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The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

Margaret McCormack

Julie Murphy - interview with Margaret McCormack covering period from 1945 to mid 1950s

Margaret came to the village of East Saltoun just before World War II when she started school.

We spoke of the immediate years after the war when she was a young girl until her marriage in the 1950s. Her husband was a shepherd and they often lived in farm cottages around the parish before settling into the village.

On arrival in East Saltoun, Margaret lived in one of the cottages on the Main Street but moved when she was twelve to the newly built houses in West Crescent, as the cottages were considered unfit for habitation. She went to Saltoun school, then a two-teacher school. She remembers a Miss Cossar cycling up to teach from Pencaitland. Quite a long climb on a bicycle doubtless without gears. Margaret went on to Ormiston and on leaving school went into service at Gifford.

Living conditions in the late 1940s and 1950s were simple. There were many large families, often crammed into a small house. The living room would have linoleum on the floor with the occasional rag rug, the backing of which was easily come by. There would be a range or open fire with usually a kettle or a pot of soup quietly simmering. Fuel would mainly be wood, easily come by as there was a local sawmill, and coal. A primus stove would often by kept for emergencies. These were the days prior to washing machines and often the washing would be laundered with a washboard over an open fire outside. Flat irons were still being used but were gradually being replaced by electric ones. Most food was home produced. Country gardens would hold vegetables and fruit, hens were kept - there is an old photograph in evidence showing hens grazing where the new churchyard extension is now. Milk would be collected from the farm. The Co-op vans came round regularly, often taking your order and returning within a day or two with it.

It was unlikely that anyone other than the mother would buy and prepare the food. Haddington was needed for some services, and people either cycled or took the bus.

Country wines were produced in the parish and otherwise little alcohol would be kept in the house, perhaps a little for medicinal purposes. The old inn in the village was gone by the end of the war, and replaced by housing, and the licensed grocer in West Saltoun went in the early 1970s.

Most clothing was ‘serviceable’ and best for Sunday often meant that it was outgrown before outworn. However, there were always siblings and cousins to pass clothing around. In the school girls were expected to wear uniform including gymslips and the inevitable navy knickers. Socks, gloves and scarves were hand-knitted.

Margaret’s 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 would help her mother clean the church. Children would be rather wary of the churchyard in those days.

Margaret remembers the regular dances in Fletcher Hall and there always seemed to be buses to take you to another village should they be holding a dance. She remembers the Fletcher Hall dance being cancelled when Captain Fletcher died in 1951. The Fletcher family played a large part in the village in those days with Christmas treats for children up at Saltoun Hall. Villagers would be very respectful to the laird and the minister.

Television came to the village in time for the Coronation in 1953 and from then the decline of some of the village organisations began.

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