Dunbar | Economy
By 2000, Dunbar was home to a diverse range of economic activities. Some enterprises are very small scale, while others are amongst the largest employers in the county. The parish’s post-war economic history is complex and will continue to be so as Dunbar tries to keep pace with continual change.
Until the late 1970s, the town’s economy was largely built around the needs of tourism; the influx of Torness workers to the hotels and guesthouses meant that when that influx ended, the holiday market had shifted its focus away from seaside holidays in chilly Scotland, to warmer foreign shores.
The town council began to be interested in pro-active tourism as early as the mid 1950s. By the late 1960s a tourist information office was opened in the town house; this was absorbed and integrated by the East Lothian Tourist Board (E.L.T.B.) when that was formed in the early 1980s. At about the same time, the tourist board office shifted to bigger premises (part of the old waiting room building), from where it has since operated.
In the 1980s and 1990s there was a perennial tension between East Lothian District Council tourism officials and Dunbar traders, the latter believing the former had little understanding of the tourism dynamic affecting Dunbar. The traders worked hard to build a tourist market in the town. The 1995 leaflet ‘Discover Dunbar’ that they produced in conjunction with East Lothian Tourist Board was one in a succession to broadcast the attractions of Dunbar to prospective visitors.
For a number of years, Dunbar struggled to find a new role; by the end of the period, after much investment in the town’s infrastructure, there were signs that things were improving.
From its refurbishment in 1963, the Barracks’ gymnasium had been converted to the Victoria Ballroom; it was used as the town’s premier entertainment venue in 1963 and for much of the 1960s and 1970s. Its publicity material declared it to be ‘the entertainment of the south of Scotland – Dancing! Professional Wrestling! Cabaret!’ and it attracted locals and tourists alike.
Although the town has never had a proper theatre, the Corn Exchange, Victoria Ballroom and church and school halls have seen many varied performances. In the 1960s, Jimmy Shand and the White Heather Club were regular performers, and afterwards, Mull Little Theatre toured. In the 1960s many of the musical and dance acts at the Edinburgh Tattoo and other festival groups performed in Dunbar, both outdoors and indoors. People can recall that the Pool Pavilion was used for dances post-war, but recollections centre on the wooden benches and plagues of earwigs.
The adverts in the 1968 guidebook to Dunbar provide a snapshot of the town at its peak:
- Roxburghe Hotel (Mr E. Marcel)
- Lothian Hotel (Mr & Mrs Arnold Togneri 20 beds)
- Hotel Bellevue (W. & E. Martin 53 bedrooms)
- Bayswell Hotel (Mr & Mrs S.V. Sikora 15 beds)
- Craig-en-Gelt (T.L. Usher 22 beds)
- Hotel Battleblent (Mr & Mrs J.R. Ferguson)
- St George Hotel (H. Gall Gray)
- Royal Mackintosh Hotel (Harwells of Colinton)
- Wakefield Private Hotel, Church Street
- Albert Hotel (Mr & Mrs J. Wood)
- Eden Hotel (Mr & Mrs Rudnik)
- The Manor House, Belhaven (Mr S.L. Wallace)
- Redheugh Hotel (Mrs J. Main)
- Hillside offered the ‘Y.M.C.A. holiday and conference centre’
There were also at least ten guesthouses, and the two caravan sites. Hogg’s tearooms and the Ocean Restaurant offered refreshments. The Victoria Ballroom had a programme of events all summer long. Johnny’s Beach Amusements – the ‘palace of pleasure’ – had prize bingo and miniature golf, and there was ‘Ye Olde Rock Shoppe’ at Erinalls. Round the open-air pool were galas, bathing beauty competitions, late night swimming and dancing. Two golf courses, two bowling greens, putting greens, pony trekking, sea and fresh water angling, boat trips and bird watching contributed to the town’s attractions.
In 1994 there were ten hotels and around 20 guest houses remaining; the Tourist Information Centre dealt with 17,000 enquiries, a miserable fraction of Dunbar’s visitors, be they day or resident, in the glory days: military tattoos on the High Street in the early 1960s recorded 10,000 spectators on single days! By 2000, just five hotels, six guesthouses and two bed & breakfasts were advertising themselves in the East Lothian Business Directory.
Over the years, shops, entertainments, hotels and guesthouses came and went – such the Summerfield Hotel (private house until 1974+), which reverted back to a private house in the 1990s. The Barracks stables were used for a period c1968/69-c1980 as a motor museum – part of the Myreton Motor Museum enterprise, the first of which opened near Aberlady 1966-date.
The Dunbar Vintage Vehicle Rally began in 1969 under the auspices of the Tourism and Recreation Department of Dunbar Town Council; 30 vehicles attended. The rally was held in Castle Park until that was unavailable and then switched to Winterfield while Castle Park was redeveloped. At the time of the 27th rally in 1995, around 200 entrants attended, drawing around 2000 spectators. Although the district council promoted the event and regarded it as one of the ‘premier rallies in the vintage calendar’ its successor East Lothian Council let it slip away. In 2000, attempts were made to establish a bigger and better rally in Broxmouth Park, but guarantees of support were not forthcoming and the idea was abandoned.
An event that increased in popularity was Dunbar Pipe Band Contest, which began in 1983, hosted by the Royal British Legion. For a single day in May the town resembles its 1960s heyday when the pipers’ grand parade marches along the High Street from the competition grounds in Countess Park. By the mid 1990s entries had been capped at 76 bands – which gave a total of over 1,000 pipers.
From 1988-date, each September there is a Traditional Music Festival, sponsored by Belhaven Brewery. Many pubs and other venues came together to provide space for a wide range of formal and informal events attracting several thousand afficcionados.
In 1995 there was an attempt to revitalise tourism with the launch of a Victorian Days Festival. Around 60 events for all the family were staged over a long weekend in August; £5000 was invested in the events by LEEL, E.L.D.C. and Blue Circle.
At West Barns, tourists were catered for at the small Battleblent Hotel, once the home of a local industrialist. In 1945/46 it was the base for a unit of the engineer regiment, clearing minefields in the Belhaven Bay area. After the army left it was returned to its original owners who lived there for a short time. In 1950/60 the Ferguson family bought it and turned it into a family hotel, and remains so to the present day (closed 2001).
At the end of the survey period there were a number of holiday homes within the district. They were either ‘permanent’ caravans or chalets at Seafield (Belhaven) and East Links, or rental properties in Belhaven and Dunbar.
Caravanning and camping are covered in many of the Structure Plans issued periodically by East Lothian District Council, Lothian Regional Council, and similar bodies. It was recognised that increasing numbers of tourists would wish to holiday in this manner and strategies was developed to meet anticipated demand. In the main, and certainly at Dunbar, commercial interests have superseded publicly provided pitches.
