This month features one shop in Dunbar – William Main & Sons – the recently closed Saddlers’ shop and cafe. The shop was situated on the West Port and the shop building, with its large windows is still there. The brochure below was donated to the Society by David Main and is published here with his permission, as are the photos of the shop’s unusual clock.
The front page of the brochure (best enlarged) which celebrates one hundred years of the shop’s existence, shows the original shop which was in the High Street, just along from the Town House, and the newer shop in the West Port on the site of the former West Port Temperance Hotel.
The second page of the brochure (best enlarged) reads “In 1881, Haddington born WILLIAM MAIN started the saddlery and harness making business in the county town, moving to Dunbar in 1887. The premises then were in the centre of the High Street, adjacent to the Town Clock. At that time, the saddler was an essential member of the community, both rural and urban, and continued in this essential capacity until the horse was ousted by the combustion engine. William married in 1887 and a son, David, was born in 1892”. The photo is of William Main 1857 – 1923.
Below this, the text reads “It was with David at the helm that the business was moved, because of municipal developments, from the High Street to the West Port. Here he purchased what was the West Port Temperance Hotel and converted it into Dunbar’s first iron beam construction, double windowed shop. Saddlery work decreased as mechanisation on the land increased, and by the mid thirties, the trading description was ‘Saddlery and Sports Outfitting’. The development of sports outfitting was appropriate in a small town that was beginning to make itself known as a holiday resort”.
The third page of the brochure (best enlarged) reads “David was joined in the business by his son William in 1948. In these post-war years, there was a marked revival in horse and pony ownership and at this point, the premises were enlarged to make a large modern workshop and tack room to display the full range of saddlery and riding wear. The next stage was hardly diversification but an extension of the horse and pony scene. Pony trekking was still in its infancy when the Dunbar Pony Trekking Centre started with Exmoor ponies. The herd of Exmoor ponies has now been increased and it is recognised to be one of the largest, if the not the largest in the world. It is interesting to note that this breed of pony is now on the ‘species at risk’ list and is in great danger of becoming extinct.
The sixties saw a further branching out when an agency was acquired from a national seeds firm and a large trade was also established in seed potatoes – naturally of East Lothian origin. The following twenty years saw a major modernisation programme and a further expansion to accommodate the latest diversification. Now in 1981, one hundred years on, the Garden Centre proudly opens its doors into the second century”.
The clock in Main’s shop was on the far wall of the shop but could be seen as you entered the shop. The clock was made in Plattsburgh, New York and advertises Vanner and Prest’s Molliscorum which was used to cure muscular problems in horses, and sold in bottles. The company also made harness oil.
This month’s photos are taken from the exhibition, curated by Pauline Smeed, which is available in the History Society’s room in the Town House. The exhibition is entitled “Summers in Dunbar” and covers a number of aspects of Dunbar as a tourist destination.
Returnable keys from the Roxburghe Hotel
The photo above shows 2 keys from the Roxburghe Hotel which was situated at the east end of Dunbar, next to Dunbar Golf Course. Room 42 was, according to Nigel Marcel, son of the former owners of the hotel, on the top floor, facing the sea and he confirmed that when guests did go off with keys from the hotel, they were inevitably returned with a stamp affixed to the key. At its peak, the hotel was one of the most important in Scotland and attracted many famous golfers who stayed in the hotel when taking part in major tournaments in Scotland.
Town Council booklet on Dunbar
This photo shows the cover of a publicity booklet published by Dunbar Town Council in the 1960s, with its claim to be the Sunniest resort in Scotland. Dunbar did have a high number of hours of sunshine during the year compared with other towns, although whether it had more hours than other resorts would have been difficult to prove. The swimming pool, with the main pool, the children’s pool and the boating pond can be clearly seen. The water was filtered, but not heated, so it was generally cold. The bottom of the main pool was painted turquoise, so that the pool looked more inviting – and warmer – in the sun. The anguished yells of those who dived straight in confirmed the coldness of the water.
This early advert for the Palace of Pleasure, which was situated near the east beach, sought to attract visitors to the various attractions available. Interestingly, the advert asks visitors to spend “a pleasant half hour” at the amusements, perhaps suggesting that the owners expected a quick turnaround of customers. The Palace of Pleasure had slot machines, a monkey house and a rifle range. Bingo was added later as was an external area where kids could play on dodgem-like cars. This space is now a children’s playground.
One of the attractions in Dunbar in the 1960s was the series of cycling events known as the Dunbar Kermesse. The races took place in Church Street, Castle Street, Victoria Street, Lamer Street and Woodbush. These streets were closed off when the races took place – at weekends during the summer – and cyclists raced at great speed round the streets in circular laps. The events always attracted large crowds of visitors, some who came specifically for the races.
The following photos are of pages in another 1960s brochure produced by Dunbar Town Council. There is no date on the brochure but it was before 1969 as the cost of a caravan space at Winterfield was given as 7/- a night for July and August and 45/- a week. On the title page, it states “Dunbar: the official guide book. Issued by Dunbar Town Council. Produced and compiled by John L Grainger, Publicity and Entertainments Officer for the Royal Burgh of Dunbar”.
The photo above shows the Lothian Hotel which was run by the Togneri family and was recognised as a slightly more upmarket private hotel, well known for its good food. Note the attractive flower pots all along the front of the hotel. Interestingly, it refers to the “right” atmosphere – and if you did not know what that was, well….. you shouldn’t be asking. The photos also shows Starks Motor Services office next door and people could buy bus tickets or book places on tours here. To the right is Downie’s paper shop and next door to that is Melvin Smith’s Ladies and Gents Outfitter, then Knox’s paper shop and then Grahame the baker’s. All of the businesses shown here did very well with the large number of visitors which Dunbar had in the 1960s.
There was excitement to be had at Belhaven beach in the form of the two sports above. Stock car racing attracted many visitors and locals, who came to see the thrills and (especially) spills of the battered cars which raced around the beach on summer evenings. Some cars came off the “track” which was roughly marked out, and ended up in the water, having to be quickly rescued by drivers and spectators.