Dunbar Civic Week

Dunbar Civic Week

Dunbar Civic Week is a legacy from the Burgh Council. The final meeting of the Committee of the Organising committee for the sixth centenary celebrations  met in January 1971. It was made up of several Councillors and other prominent townspeople. It was attended by four town officials. It noted that the celebrations had been successful because  of the efforts  of the committee, the cooperation of local organisations and the interest  shown by the public. There was a carnival which had proved popular. It was felt that there might be merit in following the example of other burghs  in promoting an annual civic week.

This was unanimously supported and it was agreed that  the committee should remain in being and that he council be asked to support the promotion of a civic week in 1971 and that the committee should thereafter be known as Dunbar Civic Week Committee and that the committee should meet on 8th  Feb.1971.

For 1972 it was decided to enlarge the committee to include representatives of organisations who would be encouraged to hold events and should contribute 20% of their surplus takings to the committee. On this basis an impressive programme was planned. It would include a parade of floats, there would be a carnival queen and the minimum age as in previous years would be 17; she would be chosen at a dance on the Friday night. There was to be fund raising event in the refurbished Victoria Ballroom.

It was noted that after 1973 the town council would disappear and mounting civic week would be more difficult, but Provost James said it might be more important in those circumstances to maintain community spirit. It was decided to promote a civic week for 1973. It was agreed that the programme should include an exhibition and a choral concert. The Clarkson School band from America provided a concert. It was agreed to include local villages for input. This met with almost no response. An Impressive programme was put together for 1974.

Provost James who had stood as an independent in the local election was defeated by the conservative candidate. At a Meeting of 6th June 1974, it was agreed that Councillor Dr Russell Welsh the newly elected councillor should be co-opted onto the committee .When council came to an end in May1975 the existing committee  ceased to function.

I was a member of the Interim Community Council and of the Community council when it was formed and agreed to carry on chairing a Civic week Committee. It was essentially a new committee, but a large number of people agreed to serve. There was a problem over how  civic week was to be funded. We went ahead with some help from the new District Council but in his financial statement after the event the treasurer reported that we only had a balance of £43.He reported that no balance of income had been received from the previous committee and he presumed that none would be forthcoming. In fact, the town council had provided some support  from the Common Good Fund and that had passed to the District Council. The committee decided to continue and undertook a programme of fund raising including a Fiddlers’ concert presented by Ian Cunningham. Coffee mornings and other events were held. I wrote a letter to businesses and various townspeople extolling the idea of civic week and inviting patrons. This had considerable success. I proposed one important change but otherwise carried on as before. I felt that it would be good to involve school children in the main roles rather than have a mature queen. I knew how successful having a childrens’ court was in both Melrose and Peebles.

It proved attractive to the public and  also focussed the minds  of young people  on the  importance of their heritage. The committee agreed and we went forward on that basis. We had children from the primary School. Tanya Wright was nominated as queen in 1976 with attendants. In subsequent years we increased the  court, normally to  seven, the  queen’ two maids of honour’ two heralds and two junior flower girls attendants . One boy  said he wanted to be king and so we much later, decided to have a Queen’s Consort.

We had a parade of floats but this came to an end after a petrol shortage and safety issues and costs  became issues. ,Entertainments  and events  during the week were  mounted by groups and a we had closing act of worship. Originally this was in different churches, but the response was poor, and we found that an open air service  organised by the committee and  with the Salvation army band was a popular arrangement. Since 2017 it has been at the Battery. The crowning normally took place in Lauderdale park on Sunday with a display but on several occasions other locations were used and sometimes it was on Saturday.

In 1993 it was held at an earlier time  on the High St to allow a market. We had just completed when there was a downpour. We had one where we had to give way to rain and it was held in the Leisure pool. In200-4 we had it at the new bleaching field and on two occasions at the Primary School; before the fete. We came back to the High St in 2013 and have now settled at the Bleaching field Centre.

At the crowning ceremony we usually had a personality of note to give a tribute to Dunbar and a wife to crown the queen. In the early years we had the new councillors Victor Cowley the local regional councillor and Mrs Cowley,  Tom Main, District councillor and Mrs Main. We had the MP J P Mcintosh  and later John Home Robertson MP and Alasdair Hutton OBE. At a later period, we had some ladies on their own, viz  Jacqui Foggitt, Helen Gillanders, Provost S Richardson. Councillor J Bell, and Kay Duchess of Hamilton, though she was accompanied by the Duke who showed an interest in the new Bleachingfield centre and we made a tour of it.

Our difficulty was that we had a very small main committee but we knew that when the time came organisations would want to do their bit and so we persevered. We had invaluable help from many  individuals  especially from Mrs M Low who acted as chatelaine to the Queens court for many years. We had Invaluable help from Jean Mac Millan, Freda Kelly, Jacquie Burke, Lisa Ross and Maureen Welsh  who made costumes and generous provision of Kilts etc from Nicholson Kilt makers who provided the necessary outfits and from Torrance Taxis who provided transport. Keith and Mariella Mills who helped to organise the religious services.

In 2012 we had as problem three key committee members had to give up and I felt I should retire. I discussed the problem with the Community Council. It decided to take a more hands on role and that civic week should be more closely related to the Community Council and it  agreed to help financially.  Sue Anderson agreed to take on  the organisation of the week.  She found new committee members and presented a new look programme in 2013. In 214 she became chair and I remained as a hon president as a consultant. In  2014 it was made more homely by involving the head boy and girl of the grammar school in the crowning.

In July 2015 Sue intimated a desire to resign but in fact continued until 2017. George Robertson  took over, on an interim basis and also found some new volunteers. Alasdair Swan became Treasurer. The ceremony returned to  midday  at the bleaching field followed by a fun day. We had intended to have a high profile event this year to celebrate the Burgh 650 anniversary. but it has fallen victim to coronavirus. We will celebrate 50 years next year.

I am aware that in this short account I have only mentioned a view of the huge number of people who have contributed to the story and in particular have not named over three hundred children who, having been chosen to take part, rose to the occasion and who, without exception played their parts with competence and charm. We salute  them and remember them with affection.

Floriat Dunbar.

Stephen Bunyan

29 05 2020

NB At this time, when we are all looking out old photographs, the Dunbar History Society are always grateful for copies of relevant photos which could be added to the collection at the Town House. They can be sent to the Society’s e-mail address, ddhs_townhouse@hotmail.co.uk