Caravans were first positioned on Dunbar Town Council land at Winterfield, utilising the old Pierrot pavilion for amenities. A second site operated at Kirkpark (closed 1989), behind Belhaven church, and a third (under the auspices of the Camping and Caravanning Club UK) opened in a series of sculpted embayments at Barns Ness, with 82 pitches c1970. Winterfield had 77 holiday and 17 touring pitches. Its last planning consent (a three-year term expiring in September 1992) was extended to include 1994, as problems with the ground at its replacement caused delays.
Thus, both Dunbar sites were closed by the then district council, before their proposed replacement was ready; this led to many ‘regulars’ deserting Dunbar and it is unlikely that the economic benefits that they brought have been replaced at the new site. This was the Belhaven Bay site operated by Meadowhead Parks – the Seafield Caravan Park (open by July 1995 on a 75-year lease signed in February 1993). Located on reclaimed land (see Environment) on the old brickworks site behind the ‘Divvy Dykes’, substantial drainage problems had to be addressed before the site was viable. It includes a mixture of holiday homes (more ‘chalets’) for sale or rent and 50 touring pitches. It would be fair to say that the establishment of this site ‘ruffled feathers’ locally, although willow plantations, planted for drainage, keep it well hidden from road level. In 2001, the site suffered a degree of flooding due to the low ground level; a pumping station was installed, but was unable to cope due to the inflow of water from springs.
No account of Dunbar of the last 50 years would be complete without a record of the ‘John Muir‘ phenomenon. His impact on his birthplace of Dunbar has been considerable, since his importance was flagged up in 1960, providing as it does, a focus for tourism in the town.
Muir was born in Dunbar on 21 April 1838 but emigrated with his family to Wisconsin in 1849. In adulthood he won acclaim as an inventor, botanist and geologist but his most significant work was accomplished in California in defence of his beloved Yosemite Valley. Through education, writing and campaigning he articulated in a clear and popular way the case for preserving areas of wilderness from the onward march of technological and industrial civilisation. To Californians he is remembered as the ‘father of conservation’ and was voted ‘most famous Californian of all time’ in 1976. Muir died in 1914, the first (and only) life president of the Sierra Club, the state’s foremost conservationist body. In addition to his own writings, many of which were published posthumously, there followed a succession of biographies, and his message grew over the years. He was seen as being increasingly relevant. By the 1950s a body had been formed to campaign for the creation of a National Historic Site at his final home, a ranch at Martinez in California.
All this happened without anyone in Dunbar being any the wiser, his last local relative, Margaret Lunam, daughter of John’s cousin Margaret Hay (Rae) Lunam having died in the 1920s. However, in 1960 Harriet Kelly, a member of the Historic Site Steering Group, visited Dunbar and caused consternation when she asked at the town clerk’s office where Muir’s birthplace might be (the officials, of course, had never heard of him). Within hours they were able to accommodate her then and on her subsequent visits and thereafter a steady trickle of aficionados and biographers visited Dunbar. Significant amongst them were Bill and Maymie Kimes, the foremost Muir scholars of recent times. Cairns-Boston, the council tourist officer, was foresighted enough to organise a public exhibition in 1965 in the Corn Exchange, which first brought Muir to the attention of a wider public in Dunbar. The Historic Site in California was inaugurated on 27 July 1964 and some Dunbar residents contributed Dunbar material to the site.
By the late 1970s it was clear to Frank Tindall, county planning officer, that Muir might afford Dunbar an entry into the international heritage tourism market. Local landowners and the county-district council established in 1976 a country park named after Muir and extending from Dunbar’s Victoria Harbour and taking in the whole of Belhaven Bay and the Tyne estuary – some 1760 acres in all. To complement this very successful initiative, somehow Tindall came up with a scheme whereby the building identified as Muir’s birthplace was fully renovated, with the consent of the then owners, the Hawryluk family who became enthusiastic Muir advocates – almost adopting him as their own. The upper flat in 126/128 High Street was developed as a small visitor attraction with recreations of historic rooms and an exhibition, which opened in 1980 supervised by the council’s tourism department.
Internationally, things were moving on apace. Muir was commemorated on a stamp (1964) and the Kimes’ work brought his accessible writing to a new generation of environmentally aware Americans. In Scotland, the John Muir Trust was formed in 1983 to protect and conserve wild places, operating in conjunction with local communities. In Dunbar, the birthplace became the responsibility of East Lothian Council’s museums service at local government reorganisation in 1995, but before then it had become clear that there was will to do more to promote Muir’s message. Dunbar’s John Muir Association (D.J.M.A.) 1994-5 was formed after campaigners had rejected as inappropriate, a plan for a John Muir centre at Linkfield (Hedderwick, Belhaven) in the country park.
Plans now centred on building a new facility in Dunbar itself with the aid of Millennium Commission Lottery funds. This ambitious scheme did not succeed but, not disheartened, D.J.M.A. went ahead with a guided town trail and other Muir-related projects. In 1996 the John Muir Trust launched the John Muir Award for young people, who follow a course of study, exploration and practical conservation in discovering more about wild places. This scheme has built a considerable following. The first group – from Dunbar Primary School – gained their awards in July 1996 from the John Muir Trust. Julie Moyes, the American consul who made the awards, presented a new flag to John Muir House.
In 1998 it was clear that the future of the birthplace museum was in doubt as the owners wished to sell. In September 1998 a new trust, the John Muir Birthplace Trust, was formed, with East Lothian Council, D.J.M.A., J.M.T. and Dunbar Community Council becoming members for the express purpose of purchasing and developing the birthplace as a suitable venue for telling the message of John Muir. Edinburgh Council went ahead with a bold international Muir exhibition timed to coincide with the International Festival in 1999; later, a reduced version of this came to Dunbar. The new trust succeeded in winning Heritage Lottery support and rebuilding commenced in 2002, although not without a damaging squabble about the nature of the plans. Final designs were by architect Richard Murphy and designer Campbell & Co.
Muir’s story and legacy have undoubtedly helped to raise Dunbar’s profile. He has entranced and inspired many although it must be said that others have been left cold. There has been a steady stream of visitors who would not have come to Dunbar if it had not been for Muir, but perhaps never as many as the more vocal proponents of Muir claimed. Environmental concerns in society at large, the worldwide web, the John Muir Trust and the awards are all acting to increase awareness and in California, Muir continues to reign supreme. The timely and innovative development of the birthplace is another step in finding a new role for Dunbar. As a historic town it can sell itself on a heroic past of battles and struggle but Muir also encompasses the natural world and its future.
There is the potential for further tourism development using the streetscape, harbours, castle, battle sites, museums and birthplace, if the trap of stereotypical ‘heritage town’ can be avoided.
Right at the end of the period, planning permission had been granted to Grant Bell for the development of the East Links Family Park at 6 Hedderwickhill. The park opened in March 2002.
