Dunbar | Local Government

The Burgh | The District and Regional Councils | East Lothian Council | Community Council

Between 1945 and 2000 was a time that saw much change. The burgh celebrated its 600th anniversary in 1969-70, but five years later was abolished in the first of two major re-thinks of local government in Scotland. The town council, which had in one form or another existed since the burgh’s inception, was abolished and a single district councillor replaced the twelve-member council. At the same time the county council was abolished, being replaced by a new ‘district council‘; some of its functions were absorbed by Lothian Region Council. The elected member representing Dunbar on that body had a large constituency that encompassed much more than the old burgh of Dunbar. In the 1990s the system was revolutionised once more. A single unitary East Lothian Council was instituted; Dunbar’s representation was a single member, until 1999 when the landward area was included and the whole Dunbar area was divided into two wards – East and West. After local government reforms, community councils were elected to provide an outlet for local concerns and feedback. This body continued to use the old council chambers in Dunbar Town House. One of the most marked changes in local government over this period was a remarkable growth in the number of employees. At the outset of the period scarcely 100-150 people (professionals, teachers, tradesmen and others) in Dunbar could count themselves in this category. At the end, East Lothian Council employed around 4,500 across the county!

The Burgh or Town Council

The Provosts
1937-47 Phipps O. Turnbull
1947 John R. Hannan
1947-57 Alexander J. Manderson
1957-63 W.G.R. Findlay
1963-66 H.T. More
1966-69 Mrs Violet B. Kirkwood
1969-75 Reginald H. James

At the time of the Third Statistical Account the impression was that the community was fairly integrated but with distinct groups and still a fair amount of poverty. The council of twelve elected members including a provost, three bailies, dean of guild, treasurer and six ordinary members administered the burgh. Four councillors were elected in October-November of each year, providing a rolling turnover but always an existing pool of experience. The councillors themselves then elected (or selected) the occupiers of the senior posts. There were three paid officials, (town clerk, burgh chamberlain and burgh surveyor) and in addition, a gas manager and an increasing number of tradesmen and workmen (joiners, refuse collectors, and seasonal positions for leisure facilities, cloakrooms, and so on) and office staff. Most major jobs were contracted out to local businesses, which was part of the duties of the chamberlain and surveyor. The councillors themselves came from the local community, where many had their own businesses. Interestingly, women, who had first appeared on the council in the previous half-century, were an increasing presence and one, Mrs Violet Kirkwood, rose to chair the council as provost and others served as bailie.

The councillors had various responsibilities. They had some responsibility for law and order and minor offences, for example, enforcing local by-laws, breach of the peace and public nuisance (eg, urination in public places). Offences were tried by the bailies in their capacity as magistrates, but the days that they had the power of life and death in the burgh court were (fortunately) long past. The councillors were responsible for the general administration of the burgh although some functions had been transferred progressively to East Lothian County Council. To undertake this business the council had several long-established committees that met to consider delegated matters and make recommendations to the main council for approval. At 1975 these committees were:

  • The Planning and General Purpose Committee, which considered issues like civic week, local holidays, and matters relating.
  • The Housing, Property and Health Committee, which was concerned with housing matters and Common Good Property: council owned premises and land the revenue of which was applied ‘to the common good’.
  • The Streets and Harbour Committee was concerned with the state of the streets, infrastructure and closures and the state of the harbour and landing dues and the like. It regulated and maintained the ports, earning revenue from landings and berth charges.
  • The Magistrates Committee was made up of the provost and bailies and considered issues like granting permission for fairs, the burgh courts and other legal matters.
  • The Parks and Swimming Pond Committee, which considered problems relevant to recreation.
  • The Entertainments and Publicity Committee, which concerned itself mainly with the summer entertainment programme (thus securing complementary seats at Miss Dunbar competitions for themselves!).
  • The Finance Committee, which seemed to be the full council, dealt with all the financial matters. The council presented accounts annually, setting rates and expenditure. Both the accounts and the Valuation Rolls were published and sets exist in the National Archives.

The functions of public health, roads, police and education had been transferred to the County Council in 1929. Three senior town councillors represented the burgh on the county council; the council was also represented in the Annual Convention of Royal Burghs.

