The original drill hall (built 1883-4) was reconstructed as the community hall and gifted to the village by the Earl of Wemyss, with the official opening by the then Countess of Wemyss in 1953. The original Deed of Trust stipulated at least three trustees – the schoolmaster, the minister and the postmaster – and latterly there were four. The general management of the hall was to be entrusted to a council appointed by the Aberlady Community Association, which had been formed in 1949. In the following years the hall was used by many local organisations, as diverse as the WRI, the Kirk Session and the amateur dramatic society, with a bingo session every Saturday!
However, use of the community hall gradually declined as the facilities did not keep pace with modern requirements, while conversion of the manse stables to a church hall in 1963 (and its replacement by the new kirk stables in 1990), had created an alternative venue for many activities. In 1994 renewal of the public entertainment licence for the community hall was refused because the kitchen did not comply with food and hygiene regulations. This unhappy situation, compounded by lack of funds, was to change dramatically from 1995 onwards, due to an active and enthusiastic committee, fund-raising, several grants, and skilled tradesmen. The aim of a fully modernised village hall generating a self-sufficient rental income, even a profit, was achieved, with regular bookings from local clubs and individuals, table sales, and donations. The huge open coal fire, originally installed for the comfort of servicemen during the 1940s, is an attractive feature.
The British Legion hut on Haddington Road, was used for some village events (eg whist drives) until 1952 when the land it stood upon was sold for housing – two houses were built.
Organisations & Clubs
The Third Statistical Account (Snodgrass, CP, 1953, pp330-339) recorded that about 27 organisations were meeting regularly in Aberlady. In addition to boy scouts, girl guides and cadets, there was a young people’s club associated with the church, with about 30 boys and girls over age 14, and village committees for the British Legion and the Vert Hospital. The advent of television and the increase in car ownership, which made city attractions more accessible, were two factors which gradually led to the demise of many village-based activities, including the rifle club, the pipe band, the amateur dramatic society, which flourished until 1971, uniformed organisations and, in 1997, even the Woman’s Guild.
Branches of the WRI and OAP Association still existed by the end of the period, while bookings for the community hall included badminton club, volleyball club, dog training club and the newly formed Aberlady Craft Group, which produced an impressive Millennium wall-hanging for display there. Young children were still well served by brownies, swimming club, Sunday school and Monday club.
Bowling and golf (see Economy) share an enduring popularity in Aberlady. The Aberlady Bowling Club celebrated its centenary in 1988, and the green was opened by the Earl of Wemyss, who was presented with a commemorative quaich. The annual rent for the lease of ground from Wemyss Estates was originally one shilling (5p) until 1971, then £1, latterly £50. Until the 1930s, there was a putting green situated above the bowling green; this was lost when the house Tigh-nan-eun-Mara was built and the ground became part of the driveway to the house.
The original clubhouse was replaced in 1977 and extended (with a bar licence) in 1985 and again in 1998. Members – currently about 80 – compete for various club and county trophies and participate in national championships. The oldest local trophy is the Halkett Cup (1895), which is contested annually by Aberlady, Athelstaneford, Dirleton and Gullane. The five shillings paid by veteran member Alex Birse when he joined the club in 1956, contrasts with the subscription of £40 in the year 2000.
The club was fortunate in having many skilled and enthusiastic players of long standing, including Jock Brodie and Jack Greenwood, who were the Scottish pairs champions at Queen’s Park, Glasgow, in 1986, and who repeated their success the following year at the British Isles championships at Llanelli, Wales. Jock Brodie was team manager for East Lothian for four years (1996-2000). Another stalwart of the club was Jock Cunningham, who gained a Scottish cap against Wales in 1983. In 2000, Jim Florence, Billy Dunleavey and Charlie Greenwood, were Scottish triples champions. The ladies’ section, which dates from 1956, had enjoyed success too. Cathie Walkingshaw and Linda Black won the East of Scotland Pairs Championship in 1987, and Aberlady came top of the East Lothian Ladies’ League in 1992.