By 2000, the parish was home to a number of major industries – though not all of them employing large numbers of people: Belhaven Brewery; the cement works and the landfill site at Oxwellmains; and nearby Torness power station (see Innerwick parish). The West Barns maltings had gone by the 1970s. There were many more middle- and small-sized industries.
Several businesses are run from homes – like PJ Design (since 1986), a public relations company and publisher of East Lothian Life (since 1989), a quarterly magazine, or Craig Design Associates (construction consultancy), set up in 1994. Ballantyne Millshop employed outworkers, with home knitting machines, and others for linking and finishing off (initially at Woodbush, later (1981) taking over Dan Smith’s ladies’ shop in the High Street).
Within the town, industries became concentrated on a few sites as planning became more rigorous. However, a variety of buildings and locations housed a number of businesses. West Barns Old School, Dunbar Old School (renamed Woodbush Industrial Buildings), the Barracks, the Shore area, and Winterfield by Kirkpark all had businesses. Until the late 1960s, William Brown of Galashiels was producing the ‘Wildeer’ range of knitwear from Dunbar Old School, and the buildings also housed a number of ventures in the 1970s – East Lothian Tanks made oil tanks for domestic use and Fox Biology produced exemplar material for teaching – mounted specimens and slides. The Barracks housed a scampi factory and several others operated around the Shore for periods. One, Lothian Seafoods, employed 35 women in the early 1970s. An interesting venture in the period was Stenton Hovercraft Company Limited, which operated from West Barns School in the early 1970s. It did not survive the recessions of the next few years.
By the early 1970s a triangle of land between Spott Road and the railway had been reserved as an industrial and business development and the former maltings/paper works site at West Barns was being considered for a similar plan (which did not go ahead). The council began buying land at Spott Road in 1972 and put facilities in place (drainage and power). Since c1983, the concentration of small-scale manufacturing (for which several suites of small units were built by the council) and other business premises in Spott Road has improved the amenity of the residential parts of the town.
Other businesses located at the Spott Road estate include: two public works contractors, ITEC and A. G. Thomson and Sons (located in the refurbished burgh slaughterhouse), who also offer plant hire (more below); Vin Ecosse (wholesale wine); Dunbar Steel Services (steel fabrication, mobile welding & plant repair); Winsund (wind and solar energy systems); a substantial Belhaven Brewery depot and office accommodation; Dunglass Designs (suppliers of bespoke interiors; this firm began as Peter Humphrey’s bathroom design and Pinewood Kitchens then Dunglass Design (established 1975) for bathrooms (formerly in West Barns Old School) and now in the old laundry in Spott Road); Auto Care and DM Conversions (MOT and garage services; the latter illustrates how businesses have been centralised; thus, DM Conversions began in Stenton, then moved to a workshop to the rear of the Co-op, West Barns (c1970s), then to Implement Road, and latterly to Spott Road); R. & A. Dickson Ltd (see below) and the two taxi firms, Torrance Taxis and Eve Cars and Coaches (established in the early 1970s and by 2000 employing over 20 and running around 25 vehicles; this firm took over the 120 bus service between Dunbar and North Berwick and also supplies a schools contract service).
Spott Road also houses the local council depot, a Tarmac Topmix Ltd concrete service, and a Wiseman Dairies depot and has accommodated a number of other firms, some short-lived. Amongst names recalled are the Black Art, Demvik, Rainbow Thistle (Scotland) Ltd; custom built cars; Eddie Scougall plant tools; cement Ready Mix; John Wight’s ‘Impressions’; also a wood stripping/renovation business; fish processing (Brian Dickson); and Lothian Tipper (road haulage).
Elsewhere in the town industrial usage diminished. Mention has been made of the conversion of former maltings to housing and the redevelopment of Castle Park, which housed fish processing in the 1970s and 1980s. However, until 2000 a property in Lamer Street continued as a joiners and cabinet makers (MacArthur and then Bald) and a nearby property housed the offices of Billy Gillespie’s building firm (responsible for much of the redevelopment of former industrial buildings around the Shore). Nearby in Castle Gate Blair’s light engineering works remains conveniently located for fishery and boat related work (although the adjacent plot, once Craig’s cooperage is now garages). In the West End Lauderdale Coachworks (J. & R. Elliot) provides vehicle servicing and in Countess Road an anonymous-looking building (number 69) adjacent to the fire station has been operated as a chicken hatchery since the early 1970s. In 2000, the chicken hatchery employed an average of twelve workers. The building has been used by a number of companies: firstly H. & N. Poultry Company; then Hamish Morrison Poultry Company; and from c1990, by Ross Breeders, with the firm now known as Aviagen. Around the older part of the town a few stores and yards are still used by small firms: Auto Recycling of Lawson Place is an example. It is probable that most of these sites will eventually be re-utilised for housing, in view of past trends.
Some of the long-term businesses include:
Robert Hughes & Son (began c1960), road haulage contractor, now has about 17 employees. In 1961, the firm operated from a base at the harbour, then from the Nissen huts at the Barracks. It then moved (c1972/4) to the workshop at Abbeylands, remaining there until 2001. The firm now operates from the old maltings site in West Barns, which it bought c 1991.
The agricultural machinery and engineering firm of Thomas Sherriff & Co Ltd. still has its administrative headquarters, and handles repairs and sales, at West Barns. Established in 1816 at Beltonford, then moving to a site where the village hall now stands c1855, the firm is now at a site it has long occupied on Implement Road. Originally a manufacturer of seed sowing equipment – grain drills, hand sowing machines and so on – for the market garden sector, during the second world war, Sherriff’s was kept busy assembling American Oliver tractors – sent over as part of the lend-lease agreement. In 1948, the company sold out (keeping the name) to John Wallace of Glasgow, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery; about the same time the company erected a new building nearby. In 1966, the business was again sold, this time to Stenhouse Holdings, an insurance business. A new company was formed, and from 1966-77 was run by M.D. Colin Clark and Andrew Humphries, who was the ‘sleeping partner’. During this period, the firm became franchise holders for Sperry New Holland and for John Deere & Co.
Meanwhile the firm had expanded; c1971/2 it opened in Haddington, on Dunbar Road, later moving to Mill Wynd. The grass care section was opened c1990s. Other branches opened at Stow, Coldstream and Alnwick c1988. From c1973-88, Sherriff’s owned a hotel at Coldhill.
With the number of employees up to about 80 at one time, by 2000, there were about 60.
A. G. Thomson & Sons – established 1948 (contractors for site preparation – sewage, drainage, landscaping, kerbing and resurfacing, mechanical plant hire), began their business from Tynefield farm during the floods of 1948. From July 1968-97, it was based at Strathearn House (previously Brewery House) West Barns; in July 1997, the firm moved to Spott Road, being installed in the old burgh slaughterhouse. This family business has 15 employees.