The population of 5440 in 1951 was largely temperate with 19 licensed premises (which stands in contrast to earlier statistical accounts). The town was trying to rebuild its holiday trade and was not happy with the bus parties arriving for the day on Sundays, which seemed not to be temperate and were probably a result of the ‘bone fide law’. (Only ‘legitimate travellers’ were allowed to avail themselves of refreshment at licensed premises on Sundays; this rather ridiculous law was a form of prohibition and was bedevilled by enforcement problems). In 1946 Cllr. Rev. A.D. Munro commented on the problem of their effect on a holiday town. Cllr. Mrs Kirkwood reported that there were over 20 buses parked about the town (on a Sunday). The older pattern of wealthy city people with second homes had given way to boarding houses and large number of day trippers which made the town exceptionally busy for two summer months. Although this boosted the economy the benefits were compressed into a shorter period in comparison to before the war, which affected local employment and businesses.

The council managed its tourist facilities to the best of its ability, being as it was always answerable to its rate paying electorate who were sharp to pick up on ‘wasted’ spending. In the 1950s, however, the putting greens, pond, selling stances, concessions and other facilities brought positive revenues to the council’s balances. The outdoor pool had been a great attraction when it was first built and its popularity continued in the post-war world, although it was always a problem to find the capital required to maintain it.

The councillors enjoyed their opportunities to represent the public face of the burgh. A good example occurred when the burgh was honoured by a visit by HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh on 7 July 1956. Her Majesty came on the Royal Train to Dunbar and returned to Holyrood by car through the county. The council paraded in robes, the appropriate burgh officers carrying halberds, to meet the Queen.

The council was deeply concerned about unemployment, which had been a problem in the inter-war years and was looming again as the war ended. One of the solutions was the grant-supported council house-building programme that had begun before the war and consequently various house-building programmes were undertaken.

Relations between the town council and county council were sometimes strained. For example, there was tension in 1967 over the development of Castle Park for tourism, a long running dispute that erupted again in 1971 when the issue was again Castle Park and the question of investment in Dunbar. Dunbar’s tourism problem exercised the ingenuity of the council – their solution was adventurous, creating a new post in 1963 and appointing one of the first tourism officers in Scotland. For a period the town really buzzed in the summer.

A number of decisions in these closing days of the council were intended to safeguard various matters of purely local interest and also attempted to commit the successor councils to various courses of action.

In the last few weeks John Bradbury was appointed earlier than usual as pond master so that his position would be secured for the season after the demise of the council. He had been offered £35 per week [52 hrs] but asked that consideration be given to paying 12 hours at a higher rate and that some time off be agreed. The council settled on £40 with time off. (John had followed his father in this post; his father Eric had been paid £9 per week in the summer seasons around 1960.) In view of the entertainments (publicity) officer’s transfer to the district council’s staff, Mrs Foster’s salary was increased because of her increased responsibility. Mrs Foster staffed the town’s tourism office in the ground floor of the town house; this initiative had in the inter-war years formed part of the town clerk’s department but as managing the town’s publicity and entertainment needs had become more professional it had become part of the publicity officer’s department. Mrs Foster was assisted every summer by seasonal employees, at least one of whom followed a career as a local travel agent.

At the final business meeting the council committees made their final recommendations. The Planning and General Purpose Committee considered issues like civic week, local holidays, and the disposal of council records and other similar matters. It noted the intention to set up an interim community council but took no action. The Housing, Property and Health Committee debated the acquisition of a site in Duke Street and a property in Church Street. Parks and Ponds examined a site for development at Belhaven, recreational charges for the forthcoming season and appointment of a pond master with a 51-hour week. It also noted that the meteorological officer (the town submitted daily reports) had asked that his salary of £6.75 p w fixed in 1971 be increased to £9 p w. Entertainment provided a grant of £15 each for the Gala Queen and her two attendants for dresses and the Harbour Committee reported final landings, which, in February 1975, comprised 273 boxes of white fish, 1416 boxes of prawns and 278 boxes of crabs.

The final routine meeting of Dunbar Burgh Council was held on Wed. 7th May 1975. Present: Provost R.H. James; Bailies Mrs F.E. Smeed, John Gray, M. Pottinger; Treasurer James M. Main; Dean of Guild R.A. Allan; Councillors D.P.J. Laird, D.A. Gillies, A. Reid, R. Miller. Apologies – Cllrs C.A. Manderson and A.K.B. Clarkson.

The usual routine business was gone through but allocations from the Common Good Revenue were made to a number of local organisations. The largest sum of £1500 was given to Dunbar Joint Publicity Committee because it was foreseen it would need to promote Dunbar in the new situation.

