Yester | Homes

Utilities | Shops & Services

The main settlement in the parish is the village of Gifford, with a hamlet at Longyester.

Many couples immediately post-war approached the Marquis of Tweeddale, who owned many of the village houses. He was very helpful and would let a house, if available, at a reasonable rent. After the war more council houses were built and became available. Few young couples could afford to buy a house and perhaps stayed with relatives until allocated a council house.

And later, after the marquis died

Older properties belonging to Yester estate were very old fashioned and in most cases were completely modernised when purchased by private owners.

Post-war living conditions could be fairly primitive; here Margaret Maslowski recalls her home (an estate house on the south corner of the Wynd and the High Street, Gifford) and standards of living, c1945

In 1945 three people lived in my house, my mother (45), and two daughters (20 and 17).

The house consisted of two rooms – one kitchen/sitting room and one bedroom, both with windows. The kitchen/sitting room had a floor covering of lino with rag rugs. The walls were papered in a light cream colour. The furniture consisted of a kitchen table and four chairs, two old-fashioned leather armchairs, a folding bed-couch, a drop-leaf mahogany side table with battery radio (later electric). There was a cold water sink and draining board with a curtain to hide pots etc, a dresser, a small table with a Baby Belling electric cooker, a black range with mantelpiece, a shelf above the radio with ornaments, a clock on the dresser, and a recess under the stairs as broom cupboard.

The bedroom had blue distempered walls with a swallow pattern border, lino with a rug, an iron fireplace, a double bed, wardrobe, dressing table with mirror and cheval set, a wooden kist for blankets in the window recess, a wash-stand with ewer and jug and a marble top (used to keep things cool as no fridge). The toilet (WC) was outside in the yard in a former coalhouse. Coals were kept in what had previously been a pigsty.

Fuel for cooking was coal or wood until we bought a small electric cooker in the early 1950s. Cooking was done on a black range, which had to be blackleaded and emery papered weekly. This range did not heat water and the oven did not work well. Soot often fell into open pots (custard), and sometimes the kettle fell over into the fire covering everything with white ash. Chimney sweeping was also a dirty operation – everything had to be covered with old sheets etc. Before electricity was brought in, in the early 1930s, lighting was by paraffin or Tilley lamps. We had an electricity meter fed by shillings.

Coal was bought from the village coal merchant, John Nicol, or travelling merchants. Paraffin and later on bottled gas was had from the Ironmonger. The Co-op also had paraffin. Wood was bought from the sawmill, mainly off-cuts with bark, or logs from the local woodcutter, Eck Nicholson. Changes included going over to smokeless fuel, using bottled gas as there was no mains gas, and more electrical heating fitted in homes.

On food

In the 1950s, main meals were breakfast, lunch and dinner or breakfast, dinner and tea, if a working family where the husband came home for a meal in the middle of the day (eg farm workers). Children carried a play piece if they came home at midday and children from the farms also carried a ‘piece’ for lunch. Children who went to Knox Institute, Haddington, could buy school lunches cooked by Mrs Stalker, one course per day at about one shilling [5p] per week, or they could buy pies, rolls [and so on] from a baker.

Breakfast might consist of porridge and toast or a cooked egg or bacon with tea to drink. Midday meal might be minced beef or stew with potatoes and vegetables and dumplings to eke out the meat and milk or water to drink. Puddings could be semolina, custard or rice with stewed fruit or jam (tinned fruit was a luxury). Tea might be macaroni cheese, a salad, or fish with bread and again tea to drink. The family ate at least breakfast and tea together, depending on hours of work. The wife generally prepared the food. [She also] cleared and washed up. [Today] if a dishwasher is owned, usually mother or daughter loads and unloads it.

On personal hygiene

By 1945, most houses had an indoor toilet. Our house had been divided into two flats so our toilet was a water closet in the yard. We had no bath but neighbours had a bath installed in the 1950s. Council houses built in the late 1920s and 1930s had baths and a relative allowed us to bathe there, otherwise it was a wash down in a tin bath. Each house had its own toilet facilities, and there was no sharing as far as I know except for the washhouse.

