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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29 The harbours ofDunhar are seen to their best advantage from the air, where they resembie a fish head, clasping Lamer Island in its mouth. Victoria Harbour was commeneed in the 1840s to modernise port facilities. The 4Y2 acre basin was laid over two old landing places, Lamer and Castle Havens; they were little more than sandy areas between rocks, with perhaps wooden pole and plank wharves. On the west the new harbeur is sheltered by the ancient castie and on the east bya Napoleonic battery on Lamer Island. The Battery was built by the authorities of the town against the depredations of seaborne marauders such as john Paul [ones and a noto-

rious pirate, Captain Fall. Both had threatened the town, It became an isolation and fever hospital (used during periodic typhoid outbreaks at the Shore) until a tremendous storm ruined the buildmgs in

the 1930s and has laid dereliet ever sin ce. The cost of the harbour almast hankrupted the town, until a levy on every burgh in Scotland and government grants paid off the debt.

30 This picture shows Tam Pat [ohnston, [ames Tear, Bob Marr (and Ied) working with their lobster pots on the wharf ofVictoria Harbour. The roeky coast of East Lothian is an ideal environment for edible crab and lobster. However, a fleet of pots needs constant attention. They are vulnerable to storms, which aften spring up with little warning, and ean end up strewn along the coast after particularly fierce ones. Onee taken, the living harvest was stored in lidded, wooden fishboxes, such as the one in the foreground. The full ones could aften be seen floating in the harbour in groups. By this means the catch wauld be kept fresh until a regular

eall from a fish merchant's dray and their dispatch to market (although, sometimes, one was hauled out to enable alocal to make their choice). Bob became perhaps one of the most photo-

graphed people of the entire harbour community He worked from a storeroom set into the chamber under the castle.

3 1 These fishers are from a generation before the last group. They may be waiting for the tide and their tranquillity belies the dangers of the task ahead. Look at their pipes with the bowl turned to the side for a good draw. There was a curious practice amongst the fishers (and some ethers), which was that then and now many people were known only by their bynames or nicknarnes. This helped to sort out who was who when there were only a few forenarnes in common use. There are several hundred known names, which have been collected and laid out in à poem or chant. Here are some (taken at random) : Arry, Aipple, Boups, Callacher. Cud,

Elicky, Gee Gee, Hillsixty, Paidler, Shie, Topsey, Traiveller, Tarn Pat, Whitecraw and The Masher; amongst the women were found Tattie Soup and The Duchess. Goodness only knaws how the names were

all earned or derived, but many will be immediately familiar ta those in the know.

32 The harshness of life as a fisherman cannot be emphasised enough, as Bob Paxtori's face shows. Permanently burnt by sun, salt and cold, his gaze cuts across the years. The best of hard weather dothing available a century ago would be scorned by today's seafarers and fishers then would seldom afford the best. Heavy layers of wool and feIt, tarpaulin over-trousers and tarred seaboots made any tumble into the sea a lifethreatening scare. The vast majority of these men were non-swimmers. Losses at sea were regular occurrences: seven with the 'Tweed' in [anuary 1895 (threewere Paxtons ); nine from the 'Golighdy' in Iune 1886; cox-

swain Robert Herkes and Robert Clement from the lifebaat 'Wallace' on exercise in early 1877. Still, the losses were borne and sons followed fathers to the fishing and lifeboat service.

33 The motorised lifeboat George and Sarah Strachan (193 1) and her successors meant profound changes for the station and crews. The beachmen who had formerly assem bled with the crews when the maroons went off were na langer needed. This force ofup to 80 men had formerly been tasked with the launch of the baat. Their record, from resting to aflaat, was 2 minutes 35 seconds. Their task had been tolerably easy when the baat was launched at the Broadhaven but other occasions had seen them well on the way to Hedderwick, or even further àfield, before the horse teams were mustered. These days passed into the lore of the sta-

tion. New technology placed increased demands on the crew in terms of skills and professionalism, apracess which continues to the present day. The new boats had greater operating ranges,

endurance and speed. Other stations nearby were closed, Skateraw amongst them, and Dunbar became responsible for greater sea areas. The nature of their rescues began to change as well, featuring

more pleasure craft and fewer commercial vessels.