The final business meeting also noted some changes in employed personnel. Mrs Peach, cleaner of the offices for 23 years, and Mr D. Ross, employed in the Refuse Service for 12 years, were to retire on 15 May. It was agreed to present Mrs Peach with a cheque for £25 and Mr Ross with one of £15.

The Dunbar Town Council would attend a service in Dunbar Parish Church on 11 May 1975.

The history of the council was summarised in the final document. The last meeting of the Provost, Magistrates and Councillors of the Burgh of Dunbar was held on Thursday 15 May 1975 at 8.30 p.m. The minute, which is of considerable historic significance, is attached.

There was, however, an apparent lack of desire to be involved in the new situation by the established councillors although Provost James did stand as a candidate for the district council. He was unsuccessful (as an Independent) but Dr Russell Welsh was elected standing as a Conservative.

For much of the history of the town council there was a tacit agreement that national politics stopped at the door of the council chamber, although a careful reading of the local press and other positions held by some of the individual concillors revealed that many were prominent in party politics. Be that as it may, the councillors were described as ‘independent’. Exceptions were occasional appearances by ‘single issue’ candidates such as in the 1960s when Jack Milne and Bob Allen were ratepayers’ candidates. By the 1960s some were certainly conservatives and others, such as Alec Reid, were elected as Labour. A number of other candidates had stood as Labour at the last election for the council, sign of times to come as district and region were dominated by party politics.

As noted, on the surface the council was free from party politics. The Conservative Party locally in fact had a policy of staying out of local government. However, by the 1970s when Labour Party candidates began to stand in numbers the independents asked in 1974 for the support of the Conservative Party. This was given. In the following year in the elections for the new councils none of the existing independent councillors was prepared to stand as a conservative, despite it being generally assumed that most independents were in fact conservative or conservative sympathisers.

The level of wages is also shown in a statement c1960 – as a separate document.

The District and Regional Councils

The new system in 1974 set up Regional and District Councils to undertake all local government responsibilities formerly the role of county and burgh councils. The new plan established Traprain Regional Division, which included the former burghs of Dunbar, North Berwick and East Linton and the surrounding landward areas. The division was divided into four district wards each to have one member: one for the former burgh of Dunbar, one for North Berwick, another for East Linton together with Whittingehame, Stenton, Spott, Innerwick, Oldhamstocks, West Barns and the country area (thus severing Dunbar’s ancient connection with West Barns and stimulating an interesting debate on community council boundaries noted elsewhere) and the final ward comprising Dirleton and Gullane with the North Berwick landward area including Tyninghame. The first Lothian Regional Councillor in 1974 was Victor Cowley, Conservative, followed by Norman Hall, Conservative 1978-82, Major John Stephenson, Conservative, 1986 – 1990 and then Dugald McIntyre, Conservative 1994-96, at which time the region was abolished.

The first district councillor for Dunbar was Dr Russell Welsh, Conservative, who defeated former Provost Reginald James, who stood as an independent, and former town councillor A Reid, who stood for Labour. At the elections in 1977 politically the position was unchanged but Dunbar was represented by Thomas S. Main and East Linton including West Barns by John Crozier. Mr Main was re-elected in 1980 and Harold Eggo secured East Linton. In 1984 Dunbar was represented by John Stephenson and East Linton by Peter Crichton. Dunbar’s first Labour councillor was elected in 1988 when Norman Hampshire won and East Linton went to P. Crichton. In 1992 Stephen Bunyan took Dunbar and Crichton retained East Linton. The regional and district councils came to an end on 30 March 1996, with very little regret.

The Unitary Authority – East Lothian Council

The election for the new unitary authority in 1995 was fought on new boundaries. The councillor for Dunbar was Norman Hampshire of Labour and for Tyninghame ward, which now included West Barns, Jean McEwan was the Labour victor. There were further boundary changes for the election of 1999. The burghs were split and wards were created with part of the former burghs and landward areas in each. Dunbar East was represented by Kevin Jarvie and Dunbar West by Norman Hampshire, both of Labour.

In the autumn of 1996 the council introduced ‘Focus’ its quarterly news publication distributed free to every household.

Until reorganisation of local government, West Barns had a county councillor who attended meetings in Haddington, with no representative in the burgh election. Then (1975) the burghs were dissolved, and community councils were set up with county councillors. The village then was represented with seven community councillors all elected members. It was then West Barns became a truly independent village.

