Dunbar and District in old picture postcards

Dunbar and District in old picture postcards

:   Dr. David M. Anderson
:   Lothian, East
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-6232-6
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Dunbar and District in old picture postcards'

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In the early years of the 20th century Dunbar was a bustling, thriving place - at least in the summer tourist months. It gained this trade from its position on the east coast, thirty miles away from Edinburgh, and sold itself on its record-breaking hours of sunshine and breezy sea air. It was able to offer all sorts of outdoor amusements and with a number of sites of historie and natural interest nearby there was something for everyone. There was also a corresponding steady decline in the traditiona~ industries of fishing and small scale manufacturing. Furthermore, increasing agricultural mechanisation was leading to steady reductions in the number of hands needed to work rich farmlands in surrounding districts. Great atternpts were made to counter bath trends by marketing and improving the available tourist attractions to secure employment, both in construction and in serviee industries. The whole character of the town and district was to become part of a tourist's experience - from the bustle of the harbours and the network of fields, steadings and villages to the people themselves. City folk were already separated from the sea and land, but remained fascinated by those who still toiled in traditional tasks.

It was usual for visitors to arrive by train. New arrivals to Dunbar's fine station would aften be able to hear and scent part of that which would make many of them return and return. Because, surrounded as Dunbar is by a broken and aften rocky coast, the sound of the sea is seldom absent. Above all are cri es of seabirds: cacophonous, squabbling, herring gulls in the town and the daintier, but equally noisy, onomatopoeie kittiwakes at their unique nesting ground on the face of the castIe rock down by the share. The steady summer breeze from the sea brings the taste of salt and after a storm the smell of tangIe, cast-up seaweed, can be a bit of a shock to unsuspecting city dwellersl On departing the station visitors leave behind them the sweep of the Lammermuirs. The

old, weathered range encloses and cradles the fertile Dunbar plain between its arms and promises productive, scenic trips to come. Glimpses of the town would be seen from the carriage or cab windows on the way to a hotel or rented home. Impressions might be gained of fine new villas, but also of older huddles of red sandstone buildings, a wide High Street and narrow wynds or vennels in the older part of the town.

A typieal visitor might spend their first evening strolling or learning about local history from the Burgh Register or one of the many illustrated tourist guides. They might learn from their text of the powerful Earls of Dunbar, who challenged for the throne ofScotland, and one of their famous Countesses, 'BlackAgnes' Randolph, who held the ancient castle against an English host, It was the castle around whieh the early history of Dunbar centred, but the Earls held great areas ofland nearby There were several smaller castles and tower houses within a few miles, protecting the fertile coastal plain. In the days of their strength, some of these were in the hands of trusted captains and others held by families related to the Earls to create a defence in depth in times of trouble. Similarly, severallocal chapels were brought into a subsidiary relationship to the Collegiate Church ofDunbar and in other places land was granted to monastie orders. The now peacefulland of East Lothian was fought over many times, in part owing to its strategie location near the border with England, but also due to its natural wealth. One nearby battlefield, where Cromwell scattered General Leslie's Scats army, was easily visited on a short walk from the town. The vantage point of Doon Hili, which the Scots had held, yields a panorarnic view of the entire field (still remarkably free of modern development). The same vantage point serves to emphasise Dunbar's relationship with the sea and the variegated landscape of the coastal plain.

Guidebooks were particularly lyrical on the beauties of the surrounding countryside, some of the most productive and wealthy in Britain. Planning one's itinerary might take several pleasant hours. There were woodlands, valleys and beaches to visit. Many of the great country and mansion houses nearby had pleasure grounds and gardens in which visitors were encouraged at times to strolI. The villages surrounding Dunbar had a picturesque reputation all of their own. Of course, one might simply purchase one of the organised excursions that daily ran from the High Street or the main hotels to a variety of places in the county. In 1913 the St. George was able to offer four-in-hand pleasure excursions departing daily and carriages and motors for hire with experienced (and reliable) drivers.

