Resources 2020

January 2020

This month’s resource comes in the form of a video. It is an extract from the talk given by Jim Herring  in February to the Society. The first slide read “The Ups and Downs of Tourism in Dunbar” by Ailsa McKenzie and  Dr Jim Herring. The talk was partly based on a dissertation for Glasgow University completed by Ailsa McKenzie, who grew up in Dunbar and attended Dunbar Primary and Dunbar Grammar School. It was partly based on work done by Jim Herring, who also attended both schools. Ailsa was unable to make the talk. the video is best seen in fullscreen mode.

 

February 2020

This month and March 2020 will feature the 1899 map of Dunbar, a copy of which is held in the Society’s room in the Town House. The first two quarters from the map are highlighted this month. I (Jim Herring) was given considerable help with this by DDHS member Liz Curtis and DAvid Anderson who are experts  on local place names.
There is some textual information on the map below but I have put together a video on this part of the map which I hope you will find interesting as a Virtual Talk which can also be accessed here on YouTube.

1899 map of Dunbar (click on maps to enlarge – recommended)

If we look at the very top of the map, we can see that the islands off Winterfield Promenade and the harbour are named. Finding the origins of place names onshore or offshore can be tricky and for some, there may not be one definitive explanation of the name, while some are more straightforward. Here are a list of the most likely origins:
Wallace’s Head – named after Scots legend William Wallace; Oliver’s Ship – after Oliver Comwell who beat the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650; Half Ebb Rock – this rock is covered at half tide; Castlefoot Rock – rock standing near the foot of Dunbar Castle; Scart Rock – from the Scots word scart meaning cormorant or shag; Long Steeple and Round Steeple – from the Scots word for a tower; The Yetts – The gates – from the Scots yett meaning gate; The Gripes – An interesting one as it means a rock or rocks which might cause a boat to gripe or get into difficulties. In addition, many of us will know the term The Grips which is now a landing on the north side of the harbour, over the water from the back of the castle and round the corner – going towards the harbour from The Gripes on the map. How the present Grips area got its name is not known. Going back west of the castle, Boy’s Buss can be seen – This probably means ‘Bay’s rock’ from Scots buss – ‘any small sea rock that is exposed at low tide’ and St Bay, who was the patron saint of Dunbar collegiate church and whose well is nearby and where the name Bayswell comes from.
If we go to the harbour on the map, we can see that the hospital is named. Also featured on the video are The Hotel Bellevue, The Roxburghe Marine Hotel and The Retreat.

March 2020

Lifeboat video

This month features another virtual talk by Jim Herring. This talk features a film made in the early 1960s by Bobby Aitken, owner of Aitken the Chemist at that time. A copy was donated to the society by Christine Mitchell and Rob Aitken – daughter and son of Bobby Aitken. The film shows the lifeboat Margaret in the harbour, leaving to rescue a stricken yacht and then returning with the rescued boat and crew. The talk also looks at aspects of the film such as the lifeboat crew at the time; people walking on top of the castle, which is of course now closed to the public; as well as the fishing boats in the harbour at the time. Here is the talk on YouTube.

The photo below – from the History Society archives – shows the Avail in Dunbar Harbour, whereas in the video it is not in Dunbar.  In the photo, the Avail is the 3rd ship from the right. The first boat – LH 441 – is the Trio owned by William Brunton and the second boat is the May Queen II owned by R.J. and G.T. Johnston. (Photos and information from Gordon Easingwood)

The Avail in Dunbar harbour (Click all photos to enlarge – recommended)

There is also a reference to the ship Ramsdal in the video and this was a huge ship which ran aground at Peffer Sands in 1964 and was attended to by The Margaret. The photo below (not in the video) – also from the archives – shows the coastguard at the time – Fred Vernon – walking to the shore from the ship.

The Ramsdal on Peffer Sands in 1964.