Dunbar Community Council

The Interim Community Council | The Community Council | Campaigns and issues

1975-76 (ICC) R. Weatherhead
1976-79 (CC) D. Bertram
1982-92 S. Bunyan (district councillor, 1992 and demitted)
1992-96 D. Cairney
1996-date S. Bunyan

(ICC – interim Community Council)

Community Councils were set up under the Local Government Act 1973 by district councils to encourage grass roots democracy and to provide a link between the people and their local councils (which many had in fact had before they were taken away from them in the same legislation). Under the legislation district councils were required to provide a scheme for setting up and making provision for community councils. Areas were consulted and made requests for councils, although many felt that they were a very poor second-best to abolished bodies. East Lothian’s scheme was approved on 26 April 1976. It provided for 19 Community Councils, wherein number 11 was West Barns and district, number 12 Dunbar, and number 13 was East Lammermuir (comprising Oldhamstocks, Spott and Stenton). Initially, Dunbar had six wards, although as time progressed an amended scheme of 1985 reduced this to four and again in 1991 a single ward was left.

The first move was to provide an interim council to bridge the transition.

The Interim Community Council

The Interim Community Council (ICC) was formed after a public meeting called by the District Council and chaired by Provost James. The first meeting was held in the Barracks on 19 Mar 1975. It was attended by Dr R. Welsh, the district councillor as an observer, and eleven individuals who were prepared to serve; there was an apology from Mr R. Watt who had been bereaved. These persons formed the council. Interestingly, the membership included no member of the outgoing burgh council. Mr Rennie Weatherhead, a local teacher, was appointed chairman and Miss Molly Keith became secretary.

The public meeting had been in favour of a community council. At that meeting wards had been discussed but not resolved as there were different views: one viewpoint held that a single unit approach would be better and that there might be problems of representation. It was noted that West Barns wanted to stand alone and desired to encompass Belhaven, although it appeared that Belhaven wanted to be included in Dunbar. There was also some doubt about the Broxmouth and Barns Ness area. The interim council wanted six wards but the district council went firm on four and the dispute was referred upwards. In the event, the Secretary of State approved the final figure at six. This settlement included a residential clause, which the ICC foresaw as creating a problem. As noted above, the single warders were eventually proven correct.

The final meeting of the ICC was held on 19 June 1976. During its brief and unofficial existence it had identified a wide range of issues and had pushed for the creation of a Day Centre for the elderly in the former East Lothian District Council office.

The Community Council

The inaugural meeting was called on 20 July 1976. The ward system with residential candidates resulted in five vacancies, which led to immediate discussion about the need to modify the system. Mr D. Bertram was elected chairman and at a subsequent meeting S. Bunyan, vice chairman.

Almost at once the Community Council (CC) was involved in a number of important issues. The state of Dunbar Swimming Pool gave cause for concern: the approach of the District Council had often encouraged the outgoing authorities to put off difficult decisions. (Dunbar Swimming Pool was a classic case in point and became a local cause celebre and stick with which to beat the district council over its perceived inadequacies and partiality.) The debate now opened between restoration and the building of a new heated pool. The view of the Director of Leisure and Recreation, the new council official responsible for district wide provision, was that such a facility could not be provided for ten years. There was to be much discussion about location with tension over the competing needs of tourism and education. This affected possible funding as education was a regional function and so there was a clash. It rumbled on until in 1982 Lothian Regional Council dropped their proposal for an educational pool but by then the potential district funding was transferred to Prestonpans. There was also a desire to keep the old pool and certainly a desire to keep it in business as long as possible when there was no alternative. The local Traders’ Association managed to keep it open for a couple of years with a grant from the district council and volunteer attendants, but without major capital funds there was no realistic prospect of maintaining the existing structure. It reached such a pass that in 1980 nine volunteer helpers who painted it were given a voucher of £1 each! During this period various attempts were made to raise money but with little success. The district council offered Castle Park for lease or sale early in 1984 with the expectation that the old pool would revert to nature; it was in fact demolished in October of that year.

The debate now switched to securing adequate alternative provision. The town may have been losing residential tourism but there was still a hope that caravanners and day-trippers could be maintained at a significant level. Without a decent pond provision this was an increasingly unlikely prospect. Clifford Barnett made proposals for a development (at Castle Park) in 1987 and New Capital and Scottish Properties put an alternative proposal forward in 1989 for a site at the Bleachingfield. The latter was given no encouragement.

