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The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

Leisure

The ‘Institute’ is a small single-storey building across a footbridge just downstream from the village bridge over the Papana. Historically it was used for weaving and pre-1931, when Walter Wingate-Grey owned it as part of the Nunraw estate, it was used for the Free Church Sunday school. Until the late 1950s it was used for carpet bowls. From then on it remained empty.

For a number of years, Nunraw estate permitted local people to make use of the ‘facilities’ in the old wartime huts behind the pub. The huts were used as accommodation by the voluntary labour force that worked on the monastery building during May to October 1952-69, and there was a snooker table there that local youths could use.

The village hall in the centre of the village was originally the old Free Church, and then the church hall. It is now run by a committee.

From c1980, the Stables were available as parish rooms, and were regularly used for small church and village functions.

Until 1973 the Woman’s Guild met in the winter months in the Manse.

Longyester Hall was in Garvald parish (Longyester was in Yester); the remnants of this once busy hall are located to the east of Baxtersyke.

‘As the 1953 Coronation Dance was held in the granary at Quarryford Farm, it is thought that the hall was built sometime the following year.

The hall was set up and funded by local farmers; the annual dance raised funds to pay the rates bill. Various social events were held in the hall, including carpet bowling, whist drives and dancing: in the earlier years Jim Johnstone and his band often provided the music; latterly it was Bill Stenhouse’s Band.

The Longyester annual dance (held on the evening of New Year’s Day) was a popular event from the hall’s earliest days, and only ceased in the early 1990s. All ages attended, from toddlers to grandparents – and everyone participated; this was a dance where almost everyone actually danced, all evening. The band, formally attired in dark suits, played on in spite of the amount of drink consumed; alcohol was on a ‘bring your own bottle’ basis. Toilet facilities were of the most basic kind, and the hole in the roof where the chimney of the old-fashioned stove had been, was blocked, apparently with a large turnip in a plastic bag. One year, when heavy snow fell, dancers turned up on tractors.’

Ray Wilson & Sonia Baker

In the 1970s, the Abbot of Nunraw allowed the haugh, the flat land between the village street and the Papana, to become a small public park. In the 1960s it was just pasture for some of the monastery sheep. Initially, improving the park was a village initiative and in 1972 there was a tree planting ceremony. The deciduous trees along the path were planted in that year including the (now towering) black poplars. A local farmer brought a load of blaize to make the path. Later the East Lothian District Council took over; they improved the play area, buried gabions to try to control the Papana in spate, and regularly cut the grass in summer.

The village also had the advantage that the Abbey community allowed access to the beautiful Nunraw grounds with its established woodlands.

In the early post-war period when most of the residents in the parish were country people who either worked on the land, provided local services or were retired, there were many leisure activities taking place in the village.

The men played carpet bowls in the Institute or later, the hall, pool in the huts behind the pub, and met socially in the pub.

With the population being small the other activities varied with the particular interests. For example, for a while two ex-teachers ran a youth club. There was a Thursday gathering in the hall where dominoes was the game. Then as the average age of the women became younger, badminton was popular for a number of years. Probably because more women drive cars and have jobs these types of activities decreased.

The women had the Woman’s Guild (ended 1973) and the Rural (begun 1926, closed 2000).

Garvald village even entered Britain in Bloom

In 1979, the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes introduced a special section of this competition for small villages all over Scotland and donated the trophy. Garvald Institute decided to enter and we had a busy time tidying up the village and encouraging everyone to make a special effort with their gardens. We even put pots of bedding plants and hanging baskets outside derelict cottages; and the children co-operated, making sure there was no litter anywhere. We were delighted to win the new trophy.

The following year we tried again, but unfortunately some people at the bottom of the village went ‘over the top’. I especially remember a rash of flowerpots made from old lorry tyres turned inside out; and one enthusiast scoured skips in Edinburgh for any possible containers! The people at the top end of the village were less enthusiastic, so we did not win the second time and did not enter again.

In 1951 the Village Flower Show was revived and successfully continued throughout the period on the last Saturday in August. It was noticeable that the types of exhibits had changed. There were far fewer vegetables, especially the immaculate onions, potatoes, leeks and cabbages. The flowers were mostly those picked from herbaceous borders rather than the big dahlias and gladioli grown specially for showing. There was also a notable decline in craftwork. Far fewer people seemed to knit or embroider though there remained a good display of baking and preserves. The children’s section maintained a good standard as there were more children in the village who were ‘bussed’ to Gifford school.

In the 1950s and 1960s there was a Christmas dinner arranged in the village hall for the old age pensioners, and a party for the children. In the 1970s the village committee decided it would be better if all the adults could be invited to a party that would be free for OAPs. To raise money for this there was a sale of produce on the village green on the Sunday after the flower show.

Women members of the committee organised the dinner led by Mrs Waddell of Tanderlane. The preparations were made in her kitchen. On the evening everything was taken up to the kitchen at Nunraw Guest House and plated up in the catering ovens there, and the meal held in the reception rooms. In the 1970s the meal was followed by an impromptu concert including community singing. Over the years the format changed. The meal took the form of a cold buffet, but the villagers continued to enjoy the hospitality of the monks and it was the one occasion in the year when the entire adult population of the parish had an opportunity to meet together.

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