International Golf Holdings began life as Scotcraft at the Winterfield workshop beside Kirkpark. It became Greentree Limited in 1971 and transformed again when it moved into new 17,000 square foot of accommodation at Spott Road in 1972. It then employed 64, including a number of apprentices. In 1978, the company collapsed, making 50 people redundant.
On Spott Road there was a commercial laundry run by T. C. Petrie, Sons & Co. Laundrymasters, from 1948, closing in 1964.
Until the mid 1980s, Robert Aitken & Co (Soft Drinks) Ltd. – the lemonade factory between the High Street and Lawson Place – supplied many local outlets. As well as their own branded lemonades and cordials, the firm produced ‘Hubbly Bubbly’ under contract, and supplied ‘Schweppes, Pepsi, cola, squashes and cordials. Bulmers’, Gaymers’, Whiteways’ and Coates’ ciders. Babycham, soft drink and cider service’.
Dunbar Lemonade Works
It’s all a bit fuzzy in my memory. I only worked there for about a year.
I went to work in the office there in 1966. It’s quite a defining date in my history – 6 June 1966 = 6/6/66 – so I’ll never forget my first day at work. I left school on the Friday, my brother got married on the Saturday and I started work on the Monday – so all in all a very big 4 days in my life.
The lady I was replacing (name escapes me) had been there nearly 50 years. I had just left a secretarial course at Dunbar Grammar and was totally in awe of her. At 70+ she was still working and I think Mr and Mrs Aitken thought the place would fall down when she left.
I inherited an office which was full of filing cabinets – about 7 or 8 from memory. I had no idea what was in them all and it took me about 4 months of settling in before I started asking questions about what they were for. Andrew was the Factory and Office Manager – an extremely efficient and competent man who was always singing as he came through the office door, which was often. He split his time between making up the syrup and paperwork. Eventually I started looking in the filing cabinets and found that, although some had records, the majority were full of little bits of paper, covered in mathematical calculations and dated. They were filed in date order. My predecessor apparently was not terribly confident about calculators and did most of her calculations on paper. And these were filed away for – well, posterity I guess – unless of course you could remember when you had done the same calculation before and then find it to get the answer!!
I was amazed. There were also many things from the war – petrol coupons and ration books. Lots of things I had never set eyes on before. Anyhow the upshot was, when we had emptied all the cabinets and moved them out I had a wonderfully spacious office!!
There were some wonderful characters in the factory. There was Alec, an older man, who was a great mate of Andrew, who worked as a sales representative and helped in the factory. He was always telling the wildest jokes – very rude – and he probably wouldn’t get away with them now in our politically correct world – but kept us all in fits of laughter.
The factory hands were all young people – I can’t remember many of their names – Avril, James, Christine I think – most of whom I knew through school – a real funny bunch – rough diamonds most of them with wild senses of humour – who often got up to crazy stunts between bottling runs when things were quiet. Biggest topic of conversation was who was going out with who and what they’d been up to.
Then there were our lorry drivers. The two Daves and Chris who ran a truck out of Berwick and came up once a week to pick up a load for delivery. As a 16 year old, the two Daves were the light in my dull day – I would fancy a different one each day.
Mr and Mrs Aitken were of another world from my perspective. When I grew up Dunbar was a place where you were definitely upper class if you owned your own house or business. They both spoke with very posh accents (very Edinburgh) and I can’t remember ever feeling relaxed in Mrs Aitken’s company, although she was a very nice person. Mr Aitken always seemed to be in another world, although he was very hands on in the factory and assisted in all the processing.
They used to make a ginger beer in a stone bottle. But they had to stop making it when dead mice were found in the drinks!! Although the bottles were all washed and sterilized it was impossible to see if there were any foreign bodies in them! But that was before my time.
I remember my favourite drink was Vimto – it was a dark red (like a red wine) and had the most incredible taste. There was also Jungle Juice – I can still remember its great taste.
Aitken’s drinks definitely had a taste of their own. It was always possible to tell the difference between Aitken’s and other brands. There was a difference in the fizz – and the flavour was quite intense – at least that’s what I remember.
I left my job there in 1967 to move to Manchester to work.
Jean Brittliff (nee Wragg)
R. & A. Dickinson – timber merchant, supply and distribution of timber-based decorative materials – began with a sawmill in the late 1940s as Vincent M. Dickinson Ltd. It has operated from the same premises on Spott Road throughout the period, although the sawmill closed in the mid 1960s. Between 1971-91, the firm was owned by a large group of companies; in 1991, it returned to family ownership as R. & A. Dickinson Ltd. In 2000 it had twelve employees.
From 1901, racehorses were trained at West Barns, at the stables in the old paper mill engineer shop with gallops on Belhaven Bay sands. The first trainer was John McCall (1901-c31); his son George was the stables jockey, with many successful winners. Next it was the Boyd brothers who came from Cardrona Mains; their best successes were after 1945 when over 40 horses were in the then Tilton Stables, the name given to the two houses originally built for paper works managers. When the brothers gave up training in 1969, their nephew Tommy Craig took over and was a successful trainer. He retired in 1994. The stable was taken over by the Dickson family who moved soon afterwards to South Belton. The backyard was sold to the owners of the next door houses, and the larger yard is still owned by the Craig family.
Defendear was set up in 1992 to produce acoustic ear protectors, operating from a workshop in the renovated backlands of Lawson Place off the High Street. By 1995 it employed around a dozen people, selling thousands of units at £75 each.
The bigger industries
Belhaven Brewery Company Ltd. (founded 1719 at the Belhaven site) has gone from strength to strength. A public liability company trading as Dudgeon and Company Limited was formed to buy the brewery in 1944, but the Hunter family retained control until 1972. The brewery and seven tied properties were then sold to Clydesdale Commonwealth Hotels Limited (C.C.H.) for £82,000. The brewery then traded as Belhaven Brewery Company Limited and received some much-needed investment. In 1988 the company and growing estate of 41 tied houses was sold to Control Securities Limited (part of Ascot Holdings). HRH the Princess Anne opened an extension in March 1988. A management buy-out (led by Stuart Ross) was engineered in 1993 (backed by C.V.C. Capital Partners Ltd) and the company returned to the stock market as Belhaven Brewery Group plc in 1996. After the first sale in 1972 a new bottling and kegging plant was installed to the south of the original brewery and the workforce began to grow. The new capacity was used to bottle the company’s own ales but also to undertake contract work for large Edinburgh brewers and other small brewers (eg Traquair). Although the operations of the parent groups in the 1970s and 1980s caused some concern, the brewery grew markedly. Its scale gave flexibility and it never lost the capacity to respond to special events by releasing bonus brews such as Royal Wedding and Jubilee ales. Belhaven Bill began to feature in the company’s advertising in the mid 1960s (definitely by 1968). A growing campaign by CAMRA, a real ale pressure group, worked throughout the 1970s and 1980s to the brewery’s advantage, as did legislative changes that allowed it to sell to outlets other than its tied houses and free trade. At CAMRA’s Covent Garden Real Ale Festival in 1975, Belhaven was being drunk ‘as if it was going out of style’. In March 1986, a new depot was started on the Spott Road Industrial Estate.
