The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

In this essay:


Parish Representative & Parish Editor:
Diana Hardy


Spott parish - a mix of farm and hill land - covers some 2249ha (5557 acres). The one settlement, Spott village, is small and built to a linear plan; it lies between the coastal plain at Dunbar and the Lammermuir Hills. The approach road from the east crosses a narrow bridge, the Canongate, and rises steeply to the focal point of the village, the church and the community hall (which was previously the school). On the other side of the road lies the entrance to Spott House and estate. After this the village proper stretches for about half a mile along the road westwards toward Stenton. In the centre of the village, there is a road junction leading south to the Lammermuirs. The village lies on the narrow shelf between the Lammermuir escarpment and the Spott Burn. Northwest of Spott village is the fertile plateau land, which runs into the Dunbar plain. This area ranges in height from 25m above sea level near the A1 road to 90m above sea level near Pleasants farm. This is the area of old red sandstones, the youngest rocks in the parish, giving the fields their distinctive colour.

In 1945 Spott was a farming community with a population of around 300. Farms were owned by large estates and rented out. They were the major employers in the parish and as mechanisation was in its infancy, a large number of workers were still required. There was also some work to be had in the smithy, sawmill and shop in the village. Families moved from farm to farm but usually stayed within the local area. Rationing had minimal effect, as the rural economy was largely self-sufficient. There was no electricity but most houses had running water and an inside toilet. Entertainments were largely held within the village with dances held in the village hut, as well as indoor bowling, darts, dominoes, meetings and social events. Cars were not to arrive in the village for several years, so people walked or cycled to the cinema or to the pubs in Dunbar or to attend dances in neighbouring villages. Medical care was provided by the doctors and the district nurses from Dunbar; couples were married in the parish church or by the minister in the manse and their children attended Spott Primary School and then Dunbar Secondary School. Parishioners knew each other and cared for each other.

In 2000, there has been little or no change in land use in the parish. It remains as farmland apart from the village itself. Two of the farm steadings in the parish, Pleasants and Pathhead, are almost totally unchanged, but most have been altered to accommodate modern farm machinery; a few have been converted to housing (see Homes). Similarly, the appearance of the village is little changed.


Climate | Changes | Land ownership | Townscapes, Buildings and Landscapes of Distinction

Until the Reformation, the bishops retained the power of uniting and disjoining parishes.

After the Reformation this power was entrusted to a Royal Commission and hence every parish recognised by it was acknowledged as a civil parish. The parish boundaries do not necessarily correspond to the boundaries of farms within the parish, nor do they conform to county boundaries.

Until 1891, the southern portion of the parish was in Berwickshire. From then until March 1983, it was in East Lothian. At that time, people living in and around the Bothwell and Monynut valleys (parts of not only Spott parish, but Innerwick and Oldhamstocks parishes as well) requested that the area be returned to Berwickshire, largely because the roads and tracks from the area to the remainder of East Lothian District (as it was then) over the hills to the north were frequently difficult to negotiate or impassable due to adverse weather conditions. The task of clearing snow from the roads was the remit of East Lothian Council’s snowploughs and often difficult to achieve (although a small snowplough was kept at the smithy on the Cranshaws road). Children from this part of Spott already attended Cranshaws Primary School and Borders Region already maintained the roads; some health and social services provision was provided from Berwickshire, but district nurses had to come from Dunbar. People living in the Bothwell valley also felt that they would be better served by the provision of basic local services, such as refuse collection, by Berwickshire. In the days before postal votes, unless they could walk or ride over the hills to Spott they had been virtually disenfranchised so they wished to be able to vote at Cranshaws. The Secretary of State recommended the change in 1983; as a result, part of Spott parish ‘moved’ to Berwickshire (see also The Local Government Administrative Areas of East Lothian: 1975-2000 by Douglas Buttenshaw, county volume).

The part of the civil parish that is presently in East Lothian runs from just south of the A1 road, from the Bourhouse (Bowerhouse) road in the west to the edge of Easter Broomhouse farm in the east, to a line across Friarsdykes Dod in the south. The Berwickshire portion lies from there in a ‘V’ to the Whiteadder river. In total, Spott parish is around twelve miles long and at its widest about five miles. The ecclesiastical parish is broader, running from the Pitcox road in the west to the Dry Burn in the east. The north/south boundaries are the same as the civil parish but end at Friarsdykes.

There are several small quarries in the parish. The working of the last one to be used, at Halls farm, was discontinued soon after the war. The Lammermuir fault line runs from Broxburn into Spott parish in a straight south westerly direction through Spott village to Spott Mill and along the northern edge of Pressmennan wood. Southwest of this fault is the Lammermuir escarpment with its steep gradients - Doon Hill rises to 177m, the Chesters Fort 185m. The hills further south are higher still; Lothian Edge rises to 348m. South of Lothian Edge is the Lammermuir plateau, mostly over 300m above sea level.

The oldest rocks, greywacke, are in the southwest of the parish, the area on the west side of Halls farm, including Lothian Edge. The escarpment area northeast of this and east of the fault line is formed from conglomerate rocks. The effects of water erosion are everywhere, especially from the melt-water channels formed around 15,000 years ago as the ice age was ending. They cut deep into the hillsides leaving deep gorges as along the Cauldburn and the Black Loch, and deposited ridges, terraces of tile, along the way. Spott Glen is much broader than the small Spott Burn now requires. Also due to erosion, especially from ice, the hills in the parish, like Spott Dod, tend to have their gentler slopes to the northeast.


The Reverend Duncan Turner was, undoubtedly, a very enthusiastic weather observer at Spott during his retirement. From 1979-96, he took readings of barometer pressure, maximum and minimum temperatures and rainfall. He also observed wind direction, wind speed and visibility - all of which were recorded each day in a handy pocket-sized diary. Figures for pressure and rainfall were then plotted on a graph pad to give a line graph showing the highs and lows, the peaks and troughs throughout the month.

Mr Turner also prepared monthly weather tables in his homemade record booklets. From the figures for each month, he would work out the averages of each of the main readings - pressure, temperature and rainfall over a period of ten, eleven and twelve years. This would involve quite a lot of arithmetic but would show variations in monthly totals and averages over the years where one would expect to find some years generally milder and wetter than others.

The year 1995 was chosen to compare figures recorded at Dunbar with those for Spott and it was found, not surprisingly, that summer temperatures at Spott were higher than at Dunbar and winter temperatures were lower. Rainfall amounts were very similar. The weather station at Dunbar is on an exposed site at Winterfield Park, 75 feet above sea level and about 200 yards from the sea shore, whilst the Spott location, a few miles inland, at 250 feet above sea level is possibly in a more sheltered area. Proximity to the sea and difference in altitude has effects, which are clearly seen in the respective figures.

In conclusion, Mr Turner was a dedicated amateur meteorologist with a love of figures and graphs. He was obviously prepared to spend quite a lot of time on his hobby and consequently we should be grateful that has left valuable record of weather conditions in the Spott area over 15 complete years. These should be preserved and made available to students of local history, agriculture and meteorology and so on.

The rabbit population was almost wiped out by the introduction of the myxomatosis virus after the war but numbers have increased in recent years. Hare shoots were a regular occurrence in the 1960s when there were so many that their numbers had to be controlled. The hare population was almost decimated and only in recent times have there been signs of regeneration. Foxes, badgers and roe deer have all increased in number.

The corncrake used to be a regular summer visitor to Spott parish, where it nested in the long grass and hay fields but sadly it has not been seen or heard in many years. Both the house and tree sparrow populations have decreased alarmingly although they can still be seen in most farmyards and buildings. Jays, buzzards and magpies have returned to the area in recent years. On the Lammermuir Hills there were many grouse, pheasants and blackcock. Their numbers have drastically declined as have the number of swallows, skylarks and lapwing and only a few thrushes are to be seen. Partridges are very few as they eat mainly insects which feed on turnips and these are seldom grown now. The number of crows has increased.

The Woodhall Dean Wildlife Reserve, on the parish boundary with Innerwick, is owned and managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust; it is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Opened in 1986, it covers some 60 hectares and is one of the last remnants of a wood of a relatively pure form of sessile oak, which is relatively unique in southeast Scotland. Described in the SWT leaflet as ‘... an area of multi-stemmed oak trees that derive from a practice known as coppicing. Outwith this small area of coppice there remain many fine “granny” oaks, some more than 300 years old.’ There are a host of common and rare wild flowers, mosses and lichen. It is a haven for many birds and butterflies. There is a flourishing badger set and roe deer and adder may be seen.


The dam at Spott Lake, which supplied water for Dunbar, was destroyed in the floods of 1947 and the loch became a stream again. There are plans to build a small dam again and make the area a wildlife reserve. The old curling pond in Spott Glen has been widened and deepened to form a pond to attract wild duck.

Many hedgerows and fences have been removed to form larger fields, although on Pathhead farm, three fields, suitable for horse ploughing, were made into six smaller fields, half arable and half grazing. Woods were stripped from the Spott estate toward the end of the war. Some planting of shelterbelts has been carried out over the years and recently the sides of the glens have been planted with hardwood. Many field walls have disappeared as field sizes have increased.

Land Ownership

In 2000, Spott estate covers one of the major areas of land in the parish, and is owned by the Lawrie family. The other large landowner is Jeffrey of Halls farm, a mixed farm to the south west of the parish. The remaining land is divided between another four farms. All are privately owned. This is in stark contrast to the situation in 1945, when most of the farms were still part of the East Lothian ‘big estate’ network. Owners included: Sir George Grant-Suttie (Bothwell); James Sprott and, from 1947, Sir James Hope (Spott estate); Earl of Haddington (Easter and Wester Broomhouse); Biel estate (Halls and Pathhead); Caverhill estate (Friarsdykes); Duke of Roxburghe (Boonslie); Major James Hay (Beltondod) (see also Economy - Agriculture).

Townscapes, Buildings and Landscapes of Distinction

Spott House and Bourhouse (Bowerhouse) are the main properties of note in the parish.

Spott House and its associated buildings are B and C listed by Historic Scotland for the boundary walls, piers, ‘chapel’ and game larder; Spott Home Farm cottages; kennels with railings; lodge with gate piers and quadrants; stable court and groom’s house. The dovecot is A listed. The oldest part of the house may date from c1296, when Elias de Spot swore fealty for his lands to Edward I of England. In 1836 it was owned by James Sprott who remodelled it to plans by William Burn.

Bourhouse is A listed for its gates, wellhead, terrace and boundary walls, and for the dovecot. The lodge with gate piers and parapet is B listed. Built by David Bryce for Major General Carfrae in 1835, to 1949, the house had its own estate, with farm (Pleasants), and policies. There are traces of habitation on the site that date back to the Bronze Age; it is reputed to have links with the knights of St John.

The property has changed hands a number of times since 1945: Brigadier Grainger Stewart, 1939-46; Robert Hope bought the estate in 1946, quickly separated Pleasants farm from the house and estate, and sold off Bourhouse and its grounds to R. Lawson-Johnston the same year (1946). Rowley F. Scovell owned Bourhouse from 1948-72; Eric and Rosemary Hall followed to 1982; Ian and Moira Marrian to 2000; right at the end of the period, Bourhouse is owned by Mark and Rebecca Tindall.

