Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in /var/sites/e/ on line 61

Deprecated: Function set_magic_quotes_runtime() is deprecated in /var/sites/e/ on line 33
The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian - Home

East Lothian 1945-2000


Edited by Sonia Baker

Published 2003-2009

Vol One: The County; Vol Two: The Parishes of Garvald, Haddington, Morham, Prestonkirk, Whittingehame, Yester; Vol Three: The Parishes of Bolton, Gladsmuir (with Longniddry), Humbie, Ormiston, Pencaitland, Saltoun; Vol Four: The Parishes of Aberlady, Athelstaneford, Dirleton (with Gullane), North Berwick, Whitekirk & Tyninghame; Vol Five: The Parishes of Inveresk (with Musselburgh), Prestonpans, Tranent (with Cockenzie & Port Seton); Vol Six: The Parishes of Dunbar, Innerwick, Oldhamstocks, Spott, Stenton; Vol Seven: Growing up in East Lothian; Reminiscences from Across the County 

Price £8 each

Special price for all seven volumes £45

For details and extracts from individual volumes see below


Volume Seven: Growing up in East Lothian: Reminiscences from Across the County

This final volume, was launched on 14 November, 2009

It is on sale in all East Lothian libraries and some bookshops

This volume encapsulates the reminiscences of a range of individuals who grew up in various parts of East Lothian during different decades after the second world war. The result is a snapshot of life in various parts of East Lothian which will make fascinating reading for the general public, as well as giving an insight into the social history of the time.


It is the smells that still linger, from the oxidisation of the long strands of wire at Brunton’s wire the beautiful aroma winding its way from Ford’s bakery. As you travelled past the cobbler’s at the corner of Mitchell Street, the smell of leather and glue lingered in the air. The two pubs, ‘The Crown’ on Mall Avenue and ‘The Auld Brig’ on Eskside West, were alive with shift workers downing pints in a haze of cigarette and pipe smoke. (Musselburgh - Peter Ford)

[Prestonpans] had a very good picture house which had the unfortunate nickname of 'the scratcher'. When the Pathé newsreels came on and Winston Churchill appeared, he was always booed because of his unpopularity amongst mining communities since he served as Home Secretary during the general strike of 1926. (Pat O’Brien)

As a youngster growing up in the country, life was enjoyed in accordance with the seasons and what was happening on the farms... When the hay was cut and dried in the early summer and the stacks were pulled on to the carts to be taken in to the farm steading, we would sit on the back as the horse slowly pulled its load to the farm. When all the sheaves had been built into stacks, the mill would come round and again there would be great interest as the threshing took place in the stackyard in the village. (John B. Halliday)

There was a market garden and nursery where Abbey Court is now, then the bustling station, complete with goods yard and the welcoming coal office, with a cosy fire burning... Best of all, up the hill from the school, the Mains was still a working farm, with fields where the sports centre, Law Primary School, and Macnair Avenue were later built and, across Law Road, the traditional steading built of Law stone where Couper Avenue is now. (North Berwick - Jean McEwan)

Socially, in the autumn, in Morham Hall there was indoor carpet bowling; the East Lothian League required the club to turn out to other parishes – Garvald, Longyester, Spott, the Boggs. Then there were the kirns (basically Scottish country dancing) held to boost hall funds, and at Garvald on a Saturday night there was also a dance held. There were other kirns held at Longyester, Crossroads, Boggs; some of these died out, others turned into flower show dances. (Robert Gray)

In the early 1960s, a large area of highly productive farmland to the west was sold to Portland Cement, who wished to quarry the limestone. This meant that fewer workers were needed to work the remaining ground. Many of the men moved to employment with Portland’s and there was a gradual shift of families away from the farm. The need to move was hastened by the severity of blasting that took place at the quarry. (Catherine Walker Acton)

Sweeties were chosen from the many jars on the shelves in ‘Laura’s’ in the West Port or from ‘Annie’s’ on the way to school. Our school clothes came from the Kilt Shop (now the Ocean Chip Shop), while summer clothes were found in Miss Darlings’, Mrs. Taylor’s or Sinclair’s the drapers. Later, our first ‘maxi’ dresses for the school dance came from Daniel Smith’s. (Pauline Smeed)

