Dunbar | Vi Marshall (nee Souness) talks about East Barns in the early 1950s

Interviewed 8 March 2002 by Sonia Baker

Mrs Marshall was born at the end of the war, and was the youngest of 10 children; she grew up on East Barns Farm, where her father and brothers worked

The farm comprised the two big houses – East Barns House and Barneyhill House, where the two Hope brothers (Sir James (Bart) and Robert) lived respectively – and the farm. The farm buildings extended across the site, which itself was sandwiched between the old A1 road, and the railway line. The soil was excellent, and the farm successful. In 1945, there were a large number of people living at East Barns, most of whom worked on the farm; the farm was one of the last in the county to be using Clydesdale horses for the farm work. There were stables, a piggery, a stackyard, a smiddy, several bothies, bull pen, lime shed, chickens, calves and dairy cattle; East Barns House also had greenhouses.

There was no pub, a school and a couple of bus stops. Church of Scotland worshippers travelled to Dunbar for services. There was a Free Kirk near the Thurston road junction (near the new A1).

The village children spent their summers around the farm, hitching rides on the large hay bogeys, and playing in the fields. Early morning duties included going to the dairy to collect milk for the family.

By the early 1960s, farming had changed, the Clydesdales had gone, and the site had been sold to Blue Circle cement for the development of their new works [construction began in September 1961, and production started on 1st April 1963]. Many of the remaining farm workers found employment with the new landowners, at the works. Neither of the Hope brothers had had families, and the farm had gradually declined. Mrs Marshall’s mother was one of the last to move away, probably because her son still worked on the farm; latterly, there were just Sandy Foggo, Mrs Marshall’s brother, and a couple of women from Dunbar working on the (by then) merged farms of East Barns and Oxwellmains

On the Farm

Post war, the bothies were used to accommodate German POWs. Later they were home to the Irish tattie howkers; Mrs Marshall recalls some dozen or so men, with about 4-5 in a bothy together.

Quite a few of the women of the village worked full time on the farm; they worked at the carrots, at the harvest etc. They wore uglies right into the 1960s. Other women came in tattie squads from Dunbar.

Deep carts were used to transport the sugar beet to Oxwellmains siding, from where it was sent off to the factory at Cupar.

Earning money

In the 1960s, in October, for two weeks, the children earned extra money by tattie picking. Throughout her school years, she also earned money by singling turnips and sugar beet. Her, and other, parents took on so many lengths, so many drills, so much yardage of the crop; the whole family went out working together in the evenings, using a ‘paydell’ [push hoe SBa]. ‘I loved to go at the singling’. They were paid on a piece-work rate.

Another ‘earner’ was to collect the milk for neighbours, as well as for the family. Mrs Marshall could earn a shilling a week, per neighbour – and that paid for a trip to the pictures. ‘It was 3d each way for the bus; 1/9 to get into the pictures; 3d for a bag of chips, so you needed half a crown’. They went to the Dunbar Playhouse, which was on the site of the old medical centre. ‘I loved the Elvis films, and used to go on the back of my brother’s scooter’.

Mrs Marshall recalls the rosehip collecting; they gathered the hips after school, and the school collected (and evidently sent the hips away) the hips. The children were paid for their efforts

Leisure & Social Life

Mrs Hope of Barneyhill did a lot for the local children; she took them for Sunday School on Sunday afternoons, and held a garden fete every summer to raise money for the annual Sunday School outing to exotic places like Coldingham beach

There was no hall in East Barns, so the school gym room was used instead. Two of Mrs Marshall’s sisters held their wedding receptions there, providing their own food and beer.

They went to dances at Innerwick (one was held after the Flower Show, in the Village hall), and to Oldhamstocks and Co’path; dances included the Gay Gordons, Foxtrot and Quick Step. From the 1960s, when Mrs Marshall was a 15+ teenager, she went dancing in the Pool Ballroom in Dunbar – the Twist, the Jive – cycling there and back (3 miles); there was no alcohol at these dances ‘ you wouldn’t have dreamt of buying booze…until you were 17 or 18…’. All the clubs in the town ran dances – the Rugby Club dances were held at the Craig en Gelt (they had no clubhouse at that time); the Tennis Club dances were held again at the Craig en Gelt on a Saturday night, and there was always a dance in the Pool Ballroom on a Friday night. One disadvantage of living out at East Barns was that if any romance was in the air ‘… soon as they knew where you lived – they had to be keen…’ because seeing a girl home to East Barns meant a 6 mile cycle ride!


Children came from Oxwellmains, the Pinkertons, Skateraw and Bilsdean. There were 2 classrooms – one with P5,6,7 and the other Infants 1,2,3,4. In 1950, Mr Douglas was the Head teacher, and his wife taught the younger children. By 1955, Mr William Doig was the head teacher

The school was attached to the schoolhouse. There was a room for the infants, one for the older children, a dining hall, a gym hall, and separate cloakrooms for the boys and girls.

The children sat at little wooden desks, and to about 1950, still used slates with wooden edges; they later moved onto paper and pencils. They had milk at break time, and went home for a meal in the middle of the day

The field opposite the school was used for sports days; there was no direct access into the field, so all the children scrambled over the wall. The fact that cattle were grazed in the field made for interesting obstacles in the grass.

Corporal punishment

Mr Douglas was ‘handy… and overeager… with the strap’, and both girls and boys were punished for what seem today, very minor incidents. Children who were perhaps noisy, doing nothing nasty, were hit. Mr Douglas had a special way of making the punishment worse; he would lay a pencil across the boy’s hand, before bringing down the strap on the hand.