Other listed buildings in this small parish include:

A listed: Spott dovecot; Halls farmhouse with retaining walls and gate piers (Halls farm cottages are C listed).

B listed: Spott church with session house, graveyard walls and railings; Easter Broomhouse cartshed and granary; in Spott High Road (also known as Main Street) Rosebank and cottage (now known as Lowood and Canongate) and Ivybank.

C listed: 1 High Road; schoolhouse community centre; The Standards; Wester Broomhouse, Wellhead Tower.

Spott farmhouse was demolished in 1964. Several farm buildings elsewhere in the parish were much neglected over the period, but from 1980 on, many were ‘rescued' and reinstated as homes (see Homes).


By parish, from the General Registrar's office
197115384M 69F
By parish, from ELDC
1997 (est.)15679M77F

Population figures are difficult to compare, as no two sources extract data in the same way.

There was no census in 1941 but in 1931 there were 325 residents in the parish. By 1951 there were 280; of these, around 100 were employed full time on the farms in the north of the parish. There was also associated employment with smiths and sawmill and mill workers. On the farms there were grieves, ploughmen, orramen, shepherds and cattlemen - some of whom were women.

With the introduction of tractors and gradually machines to carry out every job in sowing and harvesting, the number of employees decreased. Mostly this was a matter of not replacing workers as they retired or moved on. People moved into towns and found work there. In 1958 and again in 1962, the Broomhouse farms paid people off. In 1999, Spott farms made their last five workers redundant.

During the following three decades, the population continued to fall. The proportion of males to females stayed fairly even. In 1969 the school closed, as there were insufficient children to warrant its continuation. New house building and renovation in the village and the sale of empty farm cottages led to a slight increase in the 1991 census to 208. In 2000, the population is probably around 200 (the 2001 census claimed the figure to be 179). Of these, 13 work within the parish (including the farmers). Some had retired to the area, an equal number worked within East Lothian and a similar number worked at a distance, mostly in Edinburgh.

During the war, there were land girls and also prisoners of war who came from the camp at Gosford, near Longniddry. Pleasants had two Ukrainians, one of whom stayed on for several years, living in the bothy, before leaving to run the Ukrainian centre in Edinburgh. German prisoners of war were housed in The Square; they must have enhanced their diet by poaching as gin traps were found under the floorboards when The Square was being renovated. An agent in Dunbar arranged for gangs of men to work on Spott farms at busy times and there were gangs of Irish to help with the harvesting until the early 1990s. There were also squads from Prestonpans and Port Seton. In the 1950s schoolchildren (mainly from Niddry) came to help with the potato harvest. Women from Dunbar would also be employed when extra help was required. They would be transported by horse and cart or by tractor and trailer to and from Dunbar High Street.

In general, the growth in, and changing face of, the village population since 1985, when major new development began, has been comfortably accommodated, and the pace of expansion, though rapid, has been sufficiently moderated to allow a natural evolution of the community's identity.


Although there have doubtless been individual adherents of other belief systems in Spott since 1945, only Christianity, particularly in the tradition sustained by the Church of Scotland, has drawn any significant number of continuing adherents. There have been one or two Methodists, and there is at least one committed Episcopalian family in the parish in 2000. However, over the past 50 years, as over many previous centuries, Spott Parish Church has been the physical focus of religious worship. Apart from the parish church itself, only the manse (until its sale in 1959) and the church vestry have been regularly used for religious purposes.

Sunday morning worship has been conducted each Sunday over the period 1945-2000, as it had been centuries before. Local practice and procedure in regard to matters relating to birth, baptism, marriage and death have changed little. Until perhaps around 1970, virtually all Spott church members were buried, either in Spott graveyard next to the church or in Dunbar. Since then cremation has become an alternative occasionally adopted.

The last Sunday in each month is a ‘family’ service in which emphasis is placed on young people's worship interests. In the 1990s this service replaced separate Sunday school worship, which had become less relevant to the needs of a rapidly changing local community.

1945Lothian Gray - the last year of a 56-year ministry
1946-59Alexander Greig
Linked with Innerwick
1959-65Everard W. Kant
1965-77Duncan M. Turner
Link with Innerwick dissolved; linked with Belhaven
1978-dateLaurence H. Twaddle
Membership Roll
31st December 1945150

Spott parish church was united with Innerwick parish church in March 1959. That union was dissolved in 1977. Since that year, Spott has been linked with Belhaven parish church.

In 1950, virtually 100% of Spott church members lived in the parish; the norm then was for entire families to become members. Since about 1970, family membership has become more fractured and by 2000 church membership has come to consist of individuals or couples rather than entire families.

At 31 December 2000 only 34% of members live in the parish. Most of the remainder live in Dunbar or nearby, but many of these belong to families formerly resident in Spott.

Rites of Passage

Trends in Spott do not noticeably differ from those elsewhere. Long courtships, concluded by marriage, were the norm in the 1950s and perhaps 1960s. They are now less common. Nevertheless, a significant percentage of Spott's committed young couples are still married in the local church. The marriage ceremony itself is little altered and the kilt is far the commonest men's attire. Coins are still occasionally scattered after Spott weddings, and receptions are generally held in local hotels.

Elderly folk who were formerly resident in Spott share roots in what was once a close-knit community, and almost all of these have farming connections, which reinforce social ties. The result is that interments in Spott graveyard are still often very well attended and feelings of loyalty to the old community run high among the dwindling number of Spott residents. ‘Formal' dress (dark-coloured clothing) is still the norm at burials.


The decline over the last 25 years of agricultural employment and in the rural way of life, and the growth of a multi-faceted social culture, have certainly required qualities of adaptability of those resident in or near Spott throughout the post-war period. A real sense of community persists however, and new residents have always been warmly welcomed, irrespective of origin, creed or culture.

Through at least the 1950s the Spott community could be said to have been bonded by the shared mores of a conservative rural parish, distanced from urban life and largely reliant on its own resources for leisure and entertainment. In these conditions, vandalism was virtually unknown, and promiscuity among the young was rare. Even an overt demonstration of emotional attachment was unusual. As access to Dunbar grew with the spread of cycles in the 1940s, motor-cycles in the 1950s, and cars from the 1960s, more liberal attitudes became evident, a trend perhaps strengthened by the impact and penetration of television.

In 2000, petty vandalism in Spott is not uncommon and the local community has its share of social problems. Those who belonged to Spott throughout the 1945-2000 period have had to come to terms with the change from a close-knit community, with a deep sense of moral and social responsibility, to a more uninhibited and less interdependent community exposed to most, if not all, of the problems of contemporary society. It is perhaps remarkable that this change in social culture has so little impaired the basic spirit of goodwill and co-operation, which still characterises life in the village today.


Standards of Living | Utilities | Shops & Services | Mobile shops

The remote and exclusively agricultural area of the parish allowed Spott to remain unaltered other than some demolition until the mid 1980s. Until this time, no pressure was apparent to require the parish to expand with new or improved housing, indeed, the reverse was evident, with empty houses and particularly The Square in Spott falling into total disrepair. For many years, Spott, its former school and community hall remained intact and part of Spott estate.

In the village, the Orlits in St John's Street were built as public housing in 1948; other than that very little physically changed in the village until the 1980s. In 2000, the houses in The Square are in private ownership and only four houses in High Road remain with preserved tenancy. Five out of eight of the council houses in St. John's Street have been sold. The remaining houses in the village, many of them new build, are privately owned. Very few houses remain available for rent.

The proposal to increase the village and reinstate various buildings that had fallen into disrepair was promoted by Gilmour Lawrie of John Lawrie Farms, Spott House. The resultant scheme design by Malcolm Jones and Alan Sheerin Associates increased the village by 15 units and required a major planning application and approval. These houses, built and renovated between 1986 and 2000, retained the linear nature of the village and infilled garden ground along Spott High Road in a manner sympathetic to the existing settlement. The Square, formerly the cottages for Big Spott farm that had stood in derelict condition for many years, in 1988 was converted into private homes. The Square was central to the concern for regeneration of existing resources. Various contractors and private individuals built the houses, a mix of new and refurbished properties; all followed the template established within the planning approval. Major building companies were not involved; the works have been entirely funded and built locally. Seven new houses were built between 1990-2000, on the south side of High Road.

The name of High Road itself was the subject of a small dispute between the residents, the post office and the council. Its local name has always been High Road, but at some point the post office renamed it High Street; during the 1970s, locals objected, and took their concern to the council to have the name changed to High Road - when of course it had actually never changed to anything else. Historic Scotland has done little to help, insisting on listing their properties here as being located on Main Street!

In the wider parish, on three farms (Spott, Halls and Bothwell) the cottages are kept for employees, rented out or stand empty. The remaining three farms have sold their cottages to private ownership. On some farms, redundant farm buildings have been converted into homes.

Doon Steading, located close to the village of Spott, retained the former chimney of its threshing mill, and the character of a working farm steading and farmhouse. The steading conversion (1988), designed by Hazel Crawford, retained the majority of the existing building resource and many of the architectural elements common in a steading of such design found in East Lothian. The resultant converted steading provided accommodation for eight families.

Oswald Dean Mill (1990) converted and extended to form one family house, also engaged with forming a significant garden within Oswald Dean, which was designed by Malcolm Jones.

Easter Broomhouse steading, including the farmhouse, was sold for housing development in 2000. The design (by Malcolm Jones) retains the rudimentary nature of the elemental steading, running with the contours of the landscape and surrounding fields. Less formal than Doon steading, the resultant building, including the alterations to the farmhouse and grieve's cottage, provides housing for 13 families. These conversions impact upon the number of housing units in the parish, and on the agricultural landscape of the area

The old bothy and outbuildings adjacent to (but to the outside of) the Bourhouse walled garden were derelict by c1960; in1980, these were transformed into a home now called Elderside, designed and owned by Malcolm Jones. He is also responsible for the design of the Marrians' house begun in the walled garden in 2000.

A new house was built at Burnhead in 1992.

What has happened in Spott parish reflects the pressure throughout the county to provide additional housing within East Lothian. The facility withdrawn over this period to provide housing for rent has resulted in entirely private housing being built within the fabric of that which exists. Within the various housing provided, care has been taken to respect the existing nature of a planned village, listed steadings and former agricultural cottages. No particular buildings of distinction have emerged, rather a concern for being complementary to that that already existed.

The change in the physical and social landscape of the area with regard to home ownership is quite devastating. The historic agricultural use and tenancy of buildings no longer exists with the resource of land being overtaken by the critical resource of physical buildings. The migration of the harmonic population that supported the agricultural economy has resulted in an ageing, transient and disparate series of unconnected satellite communities. The new houses have virtually all been occupied by families working outside rural employment, many of them at some distance from Spott, or by people retiring to the countryside.

The inability of the parish to support local families within its community and to provide socially affordable housing is the most unacceptable result of changing home ownership within the parish. No mechanism exists to enable the regeneration of the parish by individuals who have historic family or work connections. The significant change in home ownership between 1945 and 2000 is that home ownership in a rural location such as this in East Lothian has become almost totally exclusive to those from outwith the community.

Here (and elsewhere throughout the text) Walter Fairbairnand Moira Brad share their recollections of Spott with Eileen Dykes.