The central focal point of Port Seton was always the harbour. This was where the life force of the village was when I was young – there would be 52 boats stretching right across the harbour, side by side... My dad used to deliver oil to all the boats in the harbour, working for his uncle Sandy in William Weatherhead’s boat builders. The sight of all the boats and the banter of all the fishermen and their sons, was so overwhelming in its beauty that it inspired my depth and vision of life itself.(John Bellany)

VOLUME SIX: THE PARISHES OF Dunbar, Innerwick, Oldhamstocks, Spott, Stenton (published 2008)


At the end of 1945, Dunbar had to adjust to a greater extent to the peacetime world than many other small burghs. The town had been heavily militarised, and the whole of Belhaven Bay had been taken over by the MOD, and the burgh itself was in a sense a fortress for much of the war. For a period, travel was restricted and communications harder than otherwise. (Dunbar section)

West Barns was until the 1970s a settlement with industries; it is now primarily a residential village. To its inhabitants, West Barns village is most adamantly not part of Dunbar. (Dunbar section)

The burgh [population] figure was stable until the period 1961-71. The rise of 500 seen then was almost entirely due to the influx of Glasgow settlers in the decade from 1962. The burgh growth in the next decade is much harder to explain although a baby boom was part of it. It may be that this marked the beginning of the growth of Dunbar as a commuter and retirement community. (Dunbar section)

In East Barns in the 1950s there were around 16 occcupied houses on Farm Road and Farm Square plus James Hope’s farmhouse, the schoolhouse, lodges and smithies. By 1960-1… it is clear that the community was in decline in preparation for the arrival of Blue Circle… As its school closed… and its excellent land was given up… its people moved away and the buildings were scheduled eventually to be quarried away. (Dunbar section)

…By 2000 there were no shops where a chair or stool was available on the customers’ side of the counter, once a common courtesy extended to the elderly and those that might just sit and gossip, or even rest. With less High Street choice and more supermarket shopping the distance between staff and customers appeared to be greater. Perhaps automated tills also had a role to play in this as the process of adding up and asking for change, etc., once helped to inject variety in the day-to-day transactions of the street. (Dunbar section)

There were also at least ten guesthouses, and the two caravan sites. Hogg’s tearooms and the Ocean Restaurant offered refreshments. The Victoria Ballroom had a programme of events all summer long. Johnny’s Beach Amusements – ‘the palace of pleasure’ – had prize bingo and miniature golf, and there was ‘Ye Olde Rock Shoppe’ at Erinalls. Round the open-air pool were galas, bathing beauty competitions, late night swimming and dancing. Two golf courses, two bowling greens, putting greens, pony trekking, sea and fresh water angling, boat trips and bird watching contributed to the town’s attractions. (Dunbar section)

Floors were normally covered with linoleum and rag rugs, which would be homemade or locally made by an expert, a friend or relative. Furniture was in short supply and, immediately after the war, was restricted. Some new, utility standard furnishings were available to newly-weds, otherwise the norm was second-hand acquired by various means including auction sales which were popular. In the 1950s, furniture was more plentiful and non-fitted carpets became common. By the end of the period there was lavish expenditure on furniture, fitted carpets, and DIY and flatpacks. (Innerwick section)

Milk cows were kept at Cocklaw and at Oldhamstocks Mains. Villagers once collected their daily pints in lidded pitchers…from Lotte Armstrong at ‘Greenend’. Mobile shops provided groceries, bakery goods and meat to the village and hamlets from 1945, but it is fair to say that even during the times of rationing there was never any shortage of food in this farming community. Pheasants, rabbits and deer were plentiful sources of protein. (Oldhamstocks section)

From about 1940, Mrs Yule was a land girl, working as a stockwoman at Cocklaw Farm…She did the job of an ‘ orra man’, driving a horse and cart and was answerable to both the grieve and the shepherd. She carted loads of turnips and other crops, fed grain to the cattle and made frequent trips to the smithy to have the horses shod or to have various implements sharpened. (Oldhamstocks section)

