This month’s resources are a follow up to a High Street photo in the December 2017 section. The following have kindly been donated to the Society by eminent local historian Tom Anderson and we’re grateful to Tom for the photos, adverts and his comments which are included in some of the information below the photos.
In the photo above, you can see the sign for the garage. It was run by Miss Louie Stark and St George Garage itself was situated at Church Street with an office over the steps at the St George Hotel. There was also a Shell petrol pump at the top of the lane. Miss Stark spent long days at the kiosk at the top of the lane – now Cossars Wynd. What’s also interesting in this photo is the military man on a horse, what we would now call a classic car behind him, and a horse drawn carriage near the garage sign.
In this photo, you can see an old vehicle which met all the trains which stopped at the station and offered to take passengers to ‘anywhere in town for sixpence’. People all called this “John the Busman’s” bus, as the driver was called John Anderson. You can also see the side and front of A T Smith’s grocer shop. Interestingly, there is no “ST” next to “GEORGE” on the hotel front.
The above is an excerpt from a guide book in 1927 which included information about Dunbar. At this time, you could hire a car with driver or a coach for tours or day outings. In the holiday season day trips to the surrounding area were on offer. Some were offered as mystery tours – you paid your money and took a chance where you went. This excerpt also refers to Stark’s “motor ‘buses”, as they had a contract with SMT buses which allowed them to run six services a day between Edinburgh and Dunbar. Note the use of the ‘ before buses, indicating that this was short for “omnibuses”.
This is a fascinating photograph. Louie Starks two brothers – Collin and Jack Stark – ran the central garage next to the Parish church hall. You can see the extent – and quality – of the cars offered for hire by the garage, as well as the “competent attendants” and “thoroughly experienced mechanics”.
This month, we’re going back to 1950 and The Haddingtonshire Courier to look at some adverts.
When reading this advert, there are aspects that you would never see today. Between the Lounge and the Drawingroom, there is a “Smoke room” and the fact that there is “electric light throughout” shows that this was an attraction in 1950. Note that central heating is in the “Hall and Stairway” i.e. nowhere else – each bedroom would have had a coal fire.
The advert above is for the Empire Cinema, which was located in the High Street, down the gap next to what is now a carpet shop. The Empire was a large hall, with a sloping floor. By 1950, it was still open but in decline, having been superseded by the new Playhouse cinema. As there was no television in Scotland until 1952, people still went to both cinemas, as The Empire was cheaper. You can see an amusing trailer for the Marx Brothers film here. Below the advert is a contemporary poster for the Bad Men of Tombstone film.
The Bingo Café was situated where the Post Office is now. After it closed, it became an office for Stark’s Garage. It was a very popular café, but it also sold cake and biscuits. In an interview with the late Michael O’Donnell, manager of Lipton’s shop, he stated that you could tell you were in Dodds’ café/shop by the smell of the coffee beans. Many people who were adults or children in the 1950s have said that you could have been taken into most shops in Dunbar blindfolded and you would be able to tell which shop you were in by the smell of what was sold. This has disappeared from today’s ultra clean shops with their packaged goods.
The two adverts above are for The Gift Shop which was on the High Street, where the present day Paris Steele offices are. The first advert tells of the opening of the Gift Shop in March 1950. The owners – the Leighton family – previously had another shop in the High Street but moved to larger premises in 1950. The shop became very popular with locals and the many visitors who came to Dunbar in the 1950s. The second advert is a Xmas present suggestion from the shop. Ronson lighters were quite prestigious, as the cost of the lighters in the advert shows. 50/- was two pounds ten shillings when the average weekly wage was below eight pounds, so this would have been an expensive Xmas present. In 1950, 80% of men and 45% of women admitted that they smoked in surveys done, so the actual percentage would have been higher. This is another advert that you would not see today.
This month includes a fascinating insight into the contents of Knockenhair House after the death of Sir Reginald Wingate in 1953. The house contents were auctioned by George Low & Son and the Society is grateful to Pam Murray (nee Low) for providing a copy of the catalogue of this auction.
Pages 2 and 3 of the Knockenhair sale (Click to enlarge)
In the first extract, you can see the terms and conditions of sale, including penalties and the settlement of disputes on the left page. On the right, there is a list of Lots 1-98 which had been moved to the garage for the sale and include an unnamed number of Bentwood chairs which would fetch a very good price if sold today.
Some of the contents of the drawing room at Knockenhair House
If you enlarge the pages above, you will see items such as 206 Moving picture machine and large number of spools; 233 Lot knives and daggers in sheathes, powder horn, cartridge box; and 246 Officer’s dress sword ….. followed by 247 Egyptian officer’s sword. This reflects Wingate’s career as a British general and administrator in Egypt.
In this next section above, you can see 264 Fine inlaid mahogany 4-leaf draught-screen (examples see here); 286 Gunn sectional oak bookcase (examples see here); and 331 4 ivory tusks and 3 ivory rings – these items would be frowned upon today.
In the final selection from the catalogue above, two items stand out. 352 Brass helmet lined with matted hair …. This rather gruesome item perhaps reflects Wingate’s military and colonial mentality. The Latuku were a tribe in southern Sudan. 357 2 signed photographs… shows how well Wingate was connected to the aristocracy in his time as a general.
You can see the whole catalogue here.