Standards of Living - some recollections of homes in the parish

‘[In the 1950s there were] five persons - infants and primary school age children, then [in the 1970s] there were six persons, school age and above [living in our cottage] at Pleasants farm. [We had] two bedrooms, a lounge, a kitchen and a bathroom, all with windows. [The] kitchen had a table and chairs, and a coal fired range, which was purely a cooker and did not give hot water. The range later was replaced with an open fire and back boiler, which heated the water. An immersion heater was also installed in the 1960s. [We had a] washing machine in the early 1970s, before which clothes were washed by hand using deep Belfast sink, wringer and scrubbing board. Soap was used to wash the clothes. The cottage had a larder with gauze on window. Milk was got daily by the jug full. The living room had an open fire, sofa and chairs, also a table. [We had a] radio from the 1950s, TV from the 1960s (black & white), and kitchen units from late 1970s. No fridge until 1980s. The bedrooms had carpet squares, free-standing wardrobes, fireplace, centre light, [but] no electricity until the 1950s. Bed linen used was sheets and blankets, downies [were] not used until [the] 1980s.

[We used a] Paraffin heater, coal, then electricity then gas. Paraffin could be smelly, [and] was a fire hazard. Coal gave a great heat but [it was] difficult to regulate and we often had to run off excess hot water. Electricity made the biggest single difference. The washing machine made life a lot easier. Before machines, [washing] was a major day's work. Ironing was done by an iron with bolts, which were fitted into it having been heated on the fire, and then there were flat irons, which were heated on the range, then the electric iron.

Coal was delivered by a coalman; the coalbunker adjoined the kitchen, so every thing in the kitchen got covered in coal dust after a delivery. New exterior coalbunkers were made for each house. Wood was gathered locally.

Personal hygiene

All the cottages had a bath and toilet from 1950s. Prior to toilet, the outside loo was in use. Prior to the bath, [you] washed as best you could, heating the water by kettle and pot. In the 1950s we washed clothes and self with Fairy soap. Perfumes, deodorants [were] considered sissy. Persil, oxodol used in 1970s. In the late 1980s, [we began to use] Old Spice’.

Walter Fairbairn

‘[Living at The Standards; post-war] we bought the house from an old couple, and it had been part of the Bourhouse estate. We had four children, so there were six of us living there. There was one bedroom (which had a flagstone floor), with an anti-room which held bunk beds; lounge; kitchen; bathroom. All had windows. There was no electricity until the 1950s- [we used] oil lamps. [We had] very little furniture in the early days. [There was a] solid fuel Rayburn cooker which heated the water. [There was a] Belfast sink for washing, [which was] done by hand using scrubbing board, wringer, soap. [We had] no washing machine ‘till the 1960s. [We used] coal for the Rayburn, coal and wood for the open fire. The coal was delivered. The Rayburn was discarded for an electric cooker (there was no gas available as [we lived] in the country.

Personal hygiene

[There was a] sink, toilet and bath. We washed several times a week, and used soap and water, and vinegar was also used. Not until the 1960s did deodorants appear’.

Moira Brad

And on food

‘[We kept] hens, grew our own vegetables - turnip, kale, cabbage - and got potatoes from the local farms, and milk was delivered; we used marg not butter. [There were] delivery vans (including the Co-op) one or two times a week or we cycled to Dunbar. At home we produced elderflower wine. We had two meals a day, as my husband and children took a packed lunch. Breakfast consisted of porridge, the evening meal consisted of main course and pudding. I cooked the meal and then cleared everything away’.

Moira Brad

‘All vegetables were home grown, and we had own own hens. Rabbits were eaten, fish very seldom. Each household had ration of about ¾ lb. meat per week; [there were] increased rations at harvest time. Dried eggs were used for cooking. All food was delivered by van - baker twice a week, butcher twice a week, and the fish man once a week. As [most people had not got a phone] you gave the van driver the order for the next delivery day. Local shops were serviced by their own delivery van. The only time alcohol was consumed was at New Year.

Breakfast was bread and cheese; lunch was two courses - soup and main course or main and pudding. High tea, which was an egg dish or a cheese dish, followed by bread/butter/jam, and home baking. Lastly supper, a hot milky drink and a plain biscuit, or something home baked. Fancy biscuits [were] not bought much. Milk was plentiful, so was drunk with meals. Children had both packed lunches and school meals. My wife prepared all the food, although I did take a turn clearing away the dishes on a Sunday as it was a non-working day’.

Walter Fairbairn

On clothes

‘Men wore overalls, duffel coats, work boots, and wool trousers, cotton shirts, woollen socks. Children wore a flexible school uniform, duffel coats; [underneath] they wore grey skirts, white blouse, jersey; [I did] no home knitting. Women wore skirts, never trousers, aprons, and stockings. Underwear [consisted] of cotton vests, long johns, woollen socks. Clothing was purchased locally. [While some people had specific clothing - such as] auxiliary nurses who wore a uniform of heavy cotton - there was no special clothing for sports.

Clothes were washed by hand, and [some were] boiled on the stove. We used soap - Fairy, Lifebuoy, Sunlight and a washing board, a mangle, and then, flat irons. I cut our hair at home - we had no fancy hairstyles’.

Moira Brad

‘[For work] men wore tackity boots or wellingtons, and dungarees or boiler suits; cotton checked shirt; cotton vest; long johns; wool socks; oilskin coat; leggings. Children had a school uniform bought from Co-op draper, with cotton vests, no liberty bodices, and hand knitted woollen socks and other woollens. A duffel coat for wet weather before anoraks; leather sandals. Ladies wore a wraparound apron or overall in the morning, and a pinny after lunch. Stockings not tights, and always a skirt. [On top of that, women wore a] tweed coat with a plastic coat on top if raining. Clothes were bought from a [mail order] working men's catalogue, the local Co-op drapery department, or [if we could get into] Edinburgh, M&S or C&A.

My wife did her own hair, and cut it too; she shampooed it twice a week; I went to the local barber’.

Walter Fairbairn


Public water is supplied now by a mains supply originating close to Garvald. Prior to the installation of the mains supply, people would take water from standpipes in the middle of The Square, next to the smiddy and half way down Canongate. There are no incidences of private water supply except for some wells still in use, such as that at Friarsdykes. There are no boreholes; water is taken from Spott Burn for irrigation.

All homes are dependent on septic tanks. The first toilets with a water supply arrived in homes in The Square around 1930. Before then, all houses had been served by dry closets only.

Mains electricity was introduced first when the council built homes in Spott (1948). It then spread to other privately owned homes as they were renovated, arriving finally at Wester Broomhouse around 1957. There is no mains electricity at Friarsdykes.

No other sources of power - wind, solar or other generated power - are available in the parish, nor is there a mains gas supply. Some residents use Calor gas or kerosene for cooking or heating.

The television reception, both terrestrial and satellite TV, is good. There are no mobile phone masts, and mobile phone signals vary according to the area and company utilised.

Street lighting was installed in Spott village around 1980, but updated with more powerful lighting in the 1990s; the lighting does not extend to other areas of the parish.

East Lothian Council now collects rubbish regularly. Previously, it was placed in open bins (which later gained corrugated iron covers halfway across) and emptied into the old quarry at Quarry Brae (on the south side of the road to Burnhead,) by Spott estate workers once a year.

Shops & Services

Before 1939 and the outbreak of the second world war, Spott was a dynamic thriving village with a growing population. At one time there were 55 children in the village school and there was employment for men and boys on the farms, in the sawmill and at the smithy. Some of the women were in service and many of the younger women worked in shops like the Co-op, or the hairdressers in Dunbar.

When tractors replaced horses, a depopulation of the village began. Before the war there was a tailor's shop with a sweet shop attached at No 1 High Road, Spott run by Mr and Mrs Scambler: the tailors closed in 1939, and the sweetie shop in 1943.

Two men were employed as tailors by Mr Scambler and clothes made there were sent worldwide, particularly corduroy and moleskin trousers. The tailors sat cross-legged when they were hand-stitching, rising at times to press the cloth with box irons. These irons had a red-hot bolt heated in a coal-fired stove, inserted to give out the heat required.

Tailoring stopped in 1939 and although Mrs Scambler's sweetie shop next door continued until 1942/43, that too was closed down. Mrs Scambler sold sweets crisps lemonade and biscuits but refused to sell tobacco or cigarettes. However Miss Johnson or Old Maria as she was called who lived opposite the smithy would sell cigarettes, tobacco, and paraffin for the stoves, as well as some sweets. Miss Johnson died during the war years.

John Cockburn had the smithy, which was still in operation in 1945. Boyd's racehorses at West Barns were shod there, as were all the farm horses. The smithy closed in the early 1950s. His wife sold a few sweeties and such like from there:

‘By 1945 there was only a facility in the smithy where one could buy sweets and biscuits, lemonade and crisps, and cigarettes. The customer would knock at the door and, if it were a child, they would be invited in to choose their sweets, if an adult, the required goods would be brought out to the door. This functioned until about 1970’.

Joan Baillie

The smithy was popular in this respect; the young people going to dance and socialise in the hall called there for their provisions.

Most people walked or cycled to Dunbar for the shopping such as fish that they did not get from the mobile shops. Refrigerators were virtually unknown to the villagers in the 1940s and 1950s, and food was kept fresh outside the houses in mesh cold boxes. Lack of refrigerators was also the reason that the mobile shops came so frequently. People shopped every day or every second day for their fresh food. Milk was delivered or collected from the farm in pitchers. Ian Sands got sixpence (2.5p) every week from the minister for fetching his milk; Janet Miller collected the milk in pitchers from Big Spott farm and delivered it to people in The Square - she remembers getting thru'pence! (1.25p)

Most of the villagers kept hens, ducks and pigs and were self-sufficient to a great extent with gardens full of vegetables and soft fruit bushes. The women picked eggs, bottled pears and plums and picked brambles in the glen.

In 1947, the Brunt Road was closed for eleven weeks due to severe snowfalls. The men crossed the fields on horseback to go to Dunbar to fetch bread in pillowcases; the bread was then distributed at the smithy.

Mobile shops

The decade between the 1950s and 1960s saw the demise of the mobile shop, that essential rural service. In Spott village, Jimmy Torry of Innerwick brought groceries twice a week on a Monday and a Thursday; orders were put in a week in advance and the order arrived in its own box. The Co-op vans came three times a week, one with groceries and a separate van for fruit and vegetables. Tait the butcher came from Dunbar. Paterson the baker came from Innerwick twice a week, often late at night and was known as ‘the Midnight Baker’; his bread was wonderful, as were the pies, scones and gingerbread he sold as well. Newspapers came from Dunbar and were delivered to the smithy where the villagers collected them.

Mr Young the coalman in Dunbar delivered once a week to the village. The man from the Pru (Prudential Insurance) came once a month to collect the penny policies.

Brunton and Purves from Allanton near Berwick came with clothes several times a year; they brought a whole range from socks and underwear to trousers, skirts, coats and jackets. The villagers had nothing to pay for six months, so everyone had time to save for their purchases. Mr Sanderson from Cockburnspath brought boots and shoes for sale about once a month. He also took boots and shoes to mend and they were returned by Paterson the baker on his round.

Groceries and vegetables were sold in brown paper bags and butcher meat would be sliced or ‘cut in the raw’. Once a year the familiar sight of the Onion Johnny from France with his strings of onions hanging from his bicycle would appear in the village. At New Year, Mark Torry would sell whisky and half bottles of beer from his van.

