EAST LOTHIAN has been
acknowledged to be superior to most other Scotch counties in its soil,
climate, and farming. It has produced many eminent farmers, probably
more in former generations than the present. In addition to those
already mentioned in separate chapters, George Sherriff of Broomhouse,
Andrew Howden of Lawhead, Robert Hope of Fentonbarns, John Brodie of
Amisfield Mains, John^ Howden of Ugston, George Brown of Halls, &c., may
be alluded to as first-class farmers, among many others who, in their
day, by their skill and energy, led the way to the improvement of the
soils of East Lothian, and to a greater development of the resources of
The following remarks on
a class of men, bred and reared on farms under eminent agriculturists,
may be interesting; we allude to farm-stewards or “ grieves.” Many
worthy specimens of such men, now gone, have been known, yet their
memories remain fragrant at many a farmer’s fireside. It has been often
remarked that good masters are generally served by good and valued
servants; and many examples of grieves and hinds living on the same farm
for one, two, or three leases are qviite common in the county. Of such
men some names are now given.
John Walker, bred under
the late Mr Brown of Markle, served him and his two sons, Alexander and
theMajor, first in Markle and afterwards in Drylawhill, for several
leases. He was a man of rare parts, and a good manager of farm
operations, and as true as steel to his master’s interests. He died as
he had lived, a much respected elder of the Free Church of Scotland at
Alexander Ross, steward
at Morham, first under Mr Sommervaile, and latterly under the late James
Aitchi-son, Esq., of Alderston. He was a man of great general
intelligence, and altogether a superior man in his profession. Having
the entire management of a clay farm, difficult to work and keep in
order, he evinced great skill in raising superior crops. His opinion was
often asked in agricultural matters, and his sound judgment was
universally acknowledged. In private life he was an example to all, and
was ordained an elder, first in the parish church of Morham, and
latterly in the Free Church of Yester.
George Brown, at one time
farm-steward at South Belton, under Captain Hay of Belton, was a
remarkable man in his day. In his management of a fine farm, producing
the best quality of grain, he brought the capabilities of the soil to
the highest degree of perfection, and sold the produce of the farm at
the highest market price going. He latterly managed the Home Farm of
Foulden, in Berwickshire. He died full of years and much respected.
William Vert, steward to
the late Mr Miller of New-house, served his master faithfully for forty
years. After Mr Miller’s death he retired, and died at East Linton, an
old respected man.
William Robertson served
the Walkers of Whitelaw for two generations. He was a man of sterling
integrity, and a much valued servant of the family. He was a son of the
old patriarch of Crossgate Hall. He is buried in Morham Churchyard.
farm-steward to Adam Bogue, Esq., Linplum, for two leases, and
afterwards for one to , Mr James Brodie. He was much respected by all
who knew him, as a good and worthy man. He died in 1868, full of years.
He was an elder in the Free Church at Garvald.
James Vert was for
upwards of sixty years in the service of the Yules of Fenton and Gibbs
Lees, an old East Lothian family, who always respected their old servant
and knew his worth. When he left the family’s service, Mr Yule presented
him with an elegant silver snuff-box with a suitable inscription.
Many other names of good
and honest men could be added to the above list, but sufficient has been
noted to testify that the farm-servants of East Lothian are in general
men of a superior character and intelligence, and deservedly esteemed.
Bom and bred in the locality where they lived and died, they naturally
acquired a keen interest in their master’s welfare. Educated at the old
excellent parochial schools,—sometimes, however, in a very moderate
degree,—they received the rudiments of religious and secular knowledge,
which in riper years developed itself and bore good fruit. Long may the
farm-servants of our county and country be enabled to give their sons
and daughters as good an education as the present Board Schools under
the new system can afford! It is the best legacy they can give them,
enabling them to get well on in the world, and now more than ever, when
so many openings for skilled and educated young men are afforded by
emigration to the different colonies of Great Britain, and in the great
commercial and manufacturing establishments of the country.
Such examples as have
been given of farm-stewards who have lived and died respected should be
an encouragement to young men of the present time to follow their
footsteps, and stimulate them to keep up the high character of East
Our national poet, Bums,
in the. following splendid stanza, has immortalised the Scottish rustic
peasant, and long may such a noble sentiment prevail in our land :—
“Oh Scotia! my dear, my
For whom my warmest wish to heaven is sent;
Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil
Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet content.
And oh ! may heaven their simple lives prevent
From luxury’s contagion, weak and vile!
Then howe’er crowns and coronets be rent,
A virtuous populace may rise the while,
And stand a wall of fire around their much-loved isle.”