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The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

Belief

The Church of Scotland has been and remains the principal belief system in the parish. The church, built in 1805 and A Listed, and the graveyard, are still in use. The graveyard was extended in the late 1940s. Saltoun was united with the parish of Bolton in 1929.

From 1959-79, church and community were closely involved, unlike today.

Nan Louden

The existing link was extended to Humbie and Yester in 1979; at this point the Saltoun manse was sold and a new one built in Gifford, where the minister is based. Services are held in Yester / Humbie / Saltoun or Bolton each Sunday - ie three each Sunday with Bolton and Saltoun alternating; this has been in operation since c1980. Previously both Bolton and Saltoun churches had held weekly services.

Day-to-day running of the church was mainly the responsibility of the beadle who saw to the heating, lighting, and so on:

My father was the church beadle. He would light the fire in the church on a Saturday evening, bank it up late at night and then get up early to rekindle it in time for a warm church service later in the morning.

Margaret McCormack

Nowadays, there is no separate post of beadle and this work falls largely on the shoulders of the Session Clerk. With no resident minister in the parish since 1979, responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the parish is shared, to some extent, with the Kirk Session, which refers critical matters to the minister as necessary.

In 1994 on the 750th anniversary of the dedication of the church, a tree was planted in the churchyard to commemorate the event.

Ministers
1928-47 Robert N. Paisley
1948-58 Alexander Campsie
1959-79 George W.H. Louden
1979 Saltoun & Bolton linked with Yester & Humbie
1979-84 Allan Scott
1985-97 John Wilson
1999-date Donald Pirie

The celebration of Harvest Thanksgiving is less ornate and perhaps seen as less directly relevant to people's lives in 2000. The church is still decorated, but the tradition of providing sheaves of grain and seasonal produce has to some extent gone. Christmas sees the church decorated, including a tree, and the large involvement of children performing the Nativity Play. A candlelit service on Christmas Eve is popular with both churchgoers and non-churchgoers. Up until the 1950-60s most people worked on Christmas Day in Scotland but apart from essential workers this is now no longer the case.

The session clerk - Norman Murphy - set up a Bolton & Saltoun churches web page - www.ndhm.org.uk. The session/meeting room has been in existence since the 1970s. It is used for church meetings, Kirk Session meetings, Woman's Guild (since 2000 the Guild - as open to both men and women), youth groups and occasionally for meetings of other village organisations.

Another part of the same complex was renovated in early 1970s to form one room used as the Tithe Byre, with a storeroom and a small museum. The Tithe Byre, started in 1972, provides an outlet and small source of income for many talented residents by selling home baking, crafts, garden produce and much else. A tithe, or 10% of takings, goes to the church. The museum (Bygone Byre) is a collection of old photographs and implements and artefacts from bygone days (see Leisure).

The meeting room next door opens for teas and coffees at the same time as the Byre - summer weekends and just before Christmas. Again, the tearoom is able to give considerable financial support to the church and village amenities.

Most of the glebe land was sold for housing between the late 1980s and 1997.

The church offers Sunday worship, a creche, Sunday school, Fish Group (older children), the Guild, Youth Club (which originally started under church auspices, but now community-run). There was a junior girls' choir that met in the manse c1960s-70s that performed in the church

...resplendent in red outfits with white ruffs... ( Nan Louden).

Change has impacted on all aspects of life; all Sunday school teachers are now required to undertake training in child protection. The position of Child Protection Officer within the church was felt to be very difficult in a village and is therefore covered by a single representative from the parishes of Saltoun, Bolton, Humbie and Gifford. The church has felt the legislation to be an unnecessary and intrusive burden on its work.

The Church of Scotland in Saltoun follows traditional / liberal (that is, mainstream) doctrine by means of Sunday worship and pastoral outreach. Membership has varied around 250 (+/- 25) for the last half-century.

Over the last 50 years the perceived role of the church has diminished. . Churchgoing was far more socially important in earlier years, when people wore their Sunday best, hats and all. Services were longer. Most people, and particularly young people, stood in awe of the minister; residents have childhood memories of 'having to behave' in church.

Children were restrained. There were feelings of guilt and social stigma if not attending church. Nowadays it is not so. People attend from choice and personal conviction. There is a much more relaxed feel, gone are the 'Sunday Best' clothes. Children are encouraged and noisy behaviour tolerated to a certain point! It must not however be felt to be a 'free for all'. The 'Sunday Penny' - a child's church collection - still exists.

