Dunbar High Street Shopping

Dunbar High Street Shopping

This month, we are back to shops in the High Street and some examples from the Up Our Street exhibition, curated by Pauline Smeed for the History Society. The exhibition can be seen on weekend afternoons until March 2019. Most of the text below was written by Pauline Smeed.

Advert for Mason’s shoe shop

The shoemaker’s and cobbler’s  business that began in Auchencrow and Peebles in the late 19th century, started up in Dunbar in with a repair workshop and shoe fitting business in 1872. By the time the business closed in 2014, the family ran branches of William Mason & Son  in Dunbar, Haddington and North Berwick. Many East Lothian families recall, and miss, the personal fitting service, choice of quality boots and shoes, and having repairs done on the premises. Bally Shoes go back to 1851 in Switzerland when they were first designed. You can read more on Bally Shoes here.

Smith the Baker’s and Lizzie Mackay’s sweet shop

Two shops for the price of one here – unfortunately both closed when the photo was taken – on a Sunday perhaps.

William Smith, Baker began in 1953 when William Smith bought the bakehouse from Robert Bruce who also had a shop on the other side of the street by Purves’ Close. In 1890 the bakery moved to behind the site of the present Co-op. In 1936 his grandchildren built the bakery at the back of the Lorne Temperance Hotel, which had been purchased and run by William’s son John. They moved the shop to where it remained until it closed in 2008. I (Jim Herring) remember my grannie in Lammermuir Crescent buying an oval loaf from Smith’s at the weekend in the 1950s. The loaf  was always unsliced and the brown bread had a delicious taste – a real treat and a change from plain and pan loaves. When I came back to Dunbar in 1987, I bought an oval loaf each weekend until the shop closed, thus carrying on a long tradition.

Mrs Mackay’s – known as Lizzie Mackay’s shop next to Smith the Baker was a real treat for kids in the 1950s, especially when sweeet rationing finally ended in 1954. The present day sweet shop Love Sweets has ice cream at one end of the shop and sweets at the other. When you went into Mrs Mackay’s, the sweets were on the left hand side and the owner had a little sitting room – with coal fire – on the right. When a customer came in, Mrs Mackay was often sitting in an armchair in the sitting room.

Tait the Butcher’s on the corner of the High Street and West Port

This drawing of Tait the Butcher’s was probably done in the late 19th century and you can see how relatively new the buildings are on the corner of the High Street and West Port. The advert also has a 19th century flavour in that the business is advertised not only as a butcher’s but as poulterer and game dealer i.e. chickens, pheasants and partridges were seen as separate from meat from cows or pigs. In later years, there were two Tait butcher shops – Big Tait’s on the corner shown above and where Peter Whitecross’s shop is today and Wee Tait’s which was situated where the fish shop is today, next to the Black Bull.