Garvald | Economy

Tourism | Industry | Agriculture | Golf


Provision for tourists was limited: in the 1950s and 1960s, Mrs Wooley ran Whitelaws at the foot of the village street as a boarding house. She provided accommodation for visitors and also was a very good cook and catered for guests, and even local weddings.

Several of the old cottages were let to visitors, especially the ‘weekenders’ from Leith and those who had been evacuees during the war.

The inn throughout the period served both locals and visitors, but only had two letting bedrooms. In the 1980s one of the more enterprising owners applied for planning permission to extend the building eastwards on the site used as a car park where the smithy stood in the 1950s, but nothing came of his venture. The owner in the 1990s also had plans for extension especially on the catering aspect. Unfortunately the inn closed at the end of 2000.

In the 1980s, one village house became available for self-catering and two of the farms had B&B accommodation. There is a retreat-house for guests in the old Nunraw house.


When the school was closed in 1971, East Lothian District Council was trying to encourage small businesses to come to the villages and Mr Leighton was given the opportunity to run a small craft works in the school, whilst he lived in the schoolhouse with his wife and family. His idea was to make gifts that tourists would buy; for example, tablemats, with photos of Edinburgh castle; little dolls with tartan kilts.

I remember one villager doing ‘piece work’ – machining the hem on the kilts. But the project was too small to be very profitable and he soon moved over to Duns where he had bigger premises.

Another enterprise was based at Garvald Grange;

My husband and I bought Garvald Grange in 1967 and lived there until 1991. Originally it had been a farm of over 200 acres, but the best land that adjoined Tanderlane was bought by Mr and Mrs Waddell and 38 acres of less good land which was ideally suited to breeding ponies plus the house and farm buildings made an excellent unit for a stud. Some extra grazing was rented locally as the number of animals increased to round about 60, including three stallions.

We had been breeding ponies in Midlothian using the Rosslyn prefix and this nucleus moved to Garvald Grange in 1967. The Welsh ponies lived in the sheltered south-facing glen and drank from the Papana Water, while the British riding ponies (show ponies) which are bigger and finer, lived in the fields surrounding the house and were stabled at night.

The Rosslyn ponies won championships at all the major shows throughout Britain, and were supreme at the Royal Highland Show 14 times, which had not been done before with British riding ponies. Offspring of these animals are now in Australia, New Zealand and America and their bloodlines are eagerly sought after.

Margaret M. Runcie


In a rural parish like Garvald, the main economic activity was agriculture. Ray Wilson is the manager of three farms; Tollishill, Kelphope and the Hopes. He was brought up at the Hopes, went away to work and then returned in 1977, firstly as shepherd, and from 1981, as farm manager. He is the third generation of Wilsons to manage the farms; he is a respected and successful sheep breeder, with an impressive array of silverware. The family moved to the Hopes in 1941, when Ray’s grandfather came with Robert Twedle from Innerleithen, where he had been head herd at Leithen Water.

In 2000, all of these farms were owned by Faccombe Estates, which bought the farms in the early 1990s. Previously all three farms were owned separately and many years ago, they were all part of the Yester estate.

The Hopes was originally three farms; East Hopes, West Hopes and Brookside. It was owned from 1941-56 by Robert Twedle; 1956-78 by Sir John Gilmour; by Jim Norman 1978-91, and was sold to Faccombe Estates in 1991. A Mr Sharp owned Tollishill from the 1940s; he took on Kelphope in 1950s, and ran the two together until 1990, when Faccombe Estates took over both Kelphope and Tollishill; Mr Sharp continued to lease both Tollishill and Kelphope until 1996. The Georgian house (built c1823 for the Hays of Yester) at the Hopes was upgraded in 1962.

West Hopes farm was primarily a hill farm, running Black-faced sheep. Hill sheep are hefted sheep; that is they are born on the hill, and learn from their mothers to stay on the part of the hill that is ‘their’ area. In 1977, West Hopes farm had six hefts, of 450 ewes. Six hefts make a hirsel – generally about 3000 acres. The farmland is divided into ‘in-by’ and ‘out-by’ areas; the out-by land is more or less left to itself, while the in-by is more managed.

In the early years, the Hopes farm was manned by the manager (Ray’s father), a tractorman, one cattleman, and two shepherds, each with some three dogs. Wages for the full-time staff were often supplemented by grazing for stock, perhaps five ewes and their lambs, and a cow, and her two last years’ calves. Each shepherd was responsible for a separate flock of sheep on the hill. Other staff included two orramen – who carried out unspecified work such as fencing and general estate work – who lived in the bothy, as did the ‘Irishman’, who did anything and everything. These three went home occasionally, sent money home, and were part of the workforce as late as about 1997.

The farm grew barley, turnip, rape, oats, hay and silage; they ran 800 ewes on the hill, and kept 40 cattle.

By 1999, things had changed; there was the farm manager and one shepherd. They had no extra man in for the lambing, and so all the sheep were brought off the hill for both tupping and for lambing. There were 300 ewes kept in-by.

Somewhat surprisingly, the fertility of the land seemed to be unaffected, although that was probably down to careful management; the quality of the soil was closely monitored, and lime added where necessary. The ground at the Hopes could dry out very badly in hot summers – like 1992, and so extra fodder had to be bought in. At other times, it could be so wet (1985) that some of the topsoil was washed away. Since 1980, rabbits have become an increasing problem.

An essential part of a herd’s work is to ‘walk’ the hill daily to check on the wellbeing of the hefted hill sheep; Ray’s grandfather used a horse until his retirement in 1956; his father preferred to go on foot. From about 1978, trials bikes were used and, from 1985, quad bikes. Nevertheless, some less accessible parts have to be walked.

