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The Fourth Statistical Account of East Lothian

James Miller (b 1926)

General recollections of growing up and working in Spott parish
Interviewed and summarised by Diana Hardy

James Miller was born at Reston in August 1926 to parents Janet and James. He had an older sister, Janet. When he was four years old his father became shepherd to the Malcolm brothers at Big Spott farm and the family moved to No. 1 The Square.

Aged five (1931), Jimmy started at Spott School where there were two teachers, headmaster Mr Ramsay and Miss Miles who taught the infants. The children sat at desks with lids and kept their books inside the desks. When they first started school, they wrote with chalk on slates. The teachers were very strict and used the tawse if they felt it necessary. The one time it was certain to be used was when a child went out of the playground onto the road - even in those days traffic was a hazard!

At that time Sandy Cochran, the blacksmith’s son had the first car in the village. The Malcolm brothers, farmers at Big Spott, were soon to have the second and Miss Mean at the Brunt had another.

The school day was from nine to four in the afternoon with a break of half an hour in the morning and a quarter of an hour in the afternoon. Children who lived close enough went home for their hour-long dinner break, including Jimmy whose father usually joined him at home for the meal. In the morning and after breaks, a teacher blew a whistle and the children lined up to march into school.

In their free time, the children played games such as rounders, kick the can, and hide and seek. Going down to Spott Glen was strictly forbidden - which isn’t to say they didn’t go there! At Christmas there was a party in the school and another given by James Sprot in Spott house. Jimmy’s father would play the melodian and there were games and tea with sandwiches and ice cream and jelly. Santa Clause gave presents. One year Jimmy was given a trumpet another year a screwdriver with parts in the handle, which he still has. At Halloween the W.R.I. gave a party in the school with dooking for apples and treacle scones and blind man’s bluff.

When he was twelve (1938), Jimmy moved to Dunbar Secondary School. He had not enjoyed Spott School much but he loved Dunbar. It was probably because he had different teachers for different subjects and changed from one classroom to another. During the war, the local children attended school in the morning and the evacuee children went in the afternoon. (There was a family of evacuees at the Doon, consisting of three brothers whose father was manager of the Co-op at Portobello. One of them, who became a priest, was to return to serve the Church in Dunbar for many years).

Although Jimmy enjoyed school, he couldn’t wait to become fourteen (1940) and leave to join his father in working with the sheep.

The family moved to Innerwick in 1947 and Jimmy became a shepherd. However, after the dreadful winter of 1947, he moved to doing general agricultural work. The family moved again this time to West Barns and then to Pinkerton and finally, in 1951, to Wester Broomhouse. In 1958, Jimmy married Agnes Sanderson who he had met at a dance at West Barns. They got their own cottage at Wester Broomhouse. His father had died the previous year and his mother now moved to a cottage at Easter Broomhouse.

In 1989, when the farm was sold, Jimmy was made redundant. After six months he moved to Dunbar where he still lives. He worked for Mr Lambert at New Mains, Whitekirk as a tractor driver for seven years before again being made redundant. At that time he moved to G.R. Dale at Seacliff where he worked for two years until his retirement.

Jimmy worked for the trustees of the late Thomas Robertson, then Thomas Peter and Struan Robertson and then Thomas Peter, and Michael Robertson as a tractor driver.

Jimmy and his wife have two daughters, Alison and Agnes, who married shepherd brothers. Alison has two boys and a girl, and Agnes has a boy and a girl. Jimmy and Agnes are great Old Time dancers, dancing at Dunbar one week and East Linton the next and he is also a staunch member of Spott Church, being ordained as an elder in 1961. He also has a great knowledge of the people and of farming in the parish.

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