Gifford, East Lothian
It groups around the Colstoun Water (locally called Gifford Water) at the junction of the B6369 and B6355 surrounded by rural farmland.
The village takes its name from the 13th-century Sir Hugo de Giffard of Yester, whose ancient Scoto-Norman family possessed the baronies of Yester, Morham, and Duncanlaw in Haddingtonshire, and Tayling and Poldame in the counties of Perthshire and Forfar.
The first Hugo de Giffard's grandson, Hugh de Giffard, was a noted magician who built Yester Castle (half a mile south-east of the present-day Yester House), the ruins and an underground chamber (the 'Goblin Ha') of which can be seen in Yester Wood. The same Hobgoblin Hall featured in the poem "Marmion" by Walter Scott.
The initial chief industry in the town was the paper mill, which was once the source of the Bank of Scotland's bank notes. However, this mill closed in the late 18th century and since then the village has largely been residential and supported local farming communities, although a pottery, known as Castle Wynd Pottery, operated at Gifford for a short time in the 1950s.
The earliest recorded presence of a church in the area is in 1241, the ruins of which lie in the woods beside Yester House, to the south-west of the village centre. A church also once stood at Duncanlaw, a former settlement to the south-east of the main village. The present building (in the centre of the village) was built in 1710.
Infrastructure and amenities
Gifford was the terminus on a branch railway which was originally intended to extend to Garvald and was built by the Gifford and Garvald Light Railway Company. The company seal, which features the Mercat Cross, is in the Glasgow Museum of Transport. The line was operated by the North British Railway and then the London and North Eastern Railway. The section of line to Gifford was closed in 1947, following the loss of a bridge washed away by flooding. British Railways operated the line as far as East Saltoun until the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.
Like the church, the school takes the name of the parish, as Yester Primary School. The current school building was built in 1968, when East Lothian County Council reorganised schooling arrangements in the area. Yester Primary was expanded to accommodate children from the small schools in Bolton, Morham, Garvald and Longyester, which were all closed between 1968 and 1971. The school roll in recent years has been around 150 pupils, plus up to 40 children in the attached nursery. Secondary education is provided at Knox Academy, in Haddington.
A large park (known as the Bleachfield, from its historic use) lies near the centre of the village, and the East Lothian Core Paths network has been expanded to improve access to the surrounding countryside. The village has two golf courses. Gifford Golf Club is on the western edge of the village, while Castle Park Golf Club is to the south. The Gifford Cup is an annual golf event, which is held in alternate years between the two courses.
In 2017 the local Gifford community bought 55 acres of woodland to the north west of the village, which comprises Fawn Wood, Speedy Wood and Station Yard, next to the former Gifford Railway Station. Run by Gifford Community Land Company, the purchase was made possible by a grant from the Scottish Land Fund, support from East Lothian Council Partnership Funding and the Fallago Rig Environment Fund as well as donations from hundreds of individuals. Known as Gifford Community Woodland, the Scottish Land Fund grant also enabled the employment of a part-time Project Manager to oversee the woodland management, progress the requirement to make the woods accessible to all and to engage the local community through volunteering and encouraging other uses of the space.
- Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007), composer, and former owner of Yester House.
- John Knox, the famous reformer of Scotland, was born in Gifford in 1505.
- Reverend John Witherspoon, was born in Gifford in 1723. He studied at the Haddington Grammar School, gained a Master of Arts from the University of Edinburgh in 1739, and was a Presbyterian minister in Beith, Ayrshire, before accepting an offer from Princeton in New Jersey to be their 6th President. He was the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence of the United States, on 4 July 1776.
- Willie Wood, double Commonwealth Games Bowls gold medallist, is from Gifford. He learned the sport at the Gifford Bowling Club, and as well as a large collection of medals he holds the record of competing in seven Commonwealth Games.
- The ITV television series Adam Smith was filmed in and around Gifford in the early 1970s.
References and notes
- Gifford, John, East Lothian Villages, East Lothian, 1975
- McWilliam, Colin, Lothian Except Edinburgh, London, 1978: 215
- ed Smeaton, Oliphant, Poems of Scott - Marmion: The Host's Tale, London
- McWilliam, Colin, 1978: 209
- McWilliam, Colin, 1978: 208
- "East Lothian group wins £300k grant for woodland purchase". Retrieved 2018-07-09.
- Burke, John, History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland - Volume 3, London, 1836: page 434/5
- Burns, David G. C., The Princeton Connection in The Scottish Genealogist, volume 52 number 4, Edinburgh, 2005
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