 

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

 

July 2020

Dunbar Lifeboats

This month we are looking at some of the lifeboats that have served Dunbar so well over the years. The photos come from the book Dunbar 200: The History of Dunbar Lifeboat Station 1808 – 2008 (cover below) published by the Dunbar RNLI. Permission has been given to include the photos here by the current president of the Dunbar RNLI.

Book on Dunbar lifeboats (Click on all photos to enlarge – recommended)

The book – written by the then president Ivor McPhillips – tells us that the first RNLI lifeboat to be stationed in Dunbar was The Wallace. There had been lifeboats in Dunbar before this and Dunbar 200 refers to David Anderson’s book History of the Dunbar Lifeboat as stating that the first lifeboat arrived in 1808 after a successful public subscription.

The photo above (Dunbar 200 p19) shows The Wallace being launched from the harbourside c1890. This was not the normal way of launching the lifeboat. The book states “She [The Wallace] was a self-righter, 33 ft long, 8 ft in the beam and drawing 5ft. She rowed ten oars, was equipped with sails and , with a crew of 13 volunteers, was destined to serve in Dunbar for nearly 30 years”. On its arrival in 1865, The Wallace was led down Dunbar High Street by 4 horses, with a procession of local worthies behind and large crowds turned out on the day. This lifeboat saved 42 lives during service.

The next lifeboat to arrive at Dunbar – in 1893 – was the Sarah Pickard (photo above) – and this was of a similar design to The Wallace. In 1896, the Sarah Pickard went to the rescue of the 1200 ton Poderosa from Grimsby and found herself in trouble. The then bowman Walter Fairbairn was quoted in a newspaper article as stating “The lifeboat approached the wreck and by careful work, the coxswain managed to get her lee side between the ship and the inner reefs…. To our dismay, however, it was soon apparent that it would be well nigh impossible to get out again unless the seas abated”. The Ponderosa’s crew insisted on boarding the lifeboat and this was “a double burden”. Walter Fairbairn continued “Help came to us from ashore. The Rocket Brigade who had been struggling to get a line aboard the wrecked vessel, made even greater efforts, and was at last successful.”. The ship’s crew were taken to shore by the Rocket Brigade lines and the lifeboat was then – in calmer seas – able to be rowed back to the harbour. It’s hard to fully understand the extent to which these men risked their lives in a boat with oars as today we are so used to the modern lifeboats.

In 1901, the new lifeboat William Arthur Millard arrived in Dunbar to great acclaim. This was a bigger boat and the book notes “The roads at Hedderwick Hill and at Skateraw had to be widened to let her through to launch from these places”. The photo above shows the Millard being launched down the slope at Broad Haven next to  the Old Harbour. One of the Millard’s most notable rescues was of the King Ja Ja (details) in 1905. Walter Fairbairn, now Coxswain Fairbairn remembered the drama of the rescue. “To leave the harbour, we had to pass through a fairly narrow passage, invisible in the rush of the storm. Huge waves dashed unceasingly through that passage, threatening to overwhelm our pigmy boat… For four or five hours, we battled against the sea… The men pulled their oars as for life itself”. Having reached the wreck, Walter Fairbairn comments “Never have I seen men more grateful for release than these nine poor fellows who had clung to the wreck Ja Ja.” Coxswain Fairbairn certainly had a way with words and even if there might be some exaggeration in his descriptions, this rescue certainly seems perilous to both lifeboatmen and the crew of the Ja Ja.

August 2020

It’s A Knockout 1969

In Dunbar’s social history, one of the key events – in terms of the visibility of the town to the outside world – happened on 4th June 1969, when 9 million people watched the It’s A Knockout programme which came from Dunbar Swimming Pool/Pond. The event itself had taken place on Sunday 1st June. Unfortunately, no video of the contest was kept, as the tape used by the BBC was extremely expensive and had to be reused. There was also a problem with compression in those days as the tapes would only hold so much film. Tapes were later developed that could hold much more video and many of these have survived.