'Dunbar in old picture postcards' presented the town in three walks as a visitor might experience it. This volume is laid out similarly and comprises three excursions interspersed with explorations within the burgh bounds of Dunbar. The first excursion starts out with a baat trip to the Bass Rock and Tantallon Castle, returning through an ancient pilgrimage site at Whitekirk, fol!owing the Tyne to East Linton and sa to home by way afBelhaven. The second excursion heads south-east along the coast to Barns Ness, Skateraw, Cove, Pease Bay then back by way of Cockburnspath, Dunglass, Oldhamstocks and Innerwick. The third skirts the hills by passing through Spott, Stenton and Whittingeharne, returning through the policies of Biel Estate. The scenes within Dunbar reprise parts ofthe first volume (weil, it is only a wee place) but by using different pictures and many more can now be seen in the collection of the newly-formed Dunbar and District History Society. Then and now the High Street was familiar to everyone, with shops, restaurants and hotels. The Shore area was a souree of novelty to young and old, who could explore at will the odd little passageways, or eloses, and peer into the yards of several small businesses. Right by the coast were the hoary old castle ruins and Dunbar's chain oflitde interlinked harbours, where there was always something to see. Ihe amusements !aid on by the Town Council were popular ways to pass some time (es-

pecially for the many day-excursionists) and several cards have been seleeted to show the pools, putting greens and strol!ing plaees near the town. Changing fashions have meant that many of these last have disappeared in recent times. The magnificent Safety Swimming Pond has been eompletely removed and replaeed with an indoor pool in an award winning 'modern' building. Golf has increased in popularity at the expense of the putting greens. Strolling places, such as the coastal promenades, have been allowed to degrade. In the years since these postcards were produced the town has expanded in area, sweeping in much onee green land, forcing walkers much farther afield. Even the Iohn Muir Country Park, named in honour of a Dunbar-born environmental activist, has a car park, although it is wel! used and the park suits the needs of present -day excursionists.

It is hoped that the pictures give an impression of a tourist's complete experience of Dunbar District in our grandfathers' day and not [ust grand ruins and fine houses. One or two of the photographs are rather plain. Their inelusion is justified for several reasous. There must have been a market for them when they were produced, however smalI, and it's difficult for a photographer to make dramatie shots of vil!ages that were sleepy and quiet even a century ago. In many cases a card is from a short print run, made locally for distribution amongst a family or in anticipation of a large group of day-trippers, who might want a cheap remembrance. Whereas Dunbar had a ful! range of souvenirs, the little vil!age stores might only run to some representative postcards. However, the range of smal! places for which cards are available is noteworthy. And it's lucky for us that the adventurous souls exploring the district in their carriages and charabancs were caught up in the great postcard collecting eraze, for otherwise we might have no pictorial record at all!

It taak only a few pence to hire a cabman or coachman at the railway station for a run up to the town. The entrance to the High Street might be quiet and still in the early morning; eerily empty. Perhaps there might be a haar, or sea-mist. A blanket of moist air aften ralls in off the sea to muffle sound and writhe around the streetside lamps. When the sun rises the haar will burn off and the street takes on colour and depth. This photograph was taken in 1904. The singlestoreyed General Post Office, part hidden by shuttering d0W11 the narraw street in the tentre of the picture, was under construction. The new office was also a sorting office

and telephone exchange and was needed to replace more cramped premises much further down the street.

2 As the day wears on, carters collect goods for delivery. Blinds sprout to proteet window displays from the bright sun. The Town House is in the centre of the picture. lts tower carries two sundials and a doek. The administration of the burgh was centred here with court, council charnber, prison, police office and all the burgh officials. Dunbar seems to have had some sart of toll-booth or town house from the early sixteenth century. The building in the picture may date from the

15 90s, but most authorities date it to the first decade of the seventeenth century. It is still in use and a part holds a very successfullittle museum. The provost, or mayor, when

this photo was taken was George Low. His business premises are between the portico of the George Hotel and the chemist's shop (marked by the symbolic mortar and pestle).

3 The High Street gained its fme width from usage as a market place, before the mainly Victorian shop frontages were installed. Ages aga, the first fish landed at the havens was each day reserved by ordinance to be sold 'from the cross', i.e., at a prominent place in the street. Twice a year the hiring fair brought the countryside people to town to negotiate their next six months situation and the street became a fairground. This photographer captured the view on Victoria's diamond jubilee day, 22nd June

1 897. Everyone was gathered to hear loyal proclamations and to promenade with friends. In the evening illuminared windows comple-

mented the bunting and flags that decorated the frontages along the entire length. Note the seating provided as a special concession for the town's many veterans of Imperial service.

