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The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

Nan Louden

Julie Murphy meeting with Mrs Nan Louden who lived in East Saltoun from 1959-79

Mrs Louden is the widow of George who was the last minister of Bolton and Saltoun Church before the church was united with Yester and Humbie. He was also the last minister to live in the manse in East Saltoun. They lived there from 1959-79 and it is about this period we spoke.

The Manse was an impressive house, built by Burn in 1802. It had three storeys. There was a range and open fires and a large garden. Fortunately they had help in and out of the house.

The ministerial family was very involved in the life of the parish. Groups of parishioners often met at the manse. Primary 6-7 girls formed a choir, resplendent in red outfits with white ruffs. The boys met and did basketwork and made table lamps. There was a mothers’ group.

Mrs Louden was behind one of the most enduring enterprises in the village, the Tithe Byre. It was felt that there was a lot of hidden talent among the young mothers of the village. These mothers of the early 1970s were usually at home raising families. A small group was formed and came up with the idea, and the Byre is now approaching its 30th year. Initially it was mainly crafts that the ladies produced but now home baking, garden produce, woodcraft and much else is on sale. The producers kept the bulk of the money they received from their products, giving a tenth, or tithe, to the church.

Part of the old stable block on the main street was converted for this purpose and the byre opened at weekends and Wednesday afternoons during the summer. Many people today can be thankful for the inspiration behind the Byre, and many similar projects sprung up throughout the county.

Nan remembers that few people travelled into Edinburgh to work in those days. The Edinburgh bus came through, last one at 8 pm and it costs 2/6 return to Edinburgh (12p).

The minister would often be approached on the street, or in the post office, by people wanting to have a word, or arrange a wedding or a baptism. He also had a ‘vestry hour’ once a week in the manse.

Once the manse was sold and the minister gone, one of the rooms in the lower part of the church stables block was considered as the minister’s room so that people did not have to travel to Gifford to see the minister. This service was not used much but the room has been kept available. The newly formed ‘Fish’ Group (senior Sunday school girls) in the 1990s used it until the group got too big.

In conclusion, what came over in the interview was the close involvement of the church with the community, unlike today when there is only a fortnightly service in the village church.

Nan was a very popular minister’s wife and certainly now in her declining years loves to sit and chat about her happy days in Saltoun.

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