Poster for the event (Click on all photos to enlarge – recommended). Photos given to DDHS by Rob Bissett

The poster above was used to advertise the event  on the 1st June, with the TV programme going out on Wednesday 4th June at 7.30pm. The enlarged poster shows that there was a range of ticket prices for the seating and standing areas. Tickets for the event – available through the Town Chamberlain’s Office. The 1947 Local Government (Scotland) Act stated that “Every town council shall appoint a town chamberlain of the burgh who shall be the chief financial officer of the council and may pay to him such reasonable salary as they may determine”. The Town Chamberlain at this time was G W Russell and the Town Clerk – the chief administrative officer – was S W (Sid) Brown. [Information supplied by David Anderson] The ticket prices are in shillings and pence as decimalisation did not arrive until February 1971.

Swimming pool on the day of the event

The Haddingtonshire Courier reported that the crowd that day was 4,500 – the largest ever seen at the pool – and that people watched from the clifftops opposite. If you enlarge this (rather blurred) photo, you can see the people on the cliffs in front of what is now the indoor swimming pool. Interviews (by Jim Herring) with Dunbar team members reveal that it was ” A perfect, warm, sunny evening in Dunbar and the BBC could not have chosen a more perfect location. The pool was in picture postcard mode.” (Robin Forrest, team manager). The crowds were not confined to the pool itself or the clifftops. “As you came to The Glebe, all you could see was people – the slopes of the Glebe were crowded as was the walkway next to the pool and on the far side. The beauty contests used to be very busy, but this was something else – far busier”. (Bett Morrison (nee Darling), team member and one-time Pond Mistress.

Action from the contest

The photo above shows one of the games which Dunbar won. On the Dunbar craft is Lex Horsburgh and Jaci Waite (now Bisset). Again, the photo is not very clear but you can see the blue skies above the cheerleaders at the far side of the pool. In an interview with Jaci Bisset, she said that, in the practice session, she and Lex worked out that if she sat close to him at the front of their boat, this would be more effective than the stance taken by the Burntisland team on the left, and this proved to be a successful move. At the end of the contest, both teams had the same points. The Haddingtonshire Courier reported “The Provosts of both towns watched the toss of the disc which had “Dunbar” on one side and “Burntisland” on the other – and when the “Dunbar” side was turned up, the home supporters’ cheers were deafening”. Dunbar had thus won the contest and became one of the British teams to go to take part in Jeux Sans Frontiéres in Martigny, Switzerland.

The jubilant Dunbar team at the end of the contest.
The final photo – the clearest, shows the reactions of the Dunbar team after they witness the toss of the disc. The interviewees said that this was the most tense part of the day and much more nerve wracking than taking part in the games and being closely filmed by the BBC TV cameras. An interesting feature of this is that none of those interviewed actually remember seeing the cameras during the games, so intense was their concentration. Their memories of the cameras are before the contest started. This photo also gives a very good impression of the crowds that stood on the Glebe’s grassy slopes and some who ventured on to the pathway above the pool. So this was a key day in the social history of Dunbar, with record crowds attending and millions of people seeing the contest – and of course the pool at its splendid best. Whether this increased tourism in Dunbar subsequently is hard to know but for free publicity as a tourist destination, this could not be bettered.

September 2020

The auction of the contents of the King Ja Ja, conducted at Thorntonloch by George Low on 21st October 1905

The July 2020 resources above featured the rescue of the crew of the ship King Ja Ja (details) by the Dunbar lifeboat the William Arthur Millard. Documents relating to the auction of the King Ja Ja have been given to the Society by Pam Murray, whose great grandfather George Low carried out the auction.

