Haddington | Letham Mains Farm – smallholdings

Ian Muir

The idea of forming 36 smallholdings out of one farm was to help the unemployed due to the wars etc. The same idea happened at the Boggs smallholdings at Pencaitland. Letham smallholdings, consisting of three-bedroom bungalow type house, with sitting room, kitchen and bathroom, and outside shed were built by Richard Bailie, the local builder. Dates given are approx decades.

1 Mr & Mrs Alex Brown; main crop – raspberries.
2 Mr & Mrs Thomas Hogg; bred pigs for a short while and grew strawberries and raspberries.
5 Mr James McEwen; specialised in dahlias.
6 Mr & Mrs Thomas Auld; bred pigs for some 5 years. Had at the beginning approx. 20 hives of bees. Main fruit crop – strawberries, for some 29 years.
7 Mr & Mrs James Kerr and family; residing at Letham and having their Fruiterer and Florist Shop of first class standard at 34 High Street, Haddington.
9 Mr John Ross; breeds pigs.
10 Mr & Mrs Christopher Winter; poultry incl Aylesbury ducks, and West Highland terriers.
17 Mr & Mrs William Smillie; fruit mainly strawberries.
18 Mr & Mrs Charles Bell; fine fruit grower. Mr Bell also a fine writer.
19 Mr & Mrs Cole; Fruit and hens. Their son Stewart was successful in winning the Scottish Motorcycle Road Racing Championship.
22 Mr & Mrs John Wilson; fruit – raspberries, strawberries, also tomatoes. One of their sons, Stewart, a very fine accordionist.
23 Mr Archibald Laidlaw; brothers Archie and Davie concentrated on growing raspberries.
24 Mr & Mrs Douglas Edward; fruit – strawberries, lettuce, and vegetables. Their youngest son Michael, gained a degree in biochemistry. Their oldest son, Richard, formed his agricultural contracting business.
25 Mr & Mrs Alexander Noble; fruit -raspberries but mainly strawberries
26 Mr & Mrs John Muir; firstly my father was head beekeeper at Elders of East Bearford before moving to Letham where we had pigs for fattening, hens and 8-10 hives of bees. Grew peas, potatoes, cabbage and sprouts. Some oats were sown for feeding the hens. As time went on the main crop was strawberries and some raspberries. We also had greenhouses and grew tomatoes. During the fruit season we had a group of approx. 12 youths from Haddington to pull the berries. One of them was one of Dr. Rusack’s sons, Ronnie, who now owns the Bridge Inn at Ratho. As the years went on all smallholders asked the customer to come in and pull their own berries. This cut down the wage bill.
30 Mr & Mrs John Robson; grew various fruit and vegetables.
31 Mr & Mrs James Fergus; they went into laying hens in a big way. They had free-range, deep-litter and battery cages. I often went across to help to gather in the eggs in the Battery Houses where I always remembered you found 2 hens in a cage, plenty of room, food and water in front of them, cackling away, all seeming very happy.
32 Mr & Mrs Alan Bell; bred canaries, also hens for laying, mainly free range.
34 Mr & Mrs James Burwood; fruit -raspberries and strawberries, mainly covering each row with sheets of good quality polythene upheld by wires and covered by wires to keep the polythene in position all the time. All this giving an earlier crop and a larger berry.
36 Mr & Mrs James Lawrie; specialised in the growing of very fine high-quality mushrooms. Had raspberries and grew rose bushes. James Lawrie was a brother of Mrs Nora Jenkinson, Harperdean Farm, Haddington.

Most small-holders wishing to sow a white crop would mostly ask George Bain into sow it then ask him to cut it with his binder, have it led into the holding and have it threshed by Wylllie’s threshing mill, driven by a Field Marshall tractor.

As time went on there was less wishing to sow white crops, but the harvesting of them was far easier using the combine harvester.

The firms of Veitch Moir, Wood Ormeroid and Central Fruit and Company, all sent out transport each evening to collect all fruit that had been picked that day and was taken to the fruit market in Market Street, Edinburgh at the back of Waverley Station for sale the very first thing the following morning.

The fruit market is no longer in Market Street and is now located at Chesser Avenue

Barberfield Farm

This neighbouring farm to Letham was owned by the Blythe Family, well-known sheep farmers. The brothers were Willie, Charlie and Sandy. The sisters were Jean known as the housekeeper one, Jenny who worked in the Haddington post office beside Miss Wood who used to reside in the bungalow in the park across from the Railway Hotel. The only member of the family who got married was Mrs Muirhead who stayed down at East Linton. All the family who stayed at Barberfield were all members of Gladsmuir Parish Church.

Clerkington Mains

Another neighbouring farm, owned by Mr David Ritchie, sows barley, wheat and potatoes. David’s brother, Mr William Ritchie, is a scientist at Roslin Institute and is involved in the techniques that created Dolly the sheep.