046 Johnnie Moat Stone, Prestonpans.
The Johnny Moat stone, a large glacial erratic, can be found
about 30m from the sea wall just off Prestonpans and is fully
exposed during low tide. The boulder measures some 2.70m long x
1.80m wide x 1.80m high and is of a dark blue whinstone with a
different texture to the local surrounding rock which is
sandstone. It sits on a rock shelf known as the Girdle Rocks.
Prestonpans is to the east of Edinburgh, on the B1348 To reach the
stone follow any of the short streets leading from the main street
towards the sea. The stone is quite obvious.
Parking is readily available along the main street in Prestonpans.
The origin of the boulder's name well known locally. It
is named after a huge figure of a man, big Johnnie Moat, who
was Harbour master and Ship's Pilot at Morison's Haven in
the 17th century. Local folklore tells us that young lads
walking along the foreshore were so impressed by the size of
the boulder that it reminded them of the legendary man
himself - hence the name that has stuck for over 300 years.
While the boulder was almost certainly left behind by the
glaciers during the last Ice Age, many other charming and
outlandish explanations are also in circulation - one suggests
the stone to be a meteorite from outer space or blast debris
from the erupting volcano that was once Arthur's Seat in
Edinburgh! Local legend recalls that "as long as the
Johnnie Moat stands on its rock shelf the town (Prestonpans)
will flourish". And whilst it has stood there some 13,000
years since the end of the last Ice Age, a severe storm in
December 1952 toppled the stone from its resting place.
On March 10th 1992, the East Lothian News reported that the
Johnnie Moat was returned to its shelf after toppling to the
beach in December 1952, forty years before. Sadly, those 40
years were amongst the most miserable in the history of the town
with the closure of the colliery, brickworks, potteries and
brewery with the loss of thousands of jobs. Perhaps the legend
was true after all? Luckily, in 1992 the resources were found to
lift the toppled Johnnie Moat back on Girdle Rocks shelf; the
contractors who were busy laying a new sewerage system along the
While Johnny Moat does not have any apparent connection with
prehistory, it is a fine example of a local legend associated
with a large boulder. Who is to say that this association may
not actually have its roots in even earlier times? Note: this
site is best visited at low tide, when you are usually able to
gain access to the stone. Tide predictions can be found on the
Internet and in the press. Always take care when visiting stones
in tidal areas.