Yester | Population

By parish, from the General Registrar’s office By locality – census – ie Gifford village itself
1931 691 350M 341F
1951 773 385M 387F
1961 744 364M 380F
1971 775 366M 409F 532 242M 290F
1981 876 427M 449F 662 310M 352F
By Small Area Statistics – census
1991 955 479M 476F 660 319M 341F
2001 808 391M 417F NO DATA
By Parish, from ELDC By settlement, from ELDC
1991 855 688
1997 (est.) 994 501M 492F 745
2001 NO DATA No data
688 (ELC)

Population figures are difficult to compare, as no two sources extract data in the same way.

Here and throughout the text, Margaret Maslowski shares her experiences of living in the parish

On people

The parish has a mix of types, long-term residents – families who have lived in the village or farms for generations, plus relative newcomers – young professional couples who commute to Edinburgh to work, also persons who have retired to live in the parish. There are quite a lot of elderly people within the population. The population in 1945 was mainly Scottish with a few English families. There was no sizeable movement into the parish pre-1939. Some young people moved away after 1945, through marriage or in order to find employment. There were no large movements away from the parish; some couples emigrated to Canada, Australia, and Argentina.

Post-war, some Italian ex POWs remained in the parish, mainly as farm workers. One worked at Longyester for some years (Cosimo – a well known vagrant, who died in 2001 in Edinburgh after an accident). One English ex-serviceman returned to the village in the early 1950s and bought Peter Main’s ironmongery shop in Main Street and later the garage. Other ‘incomers’ who had married local girls settled in the parish including three Polish soldiers who became solid members of the community. One of them (one Cazu Maslowski) set up and ran a fencing and drainage business (1953–90), which provided employment for local people.

The increase in population was mainly due to additional housing being built, partly council owned and partly private. Most new private houses are owned by commuters or retired persons. It is estimated in that in 2000 about 20 people from the village worked outwith East Lothian, with perhaps 50 working in Edinburgh.

Farm workers have moved off the land into the village, as modern machinery has reduced the amount of manpower needed. Many farm steadings and cottages have been sold to private owners so there has been quite a reversal in the pattern of population dispersal.

Yester parish does not have a distinctive dialect apart from a slightly guttural Lowland Scots. There is a tape of Mrs Jessie Trotter, who was born in Gifford in 1899 and lived all her life in the village. A lot of the old words have died out with the older people since 1945 – ‘oncome’ for rain, snow etc.- ‘licht’, for light. As an example, an English nursemaid staying at our home during the war, heard the Yester foresters outside her window discussing their day’s work programme and rushed to tell us that she was sure the Germans had landed!

It is difficult to say that there is a parish identity as such. The death of the 11th Marquis in 1967 made a great impact on the parish. Most of the estate farms had already been sold to the tenants and the old feudal system broke down. The village especially lost the feeling of ‘belonging’. The mansion was sold and the new owners never were involved with the village to the same extent and never got the respect that the villagers had for the marquis.

Each new housing scheme, either private or council, built between 1945 and 2000 made a slight difference to the feel of the community. Council houses were available to families from all over the county, so the original core of long-resident families has become less insular. In general, most newcomers blended in and join in the various activities in the parish, but there was perhaps a feeling of sadness that the older properties were being bought and renovated by newcomers. On the other hand, these same newcomers brought various kinds of expertise and enthusiasm to the village, which was very welcome. Due to the large percentage of people who were at work during the day, one felt that the village was turning partly into a dormitory. Nevertheless there was (and remains still) a good community spirit.