The Community Association arose in the 1960s, because the village hall was falling into disrepair. The hall had been built in 1913, by the laird of Biel estate, and until 1945 was always maintained by the estate. The trustees of the hall were the laird, the minister and the schoolmaster, but they had no fund-raising powers to maintain the hall.
By the mid 1960s, the hall was becoming unusable. With the support of the laird and Lord Hunter (a local resident) a committee was formed. It was decided to form the Community Association and with the assistance of Lord Hunter a constitution was agreed. Every organisation that uses the hall sends a representative and there are four elected members to the Community Association. In 1967, the Community Association took over the running of the hall. A Triennial Fair was held to raise funds. This has been taken over by Gala Week. Originally the Gala replaced the Sunday school treat for the children. The village hall has played an important role in keeping the village together.
In 1945 the old play park was situated behind the gallery car park and had a couple of swings and a seesaw. By 2000 there was a play park next to the village hall enjoyed by the children and a football pitch behind the hall.
Between the 1940s and 1970s, a burn was dammed to the west of the village; known as the ‘dooking pool’, it was 4-5′ deep, and was well used for swimming. Another informal sport took place when local lads turned an area of the burn by Biel Mill into a speedway track; this was made possible by the amount of silt left by the river during the 1948 floods. It had proper starting grids and gates and a spring-loaded starting tape.
Organisations & Clubs
Until the 1970s, the village hall was a focal point for many activities. There were a variety of organisations for the parish to attend, including: Men’s Guild; Woman’s Guild; SWRI; Scottish country dance class; Stenton Bowling Club (see below); horticultural society; Sunday school; bible class; and the Conservative association.
The Sunday school trip was organised by the Woman’s Guild. In the winter there were whist drives, dances, sales of work and produce, Christmas parties and carpet bowls. In summer most people were involved in their gardens. Most houses had a sizeable flower and vegetable garden and the annual horticultural show was always well supported. There was bowling from the first Saturday in May until the first Saturday in September with tournaments held regularly. In 1961 Mrs H.E. McKenzie produced a nativity play at Stenton. The county librarian sent books to the school and the headmaster distributed them.
By 2000 there were a number of thriving activities, many of which were revived or started in the 1980s. These important societies keep the community together; they allow people to meet who would otherwise not contact each other in the course of their working week. They include: Stenton Community Association; Stenton Bowling Club; horticultural society;
gala committee; the biennial Burns supper, and junior musicmakers for pre-school children.
Stenton Footlights was founded in 1984 by Mrs Jenny Harper. There has been a performance every year apart from 2001 when the foot and mouth epidemic curtailed travel.
The Stenton Singers (see also Belief) were formed by Mrs Lynda Jeffrey in 1987, and put on two concerts a year – one at Christmas and one in the spring.
Formal groups such as the Women’s Rural Institute thrived until the early 1990s. They provided in meetings discussion opportunities for the ladies of the parish and, for many years, played an active role in the life of the community. The Stenton SWRI was formed in 1951 with 31 members; in 1958/9 with Dunbar, it sent players to take part in a pageant in Edinburgh called ‘Daughters of Scotland’. There was an associated society, the Sheepdog Trial Society, which was fund raising for the SWRI charity of the time, the Guide Dogs for the Blind. In 1968, Stenton SWRI entered the Bowling Competition, and the Drama Festival of March 1969. The group won the Warnock Trophy in 1981 (for a multi-coloured magazine cover), but by 1992, Stenton SWRI was struggling. The group went into abeyance in 1992, and closed the following year.
Girl guides and brownies were held in the village – the guides in the Institute and the brownies in what was called the ‘Brownie House (the western part of the house now known as Craigroy). The guides closed in the 1970s. A scout group survived until 1970. In 2000 the brownies had a healthy roll, with girls coming from East Linton to swell the numbers. To commemorate their Diamond Jubilee in 1971, the Stenton brownie pack and guide company decided to restore the wooden upper part of the village Tron, which had, to the mid 19th century, been used to weigh the hill farmers’ wool at the twice-yearly fairs. The work was carried out under the overall control of Mr Andrew Halliday.
A youth club has been held weekly from 1960-2000 with short gaps in between.
The art gallery was established in 1980 and features mainly contemporary art and associated crafts. There is an annual mixed exhibition for the festive season. Individual artist’s work is exhibited and themes (such as that for April/May 2000 ‘Landscape and Architecture’) adopted.
Stenton Bowling Club
The history of the club mirrors the difficulties many institutions had in Stenton from 1945-2000. The club did not suffer during the war and still plays on the original 1876 bowling green. The membership continued to be 40+ for most years. 1966 was a memorable year for the club, with Douglas Kennedy being presented with the Scottish Bowling Association Gold Medal, the youngest player ever to be given this award. Things changed in the 1970s as the village population declined, the club membership fell and the club withdrew from all competitions. In spite of this, the centenary celebrations in 1976 proved very popular. Crisis point was reached in 1981 when the club had only 14 members; a warrant was received from the Sheriff’s Officer for an unpaid rates bill. West Barns Bowling Club came to the rescue raising a life-saving cheque for £175. After this episode a new enthusiasm was generated for the club, with members being recruited from the village and further afield. More funds were available and Willie Wood, MBE, opened the new clubhouse on 24 February 1996. Thereafter, Stenton Bowling Club was once again an integral part of the community. The club celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2001, although events had to be curtailed because of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
There is fishing in the Pressmennan loch and Whiteadder reservoir. The parish is a shooting area with pheasant, grouse and partridge (see Economy – field sports). A number of other ‘traditional’ interests are also pursued. Angela Foster interviewed Adam Bathgate and Lawrence Docker for their views.
Sheepdog trials were a popular pastime. My sheepdogs have always been my friends and co-workers. The best breeder I had would be Tibby. My best ever sheepdog was Don. Tibby was his mother. That was a good litter. I sold them right down to the south of England. For years after, they wrote back to me to see if I had any more. Bobby Wood had the father. He had got Don but when he was working he got his leg broken by a cow that trod on his foot. It never healed up properly. Bobby Wood had a lot more sheep than me so I got Don back and gave him Liz as an exchange. She was a great dog who won all the prizes at the Internationals, two or three times. She was known up and down the country as Bobby Wood’s Liz. But that Don would have been one of the best dogs in Scotland. He was easily handled and it didn’t matter what you said to him he would do it. He was a really good dog. It was just a shame he got his leg broken. I would have him at the top of the hill at a trial and he would look at me and hold up his leg to say his leg was sore. But he would carry on. I got a lot of prizes with Don.
I am the fifth generation Bathgate to keep bees. Clover honey has the nicest taste but it’s very runny. Lime tree honey is very clear and good honey. The sycamore honey is about the best. It’s a bit darker and thicker and spreads nicely. The oilseed rape now, it spoils the honey. Also farmers spraying the fields often kill the bees. The Bee Association have a spray officer who is supposed to notify everyone when spraying takes place. But he can’t if he doesn’t know, as the farmers don’t often tell him. I will continue to have bees as long as I am able.