Whittingehame | Economy

Tourism as such is not actively promoted, but the Lammermuir Hills are a popular area for hill walking. Whittingehame is by and large an agricultural parish, with a little woodland production.

Until c1960, the main occupation throughout the parish was agriculture and work connected with it – blacksmiths, foresters and gamekeepers.

After 1960, as transport became more available, people started to look further afield for employment. From 1980, as farms became more mechanised and Whittingehame estate dispensed with foresters and was reduced to one gamekeeper, employment had to be found outwith the area. Unfortunately Whittingehame is now a commuter area.

There are also one or two businesses that serve the agricultural sector, one of which is the smiddy at Luggate Burn.

By 2000, the smith, Drew Harrower (in his 80s) was still running the workshop, but business was not as brisk as it had once been. The smithy retained its role as a gathering place for the farming community on wet days, when news and opinions were exchanged.

As only the second Harrower on the site in almost a century, Drew began at the smithy in 1947, after service in the airforce. His uncle – Henry – had been the previous smith from at least 1905 (the date of the earliest extant ledger), and possibly from about 1890. The smithy was built c1847.

After Henry’s sudden death in 1942, Drew’s father (who ran a joinery business at Tyninghame) kept the business ticking over with the assistance of the foreman. In addition to the foreman, from c1920, there were usually a couple of other employees (journeymen, or qualified workers), plus an apprentice, generally serving ‘four years and an improver’. Drew still had apprentices until the late 1970s.

Up to the mid 1950s, farrier work continued to be important; on wet days, pairs of horses would be queued away up the hill towards Redcliff, awaiting shoeing. Binders, combines and balers were all machines sent for repair, and all welding work was done in the smithy fire; the original two smithy (coal burning) fires could still (in 2000) be seen in the old workshop.

Post-war, welders became available, and the work was no longer necessarily tied to the smithy. By the 1960s, machinery was bigger and more space was needed, so a larger workshop was built to the east of the original smithy. Smaller repairs were carried out with mobile welding equipment, both on-site, and in farm workshops. The 1960s and 1970s saw an increasing amount of investment by farmers in agricultural buildings; Drew and his team were involved in building grain dryer units, storage facilities and the like. Later still, as agricultural machinery became more specialised, so did the repairs; increasingly, after-sale care and repair was offered as part of the purchase package.

Nevertheless, day-to-day repairs to metal parts could still be accommodated by the smithy, and purpose-built fixtures and fittings were always required. Drew always carried a good selection of general ironmongery – nuts, bolts, screws, hinges, gate latches – as well as ‘plough metal’ for general repairs; with the nature of agriculture, there was always a need for speedy repairs whilst in the middle of harvest or sowing – a day lost in fine weather could prove costly.

Agriculture within the parish has always fallen into one of three groups.

The hill section comprises three farms that are used solely for sheep rearing. There has been little change in the hill area. The hillfoots farms on the north side of Lammermuirs comprise grazing land with sheep for breeding and fattening, and cattle, with arable land producing fodder. Hillfoots farms have intensified with greater stocking rates.

The low ground area is mainly arable with limited permanent pasture for breeding and fattening sheep and cattle.

From 1945 until the 1970s, arable and mixed farms grew a variety of crops – wheat, barley, oats, potatoes and swedes for stock feed – and rotational grass for hay, silage and grazing. Later, rotation grass was discarded and cropping became restricted to cereals with some potato acreage sublet to specialist growers, who also produced ‘shopping’ swedes. This area is where the greatest change has occurred.

Improved machinery and cropping methods, and the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers have resulted in much greater yields of grain and root crops.

In all sections there has been a substantial decline in farm workers; for example, there could be three shepherds on a hill farm where there is only one today. On the arable farms too, labour has been much reduced, from perhaps six workers to just one today

Farms in the parish in 2000

The following farms are all rented from Whittingehame estate:

  • Whittingehame Mains / Eastfield: 600 acres. Arable
  • Luggate: 350 acres. Arable and stock (cattle)
  • Papple: 350 acres. Arable and stock (cattle, sheep)
  • Overfield: 200 acres. Arable

The following are rented from Clint estate:

  • Stoneypath: 300 acres + hill acreage. Stock (cattle, sheep)
  • Yarrow: 200 acres. Arable and stock (cattle)

The following farms are owner-occupied:

  • West Mains: 300 acres. Arable and stock (cattle)
  • Stoneypath Tower: 160 acres. Stock (cattle)
  • Newmains: stock (cattle, sheep)
  • Ruchlaw Mains: arable and stock (pig production from 1972); 1970-76, up to 10 acres of sprouts grown; from 1970 – date, Pick-Your-Own fruit
  • Whitelaw: arable
  • Mayshiel, Priestlaw and Johnscleugh are all owner-occupied hill farms.