A grocer's van from Duns driven by a Mr Veitch and later by Mr Baillie, served the farms on the south of the parish. Halls and Pathhead were served by Malcolm, the grocer from East Linton who took the order and delivered it the following week.

With the depopulation of the villages in the parish and the fact that most people had a car in the family by the 1970s, the mobile shops stopped coming to the village. Today only Knox the newsagent in Dunbar delivers papers to the village. Foggo of Dunbar delivers coal on request and Turnbull of Dunbar will deliver Calor gas by request, charging for delivery. Sadly the days of mobile shops, when a toot of the horn brought the women together for a chat as well as purchasing their goods, have long gone and the camaraderie that was there no longer exists.


The residents of Spott have always relied on the GPs from Dunbar or East Linton (depending on which side of the parish they lived) to deliver healthcare, except for those in the Bothwell valley who were looked after by the doctors from Duns. District nurses would attend births, which (up to the 1960s) would be home deliveries, most often in the house of the woman's mother or aunt. In 2000, most births occur either at home or in Edinburgh hospitals. There have been few births to single parents.

Up to 1983, in theory, district nurses were covering the entire parish as far as the Whiteadder although in practise they seldom went beyond Friarsdykes. There are no facilities for health care or ancillary health care in the parish.

‘From 1945-1950s, there was no TB recorded in Spott. Most people did not send their children to contract chicken-pox, mumps, measles or rubella from other children. [I recall] one case of whooping cough, but [saw] no evidence of fears of certain vaccines leading to an increase in a given disease. The whole area was affected by polio.

Everyone would call in the doctor if they thought it necessary. Iodine was used for cuts and scrapes, a spoonful of castor oil taken, and lint and green silk put on wounds.

Before 1945 till 1969 (when the school closed) the nurse came once a month to check school children for everything - eyes and teeth (every six months). Foot care came later - 2000 at the surgery in Dunbar, and privately.

Up to the 1950s, pregnancy was confirmed by the doctor who also did home visits. Specialist carers came, if needed, from Edinburgh. Nurse came to stay when baby due. The individual made the decision as to where her baby was to be born - this was nearly always at home or, if not, at the Vert hospital in Haddington. The father had no particular role.

Aftercare for the new mother was provided by the district nurse who came round. The family would also help with the second and third children. Medical aftercare for the child up to the age of four was provided by the nurse, or doctor if necessary. Free orange juice was given. Nurse Duncan came round every six weeks. There were no clinics. Free milk was provided for school children.

Physical disability was kept within the family. The options for a physically disabled child were either to be kept at home or to be sent to a special school at Tyninghame. [I knew of] no mental health problems in the parish over the period.

Throughout the period, elderly people were very much looked after by their families - even at quite a distance, every effort would be taken to look after them. Older people have played a very important part in the lives of their families, helping out if able. To c1951, when floored by either increasing age or by a debilitating disease, elderly members of a family were looked after at home if at all possible. There was a gradual change after the Health Service began when other options became available.

Tobacco and alcohol use/abuse were regarded as an accepted part of life. [As far as I am aware] drug abuse was not evident in the parish’.

Moira Brad interviewed by Eileen Dykes

Older residents are able to attend the Day Care Centre, which provides transport, and the Lunch Club in Dunbar, which does not supply transport. Until December 1999, when the system changed (providing frozen instead of fresh meals), the meals-on-wheels service from St Andrew's Centre in Dunbar delivered these around the parish. In earlier times, the meals were provided by the grammar school kitchens.


Until 1969 there was a primary school in the village, which served the parish. Depending on the number of children, this was either a one or two teacher school. The school had two rooms with the toilets in the playground, and the schoolteacher's house was adjoining. From the early 1960s, Spott school was just one of several small rural schools that the Scottish Education Department sought to close. In 1962, there were just 31 pupils on the school roll:

‘The general condition of the school buildings is unsatisfactory, and the accommodation inadequate and below modern standards’

ED 48/1650 (25 October 1962) 3

The numbers of children decreased until in 1969, the school was closed. Thereafter, primary aged children had to attend West Barns Primary School. Throughout the period, children over twelve went to Dunbar for secondary schooling. In 1946, a taxi brought children from the outlying parts of the parish to Spott school and others to Dunbar; the taxi driver was Oliver Todd. In 1951 this was replaced by a school bus.

A five year old's recollection of her time at Spott school 1949-50: Kate's Story

‘When I was 4½ years old, Mum, Dad and I went to stay at ‘The Halls'. Here I will spend the next year of my life. It is early summer 1949 and Mum is going to work for Mrs Jeffrey in The Big House. Dad works away from home, so there is great excitement when he comes home at the weekends. We live in a little tied cottage and our neighbours are the other farm workers and their families. For me, this is a good place to be, days spent playing in the wood or beside the burn with the other children, helping Mum or making the ‘Magical' trip in Dad's car down the hill and across the ford (thrilling), through Spott and on to Dunbar and the seaside. Then I begin school!

It is late summer when I begin school; the picture I have of those early schooldays is hazy now, but here and there little shafts of light shine through. Every morning I'm up early, still half asleep I struggle to get dressed for school. On goes the navy skirt, hand knitted jumper, socks and shoes. Mum brushes my hair and ties it up with ribbon in a bow. (How I hate it) This wakes me up; I slip on my gabardine coat, put my bag on my shoulder, have I remembered my beloved reading book? - Yes! Okay I'm ready to go. I join the other children and climb aboard the bus, which takes us to Spott school.

School is one large room and we only have one teacher. For lessons we are split into classes according to age. I am in Primary 1, the baby class. Mornings are very busy. [I] have much to do learning to count, to read and to write. It's hard work and I am happy when it's playtime. Dinner time is a vague memory, what did I eat I wonder? The day moves on, the afternoon is long, the other younger children have gone home, but I must wait in class until the older children finish because that is when the bus comes to take us home. Sometimes I wish I could find a comfy spot to curl up and doze for I am still very young.

As I look back on those days, two vivid learning experiences come to mind. One day at playtime I'd gone out of the school grounds, down a path in the field outside the boundary wall. Ahead of me I could see a group of older boys yelling and shouting. I stopped to watch them from a distance. One boy stood out from the rest, I could see he was frightened and crying, the others were jeering at him. I was too afraid and so I ran away - the dark side of life! The other experience was a happy one. It's the afternoon and I am sitting at my desk, teacher is with the older children at the opposite side of the room. They are talking about elephants. I listen and my imagination is stirred. I pretend I am a wild elephant, I put pencils in my ears (I imagine this will give me big floppy ears) but they fall out so I push them up my nose, now I think I will have huge tusks, now I really am a wild elephant! The rest of the children notice and laugh, the teacher is less amused. Secretly I am filled with pleasure, I have discovered how to make others laugh and of course be the centre of attraction. Sadly I left Spott school in the summer of 1950. Was I happy there? Happy enough I feel’.

Catherine Alison McLeod (b1945)


From 1945, public transport consisted of the SMT (operated by Stark's Bus Company) bus on Saturdays only at 2pm to Dunbar and at 5pm and 8pm from Dunbar to Spott; there was no transport later. The fare was thru'pence (1.25p). Buses left the post office in Dunbar and stopped at Rose Cottage in Spott. One of the drivers was ‘Dazzler’ Ross who wore a long gabardine coat tied with a broad belt and a ‘bunnet’. This service stopped in the late 1950s.

In 1968, the Post Bus Service - which collected and transported passengers as well as the post - started (the first in Scotland) leaving Spott on Monday to Saturday at 10am and returning from Dunbar at 2pm.

The increased dominance of the private car has changed the community spirit of the parish; the number of commuters and retired people living in the area has increased and most of them drive through the village without meeting the residents. The parish has become fragmented into its various parts, the Doon, The Square and so on.

There are a number of public rights of way in the parish: Halls to Lauder; Halls to Friarsdykes and the Whiteadder; Brunt Road via Spott West Mains to Little Pinkerton; Spott village to Pleasance; Spott village to Wester Broomhouse; Doon to Little Pinkerton; A1 to Little Pinkerton (the field is now ploughed, so no access).


Before 1945, the policeman from Belhaven would cycle through the village at least once a day. The last to do so was Jimmy Aitcheson, who retired in 1943. Spott was a crime-free area (apart from poaching) and the only crime remembered was the theft of sweeties from Mrs Scambler's shop; it is not recorded that the thief was caught! The occasional act of vandalism - in particular the defacement of the village signpost - has been the only crime in the recent past. In 2000 the police car from Dunbar drives through occasionally.


Youth Club | Musicians

An ex-first world war hut, which came from East Fortune airfield in 1919/20, was used as the village hall until about 1970. Sited on the corner of the High Road and St John's Street, it continued to be used occasionally until the 1980s when it was demolished.

The school, after closing in 1969, became the Spott Community Centre and is still used. A committee had run the hut; c1969, the Spott Community Association was formed, and it was this organisation that ran the centre from then on; their meetings were held in the hall and from the early 1980s the hall was used as the polling station. In 1999, the hall was refurbished, the cost being funded by grants and by money raised within the community.

The main activities to be carried out in both premises have been indoor bowling, a sport which included boys from the age of seven and which most attended twice a week; whist drives (including some organised by Mrs Scambler in war time ‘to raise money for the soldiers’); darts and dominoes; concerts; Church of Scotland Woman's Guild meetings (until its disbandment in 1992, because of falling membership numbers); children's Christmas parties and, in inclement weather, summer fetes. The village hall has been used occasionally for hymn singing and gatherings of the church community. A branch of the Scottish Women's Rural Institute (established 1922, re-established in 1946) continues to thrive in Spott and it meets regularly in the village hall. The group celebrated its 75th birthday in 1996; at the end of 2000 there are some 13 members.

Throughout the period, most popular events of all were the village dances attended by people from the surrounding areas. By 2000, dances are still held, but only three or four times a year. On two days in December 2001, some 250+ people visited an exhibition in the hall where the material on Spott gathered for this statistical account was on show.

The Youth Club, 1965-77

In 1965, Innerwick and Spott youth clubs were merged together with the purpose that the young people of each parish could get together to know each other better. The club met alternately in Spott hut and Innerwick hall. Due to a shortage of funds in 1967, the now very successful and well-attended youth club found itself unable to make the required advance payment for the hire of the halls for the forthcoming session. At a meeting in the Manse at Innerwick, called by the Rev Duncan Turner, various suggestions were put forward for ways to raise the necessary funds. It was decided that a show would be put on for this purpose.

Within a short time various talents among members began to emerge, with singing, dancing, sketches, music and monologues being enthusiastically rehearsed for the planned show. An improvised stage (tabletops on top of straw bales) was set up in Spott hut. Rehearsals took place over several weeks and finally the show was ready to roll. The first performance proved to be a huge success with enough money being raised for club funds at this first performance. Requests came for another show to be put on. The second show, again at Spott hut, had better stage arrangements with curtains and lighting. The show was performed on two nights with tickets being sold out in advance for both shows.

The popularity of the youth club shows was such that they were invited to perform at various venues throughout Berwickshire and East Lothian. The shows continued until 1971; funds raised from the shows were donated to various charities.