34 This card exemplifies

the (almost lost) pastime of strolling! [ust look at the way the north pier of Victoria Harbour is thronged on a clear, warm summer's day. There may not be much to see in

the harbour but it still seems to be worth taking a walk all the way along the prer's end, where the strollers might wonder at the ruins of the venerable castle and expertence the sweep of the coast to the west. During the course of an afternoon they might be able to look down on depart ing fishing boats. The more adventurous types on top of the wall can see right to the Hfe coast. Perhaps a few have cast a line for a fish or two. Down in the bottom right

corner some youngsters have found something to interest them. Fragments of crabs, starfish and other sea life gathered in the cracks between the granite setts, leftovers from the carehes which

were dressed and prepared in the open air.


35 Once safely back to port the hard work started. Nets were dried, overhauled and repaired, relaid and restowed. In older days each crewman gat a share of the profit for each net he contributed to the baat. Subsequently, rnechanical spinning and knotting by firms such as Stuart and Jacks of Musselburgh meant that nets were bought only by the owners. A top-end herring ring trawl, made from Egyptian cotton, could be 340 yards long and 70 score knots deep; with 72 knots to the yard, measured when the net was stretched, that means a dep th of 20 yards. The top rope needed 500 corks and the bottom 240 lead sinkers. Tarred sisal was the fibre of

choice for the cork and sole (bottom ) ropes. Ta make it last the net could be treated by steeping in a solution of cutch ('barking' or tanning) and tarring, although this increased the weight by about

80 percent! The barking house at Dunbar was provided by the Town Council and leased to the fishers.

36 Tradition has it that the purse strings were firmly controlled by the womenfolk of the fishing community. Certainly believable in the case of'True Blue'. the rather determined looking lady

here. Another tradition had a strictly practical purpose. Perhaps you can see a pattern knitted into the jersey worn by 'Brown' Johnston. These garments were knitted in the round and even the sleeves were knitted on so they were both tight-fitting and relatively waterproof They had shortish sleeves to keep the wrists out of the wet. Communities and families had their 'own' characteristic designs. Upper clothing lasted longest on corpses of lost fishers and a

patterned jersey meant that found bodies could be rep atriated, if not identified, and given decent burial in their own community. Dunbar's unique patterns appear to be lost aud only parts of the designs are glimpsed in the detail of old photographs.

37 This photograph of the Old Harbour shows that it could handle fairly large craft, It was, however, quite a performance getting these boats to their berth through the narrow entrance. The harbour was probably laid out in the 16th century. lts basic line was improved by a grant from Cromwell's Parliament after he had found it inadequate and it has hardly changed since, despite periodic breaches in the seawall and alterations to the wharves. At one time the port had thirty trading craft, erewed by over 150 sailors, registered to it. These days passed lang aga. The ship behind the men on the wharf was called 'Firebrtck' and re-

calls the trade in drainage pipes from the Seafield Brickworks at West Barns to Holland. The return cargo was red pantiles, which still roof many of the farm steadings around the town. It may just

be possible, with a careful look, to make out the lighthouse at he end of the pier. It was removed many years aga.

38 William Brodie of Battleblent raised 01 2 in 1 856 to provide an essential public barometer for the fishing comrnuniry Fifty years on it was still in pristine condition, looked after by a succes sion of volunteers who appreciated both the beauty of Handysides Ritchie's carving and the utility of the barometer. The decoration showed the fruits of the sea and a figurative wharfside scene. The bar-ome ter can be seen in the previous picture situated in front ofthe harbourmaster's pokey little office at the corner of Cromwell Harbour. It became a popular stop on the tonrist round. There was always a hoary old son of the sea willing to pose

for a photograph (for a consideration) or able to spin a tale (for a fill of''baccy'j.A grand way to pass the time and a sunny day, watching the coming and going in the busy harbour. It's quiet now, the office is long gone and the plinth is dilapidated and eroding in the wind.

Weatl:)er Glass,


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