In this section, the Society will provide its members and others interested in Dunbar’s history with examples from the resources held in the Society’s room in the Town House. If you are interested in these resources and would like to see similar resources, please contact the Society. In our collection, we have a range of local history books, pamphlets relating to Dunbar e.g. tourist brochures, old maps of Dunbar, and a wide range of photographs of Dunbar, dating back to the 19th century.
A mixed bag of images for December. Firstly, a 1936 bill from George Low and Son, then an undated photo of the High Street with the St George Garage, followed by adverts from the Haddingtonshire Courier in 1961.
The above is a very interesting document, a copy of which was given to the Society by Pamela Huntly (nee Dickson). A clearer PDF version of the bill can be found here: G Low 1936 bill If you click on this link, you’ll see some fascinating detail. Firstly, the partners were George Low and George Paterson Low, father and grandfather of George Low, the final owner of the business. On the top left of the bill, you can see “Bedding and Mattresses Purified and Re-made”. The purifying was most likely done by putting the horsehair, of which the mattress was made, through a “teasy-weasy” machine which separated the horsehair and removed dust – and other things maybe!
The photo above is of Dunbar High Street in the 1930s (possibly) and on the right hand side you can see the sign for the St George Garage. According to an eminent local historian, there was a petrol pump outside the St George Hotel. The garage, owned by the Stark family, was at the bottom of what is now Cossars Wynd. There was a wire which ran up the alley from the garage to the pump. When a customer arrived for petrol, Miss Stark would pull the wire and a man from the garage would come to serve the petrol. A copy of the photo was donated to the Society by Verna Tennant.
The advert above was in the Haddingtonshire Courier on 14 July 1961 (as was the Daniel Smith advert below). This was also known as “Fiddler’s Yard” as the owner, Mr Mulroy, bought and sold a range of goods, as well as scrap metal. “Marine Stores” maybe refers to its location at Woodbush, rather than the nature of the business.
The final resource is an advert for the Playhouse Cinema in July 1961. You can see images from Six Bridges to Cross here and an extended trailer for Flaming Star here. These were the days when the cinema – always known as the picture house – had 4 main films per week, plus matinees. People often went to the cinema more than once a week at this time as television (if you had one) was only in black and white and had limited programming.
This month features images of two bank notes from the East Lothian Banking Company which opened in 1810 in Dunbar, but had to close in 1822 when the Cashier (equivalent to Chief Executive) went off to the USA with much of the bank’s funds.
The photo above shows the front of the bank’s Five Pound note. If you enlarge the photo, you’ll see the images of the sea and of agriculture on the note. This reflects the nature of the Directors, many of whom were farmers, as well as the main employers in East Lothian at the time.
This photo shows the back of the Five Pound note and it was stamped to show that Stamp Duty had been paid by the bank before the notes could be issued. These “notes” were not in circulation like our notes today, but were more like cheques. Information received from Doug MacBeath, curator of the Museum on the Mound in Edinburgh (well worth a visit) indicates that the bank had a problem, in that while notes were printed in Scotland, they had to be sent to London for stamping, as there was no Tax Office in Scotland until the 1830s.
The front of the £1 note above was the same as that of the £5 note. You can see more of the £1 note on the left hand side than above on the £5 note, because the edge of this £5 note has not survived. Doug MacBeath also stated that these notes were unissued, as most of the surviving notes from this bank are. An issued note would have the name of the recipient and it would have been signed by or on behalf of The Cashier. The £1 note also carried the title of Twenty Shillings.
The back of this One pound note shows that the stamp duty at the time was 5 pence i.e. 5d in old money. An interesting fact from Doug MacBeath is that the stamps were designed by Sir William Congreve who was more famous for inventing rockets which were used in the war against Napoleon. Before this “the duty stamp was a dry, or embossed stamp on the front of the note”. Copies of these notes were donated to the Society by Morag Hastie.
This month includes another photo of George Low and his staff, probably from the early 1950s (donated by Pam Murray), plus an advert for the shop in 1950. Continuing the shops theme, this is followed by a bill sent out by Daniel Smith’s shop in 1947 and an advert for the 100th anniversary of the shop in 1961. Copies of these were donated by Morag Hastie (nee Smith).