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. (Spott section)

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, when 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. (Spott section)

The greatest change to the buildings in Stenton has been the change of use; the grocery, bakehouse, smithy, and joiners are all now private houses. The buildings round the old horsemill are now two separate homes. Derelict houses have been restored in a sympathetic way and internally brought up to date for 20th century living; extensions have been built at the back of a number of houses, and in places, pairs of cottages have been joined to make one house for a family. Even as late as 1981, there was at least one house still with an earthen floor. (Stenton section)

After the war people used pedal or motorcycles to get about, as it was difficult to buy a car. Cars were unavailable and beyond the means of many people. The buses only ran four days a week. The bus on Saturday did allow residents to shop in either Dunbar or Haddington. It was difficult to travel to work outside the parish via the bus service but the last bus on a Saturday ran after the last film at Dunbar cinema. The buses were owned by Ewart of Haddington and were driven by Bobby Rollo. Only the advent of general car ownership allowed the village of Stenton to survive from the 1980s. (Stenton section)

VOLUME FIVE: THE PARISHES OF Inveresk (with Musselburgh), Prestonpans, Tranent (with Cockenzie & Port Seton) (published 2007)


Wallyford colliery had closed for coal production before the war, being retained only as a pumping pit, employing 16 people in 1945… In 1945 Carberry employed 362 miners below ground and 133 above ground. Whitecraig village had basically developed to serve the A.G. Moore & Co. collieries of Smeaton and Dalkeith. Smeaton mines at Crossgatehall closed in 1948 but were replaced by the more modern and larger mines of Dalkeith Colliery situated near Smeaton Junction. Carberry and Prestonlinks closed in the earlty 1960s and Dalkeith in 1978… (Inveresk section)

Market gardening was a large part of land use in 1945 with many women, often miners’ wives, employed in the back-breaking work of planting and harvesting of vegetables, cabbages, cauliflowers, leeks, salad crops and turnips, etc… Most farms also grew potatoes, either using local labour or Irish squads, the latter living in the most basic accommodation, sometimes just a shed divided by a partition between males and females… Horses were still used in the 1940s and early 1950s with tractors taking over towards the end of the 1950s. The biggest change in machinery was the combine harvester, which changed the lives of many farm workers… (Inveresk section)

In 1945, Prestonpans was home to brickmaking; clay (pipes); coal mining…. and the manufacture of oilskin, salt and soap, as well as … brewing and baking. Many of the industrial premises were located within the town itself, including the soapworks and the former saltworks site…By 2000, most of the heavy industries had gone, and light industry had increased in importance. (Prestonpans section)

Fisherrow has long been the home port for a thriving fishing fleet… The fleet had reduced to ten pairs of boats by 1960; as fishing for herring and white fish became more difficult and more men were leaving the job with no young men taking up fishing, more boats were sold off. By the 1970s the fleet was down to eight boats… At the start of the new century there were only two boats in the ‘home’ fleet. (Musselburgh section)

Greyhound racing took place two evenings a week at Forester’s Park, home of Tranent Juniors Football Club. The club got a share of the race money. Friday racing was particularly popular, as it was payday (therefore probably not popular with the wives and mothers)… On race nights, if anyone who owned or looked after the greyhounds was seen coming out of any of the chip shops with a pie supper, those in the know would not back their dogs, because the pie (deep-fried) was for the dog, so it was ‘not trying’ that night. (Tranent section)

…A familiar figure to everyone in Prestonpans from the 1940s to the 1960s was Nurse Bird, flying along on her bicycle in her nurse’s uniform with her black medical bag behind her. When we were very young, we children thought Nurse Bird brought the babies to people’s houses in her black bag… One dark night, my mother…sent me along to Nurse Bird’s house to fetch the parcel that was always brought to the house before a birth... The shed was filled with these parcels and they were an essential part of the birth process in every household, but to this day, I have no idea what the parcels contained. Probably some older residents of Prestonpans might be able to shed light on this mystery. (Prestonpans section