Auction poster 1905 (Click on all photos to enlarge – recommended)

The poster above was used to advertise the auction and was sent out to interested parties. The poster itself is interesting – firstly for its language. The heading “On account of whom it may concern” is a legal term usually relating to insurance policies and today it might be replaced by “To whom it may concern”. The poster was printed by Thomas B Knox who owned the shop at 64 High Street. ” In the 1890s,Thomas Black Knox established the shop as a newsagency, stationers and tobacconists, as well as having branched out into fancy goods and souvenirs” (David Anderson quoted in Herring, J (2020) Dunbar in the 1950s). As a stationer, T B Knox would have had a healthy printing business at this time. The poster also notes that Thorntonloch is “close to Innerwick  Station”, so participants in the auction may well have travelled by train to Innerwick and walked to Thorntonloch if they did not have alternative transport. This site (good photos) notes that Innerwick Station (1849-1951) “.. was a two platform station. The main building was on the westbound platform. The small goods yard was on the south side of the line, a loop serving a loading bank. Opposite this was a siding on the north side, approached from the east”. A written list of those to whom the poster was to be sent was amongst the donated documents and includes companies in Newcastle, Berwick, Leith, Dundee, Liverpool, Blyth and Glasgow. This was a major auction seen to be of interest across Scotland the north of England.

Conditions of sale at the auction

Conditions of Sale at the auction

The handwritten Conditions of Sale have survived as seen in the first document above. This would presumably have been typed up, as in the 2nd document above, and printed by T B Knox for distribution at the auction. It is not clear who actually wrote the Conditions of Sale but it may have been George Low’s lawyer’s office in 1905. Number 5 refers to the Sale of Goods Act 1893 and in section 5, it refers to “56 and 57 Vict”. This relates to Queen Victoria who was on the throne at the time and Acts of Parliament always made note of this. The Conditions of Sale make it clear who is in charge of the auction and that the auctioneer takes no responsibility for any problems with what is bought.

Auction details

The photo above is the first page of the auction itself. It is a handwritten document and records the details of what was sold and who bought what. If you enlarge the document and press +, you should just be able to make out that the main income from the auction was Lot 1 – Hull everything (except cargo) and that this was bought by John Lindsay of 799 Walker Road, Newcastle. There is still a house at 799 Walker Road, Newcastle (Google Maps) but the original houses have been demolished a new houses built on the site. Mr Lindsay paid £66 in 1905 and this is worth £8,077 in today’s prices. The total raised from the auction was £95.11.9 and there were a number of bidders for various items. Examples of these bidders are:
Dickson – Thorntonloch; Watt – Tweedmouth; Craig – Dunbar; McLeod – Alloa; Young – Co’path; Malcolm – Bilsdean; Duncanson – Dunbar; Plenderleith – Thorntonloch.
Most of the lots were for smaller items such as block and tackle; ropes; a hauser rope cost Mr Lindsay £1.1.0 ( £134 today); Mr McLeod of Alloa paid £2 (£244 today) for a hauser (a nautical term for a thick cable or rope used in mooring or towing a ship); Mr Reilly – no location given – paid £4.12.6 (£504 today) for copper pipes and a brass compass stand.

Correspondence relating to the auction

Some of the correspondence relating to the auction has also survived. The above letter is dated 23rd October, two days after the auction. The details of the auction indicated at the end that Mr Lindsay had not paid on the day and £71.10.00 was due. The letter shows that Mr Lindsay appears to be forgetful and careless in his business affairs but has paid all but 10 shillings of the money due. G Low had carried out the auction under the auspices of the Northern Maritime Insurance Company Limited and this company was only dissolved in 2018 after 154 years of existence.

 

October 2020

More material this month donated by Pam Murray and left by her father George Low. 