People washed regularly, but for those without a bath one had to rely on a good neighbour. In 1945 one used mainly soap and shampoo. Bath salts were available and later bubble bath and shower gel.

People used eau de cologne in 1945. Deodorants and aftershave came later. Ladies’ perfume included ‘Evening in Paris’ in the dark blue bottle. ‘Brut’ was very popular for men in the 1970s. Men used shaving soap or cream and razors with blades in 1945 and electric razors came in later’.

Hairstyles and change over time

In 1945 ladies’ hairstyles were mainly ‘page-boy’ or upswept hair (popular because of factory workers during the war needing to keep their hair well away from machinery). ‘Dinky’ hair curlers were used to get the right effect. Permanent waves were also popular. When the mini skirt arrived ‘beehive’ hairstyles were all the rage. Hairstyles now are more natural, many opting not to perm their hair. Hair colouring has become more sophisticated than the old ‘peroxide’ blonde or henna.

Men in 1945 were still wearing the short ‘back and sides’ from army days, but soon there was the 1960 fashion for long hair for boys eg Beatles and Rolling Stones. The teddy boys and mods had their hair slicked down with Brilliantine etc., cockscomb on top and ducktail at the back. There were also the skinheads who cut all their hair off or sported Mohican or coloured styles.

Ladies’ hairstyles in 1945 were usually long and curled by wearing steel curlers or pipe cleaners at night. During the day some women wore a turban scarf over their curlers so that hair would be nice for the evening. These curlers were very uncomfortable to sleep on. Beehive hairstyles needed a lot of backcombing and lacquering. Lots of ladies went to the hairdresser once a week for a ‘shampoo and set’ using a hood hairdryer. Perming methods improved greatly over the period and ‘blow drying’ came into being. Many girls nowadays prefer their hair straight.

Men used to go to the barber once a week or fortnightly – short style and Brylcreem. Barbers also sold condoms. Long hair became fashionable and had to be washed often. Teddy boys used hair oil or gel. Punk styles had odd cuts and dyes. Now men are more hair conscious and have much the same treatments as ladies. Older ladies gave up long plaited hair and went for simple permed styles.

On maintaining clothes

Washing clothes was done in a washhouse in the yard, which served the six houses in the corner where we lived. This involved filling a copper boiler with water from an outside tap, lighting the boiler early and washing by hand on a scrubbing board, rinsing, wringing or mangling the clothes and hanging out, then emptying all the dirty water – much easier when I discovered that a hose could fill and empty the wooden tubs. Each householder washed on a particular day. It was so disappointing if the fire went out and the water did not heat up. It was hard work too.

In 1945 clothes were washed mainly by hand using Sunlight Soap also various powders e.g. Rinso, Persil and Oxydol. If there were no washing facilities in the home some houses had a washhouse in the back yard. Heavier garments went to the dry-cleaners such as Pullars of Perth, by post and later to McNab’s in Haddington. The arrival of washing machines made a huge difference. Previously, underwear might not be changed everyday because of shortage of clothing or difficulty drying clothes. Clothes are changed more often now. Tumble dryers were a great boon when they came on the market making winter washday much easier.

Clothing in 2000 is much easier to launder with the advent of synthetic fabrics, although natural fabrics are still better in some cases. Baby clothes especially are so much easier to look after – no elasticated romper suits to try to iron and no long flannelette barricoats etc. Baby clothes are also much more practical and attractive.

Most of the older houses belonging to Yester Estate, also the farm cottages, were pretty basic, many with cement floors, only cold water and not much in the way of cooking facilities, probably paraffin cookers or ranges. These houses were all gradually updated over the years.

In 1965, permanent houses replaced the ten pre-fabs built in 1947. Several council housing schemes and several private schemes were built. New building in Gifford was mainly on farm fields adjoining the village, and on sites made redundant by change; with the railway closed for good in 1948, private housing was later erected on the old station yard.

Building developments for the council and (later) the Scottish Housing Association were carried out by the following: late 1940s – Crudens (twelve two-storey, semi-detached); 1950s – Orlit (four single-storey, semi-detached); 1965 – Hart (24, some single- and some two-storey); 1990s – Rollo (18 houses, eight flats). Two-storey, semi-detached and flats at Walden Terrace). The Orlits and Cruden houses were built with breeze blocks.

