On VE Day, 8 May 1945, Aberlady was ‘profusely decorated with flags and coloured streamers, almost every house contributing its quota and the main thoroughfare presenting a gay aspect.’ (Haddingtonshire Courier). The parish church, the chancel decorated in the national colours, was filled in the evening for a short thanksgiving service, conducted by the minister, the Rev Thomas Caldwell, followed later by a dance in the drill hall. The schoolchildren had been granted two days’ holiday to mark ‘the cessation of hostilities in Europe’. All the uniformed organisations, including ARP wardens, air training cadets, women’s voluntary service, local observer corps, boy scouts and cubs, girl rangers, girl guides and brownies, attended another thanksgiving service on the following Sunday morning.
Later the same year, on 15 August, the people of Aberlady celebrated VJ Day, with a bonfire on the Sea Green built by the local troop of boy scouts. Children and adults took part in community singing, and danced until after midnight. An evening thanksgiving service was held, and Sunday was observed as Thanksgiving Day.
As part of the celebrations for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in June 1953, Aberlady Primary School was closed for three days, and commemorative mugs from the county council were distributed to the pupils along with gifts from the village Coronation committee. A tree gifted by the local boy scouts was planted in front of the school, and it is recorded that the remaining chestnut tree of the two planted at the previous coronation in 1937 was in flower for the first time. Cornelius Smith, for long village postmaster and office-bearer in the parish church, was awarded the Coronation Medal for services to the community.
The Aberlady Millennium Committee, with grants and fund-raising, ensured that this significant date was celebrated in style, with a torchlight procession, a bonfire and fireworks in Butcher’s Field, a Hogmanay party in the community hall, a millennium calendar featuring early views of Aberlady, and ‘celebration packages’ of whisky and shortbread for senior citizens. A more permanent feature, set up on the Sea Green, was a telescope with two illustrated explanatory panels.
The 12th Earl of Wemyss KT (and 8th of March), who succeeded his grandfather in 1937, has long been a notable figure in Aberlady and on the wider Scottish scene. He was appointed Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1959, 1960 and 1977, the then minister of Aberlady church acting as his chaplain on each occasion and staying at Holyrood House. He has for many years held office as honorary president of the Old Edinburgh Club, vice-president of East Lothian Antiquarian & Field Naturalists’ Society, and, from 1967-91, president of the National Trust for Scotland. The Earl was also Lord Lieutenant of East Lothian, 1967-86, and remains the honorary president of the Aberlady Curling Club. He remains a long-established elder of Aberlady Parish Church, where there are several memorials to members of the Wemyss (Charteris) family in the north aisle.
Nigel Tranter, OBE (1909-2000), prolific author of well over 100 books and champion of many causes, including the campaign for the Forth road bridge, settled in Aberlady in 1938 at Cross Cottage. He later moved to Quarry House, a short distance from the wooden bridge over the Peffer Burn – his ‘footbridge to enchantment’ – that leads to the nature reserve, where almost daily for nearly 50 years he could be seen walking and making notes for his next book. Nigel Tranter’s first book, The Fortalices and Early Mansions of Southern Scotland, illustrated with the author’s own drawings, was published in 1935. This was to be followed, in the decade from 1962, by the five volumes of The Fortified House in Scotland. His Scottish Castles (1982), dramatic stories from 35 castles, including the tale of the mysteriously locked chamber at Luffness, gave further scope for his love of Scottish history and tradition. It is, however, as the author of well-researched historical novels that he will be best remembered. A cairn was erected in his memory ‘by East Lothian Council and public subscription’ at the Nature Reserve car park in October 2000 – a deserved tribute to one who was so intimately associated with the neighbourhood, and who gave scholarly and entertaining talks to so many local societies over the years.
Another Aberlady resident, Patrick McVeigh, a dealer in antiques who had originally traded from a shop in Edinburgh’s West Bow, set up in business on the west side of the Sea Wynd in premises which had earlier been a confectioner’s shop and would later be converted into a single-storey house. His authoritative book, Scottish East Coast Potteries, 1750-1840, was published in 1979. His memories of a Longniddry childhood, no. 8 in the ‘Flashback’ series – Look After the Bairns – were published in 1999.
Other local authors include the late Marie Muir, who wrote historical novels and children’s stories under the pen-name Monica Blake, and Elizabeth Stuart Warfel, who co-edited Bright Ring of Words, a compilation of extracts from the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson, in 1992.
In 1993 the late Dr David Hutchison, who was interested in local and ecclesiastical history, produced A Brief History of Aberlady Village and Church, a useful source of information about the village. Dr Hutchison’s house at the eastern end of Main Street incorporates the old smiddy, a building at least 300 years old.
Another well known Aberlady personality, Archie Baird, retired veterinarian and golf enthusiast, wrote a history of Gullane golf club, Golf on Gullane Hill, to mark its centenary in 1982.
From 1986, soon after she made her home in Aberlady, Jean Curnow began to produce a wide range of photographs and postcards of the village and its neighbourhood, as much a hobby as a business.
THIS ACCOUNT OF ABERLADY PARISH WAS WRITTEN AND EDITED BY IAIN MACASKILL. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, RESEARCH AND ESSAYS WERE PROVIDED BY THE FOLLOWING:
- Alison Andrews: Environment – Parish Boundaries; Homes
- Martin Andrews: General – Gosford estate
- Archie Baird: Economy – Golf, Aberlady course
- Michael Cox: Economy – Golf, Kilspindie course
- Bill Doig: Education – Reminiscences of a Country Headmaster
- Laurence Goudie: Belief – Aberlady Parish Church
- Jack Greenwood: Leisure – Aberlady Bowling Club
- Hilda Nicoll: Leisure – Aberlady Curling Club
- John Stevenson: Economy – Agriculture
And to the following
- Mr Bill Cockburn
- Miss Margaret Guy
- Miss May Guy
- Miss Margaret Hamilton
- Mrs Isabel Heenan
- Mrs Edna Parker
For their useful summary of Clubs, Shops and Services (Past & Present)