Summer activities for the club included long walks on the countryside, talks by invited speakers and debating evenings and pony trekking expeditions in the Lammermuir Hills. Dances were held in the winter months to 1960's records. The Reverend Turner always looked for potential for development amongst club members and encouraged everyone to take an active and creative role in all activities. The youth club continued until Mr Turner retired in 1977. His retiral resulted in the parish being split and the successful union between two hillfoot villages came to an end.

From the late 1960s through to the last one held in 1986, Spott hall was used for army cadet camps. There was also a weight-lifting and boxing club, and it was the venue for an art group.

In the 1990s fewer people took part in community activities within the village. More people

spent leisure time outwith the parish as most households had a car and the community activities held in the village hall depended more and more on support from people living outside the parish. Although use of the hall declined, in recent years as well as a venue for the SWRI, the village association has run Burns' Suppers, dances and games nights.

The nature and habits of the Spott community have altered radically and increasingly rapidly since the 1950s. However, there remains a feeling of community identity, which has recently been strengthened by the re-invigorated efforts of the Spott Community Association, now centred on the village hall.

Graeme Cockburn describes the sociability of Spott in the past

‘Between 1945-1959, most people gardened, growing their own vegetables and fruit and flowers, both for their own consumption and for exhibiting at annual flower shows. Women attended the Woman's Guild and SWRI meetings - those from surrounding farms walked together to these, in all weathers. Most people attended church services in the village and many participated in the various community activities in the village hall. People walked or cycled from surrounding farms to village dances. They listened to the radio. Before legislation, horse racing bets were taken to a backstreet ‘shop' in Dunbar to be passed on to a bus driver to be taken into Edinburgh!

Youngsters played football on the glebe, in the village or any other open space they could find around the farm on which they lived - there was a football pitch created in Oswald's Dean (known as Ozzie Dean or the Glen). There were plenty of children in the village or on each farm and they played together, mostly outside. Farm workers would get together outside their cottages to play darts or just socialise. Also, most farms had at least one musician and so workers from neighbouring farms met in someone's house to play music - accordion, fiddle etc. and some played in Scottish dance bands for functions in and outwith the parish. There was fishing in Spott Burn or Spott Lake and a certain amount of poaching! Farm workers were taken by bus for a day out to the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh and would often attend the local agricultural shows. In the 1950s and ‘60s there were bus trips arranged in the spring and summer and people saved up to join the outing to the pantomime in Edinburgh, one of the highlights of the year. To celebrate the Coronation in 1952, a Grand Sports Event was held in the Glebe.

By the 1960s, many people had televisions. In 1970, parish residents plus members of the Sealed Knot Society took part in the re-enactment of the Battle of Dunbar. To celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 a beacon on Doon Hill was lit and then people gathered together in the village hall - the weather was terrible, very wet and windy!

From the 1970s more and more people had their own transport and were spending their leisure time away from the parish. The last major event to be held in the parish was a grand Summer Gala, which was held in May 1999 in a marquee in the grounds of Bourhouse (courtesy of Mr and Mrs Marrian). A trio of musicians entertained while guests were served with drinks on arrival and then a buffet dinner. A local Scottish dance band (Graeme Cockburn's Band) played for the dance which followed the meal. This was a very successful event organised by Spott Community Association as the last in a series of fundraising events to help pay for the refurbishment of the village hall'.


Spott parish has a long history of musicians who played together as a band at dances and parties and some who played for their own enjoyment. They came from all over the parish; the years they played are in brackets, and they are grouped together if they played together.



Bothwell | Easter and Wester Broomhouse | Friarsdykes | Halls, Boonslie and Beltondod | Pathhead | Pleasants | Spott | Changing ways | Cattle | Sheep | Crops | Pest control

Spott has long been an agricultural parish, and this remains its main economic activity. In 1945 there were eight farms (of which three were run as a single unit), all mixed arable and stock, in the north of the parish and four farms, mainly sheep farms, stretching from the higher reaches of the Lammermuirs to the Whiteadder River in the south (see also Land Ownership). The farms of Friarsdykes, Bothwell and Beltondod were all located within Spott parish until 1983.

By 2000, ownership of the farms has changed; rented farms have all but disappeared. Most are worked by their owners, most of whom lived on the farm. In a few cases, the farm buildings have been sold off, and the land amalgamated with another farm.


William W. Elliot was the tenant of Bothwell until his death in 1951. The owner, Sir George Grant-Suttie of Balgone had died in 1947, and his heir, George Phillip Grant-Suttie, was a minor. Also in 1951, the majority of the Grant-Suttie estates were sold. Bothwell was bought by William Girvan; in 1958, it was sold to Jack Elliott of Rawburn (near Longformacus). When he died in 1997 he left the farm to his son John, who farmed it but never lived there. John Elliott sold it in 2000 to Professor Penny who also owns the neighbouring farms of Crickness, Craigs Winsheil and Harehead. St Agnes (on the B6355), which was the hunting lodge for the estate, was originally sold on with the farm but is now in separate private ownership. Three houses on the farm are occupied by farm employees and one is empty.

Easter and Wester Broomhouse

The Earl of Haddington owned Easter and Wester Broomhouse farms until 1980. The farms were run as one unit, and were tenanted by three generations of the Robertson family - Thomas and Louisa; Thomas Peter and firstly Mona then Elma; and Struan and his brother Michael. At Wester Broomhouse, the chimney of the threshing mill, which stood at the northeast corner of the steading, was demolished in the early 1960s. The steading buildings have been modernised to suit modern farming machinery and practices.

Although there were 40 years of the lease remaining, in 1980 the Earl of Haddington was forced to sell the farms to fund a divorce settlement; both were bought by Alex Taylor who also owns Eweford farm (Dunbar parish) that lies adjacent on the north side of the A1. He re-allocated the fields, retaining the fields immediately south of the A1 together with part of Oswald Dean, to add to Eweford. The cottages of both the Broomhouse farms, which had gradually been rented out as the number of farm workers declined, were sold off to private owners.

Alex Taylor sold the remainder of the fields together with the Wester Broomhouse farm buildings and farmhouse to Tom Dykes, who remains the owner and farmer in 2000.

At Easter Broomhouse, the grain drying barns and cattle courts were not suitable for modern machinery and they had fallen into disrepair; the farmhouse and steadings of Easter Broomhouse have been sold for development in 2000 so that, in effect, the farm of Easter Broomhouse has disappeared.

David Cockburn (b 1936), horseman, Easter Broomhouse Farm, 1951-58/9, interviewed by Joanna Cockburn.

Mr Cockburn worked at Easter Broomhouse farm during the 1950s. It was his first full-time job after leaving school at 15 years old. His father was grieve of the farm and lived in the Grieve's Cottage with his family. He thoroughly enjoyed his time working on the farm. He felt the farmworker's life was a very healthy one and that the workers had a lot of fun together. He started full-time work on the farm aged 15, although he had worked during his school holidays prior to this. He finished working at Easter Broomhouse farm during 1958/9 to work at a sawmill at Thurston. He cannot remember exactly why he left, but thought it may have been because of better pay offered there.

The working hours were generally 7am until 5pm, however you had to get up about 5am to feed your horses. Mr Cockburn recollected that a man who lived in the farm cottages used to ‘knock up' the workers at 5am so that they would not sleep in. He also recalled that workers had to take their own harrows home to be polished in their spare time. During the harvest they could work all night to get the work finished in dry weather.

Mr Cockburn received two weeks' holiday a year, with only New Year's Day as a public holiday. There were no bonuses, however there was overtime available.

There was little or no provision for health and safety on the farm. There were quite a few accidents, and Mr Cockburn himself was nearly seriously injured when he was harrowing a field and got out of the tractor to remove a stone.

Mr Cockburn recalled having great fun while working on the farm. Many farmworkers in the parish would attend village dances, sometimes more than once a week. A popular pastime among the workers was to go up to Ossie Dean (Oswald's Dean) and to play football during the summer evenings. He recalled large games, involving dozens of people. Mr Cockburn and his family were quite close to their employers (the Robertson Family), as he and his 4 brothers were in a similar age group to the farmer's two sons. They all grew up together, and became like brothers. During the farmer's sons' school holidays, they would work on the farm alongside Mr Cockburn and his brothers.

One time of year he looked forward to was ‘tattie time' when squads of workers came from Tranent. The workers had great fun when they came. Mr Cockburn recalled Jimmy Hope (a local farmer) taking a bus of farmworkers to hear Billy Graham's Crusade in Edinburgh.

To supplement the family's income, Mr Cockburn recalled that his father would go rabbit-catching with ferrets on a Friday night, and would sell these rabbits. He remembered him putting the rabbits in a motorbike sidecar and driving them to the station for them to be picked up at the station in Edinburgh.


This farm is said to have gained its name for being home to banished, ill-behaved and refractory monks and friars of Melrose. Containing some good arable lands, Friarsdykes was noted to be very pleasant place in summer, but in a severe winter when blocked with snow for weeks, could be dreary and secluded.

The farm, which in 1945 was part of the Claverhills of Crichness estate, was to be home for three generations of Allen and Hardie families after it came up for sale in 1932. It was bought by the estate shepherd, Robert Allen and his wife Helen Rae. In 1933, Robert died, and his daughter, Isobel and her husband John Hardie moved into Friarsdykes, living with Helen until her death in 1960. Isobel and John's two children, Jim (see below) and Helen were both born on the farm; Jim worked there with his parents until in 1967, when they sold Friarsdykes and moved to Swanfield farm, Reston.

In 1967, Major Baillie of Crichness bought Friarsdykes. He sold Crichness lands to the Forestry Commission, but after the Department of Agriculture refused permission for forestation on Friarsdykes, it was sold again to William Dunlop of Elmscleugh. The farmhouse and nine acres were sold separately, and remain privately owned.

James Hardie (born 1930), grew up at, and then worked Friarsdykes farm until 1967. He was interviewed by Diana Hardy at Reston 4 July 2001.

James (Jim) born in 1930 and Helen (1937), were both born on the farm - probably with a district nurse in attendance. Helen went to Cranshaws Primary School then to Dunbar Secondary. During the latter time, she boarded at Halls farm and on leaving school went into service with Mrs Jeffrey at Halls until marrying. She now lives in Haddington.

Jim did all his schooling at Cranshaws, leaving when he was 14. He and his sister walked two and a half miles to Crichness farm where they were collected by car to be driven the next two and a half miles to school. They left home at 7.30 every morning, returning at about 5pm. The weather had to be really severe to stop them going, either pouring rain or heavy snow or, of course, when they were snowed in.

The family were mostly self-sufficient. They had pigs and hens and they always had two or three house cows, which gave them milk and from which Isobel made butter. The cows were milked every morning and any milk not used by the evening was fed to the pigs or discarded. They grew their own vegetables and shot game and rabbit for the pot. A van from Duns, driven first by Mr Veitch then Mr Baillie, came to Crichness once a week.

Cockburn Mill would cart feed for the Friarsdykes animals and after that closed, SAI from Edinburgh left supplies at Halls farm, which the Hardies would collect by cart, or later sometimes by Land Rover. Visitors to the farm were few, but included the Turners who lived at nearby Beltondod farm on the other side of Mossy Burn. For a spell in the forties, a Mr Harbison, whose daughter had a boarding house in Dunbar, occasionally walked up from Dunbar. He would have a cup of tea and then walk back to Dunbar carrying a basket full of eggs.

For any medical needs, Dr Anderson would come from Dunbar, and a vet from Duns would come and see to the animals. An Irishman also came for several successive years to help bring in the hay.