By 2000, council property included most of Park Road, Park Crescent, Walden Terrace and Walden Place, Station Road (14) and six flats in the High Street.

In 1945 many of the council houses still had a copper in the scullery for washing clothes. All the houses had electricity but few had a washing machine or fridge. These houses have been renovated over the years including fitted kitchens, roof and wall insulation, and double-glazing. The 1947 pre-fabs had a fridge provided but were very hot in summer and cold in winter.

With the right to buy legislation, some council tenants took advantage of the chance to purchase their homes at a discount but many continue to rent their houses. Most home ownership is in the private housing sector but the balance of council and private housing is about equal. Privately owned ex-council homes include nine in Park Road, ten in Park Crescent, some 15 or so in Walden Terrace, and four in Station Road.

Private developers were: 1960s – Macklin (ten detached, flat-roofed); 1980s – Tweeddale Crescent, various builders, individual houses; 1990s – Tantallon (18 detached, Old Mill Lane). This was a field on the flood plain of Gifford Water beside the Old Corn Mill.

There were no particular links made to East Lothian traditional housing design, in fact if anything, the later housing followed a more modern English style. The Old Mill Lane housing was built only after a Public Inquiry and an appeal by the builders, Tantallon Homes (Cala). A proposal to build a private scheme at the Edinburgh Road crossroads was turned down by a Public Inquiry later, c1998.

By 2000, private ownership included property on Tweeddale Avenue, Crescent and Grove, most of High Street, Main Street, the Avenue and Duns Road.

[The additional] housing in the 1960s meant that there were more families with children who had some difficulty finding jobs later. Several joined the regular army as a career. Later private housing brought in professional families who commute to work and also retired persons.


The public water supply comes from Hopes reservoir (previously from Yester springs). Complaints are made regularly about heavy chlorination of water supply from Hopes reservoir.

A new sewage purification plant was built at the Glebe, Gifford in 1936. Various houses outwith the village have septic tanks that are emptied by East Lothian Council. The public toilets on Edinburgh road closed in the 1950s; new toilets were later built in Bleachfield.

The parish is supplied by mains electricity. Broadwoodside farm was connected up only in 1999/2000. Mains gas is not available; several residents have LPG, either in outlying areas where power cuts are possible, or for economy, or for preference.

All areas can receive terrestrial TV, and satellite TV (but must have an aerial).

The one public telephone, previously situated at Cornerways, Main Street, is next to the former police station, Duns Road. Two mobile phone masts have been erected on Duncanlaw farm at Winding Law (One-2-One and Orange). Reception for mobile phones is poor in the village on some networks but better on higher ground.

All streets of the village are lit but lighting could be improved; East Lothian Council are gradually upgrading it.

Glass and tin recycling banks are situated in the Avenue. The parish has regular rubbish collections, mainly once weekly and hotels twice weekly.

Shops & Services

The dominant commercial centre in Gifford is Main Street; in 2000, there are no commercial properties on any of the other streets apart from a furniture workshop on Duns Road, and an antiques shop on the High Street.

In 1945 the village shops provided only the basic needs in the way of foodstuffs, ironmongery, coal, and paraffin.

Immediately after the war many families kept a few hens, most had vegetable gardens and fruit bushes. Rabbits and pigeons were always available and anyone with a cow could sell a few pounds of butter and eggs to locals. Game, eg pheasant, occasionally arrived as a gift and perhaps the odd sea trout.

There were four grocery shops including the Co-op, a newsagent, butcher, post office, ironmonger, a coal merchant, joiner, blacksmith, sawmill, a branch of the British Linen Bank and two hotels. Many were family-run.

In the village, shopping was mostly done daily, until the arrival of supermarkets not many people did a weekly or monthly shop. Most shopping was bought from small shops or vans until supermarkets opened and more people had a motorcar. People managed to survive during the war and the post-war years when rationing was still in force. Powdered milk and powdered eggs were not very popular and corned beef and Spam were regular items on the menu. It was a treat when oranges, bananas and sweets became more available.