Nationalisation was indeed a boon to the Fleets miner. Gone were the days when an oversman or fireman had the power to dismiss a man for the slightest misdemeanour, often a man with quite a large family. They showed no remorse whatever. Men were happier at work and coal was being produced abundantly, good quality coal. (Tranent section)

The number of women who held prominent positions in Tranent is notable. Before the second world war Margaret Nicholson had been the town’s first woman councillor and the first woman magistrate in Scotland. Meg Henderson became the first woman provost in 1956, Mrs Margaret Glennie followed in 1960 and the last town council before its abolition in 1975 boasted not only provost Margaret Kerr but a further two women councillors … (Tranent section)

VOLUME FOUR: THE PARISHES OF Aberlady, Athelstaneford, Dirleton (with Gullane), North Berwick, Whitekirk & Tyninghame (published 2006)


Of all the changes that have taken place on the farms in the parish since 1945, the greatest has been the reduction in the labour force. In 1950, there were 235 men and 25 women working full-time , and 30 men and 40 women part-time… In 1999, the number of employed people had declined to 32 men and six women full-time, with nine men and eight women part-time. This represents an almost 80% reduction in the number of people working both full-time and part-time on the farms over 50 years. (Dirleton section)

Our population around this time was about 4000 and the months of July and August in the fifties saw this at least double with summer visitors mainly from Edinburgh and Glasgow… In 1953 there were 39 hotels and boarding houses providing full board, three meals per day… 3000 would attend a children’s swimming gala and 700 would pack into a Saturday night dance in the harbour Pavilion. So many passengers thronged the outbound trains at the end of Edinburgh and Glasgow holidays that it took two steam locomotives to pull them up the incline to the gasworks… By 2000 there were only six hotels left, no boarding houses and only a handful of bed and breakfast establishments. There were a few self-catering units. (North Berwick section)

In 1945 most of the population in the parish were in one way or another connected with farming and estate work. This profile has drastically changed. By 2000 no-one living in Whitekirk was involved in farming, the only animals being domestic cats, dogs, a cockerel and three hens. (Whitekirk & Tyninghame sections).

…East Fortune was the great haven for tubercular patients, with its row upon row of beds under verandahs… Such was the diversity of this great little community that it was able to have its own magazine: ‘Fortune’… The radio network broadcast each day, news, requests for patients and staff…The children were involved in brownies, guiding and scout groups. Both staff and patients were adept at producing their own drama groups. (Athelstaneford section).

VOLUME THREE: The Parishes of Bolton, Gladsmuir (with Longniddry), Humbie, Ormiston, Pencaitland, Saltoun  (published 2005)


Horses were still used on farms until the mid 1950s but the mechanisation of agriculture was relentless.  Mechanisation and in particular the use of hydraulic technology was directly related to the massive reduction in farm labour over the period. (Bolton section).

Penston Brass Band got its name from the village of Penston on its foundation on 6 April1842.  The band was formed from the 300+ inhabitants of the mining communities which flourished when coal was the leading industry in the Macmerry/Penston area.Naturally, most of the founder members were miners.  Though Penston village has dwindled from a thriving village to a cluster of farm cottages, the band is probably as strong and as 'weel kent' as ever.  (Gladsmuir section)

I started school in Longniddry after Easter 1950 ... We learned to write on slates and had to take a rag and a bottle of water to school with us to clean them ... Sometimes Miss Campbell would use a big abacus while teaching us to count.  It stood about five feet high and had large coloured wooden beads.  (Gladsmuir (Longniddry) section).


VOLUME TWO: The Parishes of Garvald, Haddington, Morham, Prestonkirk, Whittingehame, Yester (published 2004)

VOLUME ONE: The County (published 2003)

All these volumes are still available – for details contact East Lothian Council Library Service, Library & Museums HQ, Dunbar Road, Haddington, EH41 3PJ. Tel (01620) 828200.

Powered by Website Baker