Other tourism and leisure related matters engaged the community council’s attention throughout this period. There was discussion about the status of St. Margaret’s on Winterfield Golf Course, where the clubhouse and starter’s provision was increasingly inadequate, the position of the Victoria Ballroom, which was upgraded in 1979/80, the setting up of the John Muir Country Park in 1977, and a tree planting scheme which saw many of the town’s flower borders given over to Rosa rugosa and rowans popping up in many gardens.

Dunbar Community Council’s secretary, Miss Keith, was nominated for the Lothian Award in 1978, again in 1979 and received the award in 1980. It was mainly for her perseverance in getting the Day Centre set up but also as a tribute to her determination in tackling other issues in the town. The Lothian Award was an initiative of Lothian Regional Council to promote and recognise contributions to citizenship and the well being of the area. Molly was also a staunch supporter of the twinning link with the Californian community of Martinez, which was considered in 1978. In April 1981 Martinez declared Dunbar a ‘Sister City’ and Dunbar reciprocated, Molly taking an illuminated address to Martinez later in the year. Dunbar Community Council sent a stone from Dunbar to the Clan Dunbar Cairn in North Carolina, another international link that the CC was well placed to foster.

The community council was able to keep an eye on many local matters. A fountain at Bayswell (formerly the Jubilee Fountain that had graced a triangle of grass outside the Hillside Hotel) had been removed to Haddington but was returned after protest in autumn 1979. Its significance was not realised and some community councillors still believe it should be re-sited to commemorate the provision of a water supply in Dunbar. No doubt that scheme will come higher on the agenda with the increasing emphasis on historic tourism and similar matters in the town. The CC kept an eye on proposals to upgrade the Corn Exchange and the disposal of the former Cottage Hospital (York Lodge) was also observed. The site was sold in March 1982 to the Civil Service Benevolent Association and in May 1985 a foundation stone was laid. The Queen opened the new facility in August 1986. The chairman, Mr S.A. Bunyan, represented the CC on both occasions.

The council was also concerned with its own structure. In December 1978 it submitted a letter proposing three wards rather than six. In 1985 they proposed that Dunbar should only have one ward. This was accepted and is the present position.

The Walker Homes development (house building on former agricultural land to the south-east of the town) was begun in 1979 and demonstrated another problem between region and district over status of Spott Road, which was proposed as the main entry to the town: this came as a surprise to the developer.

In May 1980 the possibility of closing the High Street toilet and waiting room loomed. This was to prove another contentious issue that, coming on top of the pool saga, reduced confidence in the District Council still further. However, it was done and the building became the Office of Dunbar Initiative, one in a succession of development schemes that seem to have been a theme for co-ordinating public and private investment throughout the 20th century. The first meeting of the Dunbar Initiative was held on 6 November 1986; the scheme provided immense investment and regeneration in the town. The building now houses the Community School Office and the Tourist Office, although the latter is no longer a district or East Lothian Council responsibility.

Instead of providing proper toilets, or upgrading at least one of the surviving facilities extremely unpopular Automatic Toilets [A.P.C.s] were provided in Victoria Street. Local businesses could indicate in their figures the effect on the town’s tourist trade from the month the toilets on the High Street were shut. Eventually, a new convenience was provided on the site of the Barracks guardroom though that site had previously been said to be unsuitable and the guardroom, which had survived the initial demolition of the Barracks, came down. The new proposal was undertaken in 1998 but was held up because of archaeological discoveries, so it took almost twenty years to replace an essential amenity. In amelioration of the above criticism, the district and East Lothian Councils’ strategy in securing high-class provision in this area is beginning to win the county national plaudits.

As well as facing difficult fights with higher councils, the CC sometimes faced cultural clashes. In 1980 there was a proposal by the CC to build a ‘Belvedere’ or sheltered viewpoint on the bund at the end of the Barrack Square in Castle Park. This was done but it attracted vandals and was a cause of concern so it was eventually removed. In an attempt to salvage something in 1986 it was proposed that it should be converted into an aviary in Lauderdale Park but this was not done.

After a courtesy discussion with Major Alastair Bowe it had been decided that the Bowe Cup, which had been given to the Community Council by the Burgh Council, should be awarded to some young person who had made some exceptional achievement. In 1982 it was awarded to Steven Spence who had raised money to provide a wheelchair. In the following year the CC attached a silver band to the base of the Bowe Cup and presented trophies to the new Pipe Band Contest and to the revived Flower Show.