The workforce has grown from around 40 to over 150 and the company’s penetration is now Scotland-wide with three other Scottish depots (Dumfries, Alloa, Aberdeen). The beer is available in the rest of the UK (and abroad) and a new brand, ‘Belhaven Best’ (launched 1991 and already amongst the top ten in Scotland, winner of 1994 Scottish Marketing Award and 1995 UK Food and Drink Manufacturer’s Award), and other developments keep the company at the forefront. There have been acquisitions resulting in a growing pub chain, which approached 150 properties by 2000, with a target of 500.
Belhaven Brewery had an operating profit of £2.5million on a turnover of £17million in its interim report after independence (1995-96). Floated in July 1996 with eight pubs, it had quickly purchased another four and supplied a further 54. In all it had 11,000 trade customers.
Bulk off-sales can be purchased from the Spott Road site, and point-of-sale goods – golfing umbrellas, T-shirts, glasses and other gift items – can be bought at the Belhaven site.
1944 saw a large fire at the West Barns maltings belonging to the British Malt Products Company. The rebuilding of the malting by Messrs Wimpey took place 1946/47, and it was soon back in the business of malting barley. On the site was also the malt sugar plant, which was supplied with malt extract from the refinery plant in the village. The malt extract made there went to bakeries, chemists, breweries, etc. worldwide. Also malted barley was milled at the flourmill. These two plants employed 40, engine drivers, horsemen, engineers, firemen – a whole line of crafts. In the 1970s another big fire destroyed the maltings, and in 1972 the company sold out to Associated British Maltsters, who did experimental work at the refinery before selling the sites to the council. The flourmill that gave the being to the village of West Barns, fell silent after 900 years. Then both sites were demolished – three tall chimneys came crashing down, the skyline changed.
Mining limestone and the cement works
When the period opened, lime burning (for agriculture and construction) had ended and the kilns (at Catcraig and Oxwellmains in Dunbar parish and Skateraw in Innerwick) were slowly falling into ruin; an account of the industry was made by Skinner (1969). A limestone mine was worked at Oxwellmains on the room and stoop method (pillar and stall) in a drift mine to supply fluxing agent in the iron and steel smelting process. The Coltness Iron and Steel Company operated the mine, which was a small-scale employer. Limestone was shipped by rail from Oxwellmains siding. When Coltness closed in 1953 the mine was abandoned.
Jimmy Thorburn worked at Coltness Oxwellmains, beginning in 1942, trundling hutches (each loaded with 25-30cwt) from the face to the pit entrance. He later worked on the face where teams of two drilled, blasted and loaded the hutches. Shifts ran from 7am-3pm and the workers were paid on piecework, usually shifting 20 tons a day. Jimmy worked there until 1956, when the mine closed. It was ‘hard work’ but ‘seldom dangerous’ as ‘it was a very safe mine to work in’. From 1962 Jimmy worked 25 years as a kiln burner and then shift manager with Blue Circle.
During the 1950s rumours circulated that an English company, Blue Circle, was prospecting for reserves in Scotland and was considering a quarry near Dunbar. The main criteria were, as it turned out, sufficient reserves of an appropriate nature (accessible and high quality), good communications and ready market. Oxwellmains – East Barns had all three, with the benefit that shale and limestone occurred in such proportions and quality to be eminently suitable for the company’s Portland cement. It should be noted that ‘Blue Circle’ had already in the 1960s almost universally displaced the company’s real name Associated Portland Cement Manufactures. The company had formed in 1900, and the successful blue circle trademark was adopted in 1928, only becoming part of the company name in the 1970s when it was reborn as ‘Blue Circle Industries plc’. The works were very quickly termed just ‘Blue Circle’ or ‘the Cement Works’ by locals.
So the Coltness operation was superseded by a major development, and negotiations for the land continued for some time (Tindall, F. 1998 pp107-113). Commencing in September 1961 an initiative (an investment of c£6 million) of Blue Circle was developed and two kilns were installed, the first producing by 1 April 1963; together their output was 400,000 tonnes pa. In 1966 a third kiln increased capacity to 700,000 tonnes and in the 1970s technical improvements raised this to 900,000 tonnes. At first, limestone and shale was quarried to the south and east of the plant. However, during company restructuring in the 1980s, the Dunbar works underwent a further technological revolution. A kiln costing about £40 million replaced the original set and a new quarry was launched (1985), this time to the north of the railway line – meaning the loss of the line of the old A1; 5 kilometres of new trunk road were constructed. The road was finished with a Blue Circle manufactured surface – hardwearing, but noticeably noisier than tarmacadam. Prior to the development of the new quarry there was an extensive archaeological dig on a hilltop settlement (immediately to the east of Broxmouth Park); the results of this have been published (Hill, P.H. 1982). The profile of the plant was markedly altered at this time: a single, boxy vertical stack replacing the two slim chimneys of the original works. The works has the capacity to supply the whole of Scotland.
Despite the changes, the process is the same as that used in 1963. The quarry, operated on the continuous strip process in order to minimise land disturbance and reduce stockpiles of spoil and overburden, supplies shale and limestone in the correct proportions. The raw material is milled and mixed with sand, being thoroughly blended before a pre-calcining stage. Once in the rotary kiln the mix is heated to 1450C, forming a clinker. Experiments have been made with fuel for this stage, replacing coal with other materials. The cooled clinker is crushed to make cement.
The works had a major effect on the settlement of East Barns and adjacent steadings: they were abandoned. The works provided, at first, a major employment opportunity and absorbed many of the economically active men of the families arriving in Dunbar under the ‘Glasgow Overspill’ arrangements. Over time the workforce peaked at around 550 in Dunbar but technological improvements reduced this to around 170 (consolidated in Dunbar) at the time of the takeover by Lafarge Cement UK in January 2002. Lafarge themselves estimate that the local economy benefits by c£10million from their presence
A further initiative has seen Haulwaste, later Viridor Waste Management Limited, re-utilise the original quarry (closed 1985) as a managed landfill disposal site. The quarry was reopened during the winter of 1996 and was ready to deposit 150,000 tons of Edinburgh’s waste each year by the following autumn. Haul Waste created 20 jobs on the 115 acre site. The sophisticated dump was contained within a membrane and was fitted with piping to draw off methane. This landfill industry benefited the local community through the dispersal of ‘Landfill Tax Credit’ grants to environment projects. In 1999-2000 beneficiaries included: the John Muir Birthplace Trust (£100,000); the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick (£100,000), and the Hallhill Healthy Living Centre (£100,000). Hallhill received a further £237,600 in 2000-01. Additional charitable contributions benefit local projects – local schools and Dunbar History Society are some of the organisations to have benefited. Since November 2001, Forward Scotland (based in Glasgow but with a local panel meeting at Viridor) has administered the grants.
