The West Barns Village Hall
The West Barns Village Hall has been at the heart of community life since it was gifted to the village in 1901 by St Clair Cunningham. Since then it has served many purposes. The Home Guard used it as a base during the war and historic events were celebrated in the hall. It is fondly remembered by many people. weddings , birthdays, concerts, plays, musical entertainments and meetings were all held here and still are.
The East Lothian Courier article from 2 December 1901 celebrates the opening of the hall and here is its full transcription:
OPENING OF WESTBARNS PUBLIC HALL
‘An important event in the history of Westbarns and one that has been looked forward to for many months past took place on Wednesday evening, when the spacious and up to date public hall gifted to the villagers through the generosity of Mr and Mrs St Clair Cunningham, Hedderwickhill, was formally opened with a concert. The hall, which occupies an extensive frontage to the west of the village and is of exceedingly neat design, is capable of accommodating some 300 people, and is well furnished, lighted, and ventilated. To the back of the platform are retiring rooms fitted up in a most elegant manner, and on either side of the main building are a reading room, billiard room, and apartments for the caretaker, who is to be permanently located there. Indeed from every standpoint the pleasure and requirements of the villagers have been fully recognised and provided for. The mason work was undertaken by Mr G. Campbell; slater and plaster work by Mr Gillies; plumbing and gas-fitting by Mr G. Grahame, and painting by Mr J. N. Laing. At the opening concert held on Wednesday night there was a packed house, amongst the audience being most of the district aristocracy. The platform had been elegantly draped by Mr G. Low, cabinetmaker, while Mr Brown had the surroundings converted into a veritable arbour of flowers and palms, Immediately above the platform Mr Laing had depicted in tasteful design on the wall the Unicorn, with on either side the initials of Mr and Mrs Cunningham. On entering the hall, Mr and Mrs Cunningham received quite an ovation from the large audience. In opening the proceedings, Mr Cunningham took occasion to express the hope that the new hall would prove of much service to the village, and that the present entertainment would only be one of many to follow. Mrs Cunningham and himself had thought it desirable that the respective buildings should be managed by a committee, and had accordingly appointed the following committee, which could be added to if thought necessary – Rev. Wm. Veitch, Messrs Jas. Brown, R. Robertson, R. W. Macadam, J. McCall, J. Liddle, J. Knox, and G, Campbell. (Applause.) Any charge which might be made for the use of the hall would be devoted to the reading-room and the maintenance of the building. The billiard-room would be ready in a few days. He had just engaged a caretaker, and, so far as the reading-room was concerned, Mrs Cunningham had got 100 volumes to start it, and they would be very glad to receive gifts of books from anyone caring to contribute. He thought the reading-room should not be used exclusively by men, but that the fair sex should also take advantage of it. (Applause.) The programme was then entered upon, and amongst the contributors thereto were Mrs Wingate, Mrs Davidson, Mrs Aitken, Miss Hore, Messrs Neil Fraser, St Clair Cunningham, J. D. Brooke, and W. T. Mortimer, all giving an excellent account of themselves. In one of his comic songs Mr Brooke had a specially written verse in which reference was made to the generosity of the donors of the hall, and it is needless to add that this was received with exceptional evidence of approval. Prior to closing the proceedings, Rev. Mr Veitch, speaking on behalf of the village, took occasion to heartily thank Mr and Mrs St Clair Cunningham for the great service which they had performed in presenting such a splendid building for the use of the people in the village. It had been a dream of his for many years, and little did he think some years ago when he asked Mr Cunningham for a cottage for various purposes that he would give them a palace. (Loud cheers.) Such handsome generosity would never be forgotten, and in name of the villagers he had much pleasure in presenting Mrs Cunningham with a silver key as a memento of the occasion. (Cheers.) Mr St Cunningham spoke a few words of thanks. The key, a very handsome piece of silver, bore the following inscription:- “Presented to Mrs St Clair Cunningham of Westbarns by the inhabitants on the occasion of the opening of the Westbarns Hall and Reading-Room, 4th December 1901.” The proceedings, which were of an exceedingly enjoyable description, terminated with the singing of the National Anthem. It may be mentioned that the drawings were devoted to the fund for providing books for the reading-room.’