The CC faced great challenges during the 1980s, not least in the furore that surrounded the building of Torness Nuclear Power Station. On 15 October 1985 the first Liaison Meeting was held at Torness, the CC visited the station under construction in 1986 and agreed to return when it was completed the following year. Concern continued over developments at Torness and in March 1992 there was concern over Torness Dry Store, a proposed facility for waste materials generated in the day-to-day operation of the site, but not fuel. This proposal was abandoned in 1995 There was also concern about the rail link for transporting spent fuel to Sellafield.

Campaigns and issues – Dunbar Community Council

The CC has been involved with a wide range of local issues, helping to maintain the public profile of matters of local concern and performing many of the ceremonial roles formerly undertaken by the members of the town council. It has acted on occasion as the focus for fund-raising campaigns and has entered into partnership or otherwise supported many organisations. Its actions have not always met with universal approval but that, surely, is no bad thing.

These are some of the issues of local concern that the CC has been involved with.

1988 The CC was involved in the 150th celebrations of John Muir, the focus of which was the renovated Birthplace Museum. There was, however, some concern that its involvement was insufficient. In part this was probably due to the enthusiasm of the supporters of what might be termed the ‘Muir Project’ coming up against a natural current of scepticism, expressed as ‘what did John Muir ever do for Dunbar?’ one member of the community stated more than once. The growing consensus seems to be that the real question is ‘what can John Muir do for Dunbar?’ and it is probably a feeling that this was the case that is reflected in the unease current at the time.

1988 On 14th December Dunbar Community Council was granted a Coat of Arms based on the ancient arms of the Royal Burgh of Dunbar but with the difference of the new Community Council coronet; the framed extract of the matriculation of arms was installed in the library and later in the Council Chambers.

During the following winter there was a handout of surplus EEC Butter to the elderly and those of modest income and the CC handled distribution.

1990 In August there was a proposal to demolish the Chalets at Belhaven. This settlement had originally begun as part of the growing holidaymaking trend of the inter-war years, in much the same way as what is now Seton Sands Holiday Camp near Port Seton. A number of plots were leased on what was the old stackyard of the redundant Winterfield Mains farm steading. Until the 1960s the homes stationed there included old railway carriages and a variety of wooden chalets of varying size. By the 1970s many of the original chalets had been replaced and a number were occupied all year round. The idea of demolition became an emotive issue and the CC supported the leaseholders. The leases were eventually extended.

About this time a number of other issues exercised the council.

In August 1990, the change of status of the Post Office led to the removal of the counter service from the traditional building as the new Post Office Counters franchise found the rents it was then faced with uneconomic for the situation prevailing on the High Street. Other fears about the level of service that might be provided in future were expressed. This is a situation that the CC continues to have concerns about.

The demolition of the Barracks block in August 1990 rendered the Sea Cadet unit homeless. The CC assisted with interim solutions, including the use of the otherwise disused Abbey Church at the head of the High Street but this is a problem that has not yet been satisfactorily solved.

A group called the Friends of St Andrew’s House was set up in August 1990 with the aim of securing the long-term future of this Church of Scotland facility for the elderly. It had been established in the old ‘New Inn’ on the High Street and had housed a number of elderly Dunbar residents over the years. However, changing economic circumstances, which included ever increasing demands on the church’s finances, and the effects of legislation on the overall suitability of the building had caused increasing pressure. Despite the Friends and their strong local support by the end of the decade the home had gone; the St Andrew’s centre in the former manse has gonme the same way. Towards the end of the period changes in the administration of another facility, the Civil Service Home on the East Links, also caused worries. Concern about provision for the elderly is still a live issue in the new millennium.

1988 Alan Forrest who had climbed Half Dome in John Muir’s old stamping ground Yosemite National Park in California was awarded the Bowe Cup and gave a fascinating talk.

The CC supported Alastair Meldrum who went to the World Scout Jamboree in Korea in 1991.

As far back as 1990 there was discussion about the idea of a Dry Bar – a project not yet achieved.