The photo above shows on the back row George Low (owner of the business) Dave Campbell, John/Jock Cowan and Tom Barrie. We don’t as yet know the names of the other two in the photo. All the employees were highly skilled tradesmen e.g. cabinet makers, upholsterers or shop fitters.
The photo above shows what would have been a highly fashionable dining room suite in 1950. This was available from the shop, which stocked a wide range of furniture at the time. The shop was one part of a larger business which included cabinet making, upholstery, shop fitting, auctioneering and funeral services.
This bill was sent out by Daniel Smith to Robert Aitken – owner of the chemist’s shop next to George Low & Son – in 1947. Each item is listed with the cost and below that, you can see that the bill is receipted “With Thanks. Daniel Smith” and there is a postage stamp attached, as was the practice in those days. Some of you will be surprised by the “Marine Rd” address. Christine Mitchell (nee Aitken) has told the History Society that this was a rented house while Ashfield Cottage (near Station Road) was being renovated.
The advert above was on the front page of the Haddingtonshire Courier of 14th July 1961 and informed customers of a “Centenary Sale”. The advert also includes a statement from the opening of the shop in 1861, in which the original Daniel Smith promised that “he will make it his study to bring regularly before the public a choice selection” of a range of goods and hopes that this will “merit sa share of public Patronage”. The Courier was a broadsheet publication then and only contained 8 pages.
September 2017 (Updated)
The theme of shops in the High Street continues, this time featuring George Low and Son. the following photos, donated to the society by Pamela Murray (nee Low) whose father George owned the shop and the related businesses of cabinet making, upholstery, auctioneering, and undertaking.
This photo may be from the 1920s/1930s and you can just see the beginning of the word CABINETMAKER above the shop window. I think that we can assume that people in the charabanc were well-to-do and that perhaps they were on an outing. You can also see that, as per the times, all the men and women are wearing hats.
The second photo may be from the 1930s possibly, given the headgear that the woman on the left is wearing. What is interesting about this photo is that, while Aitken’s shop is clearly named, Low’s shop has no name but CABINETMAKER UPHOLSTERER. Of course, everyone in the town would know whose shop it was.
The third photo from the late 1950s, shows a very well dressed George Low on the left, with his highly skilled employees Tom Barrie (middle) and John/Jock Cowan (right). Note also that Tom Barrie is also wearing a tie to work. We don’t have a date for this photo but, after consulting an eminent local historian, I found out that Low’s workshop from the 1920s to the middle 1950s was situated at the rear of David Dow’s house and shop at 46 High Street – now the empty shop used by the council for notices. Go down the close to the very end next to the Monks Walk until you are overlooking the Co-op. This is where the workshop was in the upstairs part of the building. The work shop was then removed to the back of the retail shop across the street in the middle 1950s. So the photo is either up the close at 46 High Street or down what is now called Cossar’s Wynd at the back of 67 High Street.
The final photo is of a Mr Spence, who was a Milliner in Dunbar High Street. More information is being sought about Mr Spence, who looks very dapper in his waistcoated suit, immaculate tie and buttonhole.
Continuing the theme of shops in the High Street in the 1950s, the photos below are of MJ and B. Williamson’s ladies outfitters. Copies of the photos were donated to the Society by Grace Maguire (nee Macrae), whose aunts owned the shop.
The photo shows the two owners of the shop, the Miss Williamsons who came from Shetland. In the enlarged version, you can see an array of knitting patterns on the door of the shop.
In this photo, you can see the hats in the right hand window. Most women in the 1950s wore hats, especially on Sundays and hats were a key part of the business.
This photo shows the shop, with two well dressed ladies passing by. You can also see Borthwick’s newsagent next door.
This photo shows the back of the shop, where there were two wash houses which were used by the owners and people living in the flats above the shop.
To start us off, I’ve included 4 photos of the Louis Allen shop which was at 21/23 High Street, where the new R S McColl shop is now.
As you can see from the outside view, this was an extensive shop which stretched back and contained a myriad of goods for sale, including lighting, crockery, seeds, radios and records. Louis Allen also did photography for people and developed and printed photographs for customers.
This is a whole window dedicated to the sale of seeds. Many more people bought seeds in the 1950s as they had gardens in which they planted flowers at the front and vegetables at the back. Also, there were no garden centres as we know them today, so people grow their plants from seed.