This month features images are from our recently scanned slide collection which has been donated to the society over the past 27 years. The scanning was carried out by our member Anthony Jeffrey and we are very grateful to him for all the time he has taken to do this. The theme is the East Beach at different times. The annotated text is partly based on notes provided by Pauline Smeed and Jim Herring added text and links.
In the first photo above, the beach is very active and this may be a weekend photo or a summer holiday depiction. In the middle of the photo, you can see the changing tents for ladies and gents. You can read more on bathing tents (and bathing machines!) in the early 1900s here. The photo presents and interesting mix of people on the beach, from the rather prim looking women and men at the bottom right, in what looks like clothes they might wear to church on a Sunday i.e. dresses and hats for the women and suits and hats for the men. In the middle of the photo, there is a family in swimming costumes and maybe having a picnic. There are also a few deckchairs on the beach, probably hired for the day from the local council. At the far end of the photo, you can see the imposing and very grand looking Roxburghe Hotel, with the roof of the Dunbar Golf Club House showing below it. Bowmont is to the right of the hotel and Roxburghe Park on the left. You can see a good photo of the Roxburghe hotel and you can zoom in to get more detail here.
The second photo (best enlarged) takes us forward perhaps 40 years to c1960s, with Dunbar and its beach looking at its best with a clear blue sky reflected in the calm looking sea. This is a different view from the photo above, as we are now looking from the south. One of the key differences between this photo and a similar one taken today are the buildings in the background. On far right is Macarthur’s Store pre development and there is a fascinating history of the store, also known as Spott’s Girnel or Spott’s Granary, (first noted in 1658) on this Canmore site (good photos). To the left of the store, you can see the tall white upper part of Bernard’s Maltings, now replaced by The Granary flats. Also, in the foreground, the gable end of Cromwell House can be seen, with the Old Ship Inn and neighbouring 18th century properties. On the left the two towers of the Miller & Dudgeon Maltings can be seen. The white buildings in the top left corner are still standing today, surrounded by more modern homes.
The third photo is looking south over the East Beach towards the Parish Church. The absence of the roof on the church dates the photograph to post 1987. On the 3rd January 1987, the church caught fire and was partially destroyed. You can see vivid photos of the fire, with an interesting interview with Ian Hastie here. The beach itself is quiet, with a sprinkling of seaweed near the wall and the water is glistening in the sunshine. The long roof on the right of the photo was a building owned by the local council.
The final photo is also taken from the south and looking across the two beaches. The Bass Rock can be seen in the enlarged photo, so it may have been taken from Roxburghe Park. Also of interest, is the bouncy castle in the centre of the photo. This was part of Johnny’s Amusements next to The Palace of Pleasure, now demolished. The Palace of Pleasure was featured on this site in 2019 with the advert below. Note the Monkey House which would not be allowed today.
Featured in this month’s section are photos taken from the DDHS current exhibition in the Town House – Dunbar, A Safe Haven. This was supposed to open last year but had to be postponed. Fire, siege, occupation, disaster, celebration and working lives are all highlighted in the exhibition. For centuries Dunbar’s coast and harbour area has remained a safe refuge in times of conflict, with a strong community spirit which continues today. Our exhibition looks at just some of the stories, activities and changes, which have taken place there over the years. The exhibition is curated by Pauline Smeed. Additional text is by Pauline Smeed and Jim Herring.
The exhibition is supported with artefacts kindly loaned to us by East Lothian Museums Service, and by local residents. Among them are two medals. The first is the RNLI silver medal, awarded to Coxswain Walter Runciman Fairbairn for gallantry, for the rescue of the crew of the King JaJa, in October 1905. The second medal, the RNLI bronze medal, was awarded to his great grandson, current Coxswain Gary Fairbairn. Again this was for gallantry, for the rescue of two crew members of the yacht Ouhm, in May 2009.