4 Visitors arriving at Dunbar for the season needed acconunodation. Although a programme of hotel building led to lots of available rooms of all qualities, many preferred to rent a villa for a month or more. [ust befare the beginning ofthe 20th century there was a spate of building outside the old town boundaries, driven by demand in the summer months. A favourite location was East Links Raad, where there were the Georgian Cottages, left, and one of these later Victorian terraeed groups on the right. One of their selling points was direct access to the beach by means of gates and steps in the sea-wall behind. In the summer residents

might retreat to a few rooms or an underflat to make room for the visitors, who aften came with their entire household and servants. Miss Downie, a newsagent on the High Street, compiled a

monthly register so that everybody knew who was staying where for their round of visiting (and social climbing).

5 This is one of the tewn's surviving hotels, although at present it hides under a different name. Dunbar was undergoing a boom in hotel building as the 20th century began. The Roxburghe, Bellevue, Kerridge's and the Royal (on the left of picture 1) were all open for business and doing very weIl catering to a wide range of customers. A number of other hotels such as the Albert or the Hillside subscribed to known standards for a particular clientele. just as one knows what to expect at a 'Club Med' or 'Centre Parcs' of the present day, sa it was then with a temperance hotel or a YMCA. Same of the hotels, the Roxburghe and Wilson's Temperance in par-

ticular, offered the whole health treatment. They had sea water baths, Russian baths, medicated baths, seaweed treatments, and a masseur and fitness expert. Not so very different from some places

today. The Albert became, of course, the Goldenstones.

6 The High Street was a hub where all the news (and gossip) could be relayed. These three gentlemen are standing outside No. 130134, the childhood home of one of Dunbar's most famous sans. In 1838 [ohn Muir was bom next door at No. 1 28, but the family moved houses bef are he went to school. They moved again in 1849, all the way to Wisconsin, USA. In adulthood, Iohn made his way to California, mostly by foot or by baat. He generated a reputation as a scientist and philosopher of the natural world, working in the High Sierra in all seasons. He is remembered today as the . father of the conservation movement' far bis wark in

the battles to create theAmerican National Parks, the forerunner of all such institutions worldwide. His career was followed with great interest by contemporaries and old school friends in bis native town, who were kept informed by relatives and copies of his publications. Perhaps [ohn was being discussed here.

7 A walk about the town would be a good way for a visitor to get their bearings and the Castle Park might drawone's attention. It could not fail to if the militia was at big gun practice! In 1859 Lauderdale, or Dunbar, House was purchased by the War Department and became a barracks. A cadre of regular army gunners and service corpsmen was stationed in Dunbar to maintain a battery of 32 pounder guns, which were set on the headland beside the castle. Every summer Artillery Volunteer Regiments paraded to the town for their obligatory live firing at targets set out to sea. And every summer the fishers protested to anyone who would listen that the

concussion of shot falling in the bay was driving away the fish (catches were declining). The Town Council was able to purchase some of these glillS once they were obsolete, to stand as a remembrance on

another clifftop site to the west.

Big Gun Practice, Dunbar.

8 Amongst the castle's many tales and connections, that with the unhappy Mary Queen of Scats was aften recalled. It was from here that she and Bothwellieft on their journey that led to Carberry Hill and so to captivity for her and exile for him. That was in Iune 1567 and during 1568 the castie was finally slighted. lts defences were torn down by order of the Scottish Parliament to prevent it ever again standing against the authority of central government. From then on, one of Scotland's strengest fortresses was na more than a scenic ruin. It was about this time that probably the first breach was made in the curtain wall, shown above. If sa, it is all the

more remarkable that the wall held on until 1993 when it flnally collapsed. At one time the wall protected the seaward part of the castle and contained a passageway communicating with a great bas-

tion, which made the castle a fearsome prospect for an enemy to tackle.

Ruins of Watergate, where Queen J'lary Escaped ïrom Dunbar CastIe

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