Home brewing of beer was quite popular in the 1950s and 1960s and the art of home wine making carried on. Dandelions and elderberries were popular ingredients for wine, also garden fruits. At home, alcohol was bought mainly for entertaining.

Purchased alcohol was usually consumed in public houses or hotels. For a long time the pubs were the only places where one could buy alcohol in the parish. J.D. Nairn opened a wine cellar in 1962. Licensed grocers were available in Haddington. Consumption of alcohol would appear to have increased since 1945, especially among teenagers. Beers and alcopop drinks are very popular. Back in 1945 teenagers did not have the money that they do now.

Main Street has not changed greatly over the period. A grocery/sweetshop on the Avenue closed in the 1950s, the ironmonger’s became a fancy goods shop, and the butcher’s closed and became a small joinery workshop. The coal business closed. The sub post office, run by William Todd (1923-62), Ian Todd (1962-81), David Hill (1981-c84), Mrs Moffat and Mr Irvine, from a number of premises – 1923-38 at Stonewell, then 1938-90 next door, then 1990-date from the Co-op; the earlier premises became a hairdressers, then later a private house called the Old Post Office Flat. Part of one house in Main Street has become a beauty therapy clinic.

The Co-op itself (previously Hodgson’s bakery, Main Street – building approved 1924 (Haddingtonshire Courier 1924 August 8) was partly demolished in the 1960s, then renovated and enlarged to its present condition in 1996. It was always a shop with a small outlet, and a limited range; nonetheless, it provided employment for four to five people, and also had a van round plus a delivery barrow. Both hotels have expanded to take in adjoining houses.

Young's Garage, Gifford, 1980s

Young’s Garage, Gifford, 1980s

The British Linen Bank on the High Street was open two days a week from 1930; it was amalgamated with the Bank of Scotland in 1971, and closed in 1991. It is now used as an office.

Some shops have come and gone. These included:

Wahlberg’s bakery, High Street 1997–2000; Lady Kinloch Antiques, first at Mill House, then the Pirn, Duns Road, 1970s; picture framer and fancy goods at Spindrift, late 1990s; ironmonger, 1945-61, then Remus, furniture and fancy goods, 1960s onwards; Tranquillity beauty clinic, 1998–2000; Tinytogs children’s clothing, 1967-85, later a woodcraft display shop, antiques and beauty clinic; grocer Robert Bond, 1945–57, then J.D. Nairn, 1957–85, and later a tea room, Bonnar’s restaurant for one year, then picture gallery and tea room. J. Nichol, grocer, included haberdashery, also a coal merchant; when it became a private house, part of the building was sold to J.D. Nairn, grocer. Newsagent, A.M. Hogg 1945–90, then Mrs W. Crook 1990–2000, selling papers, stationery, knitting wool, sweets, soft drinks.

To the 1950s, along the Avenue was a grocer, Mrs Hobbs, selling sweets, cigarettes and biscuits.

For clothing, shoes, furniture and furnishings one had to go to Haddington or else Edinburgh where there was more choice. Catalogue shopping was also popular.

In 1945 ladies still wore fairly short clothes due to wartime shortages of cloth. Fashions were soft and feminine, jigger jackets etc. Nylon stockings were just coming in. Men mainly wore suits or tweed jackets and flannel trousers. The New Look in the 1950s (Dior) brought in longer flowing skirts, then full petticoats, winkle-picker shoes, stiletto heels and beehive hairdos in the 1960s. There were mini skirts and kinky boots for the girls. Teddy Boy long jackets and beetle-crusher shoes became the rage with ducktail hairstyles for the boys. More casual clothes became fashionable in the 1970s and 1980s. T-shirts, sports wear and trainers also became more popular. Shell suits were all the rage in the late 1980s but did not make much of an impact in our parish. Plastic Macs were popular in the 1960s and still have their uses. Ladies used to wear headsquares but this is now considered unfashionable.