Dunbar, A Safe Haven also complements the Museum Service’s current exhibition running in the Town House Gallery, Brrr, Stories of Dunbar’s Outdoor Swimming Pool. The Town House Museum & Gallery, with covid measures in place, is now open five days a week from Tuesday to Saturday, 1pm-5pm. We are grateful once again to our volunteers who have offered to return to assist in manning our display and to help with queries.
Fishing boats followed the herring shoals and down to the north-east of England. The open-decked Fifies were the most popular fishing boats on the south east coast of Scotland and Glad Tidings is a good example. You can read more about Fifies here (good photos but ignore the apostrophes!). The best known Fifie in relation to Dunbar harbour is The Reaper, which was restored by the Scottish Fisheries Museum (details) and was brought over for people to see. The photo below shows The Reaper in the harbour.
The photo above is looking towards The Hatchery which was just next to the castle. Work began on the Sea Fish Hatchery in the early 1890s. It was an important part of the Fishery Board for Scotland’s research into replenishing sea fish stocks. Harald C Dannevig, a Norwegian expert, was hired to manage the breeding of turbot, sole, plaice and lemon sole on the Dunbar site. You can read more about the hatchery on the John Gray Centre site here. The hatchery was transferred to Aberdeeen after 6 years and became The Aberdeen Marine Laboratory which is still there today as an eminent research centre. Dannevig was recruited by the New South Wales government in Australia and was instrumental in establishing the Australian fishing industry. You read a fascinating article on Dannevig – with good photos – here.
The photo above shows the arduous work done by women, gutting and carefully laying huge amounts of herring in barrels in the early 20th century. In some quarters, the fishwives have been viewed in a romantic way e.g. taking their fish round to the more affluent houses in Dunbar and elsewhere, but the women worked in smelly and often cold conditions with no regard to health and safety. Their hours were long and their wages small. The photo is also interesting for the children sitting on the harbour wall i.e. the women not only did their work with the fish but looked after children as well.
The final photo shows fisherman on the harbourside transferring newly caught herring from a basket into a barrel. The full barrels were then taken to where the fishwives or fisher lassies would gut the herring and repack it into barrels. As you can see in the photo, this was often dirty and smelly work, as well as bring physically arduous. The John Gray Centre has an interesting article (with photos and interviews) on fishing and whaling – see here. You might also want to look at this Scran site about herring fishing in Scotland.
This month, we are going to look at some copies of photos donated to DDHS by Emma Robertson. The photos feature Dunbar Motorcycle Club in the 1920s and some of the information below was also given to DDHS by Emma Robertson.
Fifth from the right is Emma’s grandfather, Giovanni Togneri, who opened the Central Café (now Café Central) in 1916 and ran it until his death in 1952. We see here a prosperous looking group of men who are well dressed – note the shirts, ties, waistcoats and expensive looking coats – and possibly made up of mainly business men in Dunbar at the time. The two men on the right are smoking cigarettes and this would have been acceptable in this type of photo in the 1920s. Some of the men here may well have taken part in the Scottish Six Days Trial (scroll down to History).
The photo above was taken outside the wall that ran between the corner opposite the Hillside Hotel towards Parish Church. Jim Herring contacted the National Motor Museum (good photos) to ask if any of the motor cycles – motor bikes nowadays – could be identified. Jonathan Day, who is manager of the Motoring Picture Library replied that “we think it is a Triumph fourth from left and a Scott next to the sidecar outfits” but the photo is not clear enough to identify others. You can see details of Triumphs in the 1920s here and of Scott Motor Cycles here. One of the Scott models was called The Flying Squirrel and, if you are interested in motor cycles, you can watch a video relating to a 1920s model here.
The final photo is dated on the back as Sunday 13/4/24 Peebles. I think we can assume that some/all of the women in the photo may have gone to Peebles in a side-car. The Motor Cycle Club members would have been exclusively male in the 1920s and this photo shows some of the members with (presumably) their wives. Again, we see a group of affluent men and women. Some of the men are in their motor cycling gear while some of the women, showing the fashion of the time, have fur stoles around their necks. It is also noticeable that the men in motor cycling gear are wearing hats rather than – as they would today – helmets.