I was just two years old when my parents started Greywalls on its life as an hotel – April 1 1948. The family (I’m told) wondered if this enterprise was indeed an “April Fool”! My father was a retired soldier with no job and my mother had inherited this large “holiday home” with no use for it. Neither had any experience of hotel management!
It is sad that my mother died just four months before this anniversary of which she would have been so proud. However, the stories of starting an hotel in the 1940s are etched on my memory through much retelling by my parents and from my eldest brother, Nicholas who was then 11 years old.
Even in such a relatively small endeavour you do (I learned) need LUCK, HELP and HARD WORK.
In 1947 Greywalls was completing its second world war service as a Polish Forces Hospital (having had a more glamorous spell earlier as an RAF officer’s mess). My mother gave the hospital notice to quit by chance one month before the Nationalisation of Hospitals Act (creating our National Health Service) came into force. Had she been later, it would not have been possible to reclaim the property at all.
My parents had some extra luck as the year was 1948. The Open Golf Championship was played at Muirfield (Henry Cotton won), which helped put Greywalls on the golfing map.
Also Yehudi Menuhin (and Louis Kentner, the pianist) stayed for a month because the Edinburgh Festival was in its formative years. My mother’s Bluthner grand piano was moved into a bedroom for him – people sat in their cars in the drive to listen to him rehearse!
There were three sources of unanticipated assistance: the then captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (J.A. Robertson, Durham) at Muirfield supported the idea of a hotel at Greywalls – luckily both my grandfathers and my father were keen and good golfers. Then the Lord Lieutenant of East Lothian (the Marquess of Tweeddale) was a relation by marriage and helped us gain the all important liquor license – which in those days, on Sundays, was available only to bona fide travellers. The Horlick’s family butler, Old William, came out of retirement to ‘unpack the house’ as it was he who had supervised its ‘putting away’ when requisitioned by the military for the war! Thus the furniture and linen were preserved and reinstated.
The effort in starting such an hotel speaks for itself. I can only recollect one family summer holiday away in all my childhood in the 1940s and 1950s. For instance in those days the bar was in the library. It was illegal to display booze outside licensing hours, and as the room was in use throughout the day as a sitting room and for teas etc. all the bottles had to be taken down when the bar closed at 3 and put up again when it re-opened at 5; and again at closing time in the evening.
There weren’t many bedrooms to begin with because the family still lived in the house. Col. and Mrs Weaver used what are now rooms 16 and 18 as their bedroom and private sitting room, Room 8 was the day nursery, No. 9 (with me in it) the night nursery, Nicholas had No. 11 up in the attic, and my elder brother, Martin, No. 10 in the corridor.
|Per week||Per day||Bed & Breakfast|
|April from||21 gns||66s||48s|
|May to October from||23gns||72s||50s|
|Private bathrooms – 15s per night|
The tariff was a little different too as you can see. The charge for lunch and dinner was 5/- (25p) the maximum allowed by law, and tea was half a crown [2/6 or 12.5p]. It was also illegal to serve more than three courses at any meal, and if you had a bread roll that counted as a course. If you stayed for more than a couple of days you had to surrender the appropriate number of food-ration coupons. The first customer was our dentist Dr Mackenzie and the first day’s takings were 8/10d (44p).
They ran the hotel – father day-to-day, mother inspiration, decoration and garden – for 30 years. The family continues to cherish Greywalls, keep up the tradition and hope that you enjoy yourselves here as much as we have done over the last 50 years.
Text from the Greywalls website, www.greywalls.co.uk and reproduced here by kind permission of the proprietor of Greywalls, Giles Weaver