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The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian


By Gladsmuir parish*, from the General Registrar's office By locality - census - ie Longniddry itself
1931 1779 860M 919F  
1951 2001 1008M 993F 780**    
1961 2173 1094M 1079F 928**    
1971 3039 1479M 1560F 1490 703M 787F
1981 4349 2097M 2252F 2901 1394M 1507F
  By Small Area Statistics - census
1991 4383 2126M 2257F 2786 1350M 1436F
2001 3894 1872M 2022F --- --- ---
By Gladsmuir parish, from ELDC By settlement, from ELDC
1991 4069     2933
1997 (est.) 4271 2087M 2184F 2924
2001 NO DATA 2613 (ELC)

* the Gladsmuir parish figures include Longniddry and Macmerry.

** figures for 1951 & 1961 supplied by Anne Blackwood, Population Statistics Branch, General Register Office for Scotland.

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

A number of German prisoners of war and Polish servicemen settled in the Longniddry area after the second world war. Generally speaking, they seem to have been accepted and their presence made little impact on the community. Following the general pattern, most of their children moved on elsewhere.

Here and throughout the text, David Robertson comments on Longniddry life:

In the main the Poles and Germans integrated well with the community, and were accepted by it. No better illustration of this could be given than the fact that a former soldier of the German army has carried the colours of the Longniddry branch of the Royal British Legion at their annual Remembrance Day parade.

Only a handful of Longniddry residents are of black/Asian origin, and seem to have no problems in the community. The 'sectarian divide', so obvious in the west of Scotland, is completely foreign to Longniddry. A substantial number of Longniddry residents are English and mildly anti-English remarks are sometimes heard. These should perhaps be treated as 'anti-incomer' sentiments rather than truly anti-English. There is still a feeling in some quarters that Longniddry has been 'swamped' or 'taken over' by incomers. This is more mild discontent rather than burning resentment however, and could not be said to be a real problem. Such thoughts are expressed in private mutterings, and not in overt hostility.

Irish potato workers were a necessary part of the agricultural work force until around 1980. At Longniddry Farm the granary was adapted to house them and a small empty cottage utilised as a cookhouse. A squad of Irish agricultural labourers was based semi-permanently in the farm cottages at Harelaw in the 1960s and 1970s. A few of them lived there all year round, and their numbers were augmented by new arrivals of both men and women in the potato season. They tended to keep themselves to themselves, and were kept very much at arms' length by the local community. Several of the long-term Harelaw residents were 'poor souls' deeply addicted to drink, and only a step above down-and-out status. When Wemyss & March Estates renovated the cottages, the remnants of the squad scattered to goodness knows where, and the contractor, their boss, settled in a neighbouring community.

In recent years, the coastal car parks have become a frequent stopping place for travelling people - 'gypsy travellers', as opposed to 'New Age' travellers. Usually they come in small groups, stay two or three days, and cause no problems. However, in 2000 an exceptionally large contingent stayed several weeks and caused much local indignation by leaving rubbish and excrement lying around, and by supposedly verbally abusing innocent dog-walkers. Travellers camping elsewhere frequently visit the Ferny Ness and Gosford Bay areas to pick periwinkles [whelks], an activity that is beginning to worry conservationists. Considering the history of sewage pollution along this coastal stretch, it should also worry public health officials.

It must be said that the general attitude of liberal tolerance in Longniddry does not extend to the travelling people who have camped in the coastal car parks from time to time in recent years, and some fairly harsh views have been expressed by local residents.

Any overview of the population of Longniddry at the beginning of the 21st century reveals it to be overwhelmingly 'middle class'. Most householders are owner-occupiers employed in 'white collar' jobs in a professional or managerial capacity. Very few work in Longniddry itself or the immediate area, and large numbers commute to work in Edinburgh.

Only a small minority of the population could be said to be religious in any real sense. As far as morality is concerned, however, the community is law-abiding and children are generally polite and well-behaved. There are, as always, fractious teenagers, but their occasional anti-social activities are irritating rather than demoralising or dangerous.

Most of the population has its origins outwith the Longniddry area, and many residents are English. Not surprisingly, East Lothian dialect is no longer typical of Longniddry speech. The average Scots-born resident probably now speaks a slightly east-coast accented form of Scottish English, with a very occasional Scots word or turn of phrase.

The original dialect of the Longniddry area was the broad rural East Lothian dialect where bag is pronounced 'bawg', and man is pronounced 'mawn'. Thus, although Longniddry was originally spelled Langniddry, it has probably always been pronounced Lawngniddry. The alternative 'Lawngnetherie' was still frequently heard in the 19th century. The broadest form of rural pronunciation is now seldom heard in Longniddry, which is not surprising, since incomers have been settling here since the first world war. In any case, throughout the 20th century, not only middle-class mothers, but most working-class mothers made strenuous efforts to make their children speak 'properly'. Scots dialect was branded 'slang' and almost universally condemned.

However, Scots was still the language of the school playground in the 1950s, and not only in such obvious ways as saying 'heid' for head, 'fit' for foot or 'een for eyes. Quite a rich vein of dialect words still survived. The chaser in a game of tig was always 'het', not 'he', and if you claimed immunity from capture you were 'barleys' or 'bees'. Girls played 'peevers', not 'hopscotch', and what about the game of 'bools' called 'trow', where boys might shout, "A yinner Ah rowe!" which meant, 'You contribute one marble, and I shall contribute one marble, and I shall roll them towards the hole'. By the 1950s however, Longniddry children were not using the 'nicht', 'bricht', and 'richt' pronunciation that had been common in previous generations. (Interestingly enough, teaching working-class children in neighbouring communities in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the present writer found that many of these children could not pronounce 'ch'. They unhesitatingly spoke of the 'Lock Ness Monster' and, if reading Scots poetry, had to be physically instructed how to produce the 'ch' sound - a feat which some of them never mastered.)

