Aberlady | Economy

Economy | Tourism | Agriculture | Golf


The Aberlady Nature Reserve attracts walkers and bird-watchers all the year round, with an estimated 30,797 visitors in 2000, and the car park is often filled to capacity. Golfers were soon to have the opportunity to play two 18-hole courses, Kilspindie and Craigielaw, the latter to be opened in 2001. Another attraction near Aberlady is the Myreton Motor Museum, established in 1966. On display is a large collection of vintage cars, vans, military vehicles and motorcycles, as well as period posters and enamel signs.

Provision of ‘bed and breakfast’ accommodation for visitors was no longer so readily available in the village, but the three hotels – Kilspindie, Old Aberlady Inn (formerly the Golf Hotel) and Green Craigs – were fulfilling this need, while the Aberlady caravan park, with storage, servicing, and holiday chalets, had been in existence for about ten years at the station site. An earlier park for caravans at Gosford, leased to the Caravan Club for 25 years in 1974, closed in 1999.


The 55 years covered by the Fourth Statistical Account represent a period of truly dramatic agricultural change, from the years of food rationing, with maximum production required, to the swing to intensive monoculture (e.g. cereals). The rapid development of agricultural machines, such as the Ferguson tractor with 3-point hydraulic linkage, combine-harvesters for cereals and oil-seed rape, and tractor-mounted crop chemical sprayers, greatly improved efficiency and speed and the productivity of each employee. This soon resulted in a reduction of the work force, from perhaps 100 full-time farm-labourers to about a dozen in farming, with about another 40 regular and casual employees involved in work associated with agriculture. This greatly contributed to migration from tied houses to the villages.

The technological changes were just as dramatic in live-stock farming as on the arable scene, with intensification leading to huge poultry enterprises, such as egg-laying by caged birds, vast chicken-meat (broiler) undertakings, and huge indoor centres for pig-production in a controlled environment. All these inevitably raised significant public concern on ethical and environmental grounds.

Such rapid change created a demand for electrical power and liquid fuels, with economy of use because of cost and public concern about exhaust emissions and climatic change. The introduction of computers too has brought dramatic change to farming. Whether in the office or in control systems (e.g. on combine-harvester or crop-sprayer), decision-making is very much predetermined almost to the point of operator boredom! Additionally, the use of satellite technology, though still expensive, has led to more accurate use of fertilisers and herbicides.

Public awareness and demand had prompted great strides in the welfare of both animals and humans at work. The Health & Safety Act (1974) imposed great strain on farmers, with restrictions on methods of working, and much increased paperwork. Similarly, huge changes in environmental and conservation practices had been brought about, largely because of pressure from the urban population. There had been a very noticeable reduction in the number of songbirds, attributed to loss of habitat, changes in farming practice, and the increased number of raptors resulting from legal protection and lack of gamekeepers.

Regarding the original post-first war development of smallholdings on the 600-700 acres of Ballencrieff – there were 30 in 1945 – the pendulum had swung significantly towards these lands being amalgamated or incorporated in neighbouring farms. They had continued as small units, often worked by the owner or tenant single-handed, until by the 1970s, when only 14 remained, they had become quite uneconomic. Increasingly, the occupier had taken on an outside job to supplement his income, or developed some separate business. In 1979 the government introduced legislation whereby smallholdings could be bought from the state at attractive prices. This resulted in some owners selling the ground and outbuildings, but retaining the dwelling and taking up some alternative career.

One of the original Ballencrieff smallholdings became the Myreton Motor Museum, while immediately adjacent was a modern processing-plant, preparing leeks from neighbouring farms to meet the high standards required by supermarket buyers. Other vegetables are occasionally produced for supermarkets by specialist growers with short-term renting of fields. Another new enterprise was the provision of horse-riding facilities and stabling. With so much rapid and technological change, there remains a strong thread of continuity, with, for example, the third generation on the smallholding at Ballencrieff where tomatoes and chrysanthemums were once specialities, but which now produces high quality pork and bacon products for specialist demand. The third generation too was now farming Ballencrieff Mains, and likewise Luffness Mains, although a professional manager was taken on there in 1973.

Aberlady Mains and, with reduced acreage, Lochhill continued as working farms, but Gosford estate no longer had its home farm, Craigielaw, due to poor agricultural returns from the early 1990s onwards. Over the last 50 years or so the agricultural income of the estate had declined from 75% to perhaps 25%. There were no longer any estate workers employed outdoors, where 9 or 10 were full-time up to the 1980s, including foresters, gamekeepers, groundsmen and maintenance staff. Sub-contractors were being used for such work as vermin-control and mowing of amenity areas. The predominantly arable land previously farmed by the estate had been distributed among existing tenant farmers under various ‘share-farming’ agreements, generating useful income from previously tied estate houses.


The Kilspindie Golf Club (originally the Luffness Golf Club established in 1867) was formed in 1898. It remained a private club, with members drawn from professional people living mainly in the Edinburgh area and East Lothian. After 1945, there was a decline in membership to around 200, but after a recruiting drive in 1957, membership rose from 330 to 400, and remained around that level to the end of the century. For most of that period there were about 130-150 lady members.

After the war a lot of work had to be carried out to restore the course to pre-war standards. To help finance the cost involved in restoration work and buying new equipment, the entrance fee was doubled in 1946 to £7.7s. (£7.35p), with the annual subscription set at £3.3s. (£3.15p). However, to attract new members, the entrance fee was reduced in 1957. By the 1970s the entrance fee was £70 and the annual subscription £35. In 2000 the respective charges were £720 and £360.

Joe Dickson, who had started as a greenkeeper in 1925, became head greenkeeper in 1950, and doubled as the first professional from 1961 until his retirement in 1975. In addition to restoring the course, he had to deal with the damage done by sheep and rabbits. Flooding by the sea occurred on occasion, as well as damage caused by coastal erosion. In 1982 it was estimated that some parts of the course had lost 10 feet in ten years. Sadly, it is recorded that a member was killed by lightning in 1953.

Jim Orsborn became the next head greenkeeper, retiring in 1991. Since then the head greenkeeper has been Alan Aitken. All three men have overseen many changes, such as alterations to the fairways, bunkers and tees. The first full-time professional, appointed in 1988, was Graham Sked. As the financial situation became much better, improvements and extensions to the clubhouse were carried out from time to time.

In 1967, the centenary of the original Luffness Golf Club was celebrated with a number of events, culminating in a ball at Gosford House. In 1992, the club celebrated its own 125th anniversary with a number of well-attended events. In 1998 discussions were held with the proposed Craigielaw Golf Club to consider a merger, but it was subsequently agreed that the two clubs would remain independent.

The Aberlady Golf Club, sometimes known locally as the Artisan Club, dates from 1912, when the Kilspindie Golf Club committee granted permission for the Aberlady Working Men’s Club to play the course at reduced fees. Members, who are limited to 30 and must be resident in the village, hold competitions every month and play matches against similar local clubs.

Construction of the new Craigielaw Golf Club, the first new links course in East Lothian for 80 years, was completed in 1999 and due to open in 2001. A six-green junior course was under construction, and it was planned to convert the former Craigielaw farm steading into a clubhouse.