Until the Hardies left in 1967, little changed on the farm. Water was piped from a nearby spring, Tilly lamps provided light, and cooking was done on a range until the fifties when they acquired Calor gas for light and cooking. Although electricity passes across the farmland carried on huge pylons, Friarsdykes was never connected to it and they were still using a horse to work on the farm, never owning a tractor.

The family never took holidays except for a day out at the Highland, or local, agricultural shows. For entertainment, they had a radio, Isobel knitted and sewed, and Jim did fretwork. The weather in winter could be dreich with a lot of wind and they were often snowed in. But it was nothing new and the family accepted it as part of life in the Lammermuirs. Little shelter was ever provided at Friarsdykes in the form of trees with only one strip or two of about three acres of trees, mainly old Scots Pine, being planted for protection, although Robert Allen (Jim's grandfather) had planted many trees for the Claverhills at nearby Elmscleugh farm, most of which still stand, and there are spruce and Scots Pine at Beltondod farm.

In the way of wildlife around the farm, there were a lot of grouse and some partridge and, at one time, a lot of blackcock that used to eat the grain off the stooks. There were also swallows, skylarks, and lapwings, although the numbers of these declined as an increase in black hooded crows stole the lapwings' eggs. There were also kestrels, owls and woodpeckers as well as brown and mountain hares and lots of adders.

The Hardies used to keep about twelve score of ewes and 50 hogs. Their lambs would be driven down to Crichness and loaded onto a lorry for Reston Market. On the farm, they grew an acre of oats, half an acre of potatoes, turnips and kale (forage rape) for the sheep. They would grow five acres of hay (foagage), which was harvested with a horse reaper, turned first by hand and then by the horse-drawn wuffler. The stalks were arranged by hand into kyles (small ricks) before being combined into larger ricks, put onto a hay boogie and finally made into stooks and left in the field until required. No wonder they had extra help some years! Jim also grew half an acre of strawberries and sold the runners.

Halls, Boonslie and Beltondod

In 1945, the farm now known as Halls is listed as Halls and Halldown but both the name and the farmstead of Halldown have vanished. Owned by Brooke at Biel estate, from 1935 Halls was rented by Robin Jeffrey. In 1947, he bought Boonslie farm, which had been owned by the Duke of Roxburghe and leased to George Macgregor of Wester Meikle Pinkerton. In 1951 he also purchased Beltondod, formerly owned by Major James Hay of Belton, from the trustees of the late tenant, John Turner. Boonslie and Beltondod are both hill farms lying in the Lammermuirs south of Halls.

Farming and life in the Lammermuir Hills in the 1950s

In 1943, May married George Tait of Choicelee and moved to a farm at Millknowe in Stenton parish. They lived there until 1953 when they moved back to Berwickshire.

Two letters were sent to George Tait from Louisa Turner at Beltondod in Spott parish dated 1950, concerned with the giving up of the tenancy of the farm - involving the valuation, the taking of furniture to the Halls farm by tractor, the concern about the cow, being ‘ill-pleased’ at letting George Tait pay too much for a calf, no new tenant, corn chests etc. It must have struck George as special to keep these letters.

3rd October 1950

Mr Tait

Dear Sir

The weeks are passing quickly and it will soon be time for us going away. Will you kindly let me know if you will be able to take the cow in November? I don't want a big price for her, but I do want a good home. I did not think Mr Jeffrey would need her, but to make sure I asked him, and he said he did not need her.

She has done well this summer, and is a real pet of a beast. I would be very vexed to see her going away to a sale.

Our valuation is fixed for 2nd November - a month on Thursday - with Messrs John Swan and Sons (Mr Simpson) auctioneers, Haddington as sole arbiter. That date suits Mr Jeffrey best, and it suits us best too, to get it over before we dismantle the house altogether. Mr Jeffrey is taking the furniture to Halls by tractor and we will get Paterson from there. It is a long round-a-bout road to get to a place to which we have often walked. There is nobody coming in here when we leave. I think Mr Jeffrey would have liked if John Hardie could have taken the under end in with Friarsdykes, but he isn't able to do it meantime. Mr Jeffrey is not needing any corn chests, and Willie Anderson liked the last one John got three years ago, but perhaps he did not think it would be dear. It was £10.10/3 when new, but it may be valued at less than that on the valuation day. If he still wishes it we will ask Mr Simpson to value it, and if he does not now wish it, George Dickson was asking about it. I hope the black calf has done well, but I have been ill pleased at myself ever since for letting you pay £14 for it. It should just have been £13 and a very good price. Last year's calf was £13.10/- at Haddington but sale expenses and transport made it £13. I made up my mind to put it right when I wrote to you about the cow. So please accept the enclosed £1 note and many thanks to you.

Yours sincerely

Louisa Turner


6th November 1950

Dear Mr Tait

I have been a while in writing after the valuation. I was feeling wearied at the weekend. Mr Simpson and Mr Calder (I think he is Mr Simpson's nephew) came about 10 minutes to 11 o'clock and left at 1.30. So they reached their car as rain began to drizzle. Mr Jeffrey came with them and stayed all afternoon drawing out sheep, which he took to Hall on Friday.

169 went away, leaving only the very best. I never knew that the want of sight of a sheep and the want of a bleat made such a great difference to a place but it is desolate without a living animal within sight or sound and tends to make one feel lonely. It will be a wee while yet or [before?] we know what prices have been. I asked Mr Simpson to value the cow, and two corn chests separate to which he did. The cow was valued at £35. He said it was a long time or [before?] she calved again. The newest corn chest was £6 for Murray, Deuchrie and the one for Willie Anderson was £7. Mr Simpson said it was made of far better wood than the new one.

I think the cow should get home next week when it is a good day and the burn not too big, as we have not much hay in the barn and what is in the stackyard is not ours now. Perhaps you will send over the tractor before the cow goes, and I will send her Dairy Cubes with it. I hope Mrs Tait and you will like her after she gets settled down. She has never been driven out and in just led with her halter ever since she was a calf. She may shift her feet a little when letting down her milk or drawing up the cud, but there's no ill in it. It is only to ease herself. I just give the inside of her leg a bit clap. I would expect her to give milk at the least to end of January.

I have written a lot about the cow but she has been such a friendly beast and kind. One gets attached to them.

With kind regards.

Yours sincerely

Louisa Turner

Robin Jeffrey subsequently bought Halls in 1951 when the Brooke family was forced to sell off some of Biel estate to pay death duties. Robin Jeffrey married Elizabeth Simpson in 1940 and, following his death in 1963 she took over the running of the farm with the increasing help of her son Hamish. In 1975, Mrs Jeffrey moved to East Linton. In 2000, Halls, Boonslie and Beltondod are still owned and farmed by the Jeffrey family.


Pathhead was previously owned by Biel estate, and was sold by Brooke to raise funds in 1951. The tenant since 1938, Alexander Thomson, bought the farm; his son Giles was brought up there and attended Spott Primary School. Giles remembers the two teachers Mrs Miller and Miss Drafton. He recalls that the farm was a very busy place with many vans bringing things to sell, insurance agents calling and all the farm merchants and suppliers visiting. He worked for and then with his father, taking over when Alexander retired in 1984 and moved with his wife to East Linton (where she still lives). Mr Thomson senior died in 1991. Giles retired and sold the farm in 2000, and he and his wife moved to Ayton in Berwickshire. In October 2000 the farm was purchased by James Walker, who lives there with his wife and family.


Pleasants was formerly the farm of Bourhouse estate; part of the farmhouse is very old, and Pleasants has one of the few remaining unaltered farm buildings in the parish. Legend has it that the name of the farm derives from the fact that the house was where guests from Bourhouse took their pleasure and that there was a tunnel leading from one to the other. In the 1960s, Jimmy Miller, then ploughman at Wester Broomhouse, remembers a slab being brought up with the plough revealing a large ‘cundy' [tunnel]. A boy went a short way in both directions but was stopped for safety reasons, by Mr Henderson, the farmer. Could this be the ‘secret passage’? One of the fields has an old Celtic name Hurkletillane, which means ‘well on a hill’.

Brigadier Grainger Stewart owned Bourhouse and Pleasants farm from 1939-46. Robert Hope of Barneyhill and his wife owned the estate from 1946 on, separating the farm from Bourhouse almost immediately, and selling the latter. The tenant at Pleasants was John M Nelson, and he allowed both house and garden to become somewhat run down.

In 1949, Pleasants was purchased by William and Kay Henderson. Mrs Henderson took on the task of sorting out the garden, which had at one time been laid out in formal beds with box edging. Unfortunately, the box was well overgrown; it was removed and a lovely informal garden planted in its place. The Hendersons retired in 1987 and moved to Tyninghame. The farm was then bought by Gordon Tweedie, who added to it by purchasing three fields from the adjoining farm of Little Spott. In 2000, Pleasants is still farmed by Mr Tweedie

Mr and Mrs William Henderson farmed at the Pleasants from 1949-89; they were interviewed by Diana Hardy at Tyninghame on 23 May 2001.

There was no electricity at the farm until 1953. They used Tilly lamps that had to be trimmed every morning and tended to smell. They did however give off quite a bit of heat, which was most welcome in a cold house. They had a Rayburn, which ran on coke purchased from Foggo at Dunbar Station, which heated the hot water for the kitchen and bathroom. There was also a cooker, bought at a farm sale, which ran on Calor gas. Water came from a well near Pitcox (which now supplies ‘Findlay's Water'). It was a most irregular supply especially in summer when it was used to excess by tourists on the coast and the supply to Pleasants dwindled. In 1951 this was rectified when a connection was made to the reservoir on Wester Broomhouse (now the filter station).

The three Henderson children, along with the children of the farm workers, would walk across the glen by the right of way to Spott school. In inclement weather, Mrs Henderson would bundle the whole lot into the car and drive them round by the country lanes. Mrs Henderson has a vivid memory of the un-metalled road to the farmhouse with the water ‘bouncing down it' when there was heavy rain.

On ‘Farmer's Day’ Mr Henderson would go to the Royal Highland Show and on the following day, he hired a bus to take everyone else on the farm to the show, with lunch included, while he stayed at home and looked after things.


Spott House is a 17th century house on a long-established site. During the war, it was used as a convalescence hospital for Polish soldiers. In 1945, as for some years during the war, there was a market garden in the grounds of Spott House run by Stuart & Company.

Originally there were three farms on the Spott estate: Spott Home Farm, Doon farm and Big Spott (formerly Hillend) farm. In 1947, Sir James Hope purchased the estate from James Sprott, and ran the farms as one. It was during his ownership that mechanisation was introduced, including the use of the steam tractor to plough Doon Hill and other steep fields. On 28 November 1958, Sir James sold the entire estate and went to live on East Barns farm which he also owned and where he had lived during the war. It is said that East Barns had previously been part of the Spott estate but had been lost in a game of cards.

Mr John Lawrie, who already owned a dairy farm in Kinross, bought the estate. He was married to Mary Daisy McAdam and they had one son, Gilmour, and three daughters, Constance, Eileen and Dorothy. According to his daughter Constance, Mr Lawrie rose at 3.30 every the morning. He often set out at 5.30am, sometimes accompanied by his daughter Eileen, to start off the work in Kinross before returning to Spott - and this was long before the opening of the Forth Road Bridge! He has been described locally as ‘a farmer to his fingertips'. He was forward thinking and his aim was always to leave the land in better condition than it was when he purchased it.