The annual cycle: the Hopes year begins on 20 November, when the first of the commercial tups are put to the hill; to the end of December, the herds walk the hill on a daily basis.

Some of the hill sheep are brought in-by for 17 days, by which time they should have been covered by the tups; they are then returned to the hill. The following month is largely taken up by estate work, as well as general caring for stock. Depending on the weather, from February we start to give supplementary hay to the sheep. From March, we feed concentrates, which kick in six-seven weeks before lambing. They also increase the numbers of twins produced; we started using concentrates in the mid 1950s, and used ‘Eweball’ from 1960.

Hill sheep lambing begins from 16 April and the sheep stay on the hill throughout. A lambing man is employed, often the same person year on year; this helps as he ‘kens’ the sheep, and is more likely to spot a problem early on.

At West Hopes, the hirsel is shared by the lambing man and the manager; the sheep are encouraged to move over the hill every day. This involves more walking than usual, but gives the shepherds the chance to observe their stock on a regular basis. Overnight, the sheep congregate on the best land; they are ‘raked’ off this land about 5am, a job that can take some three-four hours. From late afternoon they are shifted around again, the burns are checked (lambs can fall in very easily), and any sheep in trouble, assisted. Hefted sheep tend to lamb in the same place each year, so knowledge of the stock aids good management. By the end of the first week in May, lambing is largely finished, and any hill sheep still to lamb are brought off the hill to be monitored. Traditionally this is the time that the workers’ gardens are planted.

From mid-May to the middle of June, the lambs are castrated; the usual way now is to use rubber rings. From the mid 1990s, amid concerns for animal welfare, the practice of cutting off the tail ends (that extended past the sheep’s belly button) with a knife, ended. From mid-May to the third week in July, the sheep are clipped, and checked for fly infestation. To 1979, the clipping was done by hand, on the hill, and the sheep gathered by heft into pens. Machine clipping replaced this, and the sheep are brought into the farm; the fleeces are sent to the Scottish Wool Growers, Galashiels. Last year’s sheep (now hoggs) are marked on their horns, for identification.

The female lambs are sent back to the hill – with the hope that they will find their heft, while the males are speyned (weaned). All the males, and any females that are not being kept are brought onto the ‘keep’– either rape or turnip (the ‘keep’ is cropped on a seven year rotation, because of the risk of ‘finger & toe’ – a disease of brassica). Old ewes of six years+ are culled. The remaining ewes are dosed for worms. About a week after clipping, the ewes are again gathered and dipped for fly, ticks and lice. From 1977, replacement ewe lambs were sent away for overwintering to Shotts, Lanarkshire, from October to April; since the middle of the 1990s, they are overwintered in a shed at the Hopes, so producing a need for more hay and silage.

Terminology: born in April, by the end of September, the lamb had become a hogg; males became shearlings once clipped, and females gimmers. The following year, the females that had lambed were sookit gimmers, and thereafter became ewes. Entire males were tups.

Blackfaced tups were bred at the Hopes for many years, with prize-winning stock being particularly successful in the 1960s (top lambs) and in the late 1980s and 1990s. By 1977, they were keeping 140 tup lambs, and then 60-70 sold as good quality stock. By 2000, about 80 were kept, from which perhaps 20 were sold as quality tups. Marketed in October, they were sold – as 1½ year old shearling tups, mainly in Lanark and Stirling. With each generation, the breeder sought to improve the stock. By using tups on different hefts, inbreeding was avoided; bought-in tups were also introduced, again to improve the quality of the stock’.

Ray Wilson, interviewed by Sonia Baker

An additional source of valuable income for the estates with extensive hill land like Hopes comes from the shooting rights. The heather is carefully managed to provide the grouse with young shoots for fodder (the Blackfaced sheep also benefit), and to encourage biodiversity. Sections are burned off every three or four years, between October and April (the timing is covered by legislation); cutting is useless as it does not go deep enough to prevent attack from heather beetle, which can kill acres in a season. In the last few years of the period, this income became increasingly important.

Many beekeepers have hives on the hills when the heather is in bloom to help pollinate the flowers. Heather honey is much in demand and is more expensive than blossom honey.

Changes came to all types of farms. The machinery used on the land got bigger and heavier, starting from the number of furrows ploughed simultaneously to the width of ground seeded, harrowed and harvested; everything got wider. At harvest time, no longer did men build stooks. The grain was mechanically threshed and taken to the drier – the weather being no longer all-important, although the costs of grain drying could be considerable. For a while the straw was packed in cubes – favoured by horse breeders, who needed to manhandle them. By the end of the period, silage and straw were mechanically wrapped in rolls of plastic, in huge bales that could only be lifted and transported by machinery.

At Nunraw, the monks farmed about 500 ha, with some lay help. By the 1970s, it had become necessary to rationalise the work – fewer men were joining the community, and so Nunraw was faced with the same problems as other farmers – though for slightly different reasons. The beef and dairy cattle, sheep, potatoes, pigs, and poultry of the earlier years were replaced by fat stock production, concentrating on rearing beef calves for the market, and some cereals. The big walled garden had previously provided food for the monastery, but latterly proved too labour-intensive.


Castle Park Golf Course and Driving Range

For some forgotten reason, when parish boundaries were originally determined, the land immediately south and west of the castle at Yester, which was the Castlemains farm, was included in Garvald parish, not Yester. At the end of the 20th century, the owner of the farm decided to convert this farm to a nine-hole golf course. The course was begun in 1993 and opened in 1994, and has a pleasant clubhouse, driving range, and car park. Work has started on a further nine holes (due to be completed May 2002), but those will be in Yester parish.