1994 There was a proposal for caravan and leisure park development at Thurston Manor and other developments on the existing caravan park sites within the burgh, Kirk Park and Winterfield. Housing was proposed for Kirk Park Caravan Site and Winterfield no longer met modern requirements and so a district council decision for the removal of caravans there was passed. Many of the caravanners had been coming to the same plot since the 1960s. In compensation the idea of a caravan park at Seafield between Belhaven and West Barns was revived. This site had been vacant since the municipal coup had been closed in the 1960s. Although much of the land had been graded and the ponds rehabilitated it was in many respects still an unsatisfactory site to many. However, a lease was concluded and work was scheduled to start in 1994. In 1995 there was concern that little progress had been made at Seafield and that the district council held to its decision to close Winterfield. The gap in provision was seen by some as yet another nail in the coffin of the tourist industry and it was expected that many of the long-term visitors would never return. By the new millennium the new facility was up and running, in no little part due to extensive plantations of willow established in the 1980s, which helped to dry the land. Some issues remained to be settled as local walkers who had become used to the free access of Seafield found problems and the status of the perimeter adjacent to the ponds was disputed.

1991 In May Molly Keith retired from the Community Council intending to concentrate on the Day Centre, which was formally opened on 26th June. She died on 12th October 1991. In her will she made generous bequests to projects in Dunbar particularly to swimming and the Day Centre. The Chairman SA Bunyan paid tribute to her at her cremation.

1991 Castle Rock Housing Association launched plans for the development of Lauderdale House in September. Lauderdale House, once one of the highest status buildings on the High Street, had suffered from neglect since passing from the military to local government hands. It had at times been used for housing in the eastern, or NCOs married quarter wing, offices, residential holiday accommodation for groups of children and various ‘unofficial uses’ by those that gained entry through its increasing dilapidated doors and windows.

1991 Major sewage works were undertaken at East Beach. The system involved inserting a major conduit parallel to the shore along the whole length. This was to make an enormous difference to discharges into East Bay but has been blamed by some for another problem, a perceived loss of sand from the beach.

1991 The ‘Siddons Society’, which had functioned in Dunbar since 1828, disbanded on 16th December. This once essential institution remarkably preserved 163 years after its foundation the name of its first secretary and officer, Mungo Siddon, one of the town’s schoolmasters in that period. It was in fact formally named the Dunbar Mutual Assistance and Savings Society. At its demise it was one of the last examples of a yearly friendly society. (In the UK the sector collapsed from c30,000 organisations to around 150 in the period 1950-2000; in East Lothian there are a few Foresters and Oddfellows left, paying their subs to lodges based in Edinburgh.) Members paid a subscription, which at one time was used for interest bearing loans, support during illness and death grants. The residue and profit (if any) was distributed every year and the society then reconstituted. This contrasts with the unity savings and investment friendly societies such as the Ancient Order of Foresters and the Oddfellows.

Subscriptions to these societies lasted from joining to retirement when they then provided pensions in addition to the sickness benefit that was available to any paid up member. Until the Nationalisation of Welfare by the Labour Government post-war, the friendly society sector had been essential for many middle and working class people. Hundreds in Dunbar were members. In the case of the Oddfellows, the Dunbar lodge was Loyal Pride of East Lothian, No. 1057, of the of the National Independent Order of Oddfellows. Its registered office was the Parish Church Halls until the late 1950s, at which time the Secretary (John Harkess of Belhaven had held the office for around 25 years) was travelling regularly from Dunbar to Tranent simply to get his books checked. He recalled (2002) that ‘the membership was getting old’ and the Lodge combined with one at Newtongrange, Midlothian; all subsequent business was transacted there. Unlike many Oddfellows’ lodges the Pride of East Lothian took little interest in regalia and other esoteric matters. The Order survived into the 21st century, headquartered in Manchester.

1992 The new Museums Officer, Sue Jenkinson appointed by East Lothian District Council, saw an opportunity for establishing a small local history museum in the town. The CC supported her efforts, which were assisted by volunteers and the recently formed Dunbar and District History Society.

1993 The centenary of the West Promenade was commemorated in July by a new plaque.

1992 Just as the saga of the swimming pool looked like being resolved preliminary archaeological excavations in Castle Park made a number of important discoveries including evidence of a 7th century church and other Anglian and earlier buildings as well as the French fort and medieval structures that the archaeologists were expecting. The three seasons of excavation have been fully published (Perry D. 2000), such is their importance not only to our knowledge of ancient Dunbar but also to ancient Scotland and Britain. Later excavations were to reveal Christian burials of different periods underneath the old guardhouse and in the Castle Park itself.

1992 The greatly refurbished Day Centre was reopened in May. The ribbon was cut by Mrs Avery of Belhaven who was then 103 years old.