Mrs Lawrie died in 1980, and Mr Lawrie decided to retire; he returned to Kinross then came back to live in Innerwick, dying there in 1989. Gilmour Lawrie, who had worked with his father, took over Spott farm in 1982. In 2000, he resolved to sell the estate and move with his family to Australia; the completion of the sale was not until 2001.

Ian Sands, interviewed by Joanna Cockburn on his working life as a horseman then foreman at Spott Home Farm, 1951- present.

Mr Sands started work when he was 15 years old, and was employed as a horseman. He had previously worked on the farm during the school holidays. He did his national service for two years starting in 1954, and returned to the farm after this was over.

He enjoyed working on the farm, although it was hard work. He found his then employer, Mr Jimmy Hope, to be fair, and conditions to be good. He was happy in his work too when the farm changed hands, and was bought by Mr Jock Lawrie in 1958.


In the 1950s, generally throughout the year, the working day started at 5.45am, when the horsemen would rise to feed their horses. They started work at 6.45am, and would work the morning with a break for breakfast. They usually finished at about 5pm, although during the harvest they would work longer. They worked Monday to Saturday dinnertime. During the winter they would start slightly later.

As the 1950s came to a close, the working day got slightly shorter, as tractors replaced horses.


During the 1950s the only day's holiday was New Year's Day. In the 1960s paid holidays were introduced, as was sick leave, which had up until then not existed.


When he started work in the early fifties, Mr Sands earned between £3 and £4 a week. This contrasted with his wage of 21 shillings a week when he did his national service. He received an annual pay rise. Bonuses were not introduced on the farm until the 1980s. Once a year, his employer would take the workforce to the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh as a summer day trip.

1950s & 1960s

When Mr Sands was single and still living at home, his wage was a good one. However when he got married, moved into a farm cottage (which was tied) and had children, it was not easy to get by on his wage alone.

Health & Safety 1950s-1980s

During the 1950s and 1960s, there was little if any provision for health and safety. Injuries were fairly common on the farm, and could occasionally be quite serious. Mr Sands' own mother fell off a trailer in the course of her work and was badly injured. She was in hospital and off work for some time, yet received no compensation or sick pay during this time. Health and safety provision improved as the 1960s went on, with trade unions campaigning for improvement in conditions.

Workers at the farm generally stayed for a good many years, so promotion could be a little slow and often depended on retirement. However Mr Sands progressed from horseman to foreman in the course of his employment at the farm.

During the ‘tattie season’, Irish labour was used on the farm. There were generally very good relations between the two sets of workers. Generally there was a busy social side on the farm, with workers going to local dances often once or twice a week, and socialising with other farms' workers.

Mr Sands was a member of a trades union in the 1950s, but gave up his membership in the 1960s. Part of the reason for this was that the farmworkers' union was not a strong one, and it waned in popularity into the 1960s.

Changing ways

Between 1945-51, horses still had a role to play in farming. Horses owned in the parish were: Pleasance, two and a half pair; Spott Home Farm, four and a half pair; Big Spott, seven pair; Pathhead, five pair; Wester Broomhouse, one pair. Easter Broomhouse also used horses during the 1950s.

It was the responsibility of each ploughman to look after his own pair. Before he started work at 6am he would feed and groom his horses and would feed and water them again on finishing work at 5pm. From the early 1950s tractors were introduced and the horses were no longer needed; nor were the men who cared for them. On Spott farm, the last field was ploughed with horses in 1953 and, until 1967 a working horse was still employed on Friarsdykes farm. In the 1980s, Oswald Dean was let out for grazing trotting horses and in 2000, the only horses kept are for riding.


Until the early 1950s, most farms kept at least one ‘house’ cow (Pleasance had three) to provide milk for the people who lived there. This practice died out partly due to the lack of someone to milk the cow and partly because of new health and safety regulations. The exception was Friarsdykes where two or three cows were kept for this purpose until 1967. During this era most farms had cattle, and every farm had at least one cattleman. Over time, the number of farms keeping cattle declined, as did the number of cattle kept.

From 1992-95, Spott farm had a herd of between 800-900 cattle; they were all sold six months before the sale of beef over 30 months old was prohibited due to the BSE crisis. There were no BSE infected cattle in the parish (see also Agriculture by Fiona Dobson, county volume). In 2000, Spott farm has cattle grazing in summer on Spott Dodd and in Spott Glen. Pleasants rent out their part of the glen for grazing. Halls and Pathhead have herds on their lands. There is now only one cattleman employed full-time in the parish.


Until the late 1960s all the farms, with the possible exception of Easter Broomhouse, kept sheep; the hill flocks were large, while the arable farms tended to have less than 100. Gradually the arable farms got rid of their sheep, and in 2000 there is now only one shepherd employed full time in the parish.

In the early days Cheviots or Blackface were kept but the majority now are cross-bred. Until the 1960s turnips were largely used for winter feed but turnips were very labour intensive although becoming less so as mechanisation took over. It was the custom to cut hay twice then the put the sheep on the new grass ‘put the hoggs to the foag'. Winterfeed is now hay, bruised oats or bought-in feed. There were no sheep in the parish infected with foot and mouth disease during the outbreak in 1967.

In 1982 Tom Dykes introduced a small flock of Border Leicesters in Wester Broomhouse. In 1988, when the shepherd on Spott farm died, the sheep were all sold and the farm has had none since.

Since 1992, only the hill farms have continued with sheep (Pathhead 400 and Halls 1450), except for the special flock at Wester Broomhouse although sometimes fields or the dean are rented out for grazing.


The main crops grown in the parish have always been spring barley, wheat, hay, and potatoes with oats and turnips in early years. It was customary to have a seven- or five-year rotation but this has largely died out. Sugar beet was grown until the late 1950s: it was carted to either Dunbar station or the sidings at North Belton, from whence it was carried by train to Cupar and the British Sugar refinery. Some farms grew mangolds for winterfeed. This was a form of sugar beet, similar to turnips but requiring the shaws only partly removed or they ‘bled’. They were buried in a pit, covered with straw, and later fed to the cattle. In 1970, oil seed rape was introduced, and in 1980 winter wheat was first tried. It is still grown at Halls and Pathhead as they find the early sowing advantageous; Spott and Broomhouse have discontinued its use. Peas were tried at Spott but not continued as they proved difficult to manage ‘they were like ball bearings’.

Diana Hardy collated the recollections of a number of farmers and their families from her interviews with them:

It is rural employment in which the parish has seen most change. Until 1951 turnips were a particularly labour intensive crop. They were hand sown then ‘sing-eld’ (singled) then shawed (topped and tailed), lifted into carts and removed for storage to be kept for winter feed. Women, who protected their heads and faces from the wind and weather by wearing ‘uglies’ or scarves, usually carried out this work. A turnip field could be up to 60 acres.

Corn was cut and tied into sheaves. It was then arranged in stooks (stood on end in bundles in the field) to ripen. When dry, they were taken to the stack yard and laid in iron frame, and kept there until there was time to thresh them. A steam engine (mill) with the threshing machine used to travel around the farms to do this or the farmer might carry out this task himself. The corn was then bagged and the stalks went through the ‘buncher’ with its wire bailer and stored in sheds until needed for the animals.

Hay was cut and turned until dry. It was then made into haystacks, which could be anything up to eight feet high. Haystacks were a feature of the countryside as were scarecrows. Until the 1970s, scarecrows were to be seen in many fields but with the decline in the numbers of orramen and ploughmen employed, there was no longer time to make them. In the late 1960s another means of scaring birds was a length of hemp strung with ‘bangers’ an oil drum was places over the top and when the hemp was lit a succession of loud bangs were very effective at frightening off the birds from the crop. Nowadays a gas gun using Calor gas is used or a metal reflecting windmill.

Pay and conditions were a matter of individual negotiation. Wages could be as high as £5 a week. Accommodation was free, either a two- or three-roomed cottage (no matter the numbers living there) or a one-roomed bothy. By the early 1950s there was still no electricity but there was running water and usually a toilet tacked on behind the kitchen. In addition people were allowed to keep a pig or two and a few hens. They all grew vegetables and were given milk, from the house cows, and 16 bags of potatoes (or the cash equivalent). The house went with the job and as people moved frequently from farm to farm they also had to move home. In 1948 the Orlits (council housing) were built in Spott village; one reason for this being to provide more permanent housing (especially for retired farmworkers).

In 2000 Halls employs a cattleman, a shepherd, and two tractormen. Spott has re-employed one man. The other farms are worked by the farmer alone or (Pathhead) with his son.

Pest control: rabbit trapping

Rabbit trapping was a competitive business, with trappers surveying a farm's potential, putting in a tender based on anticipated profits, and then the highest bidder winning the trapping rights for a year. A range of methods was used: pin snares in grass or moorland; fence snares; gin and fen traps set in the mouths of burrows; ferrets with nets over bolt holes; cymag gas; and shooting, using either a 410 and 12 gauge shotgun and dogs.

From the Haddingtonshire Courier, spring 1951

The rabbit population was reported as being very high, and demand great because of the reduced meat ration (rationing was still in force, and seems to have been tighter than before); during the ‘wild’ winter of 1949/50, demand was so low that

‘... trappers could not earn wages, breeding went on practically unhindered by the weather, with the result that the population rose rapidly last spring and summer. Farmers had to protect their crops by gassing the rabbits, and by surrounding complete fields with netting... The present demand and the high prices for rabbit meat and skins are enabling trappers to press forward in a concentrated effort to reduce numbers to a safe limit.’

Jimmy Sives, who still lives in the family home at Burnhead, recalls his father's work in the parish and beyond (J.A. Sives born 1913, retired 1978)

‘My father started working in the 1930s as a trapper for James McLean of Morham, who was contracted to kill the rabbits at Halls farm (and many other farms in the area). By the late 1930s, father had become self-employed, and took on the Halls farm contract for himself, transporting himself firstly on an old butcher's bike, and later an elderly Vauxhall van, when he won contracts for other farms (Pathhead, Deuchrie, Stoneypath, Yarrow, Ruchlaw West Mains, Thurston Mains, Aikengal and Lumsden) in the area. He employed several men to trap these areas for him as most of his time was taken up transporting rabbits to Dunbar railway station and moving trappers and equipment to different areas; he even had a team working in Sutherland.

The trapping season lasted from late August (after harvest) until the end of March. After this, the young rabbits proved almost impossible to trap and had no commercial value; in summer, there were too many mackie flees [bluebottles] about, even though the rabbits were transported in fly-proof hampers (father's was a big wooden box, ventilated with perforated zinc, and about 4' long, by 2' by 2'). For the rest of the year, trappers took whatever work was available - fencing, draining, dyking, bracken cutting and mole catching.

...father used gin traps, wire fence snares and pin snares. The pin snares had a peg like a tent peg, some string and wire, and he had a special [gadget] to twist the 5 strands of brass wire together: the ash peg was knocked into the ground with the string, and the hazel star pin (9" long with a sharp point and a slit) held the wire and the loop of the snare open; the string stopped the rabbit escaping after it was caught, and the hazel pegs were dispensable. The snares were set in groups of 5, across runs, which are rabbit-made well-trodden pathways through the grass, used to access fresh pasture and to provide the rabbits with a quick escape route back to the burrow.

