Skip to content

The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

Peter Ford (1957) - Musselburgh, 1960s


Peter’s family business at Bridge End Bakery, Musselburgh

I was born in 1957, the youngest of three children to Jim and Jessie Ford. We stayed in Hercus Loan, just off Eskside West. Both sides of the River Esk were a hive of business during the 1960s. It was also a major thoroughfare for people and cars moving to and from Midlothian, and more closely, Stoneybank and Eskview.

The fondest and most lasting memories I experienced during the period in the ‘60s were the smells and the noise of the area. Every business had an odour and decibel foot print, which would probably be unacceptable in today’s ultra-sensitive society. Between each business, there were groups of houses which were occupied by mill workers who lived in this porridge of sound and smell.

It is the smells that still linger, from the oxidisation of the long strands of wire at Brunton’s wire works at between 7.30 and a quarter to eight every morning, to 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. Each time the door opened, another wall of chatter and smoke came out on to the street.

Terry Wiles’ buses brought coal miners back from their shift at Monktonhall Colliery. Each bus stopped off for the men to buy a paper, cigarettes and the morning rolls, before making it home to Prestonpans, Port Seton or Tranent, for their beds. The process would reverse itself with the next shift. The SMT buses would line up on Mall Avenue to take home workers from the mills at a quarter to five every evening, turning over their engines in the winter months, desperately trying to create heat to allow their passengers to see out of the steamed-up windows.

At night, things did not stop. Only the smells died down. The sounds were still there. The looms in Stuart’s cotton mills still spun, the water rushed through the weir at the paper mill. At my house, I would probably be filling the coal scuttles, two for each room, ready for the next day’s fires.

Noise and smell, and so many stage players that were part of that area, that time......and my memories.

I joined the family business of Ford’s the Bakers in 1976 at the Bridge End bakery in Musselburgh. The business then moved in 1990 to Prestonpans. In 1999 the business was sold and I then went on to do consultancy work for food businesses in Scotland and was also elected to represent Longniddry/Port Seton Ward as a local councillor in East Lothian from 1999-2007. In 2007 I re-entered the baking trade by opening a wholesale business, The Premium Roll Company. I live in Seton Mains with my wife Elaine. We have two sons, one married, and a grandson, Lucas.

<< Previous | Next >>