Arts & Crafts
A variety of craft potters have worked in Dunbar from the 1970s to date: the Hassels, Leightons, Phillip Revell, Margery Clinton and Hope Mason amongst them. Other resident artists include Margaret Anne Gardner, Carmen Ambrosevitch, Margaret Laird and Andy Stephen. The town has a strong amateur art tradition and names to mention are Carnegie Brown, Margaret Gordon, John McNie, and Willie Marr. Many more have exhibited periodically at the Gibb Room or Abbey Church. In the 1980s Alastair Laing switched from painting and decorating to set up a framing service; another outlet (Bellevue Gallery) has also opened a framing service with gallery sales.
Immediately after the war the fishing grounds were bountiful. They had not been over-fished, as they had more or less lain fallow during the war years. The men returning from the forces tried to pick up where they left off. Traditional methods were taken up, but slowly advances came to the fore. Before, landmarks, and the watch and compass were the only means of navigation for the inshore fisherman. By the late 1950s, early 1960s, the Decca navigator became prominent and was installed in ever-increasing numbers in trawl and seine net boats. Decca was a spin-off from the R.A.F. Here, three clocks picked up signals from three separate masts to form a transit. By 1963 Kelvin Hughes radar was fitted to the Kindred Star in Dunbar. Kelvin Hughes also produced an echo sounder with carbon paper and a pen that marked both shoals of fish and hard and soft ground. Furuno and Koden made similar instruments. Then the microchip was introduced. It advanced capabilities of instruments with video sounders, daylight radar, and the jewel in the crown, the G.P.S. Global Positioning System – a big difference to using feeling twine for shoals, or local experience of hard or soft ground.
Engines were also slowly changing and becoming more available and reliable with names like Bolinder, Kelvin, Glennifer and Gardiner – 44s and 66s (hp) with air- or hand-start. Petrol/paraffin engines were all in every day use in the 1940s and 1950s, but the reliability of the electric-start diesel engine was to be ever increasingly the norm.
Communications also improved with Woodson single side band allowing ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore and forecasts on long wave band. The V.H.F. wireless with its pre-set crystals meant tuning sets were no longer required. Listening and counter-listening devices (‘scramblers’) were widely used in the 1970s.
Fishing gear also saw big improvements, with plastics becoming more readily available. Standard sizes of ropes and twines were tailor made for the plastic industry’s mass production methods. Initially it was just twine in different colours and thickness, then mass net sheeting was introduced. This saved time when making up nets and creels (pots). Instead of the gear lasting for weeks to months and having to be tarred or barked, it was now lasting for months to years without treatment. Another bonus was that new gear could be stored almost indefinitely, where the old gear had to be used relatively quickly. Trips to the local gas works for tar blocks and melting it in fires in large pots and immersing pots or ropes were soon a thing of the past.
Soon after the war a new market opened up, that of prawns. Formerly discarded, this species is now most sought after and exported all over Europe. Processing factories employing mostly women for shelling, breading and packaging came and went with the fortunes of the fishing. Firms like Buglass (see below), Homac, Celtic Seafoods, Border Laird and earlier Bruce of Ayr all handled prawns at Dunbar.
By about 1960 most catches were transported away from Dunbar either to Eyemouth, Berwick upon Tweed, or Newhaven, where whitefish were sold. Crabs were packed in tea chests or butter barrels and taken up to the local railway station, as were winkles, for transport to English markets. Up until then a local merchant, Craig & Co., handled most catches. By the end of the 20th century, local shellfish merchant Barry Buglass & Son was handling and transporting most of the local catch.
There was a big effort in the 1970s to catch salmon. Lots of boats rigged themselves with monofilament nets. This was deemed illegal and was discouraged by the Fishery Department who used patrol boats, spotter planes and helicopters. Large fines were imposed.
Gordon Easingwood has been a fisherman in Dunbar for the last 40 years; today he still fishes for crabs and lobsters from Dunbar with his boat, LH57 Fisher Lassie. Here he shares his thoughts on the state of the industry:
Fishing, like farming, is very seasonal and for about 30 years after the war fishermen plied their trade. They used their knowledge of where the species were likely to be easily caught. The last few years of the century have seen plunging catches, due in part to over-fishing but global warming seems to have taken its toll. Only the once rare velvet crab seems to have increased in numbers. With the upsetting of the seasons, past experiences count for very little. Time will tell, as hard times have been had before now, but with ever increasing costs and regulations and little new blood coming into the industry, the future looks bleak. There are now only six prawn trawlers and six lobster boats at present in Dunbar. The second half of the 20th century indeed saw a lot of changes – not all for the better.
Here Paul Buglass, who since c1985 has worked for the family shellfish business (Barry Buglass & Son), located in the Old Harbour area of Dunbar, comments on the changing fortunes of the industry:
The first important change has been the major decline in inshore fish stocks around this area. I can remember Dunbar boats fishing specifically for white fish, namely cod, haddock and whiting. This was the main income source of several boats while the smaller prawn trawl boats would also land fish as a by catch but this supply of fish has nearly all gone. This has meant the larger boats moving over to the prawn fishing or going out of business. This has placed great pressure on prawn stocks and has caused market prices to lower as a result. Fish ports like Eyemouth have been hit hard by the collapse of the fishing, with many boats leaving the area or being decommissioned.
The removal of the inshore fish stocks has allowed larger amounts of shellfish fry to avoid being consumed by their main predators. This has meant that some shellfish stocks have improved around the area as the larger numbers of young survive through the initial stages in their development.
The shellfish species caught around the Dunbar area:
Lobsters are caught all year, main season mid July to early September. Lobsters have to be sold alive to guarantee freshness. Fished for with creels (pots), this is the main income for creel fishermen in the area. The vast majority of lobsters caught are exported to France and Spain with very little remaining in Britain. Most of the year lobsters are dry packed and sent to customers via refrigerated lorry. During the main season when the lobsters have just cast their shells and are of poorer quality, they are sent in lorries with tanks containing chilled seawater. These are called viver lorries and provide the most reliable method of transportation.
The lobster fishing has remained fairly reliable over the years with the occasional poor year followed by a good year. The minimum size of lobsters has increased twice since I have been working and there has been talk of tagging and releasing females carrying eggs but this has not been implemented as yet. There has been a reduction in boats working creels all year although many smaller part time boats work during the main lobster season. Licences have been introduced to control their numbers and this coupled with the increased minimum sizes, should help conserve stocks. The introduction of more affordable air transportation has opened up new markets recently including Italy, Russia and Scandinavia. Scandinavian countries have closed seasons to protect their own stocks and turn to Britain at those times to supply their markets.