In 1945 older men, or those who worked outside, still wore warm cotton or woollen vests and long johns. The younger men wore a singlet and boxer shorts or Y-fronts. Coloured shirts came into fashion in the Teddy Boy era with bootlace ties or kipper ties.

Ladies in 1945 still wore corsets or roll-ons with stockings. When nylon tights arrived, just after the war, many ladies abandoned corsets and went on to pantie-girdles. Many types of brassiere were made, ‘uplift’ being much sought after, also padded bras. Underskirts and waist slips are still worn. During the ‘mini skirt’ period girls loved to wear white stockings and knee length boots, and when flouncy, full skirts were worn, the petticoats were layered and very full. In 1945 housewives used to wear wrap-around aprons. Shop staff wore cotton overalls – baker’s assistants, hairdressers etc. Later nylon overalls were worn. All the above could be purchased by mail order, from drapers in Haddington or in Edinburgh.

Sports Clothes: football and rugby strips were bought for secondary school plus hockey sticks and boots for girls. In 1945 no swimming pool existed in Haddington. Golf shoes and clubs were all that was required in 1945 but gradually golf clothes became more specialised and fashionable. Bowlers now also dress in specialised clothes – ladies in longish, pleated skirts and gents in flannel trousers and blazers. A cricket team was formed by the local pub, The Goblin Ha’, with some of the members dressing in the full ‘whites’.

There was one plumber, J. Mutch, resident in the village from the 1990s.

The garage (latterly Ronnie, then Mark, Wood) operated throughout, offering repairs, petrol till 1986, bottled gas till 1995, and forecourt car sales to the present day.

Tom Cowan, blacksmith 1945–57, an old established business, providing horse shoeing services and metal work.

Gifford had a butcher’s business until 1971. In the early years, about half a dozen people were employed there, and two vans did the country rounds. Robert Tait took over from Bald in 1916 and was in business until 1958. Bert Scambler and Tom Waller bought all the property – house, shop and stables. Jimmy Crawford of Castle Wynd Potteries bought the former house kitchen, which became a retail outlet for their wares. The stables became a tearoom and packing station for the pottery. Scambler and Waller carried on with the butcher’s business. The upper half of the house was sold as a separate flat.

In 1967, J.D. Nairn, who had the grocer’s shop and wine cellar on the opposite side of Main Street, purchased the stables and the front shop from Jimmy Crawford. The shop became ‘Tiny Togs’ which Mrs Nairn ran, and Mr Nairn converted the former stables into a dwelling house, situated on the Lane just off Main Street.

Mr James Meek took over the butcher’s shop from Scambler and Waller in 1963, and was there until he retired in 1968; he rented a house at Sunnyside on Yester estate. The shop was then run by George Laing and partners, but closed in 1971.

J.D. Nairn then bought the butcher’s shop and converted it into a joiner’s workshop, making the former shop window into a display area for village information, posters etc.

In the days before mass car ownership, Yester depended greatly on mobile shops and services; the Co-op grocery vans served the outlying areas of the parish until the 1980s, and other mobile suppliers called in the village.

On the farms around the parish people shopped from the various vans which came round on different days. If one had no car it was difficult to carry a large load home. The village Co-op and the ironmonger had delivery vans also one grocer and the butcher had delivery vans. During the war one trader came round with drapery which did not need coupons – black market!

The mobile services included: fish vans – Greig of Cockenzie and Reekie of Port Seton, both one day per week; later Paul from Haddington took over; butcher – the Co-op van until the 1980s and later McKirdy; fruit and vegetables – Kerr of Haddington throughout the period, also Hugh Lindsay, Prestonpans from 1945–50s, and Andrew and Kim Johnston, 1977-2000.

Charles Laidlaw, baker of Haddington 1945–60; coal merchants John Nicol during the 1940s.

Milk deliveries – Co-op, Crown Dairy, Haddington and later Wiseman Dairies. Roots & Shoots – 1990s; household goods – travelling salesmen, such as Kleeneze, Betterware and others called throughout.

Occasional rag and bone men came around the village up to the 1950s. The East Lothian Council mobile library visits once a week. The Royal Bank of Scotland operated a weekly van service for 2-3 years in the late 1960s.