Today, the children will take a more active role in Nativity Plays and singing at Harvest Thanksgiving for example, and there are musical items by pre-teens, who have also presented drama in Saltoun church. The congregation is encouraged to applaud these performances, which would not have been the case in earlier years. At the same time there is a place for solemnity, for instance on Remembrance Day, at Communion Services, and so on.

Saltoun Parish has a go-ahead youth section (although like everywhere else, the teenagers are missing and numbers are subject to demographic changes.) All these people must be encouraged if the church is to survive in its present form.

The influence of the church on morals has waned over this period. There is more acceptance of a more relaxed approach. Cohabitation prior to marriage has become more acceptablewith fewer coming forward to membership of the church.

In the 1940s and 1950s young people were expected to join the church when they reached their late teens. However, it is not so now. An enthusiastic minister encourages people to consider becoming full members of the church. It is a fact however that it is often only considered prior to perhaps marriage, or the baptism of a child.

Julie Murphy comments on courtship, engagements and weddings

People met at school, at local dances and social events. Courting was often carried out on country walks and at the local dances. Only in the last 20 years or so have young people travelled into Edinburgh to work and socialise and therefore to meet a wider range of people.

Country girls tended to marry earlier in the past [55 years]. Engagement lengths would vary as they do today and many a young man would seek out the father of his intended bride. Church weddings[still] follow traditional lines, often with a piper in attendance. The ceremony of the 'poor oot' still exists, now and again.

The more established families often have family plots in the churchyard, so burials are still quite common, although the proportion of cremations has risen steadily in recent years.The Co-operative Society still conducts funerals to this day.

And on funerals

Although many deaths now occur in hospital or nursing homes, the body is often brought home before the funeral. Family and friends still occasionally walk with the body to church. Women only started to attend funerals in the last 50 years or so. Before that the event was for men only and the women stayed at home preparing the funeral meal. Although in the main black ties are still worn there is a gradual lessening of "funereal dress".

Since 1979, the Saltire Society has held an annual lecture to commemorate Andrew Fletcher in the kirk at East Saltoun usually on the first Saturday of September. With the restoration of the Scottish Parliament after 300 years, there has been increasing interest in this event in recent years.

Fletcher of Saltoun Annual Lecture

Information supplied by the Saltire Society

The Saltire Society instituted an annual lecture to commemorate Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (the patriot) in 1979. The lecture is held in the kirk at East Saltoun usually on the first Saturday in September, and thereafter a floral tribute is placed on the plaque commemorating Andrew Fletcher, which was placed on the wall of the church in 1955.

Lecturers have included distinguished academics, politicians, writers and broadcasters, and there are plans to publish a collection of these orations.

Year Speaker Profession/Position/Association
1979 Professor Gordon Donaldson Historiographer Royal
1980 Dr Gavin Kennedy Heriot Watt University
1981 Professor (Emeritus) David Daiches Edinburgh University
1982 Lord Ronald King Murray  
1983 Mrs Elizabeth Whitley Writer and broadcaster
1984 Paul H Scott Vice President, Saltire Society
1985 Professor Geoffrey Barrow Edinburgh University
1986 Regius Professor Neil McCormick Edinburgh University
1987 Dr Bruce P Lenman Reader - modern history, St Andrews University
1988 Billy Kay Writer and broadcaster
1989 Professor David R F Simpson Economist
1990 Arnold Kemp Editor, Glasgow Herald
1991 Dr William Ferguson  
1992 Sir Iain Noble (Noble and Co Ltd) President, Saltire Society
1993 Dr Sheila Douglas Writer
1994 John Home Robertson MP (East Lothian)
1995 Professor Michael Lynch Dept. of Scottish History, Edinburgh University
1996 Professor Edward J Cowan Dept. of Scottish History, Glasgow University
1997 Lesley Riddoch Journalist and broadcaster
1998 Professor Alexander Broadie Dept. of Philosophy, Glasgow University
1999 Professor Murray G H Pittock Professor of Literature, Strathclyde University
2000 Donny O'Rourke Poet, journalist and broadcaster
2001 Alex Salmond MP (SNP)

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