With the massive settlement of middle-class incomers in Longniddry from all over the country in the 1960s and 1970s, Scots was thoroughly overwhelmed. Typical Longniddry speech is now standard English with a slight east coast Scots accent. Occasional Scotticisms such as 'cannae' for can't, and 'no' for not are fairly common, and 'acceptable' dialect words like 'dreich', 'haar', or 'scunner' may be wheeled out for effect on occasion, in almost audible quotation marks. The Invernesian style 'R', which slides out from under the tongue, has been rapidly gaining ground on the strongly-rolled native 'R' over the last couple of decades.

Longniddry children who attend secondary school in Prestonpans may consciously or otherwise become more strongly Scots in their speech, but for most this will be a temporary phenomenon. In any case, this is nowadays more likely to resemble the 'Schemie' argot of Edinburgh's underclass, than native East Lothian dialect. A prime example of it is the new habit of tacking 'eh' (the equivalent of the Cockney 'innit') on to the end of simple statements such as 'I'm going my holidays to Florida eh', or 'I got totally wrecked last night, eh'.

There are still some habitual speakers of Scots in Longniddry, possibly 200 or 300, but the vast majority are over 40, and the time cannot be far off when they will be numbered in dozens rather than hundreds. They are patently obviously only a small minority of Longniddry's population, which as previously pointed out consists primarily of English speakers from outwith East Lothian. Unfortunately, the days of spoken Scots in Longniddry would appear to be numbered.

In the 1940s and 1950s it would have been obvious even to the casual observer that Longniddry was not a homogeneous community. Many of the private houses were large and separated from the rest of the village by fields, and were typically owned by business or professional people who sent their children to private schools for their secondary education. Many of them were speakers of the 'Morningside' brand of Scottish English, which is nowadays fading towards extinction.

The council house tenants were more likely to be manual workers or tradesmen of local origin, more likely to be speakers of local dialect, and almost certain to send their children to the local secondary school. It must be stressed however that Longniddry's streets of council houses bore no resemblance to the modern conception of a 'housing scheme', which in the minds of many is synonymous with crime, fecklessness, and multiple social problems. Longniddry's council tenants were respectable working folk with a substantial mixture of office workers, engineers, teachers, small businessmen, and others who would nowadays no doubt consider themselves 'middle class'. The tenants of the Garden City war veterans' houses came from a variety of backgrounds, but were mainly 'working class' folk, many of them with urban rather than rural roots.

Generally speaking, although of course there were exceptions, there was a considerable social gulf between 'the Village' and the wealthier residential area. Quite a few men still worked locally in the 1950s and it was common for women from 'the Village' to have part-time jobs doing cleaning and housework for ladies in the larger private houses. The railway employed a number of local men, and agriculture still provided employment for both men and women. Most young people in the 1950s and 1960s left Longniddry and settled elsewhere. Out of each cohort of school leavers only a few would remain for long in Longniddry, and only two or three would marry and settle there for life.

In the 1960s and 1970s the whole physical and social structure of Longniddry was drastically altered by massive private building. Large numbers of people arrived in Longniddry from all corners of the British Isles and beyond, most of them young or in early middle age, and most of them in the professional/managerial bracket; well educated, intelligent, and ambitious for themselves and their families. These people did not carry the social or political baggage of 1950s East Lothian. If there was any driving philosophy it was that of meritocracy where it was up to the individual to progress and succeed by his own efforts. The pretensions of 'toffs' and the complacency of 'villagers' were likely to be treated with impatience or amusement.

Since the sale of council houses began, many of them have been sold on to a new generation of incomers, thus spreading the 'suburban' ethos even further through the community. Longniddry still has dyed-in-the-wool proletarians and wealthy upper-echelon types, but nowadays the social levels seem to shade into each other much more than before. Nowadays we all seem to be middle class suburbans.

Ironically, although people flock to Longniddry from here, there and everywhere, young folk still tend to move away whenever they can. Independence in a flat in Edinburgh seems to be an irresistible lure. Few return. Housing in Longniddry is expensive. A perfectly ordinary ex-council house in Forthview Road was recently put on the market at 'offers over £79 000' (by 2003, similar properties were selling for £130,000). Young people who wish to live locally are more likely to buy a house in Port Seton or Tranent, where property is cheaper. Thirty or 40 years ago young couples who wished to remain in Longniddry would quite happily put their names on East Lothian's council housing list. Few would consider it nowadays. In any case, vacant council houses in Longniddry seem almost always to be allocated to people from elsewhere. Quite apart from the difficulties of obtaining housing in Longniddry, marriage is no longer popular, and at an age when their parents were only too pleased to marry and raise a family in a desirable area like Longniddry, today's 20- and 30-somethings are still in many respects leading the lives of teenagers.

When houses in Longniddry are put up for sale they are usually bought by people with no previous connection with the village, and as previously remarked, houses from the council's much diminished stock in Longniddry are now almost invariably allocated to people from elsewhere. Thus, throughout Longniddry, the situation is one of a constant stream of young people leaving, and a constant stream of incomers arriving. It is almost certain that the people of each passing generation in Longniddry will be succeeded not by their own progeny but by the children of others, like themselves, from elsewhere. The prevailing culture is therefore likely to be that of middle Scotland (or middle western world) rather than recognisably local. The situation is of course compounded by the 'mobile society', and the increasing rarity of the 'job for life'. People of all ages and at all stages of their careers are much more likely now than 50 years ago to up sticks and move on.

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