April-June 20

April 2020

This month’s photos have been generously supplied by Fran Woodrow from the John Gray Centre Archives in Haddington. They all represent some aspect of Dunbar’s history.

Belhaven Hill School in 1960 (Click on all photos to enlarge – recommended)

Belhaven Hill School was founded in 1923 in a building on Belhaven Hill which was formerly known as Winterfield House as it was the “big hoose” for Winterfield Mains farm.

Dunbar Swimming Pool

There are many photos and postcards of Dunbar Swimming Pool (good photos) or Dunbar Swimming Pond as it was also known. The person in charge of the pool was entitled Pondmaster. This photo is unusual in that it shows the roof of the pool and people sunbathing on it. The enlarged photo also shows the diving boards in front of the Doo Rock, with the castle and harbour behind. This meant that the Dunbar pool was one of the most scenic in Scotland. It was also, as many gallus Glaswegians who dived headlong into the deep end before testing the water, one of the coldest, as the sea water was only filtered and not – like North Berwick pool (good photos) – heated. 

St George Hotel 1953

This photo of Dunbar High Street in 1953 is one of the many shots of the High Street but this is the only photo that Jim Herring has seen with George Low & Son’s van. There is a chapter in Dunbar in the 1950s on George Low’s business and might have been included. The St George Hotel is next to the van and this Canmore site states “The St George Hotel, first built in 1625, was rebuilt in 1826. Where it had once been the resting place of mail-coaches which ran between Edinburgh and Berwick, it now became a commodious holiday residence”. Next to the hotel is A T Smith’s grocer and wine merchant’s shop, which was famous for its Belfast Ham. In the 1950s and 1960s, many visitors to Dunbar enjoyed Mr Smith’s ham when eating at the St George Hotel.

Camping at Barns Ness in 1969

This photo shows the camping and caravan site at Barns Ness (geology) and you can see the lighthouse  (history) in the background. The site was later expanded and upgraded with a building (and shop?) at the entrance and better facilities for caravans in particular. You can tell by the vintage of the cars and the combi van in the foreground that the photo was taken in the 1960s. The people in the photo could definitely not have imagined that 15 years later, if they looked to the southeast, that they would see the enormous Torness Power Station looming on the landscape.


May 2020

The 2nd part of Jim Herring’s analysis of the 1899 Map of Dunbar is now complete. You can watch a video of this virtual talk below.

The talk features the Rifle Range and Targets used by volunteer soldiers such as the Haddington Artillery Volunteers who were based in Dunbar at Volunteers Hall, now the British legion. There were also local shooting groups who formed a league and included masons and shepherds. A number of burial cists were found at the edge of Belhaven Beach and are noted on the map. These originated in the 5th to 7th century and were made of slabs of stone from the nearby rocks. Wilkie Haugh, the area between the end of Winterfield Promendade and St Margarets, home of Winterfield Golf Club is also discussed. The first part of the talk ends with an outline of Winterfield Mains farm and the Belhaven chalets sit on what was part of the farm. The second half of the talk focuses on the Implement Works in West Barns and this was run by Sherriff and Co which later became Thomas Sherriff and Co. The photo below shows a Sherriff plate on a piece of agricultural machinery.

Sherriff and Co West Barns

The large Seafield Brick and Tile Works is also analysed. An advert for the brick works, greatly expanded by William Brodie is shown below. Working conditions on farms and brick works in the 19th century were of often very poor and the talk gives a wider picture of working conditions at this time, which contrasted with the large houses and affluence of farmers and factory owners.

Advert for Seafield Brick and Tile Works


June 2020 (Text and photos by Pauline Smeed)

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 www.dunbarcommunitycouncil.org.uk
The following are photos taken of the 1970 celebrations.

Scout parade for Civic Week 1979 (Click on all photos to enlarge – recommended)

Fancy dress for Civic Week 1970

Civic Week 1970 Robert Burns float


Civic Week 1970 Mary Queen of Scots float