Traders Association dance in 1964 (Click on all photos to enlarge – recommended)

The enlarged image is interesting for more than one reason. The organisation responsible for the dinner dance was Dunbar Traders Association which is now known as Dunbar Trades’ Association. The annual dinner dance in 1964 was held in the New Victoria Ballroom (includes photo) which was situated in what is now the grassy area above the harbour. The Roxburghe Hotel provided the catering – menu below. Nigel Marcel, whose father owned the hotel at this time, told DDHS that the Traders often held their dinner dance in the hotel itself. It may have been larger numbers that year that necessitated the move to the Victoria Ballroom. On the bottom right of the front cover – menu and wine list inside shown below – is Manageress: Miss Bertha Ricardo. NIgel Marcel’s recollections of Ms Ricardo include “She was The Manageress at the Roxburghe when my Dad worked there and kindly continued to stay on for a while after he bought it from Jack Anthony’s wife. She eventually left to go to South Africa where I think her Mother and Sister lived. I remember she was an excellent Manageress with a very pleasant personality and manner towards customers and staff”. Nigel Marcel added “She was a really nice person. She used to send us by Fallon’s taxi to the station after spending my summer holidays at the Hotel in those days [when Mr Marcel worked for Jack Anthony] and even got the taxi to stop at Fallon’s shop (just round from the Dolphin) and sent us away with a huge jar of sweets!”

Bertha Ricardo on the right

Ms Ricardo was the Manageress at The Roxburghe Hotel but she was also a film and stage actor. In the photo above is, on the left, Eric Popplewell “who was managing director of Ayr Gaiety Theatre from 1940 until 1973 when the then town council bought the theatre, and productions director at the Glasgow Pavilion theatre from 1965-76” (Herald Scotland). Second from the left is Jack Anthony, a famous Scottish comedian who appeared in music hall and pantomimes, and who owned the hotel before Mr Marcel. Bertha Ricardo is on the right of the photo. She was an actress in films such as Dodging the Dole and Be Careful, Mr Smith in the 1930s. She also appeared on stage with Jack Anthony. With this background, it is little wonder that she became an excellent hotel manageress.

Dinner Dance Menu

The menu for the dinner dance in 1964 is shown above. There were 5 courses plus coffee, so the attending traders and their guests would have been well fed. The menu reflects the times. Clear turtle soup au sherry was a popular soup in the 1960s. Today eating turtle meat in any form is banned in many countries e.g. in parts of  the USA. However, recipes for this type of soup are still available. Sole Bonne Femme would be acceptable today as the fish is done in a creamy mushroom and wine sauce. Chateau Potatoes are also still popular today and traditionally the potatoes were cut into olive shapes and sautéed with parsley and seasoning. This is how Mr Marcel cooked the potatoes, Nigel Marcel confirmed – see a recipe here. Otherwise, this would have been a normal Xmas menu – today there would be a vegetarian option. It is interesting to note that soup was served at the end of the dance. Given the wine list below, some of the traders might have needed it.

Dinner dance wine list

This is an impressive wine list for the 1960s when drinking wine was the preserve of the middle and upper classes. Simon Hoggart wrote “My parents had organised a single bottle of wine [dinner for 3]. This wasn’t because they were tight-fisted, it’s just that in those days one bottle between three struck most middle-class people as ample. Wine wasn’t cheap. Most people bought one bottle at a time. Two glasses each was perfectly adequate”. It was only in the late 1960s that more people began to drink wine and even then it was restricted to cheap Hock or Mateus Rosé. The Traders Association members would have been amongst the more affluent in Dunbar at the time. In terms of prices, the wine on  offer here was not that expensive compared to what you might pay in a hotel today. The Moet et Chandon” champagne was 36/- a bottle and this translates to £31.27 at today’s prices. In most hotels today, you would pay nearer £50 (or more) for champagne in a hotel. The Nuits St Georges also looks a bargain at £20.84 at today’s prices, as most bottles of this wine will set you back well over £30 from a wine dealer such as Laithwaite’s. Another interesting feature is that each wine is offered as a full bottle and as a half bottle – something very rarely seen nowadays. In the 1960s, buying a half bottle of wine for 2 people was probably the norm for most of those who could afford it.

