Garvald | Belief

From 1945-51, the Church of Scotland minister lived in Garvald manse and his sole responsibility was Garvald parish. He held a service every Sunday in the church and the Sunday school met in the vestry at the back. At that time the session clerks were the Brotherstones, father and son, who were skilled joiners at Hornshill, a small property on the roadside going up the Duns road from Gifford. Because it was too far for the people at that end of the parish to come to Garvald, they built a Tin Kirk on their own land beside the Newlands road, beside the Danskine Burn. The minister travelled over to take services there, continuing until 1958.

In about 1954, the last person christened in the Tin Church was Pearl Currie (nee Smith). There is now nothing [except the foundations] remaining of this building. The Garvald minister visited Hopes estate, and Sunday school was held there in the house.

Ray Wilson

Meantime in 1951, when the Rev CJP Cooper was appointed, there was a linkage with Morham. This meant the minister was responsible for the two parishes and took two separate services each Sunday morning, but each congregation retained its own Kirk Session; the congregations were united on 5 June 1957. For several years the sessions discussed the problem of the manse; Morham manse had been sold and Garvald manse needed considerable repairs. It was hoped to build a smaller manse on the Morham Mains land between the two villages. However a suitable site never became available. Money from the sale of Morham manse was used to repair Garvald manse, including removing the considerable servants’ quarters.

In the 19th century Garvald church had been altered to seat a large congregation. There were galleries in each of the wings with access from outside stairs and the pulpit was in the middle of the south wall. By 1959 church attendance had fallen considerably and the sight of the small congregation scattered in the various aisles and galleries was depressing. During the ministry of the Rev Miles Leith (1961-65) it was decided to modernise the interior of the building. Peter Whiston had already been engaged as architect for the new Nunraw Abbey and he designed the new interior. Electric central heating was introduced. The balconies and access staircases were removed and the layout completely changed: the Communion Table was restored to the east end; the pulpit was removed from halfway along the south wall, and placed to the south side of the Table and modern, light wood pews introduced. A stained glass window by W. Wilson RSA was incorporated in the east wall, behind the Table. The work on this restoration was done in 1963 and it owed much to the generosity of Mrs Anna Younger of Baro.

By 1970 it was no longer possible for the two parishes to support a full-time minister. Various ideas were put forward – including uniting with Yester, Saltoun, Bolton and Humbie – but Presbytery decided the linkage should be with Haddington West. On the retirement of the Rev J. Ritchie in 1980 the minister would live in the West Church manse in Haddington. When Garvald manse was sold it was possible to keep the garage, stabling and kitchen garden. Money from the sale of the manse was used to convert these into parish rooms, called the Stables, which were thereafter in regular use for small church and village functions.

After the Union in 1929, the Parish and Free Church congregations were united and the Free Church became the church hall; this was never very satisfactory. For example, it was not convenient for children to have to go half a mile up the village street for Sunday school. Eventually the hall was handed over to a committee who run it (see below) for the village for social usage.

From 1980 the regular Sunday morning service was held in Garvald and Morham churches on alternate Sundays attended by the one congregation, with one Kirk Session. The minister had to take the services in the West Church, Haddington as well. Communion was celebrated on four Sundays in the year with an additional communion on Maundy Thursday. Coffee was served in the Garvald Stables or the Laird’s loft, Morham, after the services.

Early in the 1970s Miss P. Grego, a staunch Catholic had the idea of a Christmas Eve procession through the village with children enacting the Christmas story. After carols in the church, Mary mounted on a donkey and, accompanied by Joseph, led the congregation to the village green. Here a crib was set up under the Christmas tree where more carols were sung and the Kings appeared riding on ponies bearing the traditional gifts. The minister and the Abbot jointly led the worship and the event ended with hot soup being brought out from the pub. Over the years there were small changes; the tree was placed outside the hall, where the soup was served, and the ponies no longer took part, but the event remained immensely popular and large numbers of people came to join in.

1939-47 Victor C. Bennie
1948-50 George Scott-Mill
February 1951, Garvald and Morham linked
1951-56 Charles J.P Cooper
5.6.1957 Garvald and Morham united under the minister living in Garvald
1956-60 George D. Macmillan
1961-65 Harry Miles Leith
1966-78 Robert Cunningham
1979-84 Ian Walker
13.11.1980 linked with WestChurch, Haddington
1985-95 Alastair H.Gray
1996-date Cameron Mackenzie

Here and throughout the text, Irene Anderson shares her experiences of living in the parish:

Until the 1970s there was still room in the parish churchyard for burials. The last burial was from one of the council houses; the coffin was kept in the house in the village street. At the time for the funeral a hush fell over the village. The motor hearse came out from Haddington and stopped at the house and the coffin was carried out. It travelled at a walking pace the few hundred yards to the church and as it passed residents appeared from each house and quietly followed in procession down the village street and gathered round the grave where a short service of committal took place.

None of these last burials has a gravestone. Shortly after that the minister let it be known there was no more room and burials would have to take place in Haddington. One elderly resident was incensed by this and had four small stones with an ‘L’ engraved to mark the place where she hoped to join her brother. Later, when too old to look after herself, she went to stay with relatives in the west and is buried there. The apparent vestry at the east end of the church building was where the council kept the boards used in grave digging and they are probably still there.

From 1996, ‘Alpha’ bible study groups were initiated, which met either in the Stables or the homes of members. The course lasted six weeks and finished with a day’s meeting at the old Nunraw. Once the Stables had been modernised, groups from outwith the parish were made welcome. Two organisations from Edinburgh brought disabled adults and the elderly for a drive into the country and a picnic at the Stables.

During the summer, the Haddington Council of Churches organised Sunday evening ‘Bus Stop’ services to surrounding places of worship and Garvald hosted one of these. There was a service in the church and refreshments in the Stables afterwards. Each autumn a lunch and sales table raised money for Christian Aid.

From 1946, Garvald parish was home to the Cistercian monks of Sancta Maria Abbey, Nunraw. Lay Catholics attended some of the services: for example, Mass in the morning and vespers in the early evening. On a Sunday many, who appreciated the monastic type of service, attended the 11am Mass.

The monastic life was not easy. The monks rose at 3.15am and, after vigils and meditation, attended the community Mass at 4.45am; breakfast was at 5.30. During the day there were seven hours of the Divine Office and the monks retired at 8pm. In the old house, Father Raymond had a constant stream of guests, and services were held for them in the little Chapel there. In the early days, one of the huts at the back of the old house was used as a dormitory for ‘the men of the road’, and not a few villagers were apprehensive of offering lifts to these men on their way from Haddington!

The monastery shop sold a wide variety of books, cards, sweets and soft drinks to the steady flow of visitors, amongst whom were many busloads from all over Scotland.

The community’s relationship with the ‘Protestants’ was always cordial, starting from the early winter snowstorm in 1946, when the monks, with an old-fashioned yoke, distributed milk in the village. The villagers learned to appreciate that the monks were a silent order, and not to expect them to indulge in gossip!

The monks have always been friends of the village; for example, representatives came to the village Christmas Carol service and important Church of Scotland occasions, like the induction of a new minister. For at least 30 years, the village was permitted to have a Christmas Dinner party for the elderly at the old monastery.