Prawn (Norwegian Lobster, Langoustine) are caught all year, main season late June to early September. From Dunbar prawns are caught using nets towed behind the boat although in other areas of Scotland creels are used. Prawns are caught all year with the exception of May when a sea grass sinks to the bottom making nets impossible to use. In the past Dunbar boats would travel to the west coast or go further north to continue fishing although this does not happen as much now.
Catches of prawns have probably increased thanks to the reduction in their predators although there has been a marked reduction in the size of the prawns caught. In a catch of ten boxes perhaps three boxes would have been large while now less than one box is that size. This is the result of the large fish boats moving over to prawn fishing. Larger nets and the need to take more from the sea has removed the large prawns leaving only small prawns that will be caught before they can grow. Improvements in fishing technology have also meant nets can work over areas of the sea that would have been impossible previously.
The late 1990s saw very harsh quotas being introduced, limiting prawn catches. This has reduced the number of boats in Dunbar from nine down to four at the current time.
Prawns are graded, dipped in a preserving chemical, or sent fresh (but dead) to France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal from the processing plants in Eyemouth. The larger prawns still maintain good prices in luxury restaurants due to reduced availability. Small prawns are sold to British tourists abroad or are turned into scampi. A new market has opened up for large creel caught prawns, which are transported via viver lorries or airplane into the major cities on the continent. Many prawn fishermen may move into the creel industry increasing the pressure there.
Edible Crabs (Brown) are caught all year, main season April to early July and late October. This species has decreased the most out of all the shellfish caught in this area. Once huge numbers of crabs where caught using creels just before the lobster season started. I have only witnessed three large crab seasons, in 1986, 1999 and 2000. The crabs seem to be on the seabed in good numbers but do not get caught in the same numbers as before. Is this due to a change in their eating habits or an environmental factor? In the early 1980s, our lorry took crabs to Boston in England to be processed five or six times a week, then one year it dropped to one trip a week. That processing company had to get its supplies elsewhere and in fact, eventually had to shut due to poor supply. A company in Eyemouth now processes the crabs caught in the area. Some are exported while some do remain in this country and turn up in sushi products sold by Marks & Spencer. There is also a limited market for live crab on the continent; these have their claw muscle cut to prevent them damaging each other in transit. The price for crab has increased very little even though supplies are harder to come by.
Velvet Crabs are caught all year, main season March to July and September to November.
This species was never caught here six years ago but has increased in number every year since. Originally limited to the west coast it has spread and is now an important catch in this area. Caught in creels whenever the boats are fishing close to the shoreline, they are numerous for most of the year. When the lobster season is at its peak velvets are not landed, this is the time of year they are casting their shells and are not fit for consumption. All females carrying eggs have to be returned to the sea. They are sent via viver lorry to Spain and are sold in Tapas bars and local markets for use in paella. They are difficult to keep alive in captivity and suffer from a high mortality rate. They have to be packed into special boxes that allow seawater to flow through them. This seawater must be fresh and cold to ensure the better chance for their survival. Before placing into the lorries’ tanks these boxes have to be emptied and the dead removed before repacking the surviving crabs into wooden boxes. The lorries take two days to reach the markets and unpack the boxes.
These are the shellfish types that are fished for commercially in this area. Eventually other species may become profitable with changes in tastes or improvements in storage facilities. Squat lobster, sea urchins, dog whelks and others could help reduce the pressures placed on the established fisheries.
A number of industries associated with the fishing industry have come and gone; these included barreling and cooperage, and the Port Seton boat building firm of Weatherhead & Blackie (established 1958) worked from the old ‘tattie store’ at the harbour from 1966-76.
Belhaven Trout Company (firstly called Dunbar Fish Farm); owner David Pate began the business at West Barns in 1975, building the tanks and fish farm at Beltonford in 1977. The hatchery at West Barns followed in 1978. Between 1980 and 1984, the firm was in partnership with the Abbey St. Bathan’s Trout Farm, and the two still have close connections. There are four full-time, and one part-time, employees.
For many years Dunbar Town Council managed the harbours, which was responsible for major repairs to Victoria Harbour (built 1841-44) during the 1960s. The rubble from this work was used to close Broadhaven, a wave calming measure, a more permanent solution to booms used during the first half of the century and which were only removed during the 1970s. At regionalisation (1975) elements of the management were split between district and region: the long-running saga regarding the restoration of the gently decaying Fishermen’s Barometer and Monument (1856) being a case in point. This issue was resolved after 1997 and the monument restored in 1998, when the buck could no longer be passed between agencies. The new unitary authority was quick to devolve harbour management to a public trust, comprising users and other interested parties, as a means of accessing greater funds, but this may be perhaps a poisoned chalice.
At the beginning of the period, the farmlands of Friar’s Croft, Rigg and Floors, Knockenhair and Summerfield remained in agricultural use; in 1945 Sholto Millar ran Ashfield market garden, and by 1950, John McKenzie & Son were market gardening at Lochend nurseries. By the end of the period, the expansion of the town had encroached on farmland. In general, arable farmland is much more intensively used, but is of lesser extent than it once was and the quantity of livestock has greatly declined. Taylor of Eweford grows a great acreage of potatoes.
West Barns Mains farmhouse (on the south side of the A1) is now called Myreside and this was part of Lochend estate. By 1950 West Barns Mains was owned by Alex Tweedie, farmer at Eweford.
South Belton was leased by Ian Rennie’s grandfather in 1929. It was bought by Douglas Rennie in 1955; at that time James and Douglas were farming West Barns, but Douglas sold it to James to enable him to buy South Belton. West Barns Farm was bought by Mrs Douglas Rennie in 1965 when James died. Latterly West Barns farmhouse was the home of Mr and Mrs Douglas Rennie. Part of the West Barns Farm steading is used for storage and by the Belhaven Trout Company. (They moved out to a new building at Beltonford by 2003; the steading is to be developed).
Hedderwickhill farm is mostly arable, rented in 1945 by the Cunningham family from the Tyninghame estate. The farm became empty in 1950s. It was taken over by Alan Dewar in November 1956 who farmed it until November 1984. He had five workers. The next farmer was A. P. Dale who now works the farm with two.
Until the takeover in the 1960s by Blue Circle, the farm of East Barns was in the hands of Jimmy Hope and Oxwellmains was run by his brother Robert (Bobby) Hope, although they were latterly operated as one. East Barns alone before the war had 16 pair of horses and over 100 hands at peak time, including a band of 40 women employed full-time. The ‘Ladies’ worked 6am-5pm with breakfast at 8, ‘meenits’ at 10 and dinner at noon; they were the lineal descendants of the bondagers of previous generations. Their work was bondager work – thinning (singling) and shawing (topping) turnips (left in as sheep and cattle food). They also kept the cattle court clean (the farms employed stockmen), loaded carts and did other general work. As there were two threshing mills (East Barns and Barneyhill each had one) a ‘Lady’ would assist at each. The mills were worked by men, but the Lady’s task was to work with rope and hook gathering straw to remove to the ‘stray barn’.
