Civic Week 1970 Robert Burns float

650th anniversary of Dunbar’s first charter

This summer, events were planned to mark the 650th anniversary of Dunbar’s first charter, also the 50th anniversary of the town’s Civic Week, and many people will recall the special festival organised by the Town Council and others from the community. Sadly, these will not take place due to the current situation.

King David ll’s charter of 1370 granted rights to the town as a free burgh. Several charters followed, with the charter of 1445 granted by King James ll thought to be the first mention of Dunbar as a royal burgh. The town’s rights to trade feature largely in the charters, also the right to hold a market and fairs, and to collect customs. The townspeople also had the right to their own regular court, held in the Town House, and to a prison which was on the first floor of the building.

In June 1970 many local groups, including youth organisations, sports clubs, traders and businesses, and churches, joined in a procession. There were floats decorated in local themes, many of them historical, and those taking part wore fancy dress. There was the roasting of the ox in the Castle Park Barracks, and an evening fancy dress ball. A joint church service was held, also an exhibition of books and archives in the Victoria Ballroom. The event was so successful that despite the major changes happening due to local government reorganisation at that time, the organising committee agreed that this should be an annual event. Civic Week as we know it began.

For the 1970 anniversary, Stephen Bunyan, retired Chair of Dunbar Community Council and former Head of History at Dunbar Grammar School, wrote the first edition of ‘A Walk Around Historic Dunbar’. In 2017, Dunbar & District History Society published a 4th edition, and this is available from the Town House. Over the past few weeks Stephen has also written several small articles, on the 1970 events, the beginnings of Civic Week, and the changes to Dunbar Town Council in 1975. These can be found on Dunbar Community Council’s website

The following are photos taken of the 1970 celebrations.

(Text and photos by Pauline Smeed)