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Story of the Rigs - A Tall Tale? Or Not

The following is an extract from a book by J P Reid. It describes how an area including where Rig Street and Rig Place now is was changed for cultivation. It is assumed that the story is true, but you can make your own mind up.

THE immediate surroundings of Aberlady did not always present the highly cultivated appearance they do now. Previous to the close of the eighteenth century the village lay uponthe skirts of a fairly extensive moor, which stretched eastwards far beyond the boundaries of the parish. To the south this moor may have abutted on the lower fields of Ballencrieff Mains farm, and here upon this common the villagers were wont to graze their cattle, horses, &C., for, no doubt, it would afford excellent pasture. It is very probable, also, that some of the villagers would herd their geese here, for a good number of geese used to be kept in the district in olden times. The moor must have been plentifully dotted over with patches of whin bushes, the remnants of which may still be seen-or, at least, were to be seen not so many years ago-in the little wood at the top of the Loan. Perhaps it may be necessary to inform even those who pass it every day that this is the Whinny Wud. Names such as the Muir Road, the Muir Park, &c., still linger to remind us of what these lands were like in the days of our forefathers.

Then, about the end of the eighteenth century a change came over the scene. The big landed proprietors whose estates adjoined this common, and who had, probably, a right to superiority over it, put their heads together, and formulated a plan to have this waste land cultivated. Of course, this could not be done without encroaching upon the grazing rights of the small landlords and feuars of the village, and so the scheme was submitted to them for approval. All appear to have agreed to the proposal except one or two, the most troublesome of whom was a feuar called Black jock, who strenuously resisted it. This was a check upon the carrying out of the reclamation scheme, and annoyed the promoters. The opposition, however, was in time overcome, although not in a creditable way. The parish minister of the time, who was, no doubt, a leader in the councils of the landlords and villagers, was induced to play a trick upon the troublesome resister, in order to get him out of the way. Calling upon the unsuspecting Black jock, he gave him a missive to deliver to a certain party in Leith, who, upon its receipt, saw to it that the bearer was forthwith kidnapped, and kept out of the way for a lengthy period. And so the old moor was divided into lots. The landlord proprietors, of course, got the lion's share, and each of the village feuars got a Scots acre apportioned to them adjoining the south side of the village. Such is the story, traditional, but fairly well authenticated, of the Riggs, the name by which these strips of land became known.

Undoubtedly the old moor is more useful and profitable as it is now; but it can easily be understood that many of the villagers at the time would regret seeing such a drastic change made upon the scene with which they were so familiar. As the years passed on, Black jock returned to his native Aberlady, and, before the people knew that he was back among them, he took occasion to call at the Manse, got hold, physically, and unceremoniously, of the minister, and gave him a good ducking in his own well. 1 have omitted mentioning the minister's name, as it appears that, apart from this discreditable episode, he was a popular and esteemed pastor of the people.

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Aberlady - a Scottish village in East Lothian