The Haddington Friendship Group first met in March 2017 at the Maitlandfield House Hotel. The Group was set up because people who came along to the NHS Memory Course wanted to stay in touch. People with dementia, carers and friends were warmly welcomed to pop in and the Maitlandfield always managed to squeeze us in.

DFEL sorted the venue, coffee and newsletter and the group met every month until Covid.   Over the years, we built up to over 20 people with dementia and carers/friends coming along and over 40 people getting the Newsletter. We had trips to Peebles, the Kelpies and Falkirk Wheel and to the new Community Hospital and organised talks from local historians, solicitors and a range of local organisations.  Members  also set up a weekly Singing Group, wrote a song for Carers and performed at the DFEL Gathering in Autumn 2019.

We were unable to meet over Covid, but Group Members have kept in touch and started to meet locally when this was safe and allowed. These firm friends helped each other through some very touch times.

Now the Group is run by the Members and meets every week at the Maitlandfield House Hotel, and DFEL still buys the coffee!

They celebrated with a day out for lunch and a ride on the Ratho Barge.  Member and co-organiser, Ann Burnett has written this lovely account of their Big Day Out.

Thank you Ann – our first Guest Blogger!



A blue sky with high cirrus clouds and a gentle breeze, the minibus and its occupants present and correct, everything was in order for the Haddington Dementia Singing group’s day trip. A perfect day was forecast. What could possibly go wrong?

We were heading out to lunch first at the Elginhaugh Farm Carvery just off the A720.

Our group is made up of people with lived experience of dementia; those with the condition, those who care for them and those who have loved and lost dear ones to dementia. We meet every Wednesday morning in the Maitlandfield House Hotel in Haddington where we sing, have a cuppa and a chat and share experiences and advice about all things dementia and beyond.

 But today was different. Courtesy of Dementia Friendly East Lothian, led by Sue Northrop, we were having lunch followed by a sail down the Union Canal on a barge run by the Seagull Trust, a charity which organises canal trips for elderly and disabled passengers.

After lunch at the Elginhaugh Farm Carvery, we sat in the sunshine outside till it was time for our onward journey to Ratho and the barges. But we only managed 100 yards before the bus broke down.There was nothing for it but to phone for a replacement bus to come up from Dunbar.


We crawled back to the Carvery where we settled down to wait in the sunshine for another bus. Would we manage to get there in time before the last sailing? The traffic was heavy and there were also roadworks en route which the bus would have to negotiate.  How pleased we were to see the replacement bus drive into the car park! And we made it in time to Ratho and the canal.

We boarded our barge, the Crusader. The crew cast off and we puttered up the canal at a leisurely pace. We sailed along under a canopy of trees and dappled sunlight while the friendly crew served us tea and coffee.


The Seagull Trust is a charity run by volunteers and founded by the Rev Hugh Mackay in 1978. It now has four sites in Scotland offering free cruises to those with special needs with vessels equipped to accommodate wheelchair users and those with mobility problems. There are three boats at Ratho which run daily cruises throughout the spring and summer, all crewed by trained volunteers.


The trees gave way to more open countryside and we passed a couple of old rotting barges, abandoned after their days were over. The Union Canal was closed to navigation in 1965 and remained so until 2001 when it was reopened as part of the Millennium Link between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union canal with the building of the Falkirk Wheel.

We rounded an island and began our journey back to Ratho where our bus was waiting to take us home. We all agreed it was a wonderful day out and the glorious weather had added to our enjoyment.

 Ann Burnett


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