Settlements in the parish include Oldhamstocks, Birnieknowes, Bilsdean, Dunglass Mill and Dunglass estate. Most of the houses are in private ownership except the tenanted farms and nearly all of the houses on Dunglass estate.
With the exception of Dunglass House and some on infill sites in Oldhamstocks and at Birnieknowes and Oldhamstocks Mains, few new houses have been built since 1945. Most of the older stone-built cottages once housed large families, but in 2000 many were occupied by a single person. Any formerly derelict property in the parish has been restored and occupied and farm steadings remain intact for agricultural use.
In 1948 a ‘parcel of valuable feus’ being sold with Thurston Estate (Innerwick) included 18 houses and gardens in Oldhamstocks including the ‘church, manse and stables’ and the old mill house. Some were originally used only as holiday houses bought by ‘city people’ (eleven in 1953) but by 2000, nearly all were occupied permanently. Several of the cottages were once owned by Dunglass estate but sold off in the 1930s, 1970s and 1980s. In 2000 there were no council-owned houses in the parish.
Standards of living – some recollections of homes in the parish, again from Mrs Yule
In the 1940s at Cocklaw the
housekeeper was a jolly good cook … she used to produce all sorts of lovely food … There was always the gun for pheasants… rabbits. … deer as well … we were well fed …
There was a local shop where you could get
cigarettes … sweets and … a loaf of bread, a roll or … sugar – just the bare basics.
Mrs Russell of Thurston, the district head, dispensed Land Army clothing.
They had all your measurements …Of course you didn’t get them ad lib, you had to be careful with them.
However, there was no problem in replacing them if boots or clothes wore out. For farm work, there were
lacing leather boots and wellingtons, and whistlers – corduroy britches so called because of the noise they made when your legs rubbed together and anybody would know when we were coming.
Other items were
sandy-coloured Aertex shirts, woollen V-neck pullovers.
Such was the quality of these clothes that they were worn long after the war ended.
Later in the period, for picnic outings to the beach or with the school parties, best clothes were worn.
For the summer you’d have cotton skirts, cotton blouses … and a cardigan in case it was cold. And you wore sensible shoes because you wouldn’t know how far you’d have to walk to get to the picnic site… None of us really wore hats. No we weren’t a hatty lot…but we had to wear hats to church of course. Now we don’t you see.
One old gentleman – Mr Nisbet – used to sit on a bench outside his house
in his velvet jacket his velvet smoking cap, and puffing his pipe or cigarette…
Water has always been plentiful in the parish because of local springs; from about 1955-65, a pipe near Haystall cottages west of the church also supplied Cockburnspath. There is now a public water supply.
Sewage from Oldhamstocks village is piped to a sedimentation tank but farms and other parish houses and cottages use private septic tanks, which drain into the burns.
Mains electricity was not available in the area until the early 1950s. Before then, houses were wired up and lamps bought in expectation of a change from oil lamps. There is no mains gas but propane (LPG), fuel oil and electricity are widely used for heating and cooking.
TV reception is variable with some BBC stations quite poor in places. Houses along the coast cannot receive Borders ITV but get Grampian instead.
An automatic telephone exchange came into operation in 1950. Mobile phone masts appeared in the 1990s but are concentrated on one main site at Thorntonloch. Nonetheless, reception is variable because of intervening hills and cliffs.
The only street lighting in the parish is in Oldhamstocks village.
Householders collect rubbish in wheelie bins and these are uplifted once a week. In 2000, re-cycling and composting are commonly held, but largely unfulfilled, objectives, even in this rural parish.
Shops & Services
For those without cars, the bus service determines their shopping routines. The most convenient shopping centre is Dunbar but for the many who commute by car to jobs in Edinburgh and elsewhere, groceries and other goods will probably be bought en route.
A single shop selling basic groceries, bread, cigarettes and sweets was still operating in the post-war years but eventually was reduced to just a part-time post office and small general store. This closed in 2000.
Milk cows were kept at Cocklaw and at Oldhamstocks Mains. Villagers once collected their daily pints in lidded pitchers (which each held about two pints) from Lotte Armstrong at ‘Greenend’. Mobile shops provided groceries, bakery goods and meat to the village and hamlets from 1945 on a daily basis, but it is fair to say that even during times of rationing there was never any shortage of food in this farming community. Pheasants, rabbits and deer were plentiful sources of protein. Hays of Cockburnspath delivered pre-ordered groceries until the shop closed in 1993.
The smiddy had been the village meeting place as well as the source of repairs for farming equipment and farriery, but it closed when Bob Henry, the last of the village blacksmiths, retired in the 1950s.
A county library service operated from the school until it closed in 1970. A bundle of books would be deposited once a week at the school and residents could take their pick but had to return them the next week. None could be personally chosen – a suggestion robustly dismissed by Mrs Yule!
These days you took what you got and were jolly thankful.
By the end of the period the mobile library visited every fortnight; the nearest public library was in Dunbar.