Eastfield farm is the smallest farm on Whittingehame estate. Originally called Home Farm, the Balfour family had the farm buildings completely rebuilt in 1880 to form a model steading under one roof – unique in Scotland.

The steading, built in a square, comprised the dairy; two byres (one for twelve milk cows and one for 24 pedigree Shorthorn cattle); a stable for ten horses; two cattle courts for feeding cattle; and numerous pens or loose boxes for cattle; the threshing mill; straw barns; two granaries; two hay lofts and three other small lofts for storage. There was also the dairyman’s cottage and dairymaid’s cottage, all combined within one building.

The farm was run by the estate, supplying the mansion house with milk, butter, eggs and meat, which at that time was slaughtered on the farm.

In the 1880s a row of six new cottages was built and an addition to the rear of the grieve’s house – now the farmhouse. The cottages unfortunately did not have running water or toilets. Water had to be carried in pails from one single well and toilet facilities were dry toilets in separate small buildings outside. It was actually 1934 before these cottages were modernised.

In 1928, Home Farm was let to a tenant farmer (my father) and became known as Eastfield. The estate still retained the dairy with approximately six cows to continue supply of milk and etc. to the mansion house until its closure in 1935.

In the 1930s Eastfield was a typical small mixed farm unit growing oats, wheat, barley, potatoes and Swedes. Sheep and cattle were grazed on the rotation and permanent grass fields. Some hay was made which, along with the swedes and oats, comprised the winter feed for sheep and to fatten the cattle in the courts inside the farm building. All the cultivations, ploughing etc, and harvesting was done by horses and manual labour. Staff at this time was a grieve/cattleman, two ploughmen, one orraman and three women workers. All stayed in the cottages – big families – in 1934 it is known that each morning 16 children left Eastfield to go to school at Luggate Burn.

The start of the 1940s being wartime brought controls. Every available acre had to be ploughed and cropped with extra labour required at harvest and more at potato lifting; this could be organised squads from Haddington for harvest or on occasions Italian POWs from Garvald POW camp. Tractor use came around 1941, sharing use with Luggate farm. Most produce and all fat stock was sold to the Ministry of Food at fixed guaranteed prices during most of this period. All six cottages in the row had very productive gardens, which were put to good use in the years of rationing. Two cottagers kept some hens and one kept and fattened two pigs each year during wartime. The pig killing twice a year being a major occasion – all cottagers assisting until sides of ham hung up and nothing left but the squeal!

By the beginning of the 1950s with a tractor and implements there were only two horses, still four male workers but no women workers. Casual workers were employed – for two years supervised prisoners from Saughton Gaol in Edinburgh were employed for potato lifting. Grain harvesting was very labour intensive. Grain was cut by tractor-drawn binder, sheaves stooked, carted to stacks, threshed by the mill, grain placed into sacks hired from the railway station at East Linton. Sacks of wheat weighed 18 stones, barley 16 stones and oats 12 stones – and all were manually handled. The highlight of the year was the kirn or Harvest Home. A barn dance was held in the granary in late October when harvest finished – the Saturday was granted as a holiday. Very necessary! The last kirn was held in 1951.

The major change in the 1950s was the introduction of electricity in 1952. The two houses adjacent to the steading were no longer allowed to be used and one of the byres and some of the calf pens were converted to form a piggery. Sugar beet was grown as an additional cash crop until 1971 when the sugar beet factory at Cupar closed.

Until 1967 when potato growing stopped, the acreage and rotation of crops did not change very much. However with staff now down to the farmer and two men and increased mechanisation required, cropping was simplified to cereal growing, ten acres of swedes for stock feed and rotation grass. Stock was now a pedigree Border Leicester flock and 80 cross-Suffolk ewes for fat lamb production. With grain now harvested by combine harvesters, it became necessary to install grain drier, storage bins etc, also facilities to bulk load grain onto transport.

As during the 1970s cropping and harvesting of grain was simplified, growing was restricted to 90 acres malting barley and 15 acres of oats for seed. 15 acres of swedes were grown for sheep feed (approximately 600-800 lambs purchased in September/October to feed for the fat market), 50 acres grass for hay and grazing. Staff were now the farmer and one man.

