David M. Robertson
Although the actual parish boundary has not changed, the concept of Gladsmuir parish has now little relevance to Longniddry. Already, by the end of the second world war, Longniddry had become a Church of Scotland parish in its own right. For the purpose of registration of births, deaths, and marriages, Longniddry in 1945 was still part of the registration district of Gladsmuir, but since 1967 has been part of the registration district of Prestonpans. As a council electoral ward, over the past half century Longniddry has been ‘North Gladsmuir’, then ‘Gladsmuir’ (along with Gladsmuir and Macmerry). The present Longniddry electoral ward excludes Gladsmuir and Macmerry, but takes in a large part of the east end of Port Seton. The postal address ‘Longniddry’ includes several farms at some distance from the village, as does the catchment area of Longniddry Primary School, and a number of these places lie outwith the boundaries of the old parish of Gladsmuir. The remainder of Gladsmuir parish is dealt with separately.
Longniddry village is bounded on the north by the bents and sandy beaches of the Firth of Forth. Between the shore and the village is a golf course sloping gently up to the raised beach on which Longniddry itself is built. To the west and south of the village lies rich agricultural land, growing mostly cereals and oilseed rape. The ground rises gradually to the south, to the Gladsmuir ridge some two miles away. On the east side, Longniddry is bounded by the woods of Gosford Estate. Apart from a few stone-built pantiled cottages on the Main Street, Longniddry consists almost entirely of dwelling houses built in the 20th century.
In 1945, Longniddry was a medium sized village in a rural setting, where many people still worked locally. Apart from the older Main Street cottages, the village could be easily divided physically and socially into three sections – the business and professional people in the private houses, the war veterans of the ‘Garden City’ who came from all over Britain, and the tenants of the council houses, mostly (but not all) working folk of more or less local stock.
Large numbers of service personnel had been based nearby at Gosford, where there was also a prisoner-of-war camp, and further off at Macmerry. The blackout, rationing, and the fact that Longniddry was in a ‘restricted area’, all served to make life more difficult for those at home. It goes without saying that the difficulties and dangers for those on active service were beyond our comprehension.
At the end of the war everyone’s priority was above all to ‘get back to normal’, but for many there was also the hope that the recently elected Labour government would usher in an era where ‘normal’ for ordinary folk would be more comfortable than it had been in the 1930s.
There was, of course, an overwhelming sense of relief that the war was over. And yet, talking to those who had fought, it was possible years later to pick up a feeling that for some the war years had been the most exciting and stimulating of their lives. While acknowledging the horror and terror, there was at the same time almost a feeling of nostalgia. There is also no doubt whatsoever that with a constant supply of vigorous young men stationed at Gosford, the young women of Longniddry were not short of distractions to lighten the burdens of war on the domestic front.
It would be crass to suggest that for many the war years were the best years of their lives, and yet, as the pedestrian conformist 1950s unfolded, there must have been more than a hint of anti-climax for some. This was put in a nutshell by the comment of one Longniddry woman who had been an instrument technician on Lancaster bombers, and who had experienced London in the Blitz. She returned to Longniddry to become a housewife, where life at first seemed ‘Flat. Just flat’.