John Wood (1937) – Haddington 1940s & 1950s

Born in 1937 in the Vert Hospital, Haddington, I have spent my life in the town and county.

One vivid memory as a young boy was the bombing of Haddington in March 1941. I was with my mother in a relative’s house in Church Street when the cluster of bombs fell. The noise of the blast seemed deafening as we sought shelter under our items of furniture – either a bed or table. Two people died in the raid and several were injured.

School began at the Knox Institute, later to become Knox Academy. Part of the primary school we attended has been transformed into sheltered housing called Knox Court. A memory of Sunday school days is travelling to Longniddry from Haddington by train for our annual picnic. The passenger line closed in 1948.

A feature of teenage years for young men was National Service. One was aware of friends and acquaintances being called up to serve Queen and country for two years. For many years this was a traumatic and transforming experience. I spent most of my time in Cyprus during the troubles there, with the R.A.M.C.

Dancing on a Saturday night was very popular, as was the cinema. Huge crowds danced in the Corn Exchange, Haddington and in the Pavilion, North Berwick. The latter was considered a little more refined and two Stark’s busses were regularly filled for that venue.

Haddington took on a new lease of life in the late 1950s when the town council and Glasgow Corporation entered into an overspill agreement. This allowed 250 Glasgow families to move to various parts of the town to begin a new way of life. Their presence provided something of a rejuvenation in the life of the burgh and proved a great success. Like many other places in the county, Haddington has expanded greatly. The population has doubled since I left school in 1952. In one sense it has lost something of its close-knit community feel where many families were well known to each other. Of course there is the plus side in the way that organisations and societies (some new) have flourished with the influx of new people and ideas.

I retired from work in November 2000 (18 months early) having worked for nearly 50 years in the printing trade with D. & J. Croal Ltd., printers of the East Lothian Courier. I am also an ordained priest (non-stipendiary) in the Edinburgh Diocese of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and minister as part of the team at Holy Trinity, Haddington.