November 2020

This month, we return to 1969 and the follow up to It’s A Knockout which took place in Dunbar Swimming Pool/Pond in June of that year. Because Dunbar won that contest against Burntisland, they qualified as one of the British teams and they represented GB at the event in Martigny (good photos) in Switzerland. Photographs relating to the event were given to DDHS by Douglas Robertson and Rob Bisset, and Jim Herring conducted interviews with some of the Dunbar team.

Jeux Sans Frontiéres badge (Click on all photos to enlarge – recommended) (Photo Rob Bisset)

The badge above was given to all participants who went to Martigny in 1969. The teams involved in the event were  Halle (Belgium), Martigny (Switzerland), Minden an der Weser (Germany), Dunbar, and Foggia (Italy). There is a full description of all the games here (scroll down to Heat 4) although the names of the Dunbar team are not all correct. The event took place on Wednesday 6th August 1969 and was broadcast on TV on BBC1 on Friday 8th August from 9.05pm to 10.20pm. As with the It’s A Knockout in Dunbar, there is no recording of the event, as the tapes were wiped and re-used. The team flew to Switzerland and for many of the team, including the cheer girls, this was their first ever flight and added to the excitement of the trip. Douglas Robertson remembered “After the flight, we had two bus journeys to get to Martigny. The scenery from the airport to Martigny was very new to us and the mountains were quite spectacular”.  You can see the glorious setting of Martigny here (good photos).

Practice for game Feeding Time at the Zoo (Photo Rob Bisset)

The photo above shows Alistair Lister practising for his participation in the Feeding Time game. While Alistair walked along the beam, team mates at the side of the pool – see enlarged photo – launched sacks to try to dislodge him. The game is described as ” ‘Feeding Time at the Zoo’ – was the Jeu Intermédiaire which was played over 2 minutes 30 seconds duration underneath the diving board of the main pool and was the second game to include live animals. It featured three male competitors dressed as zookeepers armed with two trays each bearing a fish. On the whistle, each of the competitors had to take it turn to walk across a narrow beam spanning the pool. Once across to the other side, the fish had to be handed to a stagehand who would then feed the fish to five penguins in a small fenced pool. In opposition on the pool’s edge, there were four opposing females (one from each of the other teams) each armed with a sack hanging from above and they had to use the sack to dislodge the competitors from the beam as they crossed and thus plunging them into the water. The team with the greater number of fish carried across the pool would be declared the winners”. In this game, real penguins were used and they were in a small pool.

The Spanish Bull game (Photo Douglas Robertson)

The first game in which Dunbar participated was called The Spanish Bull and it also featured a live animal. However, while the penguins were safely ensconced in their pool, in this game, the bull was in the ring with the competitors! Douglas Robertson took part in the game, along with Dick James and Jaci Waite. Douglas Robertson remembered “We had to carry polystyrene blocks from one side of the ring to the other. To make sure you went across the middle, you had to ring a bell. It sounds very easy, but there was a bull in the ring! You had to encourage the bull to knock down the opposition’s pile of blocks. It wasn’t a friendly bull at all and I had a wee contretemps with the bull. It got me up against the fence, with a horn on either side of me and it started butting me against the fence. Dick James came to my rescue and got hold of  the bull’s tail and pulled it away. When I climbed on to the fence, I looked down and there was poor Dick under the bull’s feet! He managed to get away and climb the fence. This was the last competition when they had live animals in Jeux Sans Frontiéres“. So, a very dramatic experience for Douglas and Dick and it was fortunate that both of them had experience in working with animals on farms around Dunbar.