... three men could set about 900 snares a day, and the average kill would be about 400 rabbits. The snares were set during the day, and the trappers had to go round at first light, or the foxes, buzzards, wild cats, gulls and crows got them. They were gutted, paired up through the tendon on the back legs ... the foot of one into the tendon of the other, looped over a broom-like pole into the hamper. The rabbits were taken to Dunbar [railway] station by van, and then sent off to markets in Edinburgh and Leeds.

In 1953/54, the introduction of the myxomatosis virus nearly wiped out the rabbit population, and trapping on a commercial scale was finished. However, a small number of rabbits recovered from the virus, and gradually (by the 1960s) the numbers again began to rise, much to farmers' concern. As a result, the Rabbit Clearance Society was formed, who charged a small fee per acre to enable them to employ, and equip, a full-time trapper. My father applied for one of the jobs on offer, and found himself solely responsible for some 20,000 acres, on farms from Oxwellmains [Dunbar] west to Ormiston Hall’.

From the Haddingtonshire Courier, 16 March 1951

‘Under the auspices of the Scottish Landowners' Federation, East Lothian Area of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland and the Agricultural Executive Committee for the Lothians, a local rabbit destruction committee has been set up...’

Mole trapping

‘By the 1960s and 1970s, moles were (and still are) another serious problem, and the Rabbit Clearance Society took on a contract to control mole numbers by the use of poisoned bait. On commercial farmland molehills damaged the silage machines. The killing started in February, using strychnine crystals (under license): father kept his locked away in a cashbox, in little bottles. He followed the plough along the fields, and gathered worms [for bait] from the trench; he put them in an old bean tin, sprinkled on the strychnine and stirred. Then, if he came upon a mole run or molehill, he would poke carefully into the hill until he found the hole, and push in the worm. Worryingly, Strychnine kills many times over through the food chain’.

Jimmy Sives

J.A. Sives (b1913, retired 1978) also had a smallholding in the 1950s and 1960s.

‘My father ran a 7-8 acre smallholding at Burnhead, Spott: we generally had two cows and a calf, six to seven sheep (Suffolk, Cheviot and Blackface) and a small field of hay’.

Jimmy Sives

Local Government

There was little involvement of political parties until c1974. Given that in 1969 the population of the parish, though still diminishing, was still mainly engaged, directly or indirectly, in agricultural work, and hence estate driven, it is not surprising that there is little or no recollection of ‘local’ politics. Indeed, the only two politicians whose names seem to come readily to the minds of the few older inhabitants still living in or around the parish, the Conservative MP Major W.J. Anstruther Gray and the Labour representative John P. Mackintosh were ‘national’ rather than ‘local’. This may be due to the apparently common practice whereby, on polling days, farm workers would be gathered together early in the morning, reminded of their voting ‘duties’ by their employer and transported to cast their votes, NOT always according to their employer's exhortations, but sometimes according to conscience!

In the late 1960s, one major issue of local importance, however, did affect the parish, but, by its very nature, became of national significance, in that the good offices of the then MP for East Lothian, John Mackintosh, were sought. The issue concerned the closure of Spott Primary School and the use to which it was to be put upon closure. The principal personalities involved were the minister (Reverend Duncan Turner); the director of education for the county (Dr John Meiklejohn); and the aforementioned John P. Mackintosh. After months of persistence, in the form of letters to the press, and to those involved in helping to solve the issue, public meetings, and a petition signed by 106 persons residing in and around the parish to the Secretary of State for Scotland, Willie Ross, the issue of whether the school should become the focus for Spott community activities, or be used as a holiday home for mental health patients (the council's stated intention) was finally decided in favour of the community. The controversy between the people of Spott and East Lothian County Council was finally solved when the East Lothian Voluntary Association for Mental Health abandoned its plans to turn the school into a holiday home for the patients of Herdmanflat Hospital.

‘it is possible for them (the MHA) to go elsewhere without detriment to themselves. It is quite impossible for Spott community to go elsewhere.’

Haddingtonshire Courier editorial, 16 May 1969

It would appear from the very large file of correspondence and press coverage, that although the county councillor, Mr V.C.V. Cowley, agreed that Spott village had a ‘desperate’ need for a village community centre, it was the Reverend Turner who most actively pursued the matter to the very highest levels of government, to the ultimate and continuing benefit of the local community.

For the period 1975-96 it would appear that the community council and the owners of Spott estate were those mostly involved in matters relating to Spott, and that these were mainly connected with planning issues. Incomers to the village, who bore no loyalty to the owners of the estate, felt that the desire to exploit agricultural land for housing for which there was no proven need, was not in the interest of the village. That plans did not go ahead would seem to indicate that the owners of the land, and of a not insignificant number of properties in and around the village (originally built for agricultural workers), were no longer in a strong enough position to ‘influence’ decisions concerning new developments.

From 1996 on, the issue of land use and housing developments came to the fore in a major way during this period. Plans that had been afoot to build houses on the only vacant plot of land between the church and the community hall (former school) surfaced once again, and most acrimoniously, during the Public Inquiry into the East Lothian Local Plan. The village was split into two camps, and the eventual outcome was that East Lothian Council accepted ‘that housing at the objection site would have a detrimental effect on the setting of the listed church and on fine views across the site’. The reporter also noted (April 1999) that ‘all the land around the village is in a single ownership and there have been several unsuccessful planning applications for large scale housing developments in the past, including on the objection site’.

What this would finally seem to demonstrate is that local ‘government’ was now, in some tangible form, in the hands of the elected council and its officials, rather than subject to any estate-driven interest. The councillor of the period, Jean McEwan, worked very hard to obtain an acceptable solution, but met great acrimony during the public inquiry sessions devoted to the issue. The current, only lately approved, local plan, designates Spott as a conservation area, and would therefore seem, for the moment at least, to guarantee that in future, agricultural land may only be subject to a change of use in favour of housing IF there is a demonstrable need to create such housing for ‘purely agricultural purposes’.

Spott has two members on the East Lammermuir Community Council. Great difficulty has been experienced in trying to retrieve the minutes of community council meetings, and therefore only snippets relating to its deliberations and effectiveness have so far come to light. These include concerns over vandalism to the sign at the entrance to the village (from Dunbar), road surfaces, and the lack of a play area for older children. Though meetings are supposed to be public, it would seem that (latterly at least) there is no public notification of such meetings, and therefore no possible presence thereat on the part of any interested villagers.

Given the estate driven nature of decisions in the earlier period, and the agricultural nature of the occupations of villagers and parishioners generally, until 1969 and the school disputes, no manifest interest in national ‘politics' was apparent. Even then, it was not until the public inquiry of 1999 on planning that local politics seemed to take the stage.

Similarly, national and European politics would seem to have had no repercussions or echoes at all in the parish. The name John P. Mackintosh seems to resonate more than others and it is clear that he was actively present, where needed. Since the population is still very small and most of the incomers are working or retired professional people, there is little of the social cohesion or mix likely to lead to, or require, much ‘political’ debate. That said, if an issue were to arise that might have a negative outcome for the parish, and for the village in particular, doubtless solidarity would win the day.

It should finally be noted that, despite the rural nature of the parish, and the general national trend for voters to ignore elections of whatever nature, polling days in Spott village hall bear witness to a high percentage of voters actually turning out to vote.

Revisiting the Past

It is probable that the area round Spott was first inhabited by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers during the period c7000-3500 BC. Finds of groups of flint tools from this period were discovered in 1975 nearby at Hedderwick and at Torness. No settlements have been found from the Neolithic period c4000-2500BC, but fine polished axes found in many parts of Lothian, including Doon Hill, are an indication that there were early farmers in this area.

The presence of the standing stone on Easter Broomhouse and of a cist and cairn monument on nearby Sparleton Edge, point to the area being settled during the early and middle Bronze Age c2500-1000 BC.

Since the advent of aerial photography, crop marks have shown the position of several possible forts and settlements around the present village from the late Bronze Age and pre- Roman Iron Age c1000BC-43AD. The National Monuments Records of Scotland have details of all finds, but the most important are the Chesters (previously visited by the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments - RCAHMS - in 1913 and 1941); probably forts (or enclosures) on Spott Dod, Spott Mill, Easter Broomhouse, Bourhouse, Hurkletillane, Pleasants, Doon Hill, Boonslie, Halls and Bell Craig; a settlement at Pleasants, Bourhouse and at the Black Loch; a hut-circle on Lothian edge; also several pit-alignments and various crop marks. Just over the parish boundary, at Doon Hill, excavations in 1964-66 revealed the site of the timber halls and enclosures.



Two artists have worked in the parish; Mona Robertson, Easter Broomhouse attended art college, and at least one of her paintings remains in the ownership of a resident of the parish. Fiona Malcolm DA studied at Dundee, graduating in printed textiles and embroidery. She also has a Certificate of Education from Moray House, Edinburgh. Fiona produced numerous private commissions, 1973-98. She has had a number of exhibitions, including a solo show at the Peter Potter Gallery, Haddington, 1977, 1999; ‘Embryo' Exhibitions 1990-99, including one at the Orangery, Hampton Court Palace; Scottish Artists and Artist Craftsmen 1990-98; Visual Arts Scotland, 1999; and from 1972 to date, various local, joint and mixed exhibitions. She presently teaches art full time to children with special needs.

Sports People

Two weightlifters of note are associated with Spott:

Tommy Lunan, 1971-72 Middle Weight Eastern District Champion.

Stewart Robertson, 1967 Light Heavy Weight Scottish Silver Champion; 1969 Light Heavy Weight Scottish Silver Champion; 1973 Eastern District Champion; 1974 British Universe Middle Weight Champion and Scottish Champion.


In 1998, the community hall was renovated thanks to funding from the Scottish Office Local Capital Grants scheme and a grant from East Lothian Council. This has resulted in the hall being used more for local events and for money being raised by the hall being hired out for functions.

End of rationing

Like others working in food production and rural employment generally, many in Spott had some access to supplies rationed for the urban population during the war. Thus, the removal of rationing had perhaps less effect on day-to-day living in the parish than elsewhere. Some German prisoners of war were billeted in Spott after the war and one or two married locally and stayed on in casual employment. There were also a number of Polish soldiers billeted in Spott House, but few, if any stayed on in the parish.


Employment in the parish was until the 1970s intimately linked with the rural economy and up to ten families were supported by each of the local farms; over 100 Spott men and women worked in local agricultural jobs in 1950. However, the mechanisation of farming took a mounting toll on farm employment and, by 1980 there were fewer than 40 full-time agricultural workers in the parish. In 2000, there are fewer than 20 farm workers all told, including the landowners themselves.

Conversely, the restoration of the village square in the 1980s, together with subsequent in-fill building development, more than doubled the stock of dwelling houses in the village. These new houses have virtually all been occupied by families working outside rural employment, many of them at some distance from Spott. Thus, changes in the employment base, coupled with building development in the village, have led to a significant change in the social culture of the village. These two factors have been by far the largest to affect local living patterns since 1945. However, perhaps the most important single event in the post-war history of Spott was the closure of the school in 1969. The development of the local cement works in 1963 and the building and operation of Torness Power Station at Skateraw in the decade of the 1980s have provided some new jobs for Spott residents.



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