From its building in the 1920s until 1975, the village hall (near the church) was available to the community for social activities; it was used for dances, whist drives, sales of work, and social evenings. The bowling green was next door, and the bowling club was active to 1985. Its closure in 1985 was due to a lack of support and crippling rates demands by the council.
The hall is now known as Allison Cargill House, and is the Outdoor Training Centre of East Lothian Guides. The building is named for the first Girl Guide in Scotland, a resident of Coates, East Lothian; she later became Mrs Greenlees (1896-1979). There is accommodation for 26 residents; the green is used for day events as well.
East Lothian Girl Guides bought the building and ground immediately adjacent from Whittingehame estate in 1975, for £2500. The bowling club retained the green, half the Nissen hut for equipment and right of access to the green. It was also agreed that club members had a key to the washroom next to the bowling green, at that time. The community of the village had written confirmation of the availability of the hall for meetings, an arrangement that remained valid in 2000.
The county guides raised the money to buy and refurbish the property with the help of substantial grants from Lothian Regional Council and the Scottish Department of Education. The Barr Charitable Trust and the D.W.T. Cargill Trust gave handsome donations, which were invested, the interest to be used for maintenance. Upon her death, Mrs Greenlees left a generous bequest to be used for improvements
In 1985, the bowling club disbanded and East Lothian Guides bought the green for £1250, to enhance the property and give greater outdoor opportunities for those using the house. At that time the toilet block was erected, donated by the builder, Mr W.A. Gillespie. Improvements to the grounds and property maintenance continue on a regular basis to ensure that visiting groups of youngsters enjoy a happy, safe and enriching experience. There is also a support group – the Friends of ACH.
The curling club was well supported during the 1960s.
The Sunday school ended in about the early 1970s, having latterly used a room in the manse. The Woman’s Guild was held regularly from October to April until it ceased in 1991.
Our members dwindled – due to old age!
Nessie Gell’s memories of the annual Sale of Work (c1940s) are particularly evocative
In the small community where I was brought up the highlight of the summer was the Sale of Work. This was organised by the Woman’s Guild. At the beginning of the winter each member was given a few shillings from the funds to buy wool or yards of cotton print material to make articles which would fill the stalls. There was a big variety of goods, hand knitted children’s clothes were always popular, jumpers and cardigans, soft toys and many crocheted articles. The younger members usually contributed beautifully embroidered tea cloths, tray cloths and other fancy goods. My mother’s offerings were socks (the working men preferred hand knitted socks so there was always a big demand for them) aprons and tea cosies. The aprons varied in styles but were always tastefully trimmed with contrasting bias binding. No scrap of material was wasted ? squares were quilted and made into kettle holders. When kettles or flat irons were heated on an open fire you could get a nasty burn if you forgot your holder ? no mantelpiece was complete without one!
At the guild meetings, after the business was completed, the minister’s wife would read while the busy fingers got on with the knitting or sewing, no time was wasted. The readings were much appreciated, as the busy housewife did not have much spare time for reading, and certainly no spare money for books or magazines. There were few radios at that time too, so this was a very popular arrangement. With the winter slowly but surely turning to spring, and summer not so far away, the work speeded up and preparations began for the sale.
The night before the big event was always busy with the hall having to be set up with the necessary stalls, and the small room laid out with tables for tea.
One year, I particularly remember my mother had knitted a soft toy; we were told it was a panda, well maybe, we had never seen a panda so how did we know what it should look like? It was black and white, that much we knew was right, [and] a big red bow tied round his neck gave him a very jaunty appearance. The idea was his name was to be guessed and the lucky winner received the panda. I was given a notebook and pencil, and it was my job to get as many names as possible for 3d a guess. How important I felt, actually taking part in the Sale of Work. I even had a bag for the money. I could hardly wait to get started. I, of course, was not told the arranged name, the minister had that in a sealed envelope. I rather secretly wished that I could be the winner but I knew that could not be. I just hoped that Pandy went to a nice home.
The big day arrived. I was there early, of course, with Pandy in a basket over my arm, my notebook, pencil and money bag. I was ready for business. Being early I had time to inspect the laden stalls and maybe see something that I could buy. Mum’s stall was there with the colourful aprons displayed to their best advantage, the tea cosies, socks and of course the kettle holders, just asking to be bought. There were so many things to see, soft toys and all the lovely knitwear. The embroidered table linen was particularly attractive. Scones, cakes and pancakes looked very tempting on the provisions stall. There too, were jars of lovely home-made jams, marmalades and pickles. What an array!
The estate gardener had a stall too, where he sold tomatoes, still warm from the estate greenhouses, and baskets of fruit that all looked delicious. The gardener was a friend of mine so he very kindly gave me a few free samples. Then there was the jumble stall. My mum always cast a professional eye on any donation from the Manse, the ‘big house’, or any of the farmers’ wives, with views to unpicking, turning, or whatever, and so transforming maybe the minister’s wife’s old skirt into a Sunday skirt for me. We were thrifty folks in the country.
My notebook rapidly filled up with suggested names for Pandy and my money bag grew quite heavy. Even the minister’s wife and her ladyship had shots! I was thrilled! The stalls were being emptied now, cups of tea had been drunk, and the eager buyers were doing yet another round of the stalls hoping for prices to be dropped on the few remaining articles, which they sometimes were.
Then the minister announced they would find the winner of Pandy. So there I was standing beside the minister with Pandy, waiting to hand him over to his new owner. The envelope was opened ? it was Timmy! An old lady from one of the hill farms had guessed the right name. How pleased she was when I handed over the newly named Timmy to his new owner. Being relieved of my responsibility I made a hasty round of the stalls. The minister had given me 2/? and mum had given me 1/? so I was well equipped to buy something I fancied. I hurried to the fancy goods stall where earlier I had seen a beautiful book but I knew, even without looking, it was financially out of my reach. However, I was hoping now that, if it was still there, it might be reduced. Yes! there it was. I fingered it longingly and hardly dared to ask the price. When the stallholder said 2/6d I could have jumped for joy ? I could afford it. I carefully counted out the right amount and, hugging my treasure, dashed off to find mum and show her my good fortune. What a day! I had no desire to spend any more money ? my book was enough.
There were other sales in other years with various attractions. Once a lady baked a sultana cake and you had to guess the number of sultanas! Guess the weight of the cake was popular too and the name or birthday of the doll. New ideas were always welcome.
I had charge of the hoop?la stall one year and though I felt very important standing behind a stall like the grown ups, I really preferred to be free to wander from stall to stall admiring all the beautiful contributions and dreaming what I would buy if I had lots of money.
After the sale was over I helped to clear the stalls and pack away any unsold handicrafts to keep for another year. The food could not be kept though and I was often given some treat for helping. Soon the hall was cleared, stalls dismantled and floor swept, no trace remained. But the memories we took home with us were the topic of conversations for many weeks.