Dunbar team in Swiss mountains (Photo Douglas Robertson)

If you enlarge the photo above, you will see the Dunbar team on a trip up one of the mountains near Martigny and the dramatic scenery behind the team. Douglas Robertson recalled “We went on a bus trip into the mountains before the games. We then got a ski lift to the top of the mountain and there was a café at the top. We were surrounded by mountains and of course, this being Switzerland, the mountains were much, much higher than any of us had seen before – and certainly not in Scotland. The views across the mountains were tremendous”. The Dunbar team finished fourth out of the five teams on the night. It is estimated that 8 million watched the BBC transmission on Friday 8 August. There were 4 other TV broadcasts  – live in Belgium, Switzerland and Germany – and shown on the Friday night in Italy, so the Dunbar team may have been watched in total by 40 million people.

December 2020

To complete this year’s Resources pages, we will look at some paintings by local artist Willie “Topsy” Marr. His paintings were completed in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and were often done on the back of plyboard. This Topsy Marr – there have been a number of people with this name over the years, and not all related – lived in Pine Street, at the bottom of Cedar Street, and was a local plasterer. As part of the History Society’s Coast and Waters project, we had planned to display some of Topsy Marr’s pictures in the Town House, but this has not been possible, so they are being shared with you here. Willie  Marr was a prolific painter and was self-taught. His many views of the harbour and castle area, also portraits, were produced mostly for charity. He donated some paintings to the then Sunshine Club which later became Dunbar Day Centre. The paintings were photographed by Fiona Smeed, who also contributed some of the text.

Dunbar Castle pre 1868 by Willie Marr (Click on all photos to enlarge – recommended)

 Above is the first painting, depicting an earlier view of the castle, pre-1868, when the archway with the Armorial Panel of the Dunbar Earls collapsed into the gunholes after a storm. According to this website, (good photos) “The central panel was carved with the arms of Dunbar over a shield containing a Lion Rampant. The shield to the left of this panel contained the three-legged arms of the Isle of Man while the shield to the right contained the arms of the lordship of Annandale. These are thought to date to the time of George, 10th Earl of March and Dunbar, who was a cousin of Black Agnes’ husband, Patrick. Thomas Randolph, the 10th Earl’s grandfather, was made Lord of Man and Lord of Annandale”. In the painting, the stormy sea is below an equally stormy sky and the artist has captured the motion of the sailing ship very well.

Cat’s Row by Willie Marr

The next painting is one of Cat’s Row This is a well known historical view, photographed and painted by many, looking down towards the Cats’ Row which was demolished in 1933, with the Castlegate on the left, and the Rock House on the right. Note the well, where a figure of a lady can be seen, perhaps collecting water.  The well can still be seen today, opposite the Volunteer Arms. You can see prints of Cat’s Row on the John Gray Centre website here and here ,and a coloured postcard here. In 1935, Cat’s Row was replaced with 12-30 (even Nos) Victoria Street and described here as “Kininimonth and Spence, 1935. Group of 10, symmetrical, paired, terraced 2-storey council houses, stepping down towards harbour”. The painting has vivid colours in the red roofs and the sky and there is some action in the painting. This is an idealised portrayal of Cat’s Row as the prints cited above show extreme poverty in that area,.

Dunbar harbour by Willie Marr

This is a typical Topsy Marr painting showing local boats in the harbour, with the castle and Coastguard Station on the top of the castle to the right. The Station was demolished in the mid- 20thcentury. The Harbour Master’s office, originally built as a tidal gauge, one of only three in Britain, is clearly seen. There is an interesting YouTube video on the tidal gauge here. This is a very pleasant view of the harbour, with the fishing boat coming in surrounded by seagulls. The artist’s use of a range of colours here adds to the quality of the painting.

Portrait of Bob Easingwood by Willie Marr

The final painting by Willie Marr is a portrait of Bob Easingwood who was our chair Gordon Easingwood’s father. Despite his sight starting to fail, the artist completed this striking portrait from a newspaper article containing a black and white photograph of Bob Easingwood. The article appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News as part of a series entitled The Face of Scotland and Bob Easingwood was photographed to represent a typical Dunbar fisherman. The setting is a stormy one and Willie Marr was perhaps trying to capture the determination that fishermen needed when out in such conditions in this portrait.