One year all the plough teams were replaced by a pair of engines pulling the plough back and forth across the fields, foreshadowing the great reduction in labour force required on the land. However, the Hopes were among the last to maintain their traditional teams of Clydesdale plough horses.
East Barns regularly grew 260 acres of potatoes, Arran Chief for the Scottish market and a larger variety for the English. Five horse teams were used to unearth the crop and a temporary work force of around 60 was employed, lifting around 35 tons daily. Work continued from September to March. Potatoes were stored in clamps and riddled and graded when dispatched, teams of 30 ‘Ladies’ (15 a side) doing the work. The grading sorted marketable and seed potatoes from the small, which went for cattle food. Sugar beet was also grown, transported to Cupar by rail. The market garden crops produced were cabbage, sprouts, leeks, peas, parsley, carrots and beetroot dispatched by rail from Oxwellmains ‘lye’ (siding). Traditionally a whisky bottle was kept handy in winter months to ‘revive’ anyone suffering from cold – a nip and back to work.
At the end of the war Jimmy Hope still employed a large workforce (and his beloved Clydesdales). There were several bothies maintained for seasonal and single workers. German POWs were billeted in the bothies although the traditional squads of Irish ‘tattie howkers’ were soon back. There were usually around a dozen, 4-5 to a bothy. Other ‘tattie squads’ came in from Dunbar, some of them wearing ‘uglies’ into the 1960s. Tattie squads were then a familiar sight to Dunbar schoolchildren as they gathered at Parsonspool and the Boroughdales waiting for their lift.
Vi Marshall, who was born at East Barns at the end of the war, the youngest of ten, remembers playing on the farm, hitching rides in hay wagons (bogies) and playing in the fields. Her usual family job was to fetch milk from the farm dairy (and earn a bit of cash by fetching for the neighbours). She also earned money tattie picking on a sanctioned (away from school) two week period in October. Usually, the whole family earned extra cash by hoeing (using push hoes or ‘paidles’) and singling on piecework; her parents took on so many lengths, or drills and yardage and set the whole family to work. Vi recalls she ‘loved to go at the singling’.
In October 1996, the town was gripped by the saga of ‘Pumbaa‘ an escaped wild boar from Grant Bell of Hedderwickhill. Mr Bell’s herd of 100 wild pigs supplied the restaurant trade. The beast was eventually shot in November, having got as far as Whittingehame.
With the exception of Beesknowe and Howmuir (owned by Spence at Biel), most of the farms were by 2000, owner-occupied; some had changed hands a number of times, the Pinkertons being a good example.
George MacGregor, who died in 1964, farmed Wester Meikle Pinkerton. His three children – Tom, Ina and Ella bought Wester Meikle Pinkerton, Easter Meikle Pinkerton and the Brunt from A.P.C.M. Ltd. The family continued to live at Wester Meikle Pinkerton. Easter Meikle Pinkerton was tenanted by Walter R. and John F. Falgate and the Brunt by Jackie Smeal. Tom MacGregor sold Wester Meikle Pinkerton to John Lawrie (Farms) Ltd.
In 1970, Tom, Ina and Ella McGregor bought Broxmouth – as G. & T. MacGregor Ltd. and Ina and Ella lived there until 1974/5, then moving to Easter Meikle Pinkerton, where Ella set up the Pinkerton Stud in 1976.
Ella has a lifelong love of and interest in horses; she started to train point-to-pointers at Wester Meikle Pinkerton, and over the years she owned a number of successful racehorses. Locally, the stud is a low-key establishment and deliberately so but Ella’s reputation as a breeder is known internationally. No stallions stand at Pinkerton. Ella’s well-bred mares travel south to well-bred stallions. Her mares and their foals are sought after at sales at Newmarket and Doncaster. A number of important horses have been bred at Pinkerton.
Further details can be found in the Innerwick pages: Farm records – wages at Easter Meikle Pinkerton 1944 & 1947
Rattle Along sired by 2000 guineas winner Tap On Wood is dam of Night Manoeuvres; Shining Manoeuvres is a winner of seventeen races; and Baby Motto winner of four races as a two-year-old. Bustellina was a real star of the stud. One of Ella’s triumphs was to sell a yearling Salford to Sheikh Mohammed, an owner and breeder of international renown. Salford is still winning races for a subsequent owner. Ella followed this triumph with many other winners.
Bustellina’s colts Best One and Dawn Mission have been good winners. White Domino, dam of Pinkerton Pal and Bridge Pal, which has recently been second on two occasions, will follow her into brood duties. She was also dam of Macrobin, which won first time out at Newmarket and was second in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood and won six more races and also of Kayem, which Mark Todd took to the 1996 Olympics at Atlanta. He was 4th in the European Open with Kayem. Ella’s Pal was sold in Los Angeles and has won two races.
Ella follows her horses’ progress with great interest; her secret is that she is genuinely interested in her work and lives for her horses.
The land immediately adjacent to the coast both east and west of the burgh has been managed for golf. To the east, Dunbar Golf Club has taken more land into the course and the paddocks (once used by the town’s butchers to keep stock) have been tamed and laid out as practice grounds. Rubble has been deposited at places on the coast to protect fairways and greens from erosion. Designed by Tom Morris c1850, Dunbar East Links offers play over 6404 yards of coastal terrain, and can be described as a classic links course.
To the western end of town is the municipal Winterfield course, which is perched on land that was previously part of Winterfield farm. The views are glorious, the wind off the Forth often vicious. The course was established before the war and the lands were sold to Dunbar Town Council in 1947 (ticket evidence suggests that they had already had a hand in managing the course for the public prior to the war). This made good sense as the property directly adjoined the council’s major sports facility, Winterfield Park.
In 1970, Mrs Beveridge sold the nearby house of St Margaret’s to the town council (for £22,907 and a further £30,000 was spent upgrading it), although its use was to be an early problem for the new district council and it was a while before it was opened as a clubhouse and headquarters for the golfers. St Margaret’s was built by her sons for Margaret Stobie Drysdale or Keith (1851-1911) between 1907-9 on a plot of 2.5 acres feued by St Clair Cunningham and his wife Elizabeth Usher in 1907. Professor Arthur Berridale Keith (1879-1944) was the most distinguished member of the family and the most involved with St Margaret’s MSK (as she was known to her family). By her will of 1897, St Margaret’s passed to her eldest son Sir William J. Keith (1873-1937) whose widow lived there until 1939 and whose heirs owned it until 1946. It was feued in that year to Mrs Tait (herself a Rennie) and in 1964 to Mrs Beveridge.