lennoxlove Chapel.


The Pilgrimage was initiated by the Earl of Lauderdale in 1971. His family owns a chapel, dedicated to the Three Kings, attached to St. Mary’s Parish Church in Haddington.

Our first pilgrimage

After the Pilgrimage had been running for a few years Pat and I decided to attend one year to see what it was all about. The ecumenical nature of the event, with Christians of various denominations worshipping together, attracted us. At that time there was a growing enthusiasm for ecumenism in Scotland.

In the programme, we found there were to be a number of services that day. We chose the Pilgrims’ Progress in the afternoon. The form of service consisted of the congregation moving around St. Mary’s, stopping at various points for prayer and hymn singing. There followed a communion service, which we attended. Pilgrims could leave prayer cards in the Three Kings chapel, to be offered to God during the offertory.

At one of the services we met the minister of what was then St. Peter’s Parish Church, Inverkeithing. Inverkeithing was the town where we lived at the time. He gave us a lift back afterwards and on the way we decided it would be a good idea to run a joint excursion the following year, St. Peter’s Parish and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

Pilgrimage together

St. Peter’s Parish Church duly hired a bus the following year and we went with them. Thus began, for us, many years of association with the pilgrimage to Haddington.

Each year’s programme provided a variety of events to choose from. Typically, we would go to the first service at Whitekirk and then some of us would walk to Haddington to arrive for the blessing of the sick and handicapped and the ecumenical communion service, while others, after the first service at Whitekirk would go on to Lennoxlove for a Holy Spirit service, an informal service of praise, and, after a picnic on the green by the River Tyne at Haddington, join up with the walkers at St. Mary’s for communion.

When it was wet we would make straight for St. Mary’s in Haddington, to attend the Catholic Mass, then the healing service and the communion service that followed in the afternoon. The Catholic Mass was often presided over by the Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, latterly the cardinal. The communion was conducted jointly by an Episcopalian or Church of England bishop and a Church of Scotland minister.

The high point

Over the years the number of people attending expanded until in around 2000 some 2000 were attending from all over the British Isles and sometimes from further afield. By this time the emphasis of the Pilgrimage had changed. The healing service in the afternoon had become the main service, with the laying on of hands and anointing of the sick, a very moving experience. In some years members of St. Peter-in-Chains Catholic Church would join us; in another year I remember going on a bus hired by Holy Trinity Church, Dunfermline and another time with St. Serf’s, Burntisland.

The decline

For all its success, the unity hoped for in the early days of the Pilgrimage was never really achieved. Acts of disunity were only too evident as churches moved closer to each other. The protesters outside the church grounds and communion served from separate tables at the Lord’s Supper seemed to me contrary to our Lord’s command to be one. Denominations other than the Church of Scotland, Scottish Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church, either didn’t come or dropped away.

Since that high point around the turn of the century, for whatever reason, the numbers attending began to fall. The bus from Inverkeithing no longer ran. People stopped making the Pilgrimage from elsewhere too. The service at Lennoxlove was discontinued. A shorter walk was introduced, from Whitekirk to Prestonkirk, but the Pilgrimage became a shadow of its former self. In 2007 the service at Whitekirk was dropped. The founder, the Earl of Lauderdale, died the following year. Attitudes to ecumenism had changed, the Pilgrimage had lost its freshness and the organizing committee decided it had had its day. After the last service in 2007, the Pilgrimage was scrapped.


Haddington Pilgrimage scrapped on East Lothian News website

Obituary: the 17th Earl of Lauderdale on the Scotsman website



Community Web Kit provided free by BT
Cookies and Privacy | Charity Number: SC017966