Aberlady Curling Club is a very old club, dating from 1860. It was accepted into the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1926. The curling stones were originally held in the curling house on Gosford estate and when the ponds were bearing during the winter (the ice there had to be 4 inches (10cm) thick) they held bonspiels (curling matches) there. There was only one occasion – during the 1980s – in recent times that this was possible. Indoor rinks at Haymarket (1912-1978) and Murrayfield (c1980) provided the facilities. Up to about 20 years ago, inter-club competitions were held in the county. But by 2000, Aberlady no longer participated in inter-club competitions, although the other clubs – Athelstaneford, East Linton, Dirleton, Haddington and Yester – still existed. John Niven was President in 2000. Membership numbers varied, being highest in the 1930s. By the end of the period there were about 25 members, enjoying both the sport and the social side of curling. Curling tends to be a family sport – once one member begins, others follow; club members are drawn from all over the county and beyond. Nowadays, coaching is given before curlers begin – in the past they just started, often working out their own ways of curling.
The modern Aberlady gala was established in 1949, and seems, in its early years, to have been restricted to a single day of activities on the Sea Green, with the village pipe band contributing to the festive atmosphere, and refreshments to follow in the community hall. In more recent years the opening events, including competitive sports, parade of floats, various stalls and entertainments, and the crowning of the gala queen, with Primary 1 and 7 children forming the ‘royal court’, have been held on the playing- fields near the school. The music is supplied now by bands from outwith Aberlady, such as the Haddington Pipe Band (1989) and Dalkeith & Monktonhall Colliery Brass Band (1996). Typical evening events during gala week include inter-schools seven-a-side football, a social evening for senior citizens, a children’s fancy dress party, and a gala dance. The kirkin’ of the queen in the village church usually takes place now on the Sunday at the end of that week. The first gala queen, in 1949, was Jean Watson (Mrs Denholm), and the Millennium gala queen Amy Nash. Great commitment is shown by the gala committee, which organises fund-raising events during the preceding months and is determined that Aberlady will not lose this annual summer event.
The Glenpeffer Badminton Club was first formed in 1946. The badminton court was in the drill hall and players were members of the East Lothian Badminton League and played matches throughout the county. A badminton club still exists and plays in the community hall.
Aberlady participated in Scotland’s Gardens Scheme one Saturday in June 1999, the local organiser being Elaine Carnie. Enthusiasts from as far away as Ayrshire and the Borders viewed over twenty gardens in the village, from The Pleasance to Cockle Square; teas were provided in the community hall. 40% of the income was donated to Children in Need and the community hall fund. The intention was to take part in the gardens scheme again in 2001.
Other groups still in existence in 2000:
- Aberlady Brownies were formed in the 1940s.
- Aberlady Craft Group was formed in 1999 and meets in the community hall every week.
- The Pensioners’ Association was formed in 1945.
- The British Red Cross Society – HQ Haddington: Aberlady group. The Aberlady group was formed in 1969 and an offshoot from this was the friendly club formed in 1970. The Aberlady group ceased to operate in 1992, but the friendly club carried on and still exists having their meetings on Friday afternoons.
- St Andrew’s Ambulance Association: in May 1992 a first aid company, Aberlady & District was set up with 14 members, and in 1999 the headquarters was moved to Haddington but still retained the name.
- WRI Aberlady Branch was formed in 1925 and is still in existence.
Clubs that thrived in the past included the following for young people; the Aberlady Guides – formed in 1940s, ceased in 1988; Aberlady Scouts – formed after the war, disbanded in the 1950s; and The Saturday Club. This last was established in 1971 by two Kirk elders, Laurence Goudie and Ross Allan, as an ‘outreach’ group to promote Christian fellowship, was non-denominational and open to those aged 11-17 within the parish and beyond. This club, with its varied programme of games days, guest speakers, visits to places of interest, community service and venture holidays, made a significant impact until a change in the attitude of local youth and consequent decline in interest forced its closure in 1997.
And the following:
The Aberlady Dramatic Society was resuscitated after the war. It produced one-act plays and three-act plays and the society were members of the SCDA and took part in many drama competitions and going forward to the finals. The society was disbanded in 1971 due to falling membership. A quaich was donated to Aberlady bowling club and also to Aberlady golf club from the funds available.
The Aberlady Pipe Band was formed in 1948 and disbanded in 1964.
The Aberlady Rifle Club was a very old club, origins unknown, which disbanded sometime between 1972 and 1976.
Scottish country dance society – Aberlady branch was disbanded in 1971 due to the death of Miss Moira Campbell who was their teacher.
Woman’s Guild; the date of its inception is unknown but at least from the first world war. It ceased in 1997 through lack of members.