Over the years there were a number of important issues that the council considered. In 1992 alone these included:

  • the setting up of Hospital Trusts;
  • local government reform and the setting up of single tier authorities and whether East Lothian should be divided with part included in Berwickshire or whether East Lothian should be joined to Midlothian. Dunbar CC supported the stand-alone option, which was eventually accepted;
  • proposed changes in the Parliamentary boundary, which led to a public enquiry in November;
  • in September a proposal was put forward to build a John Muir Environmental World centre at Linkfield, West Barns. This proved controversial and was eventually dropped in February 1994;
  • a free bus service to the new Gyle Shopping Centre in Edinburgh was introduced. This naturally upset local traders who appealed to the CC;
  • in December there was floodlighting on Lauderdale House, ‘highlighting’ the restoration and renovation, and flooding on the Bleachingfield where the parking of lorries was a concern to nearby residents;
  • it proved necessary to close the coastal path from the old Swimming Pool to the War Memorial. This was to prove a difficult, expensive and protracted problem (the walkway was formally part of the John Muir Country Park as well as being a well- loved part of Dunbar’s infrastructure;
  • the question of a possible Ferry Terminal at Skateraw was considered and a plan was made. The idea had certain advantages but, like the port of refuge of 150 years before, it was never a front-runner. A further drawback was that EEC funding was restricted to the area west of Gullane Point;
  • the site of the disused lemonade factory gave cause for concern. It was eventually demolished, but not until a few years after the concerns were raised;
  • there was also the first wheelie bin fire.

1994 Suggestions for twinning with Lignieres in France had developed from school exchanges which started in 1990 and the Twinning Protocol was signed in Dunbar Parish Church on 16 April. A fine plaque carved by Bernard Bennaval and gifted on that occasion is in Dunbar Library. The twinning was between Dunbar and district, but in France with Lignieres and the surrounding communes of Mareuil sur Arnon, Ineuil, Ids Saint Roch, Venesmes, La Celle Conde, St Hilaire en Lignieres, Montlouis, St Baudel, Touchay, Chezal Benoit and St Symphorien.

A second protocol was signed in Lignieres in October and a painted copy of Dunbar CC Coat of Arms was presented. In 1995 another was presented to the newly named Dunbar Field in the North Sea. Also in 1994 proposals were put forward to dual the A1 between Dunbar and Haddington. In December it was proposed that the Community Council should give an award to an adult who had made a significant contribution to the life of the town. George Ross, a member of the CC attended D Day celebrations in France and the CC supported Jock Wilson, MM, who also attended (by 2002 Jock was the oldest surviving D Day veteran).

1995 The CC supported a proposal by Mrs June Diggory that Dunbar should celebrate its Victorian heritage with a series of events in August; the events actually took place in September. There were national plans to celebrate V E Day and the CC decided that there should be local celebration of VJ Day. The CC supported renewed efforts to promote John Muir. The proprietors of the John Muir birthplace wished to sell and a new pressure group, Dunbar’s John Muir Association, was formed. The association proposed to purchase and redevelop John Muir’s birthplace with the aid of lottery funds and to this end in June David Anderson’s John Muir Trail was launched to show how much of the town could be related to John Muir’s boyhood. Jim Thomson subsequently became the regular guide for the walk. The CC joined the DJMA as a corporate body. To jump forward a few years, the CC was an integral player in the John Muir Birthplace Trust set up in January 1998 with East Lothian Council, the DJMA and the John Muir Trust. Will Collin was to represent the Community Council. This body finally secured the Birthplace for the public and launched a major redevelopment. The ambitious and controversial programme to update Dunbar High Street got underway.

A community mini-bus organised by the Community Council was provided in November 1996 to help local groups

In recent years the CC has continued to promote Dunbar and involve itself in local initiatives such as the Harbour Trust, which took over responsibility for the harbour from East Lothian Council and the Hallhill Healthy Living Centre, which project was undertaken by Dunbar Community Council. Finally, the CC marked the Millennium by a celebration in the High Street and at the Harbour. John Muir was declared the ‘Man of the Millennium’ for both Dunbar and East Lothian and Agnes Randolph, Countess of Dunbar, was declared ‘Woman of the Millennium’ for the Burgh.

Underlying all the changes in local government has been concern at declining election turnouts throughout the period. The right to vote, on matters directly concerning every resident, is exercised by fewer and fewer.