In the years after the second world war there was a district nurse resident in Longniddry and responsible for the village. Thereafter, the village was served for a while by the district nurse based in Aberlady. For some time now Longniddry has had the services of the district nurse based at Cockenzie Health Centre.
By the late 1940s and 1950s most children in the Longniddry area were being born in hospital, sometimes in Edinburgh, but more usually in the Vert Memorial Hospital in Haddington. Home births were not as common as they had been, but were by no means unknown. By the 1960s, however, home births had become most unusual. After the Vert was closed c1970 it became the norm for babies to be born in Edinburgh. Until the early 1970s it was unheard of for fathers to be present at the birth, but over the ensuing three decades this has become ‘the done thing’.
At the end of the second world war Longniddry’s GP was Dr Oswald Jarvis, whose surgery was in his house in Elcho Road. Not all Longniddry people were on his list however, and quite a few people were patients of the Gullane or Port Seton practices.
(Dr Jarvis) was a wonderful person. He used to get the books out and draw out all what was wrong with you, and all the rest of it. But no time for scroungers! He was an army doctor. He came back here from India.
Mrs J Robertson
Dr Jarvis looked very much the gentleman, with his tweed jacket and monocle. Following his death in a car accident c1950, the practice was taken over by his daughter, Dr Isobel Jarvis. She was assisted in the 1960s by Dr Beattie; Dr Jarvis retired in 1986. ‘Doctor Isobel’ could be just a little impatient with time-wasters and hypochondriacs. It was something of a joke in the village that her advice for a wide range of ailments was, ‘I think you might just take an aspirin’.
On the other hand:
She could be very kind. I found that very much. She was very good to us.
Mrs J. Robertson
When I [David Robertson] took appendicitis in 1963 and Roodlands Hospital staff were muttering about the possibility of a swallowed fishbone, ‘Doctor Isobel’ insisted on an appendectomy, which was duly performed just in time to save the day.
At the Longniddry derailment of 1953 when the driver of a parcels train was injured and
the poor fireman was in bits, Doctor Isobel came up and she crawled under the carriages and examined everything to see that every part of his body was there. He was put in one of the waiting rooms. Oh, I admired her for it!’
In 1980, the Cockenzie Group Practice moved into a purpose-built health centre in Cockenzie. The group practice by that time already had over 400 patients in Longniddry. Around this time the group practice opened a Longniddry surgery in temporary premises beside the tennis courts off Douglas Road. When Dr Jarvis retired in 1986, the group practice took on most of her patients. Also in 1986 the former post office premises in Forthview Road became vacant, and were taken over by the group practice. Surgeries are held there Monday to Friday. There are currently five doctors in the practice.
A common remedy for colds was to drape a towel over the head and inhale the steam from a mixture of boiling water and Friar’s Balsam in a stone jar. My mother was told an intriguing remedy for warts by a woman in Amisfield Place around 1950. She had been told by an old man that first each wart should be rubbed with small ‘chuckie stane’. The stones should then be placed in an empty matchbox, and the matchbox should be wrapped up like a little parcel and thrown away. The woman had tried the cure on her daughter, whose warts duly disappeared. The idea was that whoever found the parcel and opened it would get the warts!
Children: by the 1950s, the days of childhood death from diphtheria and scarlet fever were gone, but epidemics of mumps, measles, and chicken pox regularly thinned the ranks in the classrooms temporarily. Another regular visitor was impetigo, a skin infection that necessitated the lurid painting of the areas with purple gentian violet.
In the post-war years there was a clinic where mothers collected the newly-introduced free orange juice and cod liver oil for their children. Other than this, there does not seem to have been a great deal of ante-natal or post-natal care then, apart from a visit or two from the district nurse. A baby clinic is now held once a week in the doctors’ surgery in Forthview Road.
In earlier years, mothers still resorted to home-made remedies for various ailments –
If you had toothache you put a clove in your tooth.
Salt, heated up, if you had swollen glands, and it was put into a sock and put round your neck … And then of course sulphur and black treacle was mixed up, and if they thought you were going to have measles, shall we say – you know, childish ailments – you got a great big spoonful of this shoved in your mouth … Jim was asthmatic from he was very young. He’d bronchitis. My aunt Mrs Porteous, she was … it was hereditary, she had it. She used to smoke Pinksman’s (?) Asthma Reliever. And you bought it in Napier’s, you know, the herbalist and it was in a tin. And you put a wee drop on the top of this lid, and you lit it and breathed it up. Well, she taught Jim to do that when he was two years old, and it used to relieve him. He got things from the doctor as well, but if he was really bad that seemed to relieve him more than anything.
Mrs J. Robertson
More generally, some individual children and young people with problems get particular support through East Lothian Council’s social work and education departments.
A dental surgery was opened in the Main Street in 1974, in what had been the chemist’s shop, and has since expanded into the shop next door. There are currently three dentists in the practice. An interesting oddity is that the postal address of these premises has always been 113 Main Street, even in the days when there were barely 113 buildings in the whole of Longniddry, never mind the Main Street. Presumably ‘113’ derives from some slip of the pen on the original title deeds.
The village chemist, Douglas Welsh, also practised as an optician; he continued this role into the 1980s, long after he gave up the chemist’s shop.
For the elderly: there are a few voluntary organisations operating in the village that provide some support for the older members of the community. The Wednesday Club for OAPs meets in the Church Hall on Wednesday afternoons in the winter. It provides pensioners with an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company, and provides dominoes, tea, and entertainment. A Lunch Club for old folk is run by lady volunteers in the Longniddry Community Centre on Mondays.