Into the 1980s: with much more efficient equipment and larger tractors and machinery, no one was now regularly employed. Seeding, harvesting and sheep clipping were now done by a contractor. In 1989, Eastfield farm was incorporated with the estate farm of Whittingehame Mains to form a larger and more economic unit. The cottages are all let and unfortunately, due to structural problems, the farm buildings deteriorated very quickly.

In 2000, the farm buildings and surrounds were sold for conversion to four houses and substantial garden area. The ten-acre grass field adjacent is also included, and is to be landscaped with an area of hardwood trees included.

Eastfield as a farm is no more but it is hoped that the houses will retain the name, as with some of the fields, the names of which go back a long way. They may be of interest

  1. Smithy Park and Priestsknowe – the large field adjacent to Luggate Burn
  2. Doo’cot Park also known as Village Park – the site of the old Whittingehame village
  3. Hungryside – name speaks for itself, no water
  4. Hairypole or Burnetsland – origin unknown
  5. Target Haugh – site of rifle range built 1st world war, and used by the Home Guard in the second
  6. Bowling Haugh – site of original bowling green until 1923 when a new green was built by the Balfour family with the new village hall in corner of village park

Note: Whittingehame Eastfield was originally the name of a small farm where Redcliffe now stands at the eastern end of the old Whittingehame village

Ivan Clark

The Wyllie family rented Ruchlaw Mains from 1935, and bought it in 1955. By the end of the period, it was used for intensive farming (pigs) and pick-your-own (PYO) soft fruit. Here, owner Jim Wyllie describes the business:

The intensive pig units started in 1972. These are “high health” pigs – free from specific diseases; a shower-in and -out policy operates for workers. We started with 100 sows producing weaners for sale. By 1974, there were 200 sows producing pigs for slaughter. In 1976, numbers increased to 300 sows with pigs being produced fat for slaughter. In 1979 pig numbers had increased to 850 sows producing pigs for export to Germany (weaners under 501bs, liveweight to avoid blood testing). A proportion was being fattened for slaughter (home market). In 1979, a mill was erected for feeding, using both home-grown and bought-in cereals.

Pig farming is largely unsubsidized. It is a self-regulating industry with little or no political input. A private member’s bill was introduced by MP Richard Body (1990) to ban stalls and tethering; time was given to implement the changes, which had to be completed by 1 January 1999. Only Britain complied with regulations resulting in a less viable market, with a high level of investment. A large number of small producers were unable to afford changes and went out of pigs altogether. This was the first political interference in the pig industry. There was also an increase in the number of pigs kept outside.

By 2000 Ruchlaw Mains had increased pig numbers to cover investment costs resulting from the stalls and tether ban. Pig numbers reached a peak of 1500.

In 1999 the main causes of the pig crisis were: the change in the value of the pound; too many pigs on market worldwide; more imports; extra cost in stall and tether ban implementation. The pig crisis took out 25% of the pig industry. Today (2001) Ruchlaw has 900 sows; more pigs are being finished for the fat market. There are also less staff employed in the pig section.

The first ½ acre of strawberries were grown in 1970, and also a small acreage of Brussels sprouts; these were grown as cash crops to generate extra income to enable [us] to buy the farm from the family. The soft fruit acreage increased to ten acres picked by children during season (about 100 children were bussed in every day – Ruchlaw had its own bus at one time). Fruit was supplied to local hotels and shops, Edinburgh Fruit Market, and wholesalers – West Cumberland Farmers.

PYO expanded to include raspberries, red and black currants, gooseberries, tayberries, and brambles. Peas, beans and calabrese were also added. Toilet facilities and a children’s play area were also provided.

The 1972, ½ acre of sprouts had increased to 10 acres in 1973; these were grown for a Bird’s Eye contract through ELBA. This started with five growers processing at Prestonmains. Sprouts were cut in the fields by machine, stripped and packed and sent to a factory in Eyemouth.

By 1976, we had decided not to continue with this enterprise in favour of pig expansion.

Jim Wylie

Various woodland areas on Whittingehame (300 acres) and Clint estates were felled and cleared as mature timber and replanted. The timber was transported elsewhere for processing.

From 1945 until the 1980s, the Forestry Commission used two plots of land on Whittingehame estate for seed orchards – planted and managed for the purpose of seed production.