Dunbar | Miscellany

Twinning | People | Events

A campaigning branch of the charity UNICEF had considerable success in Dunbar in the 1990s, collecting £2,500 in 1995 and £6,000 in 1996. £2,500 was spent on a well in Mozambique. Margaret Laidlaw established the branch in 1988.

In November-December 1992, as a result of a Rotarian initiative, Drysdale Freight (Cockburnspath) raised the money (and provided the transport) to send aid to Bosnia and owner Alec Scougall drove there on three occasions.

Paul and Liam Hickman drove to a Romanian orphanage with a lorry load of charitable goods in October 1996 under the auspices of the St Paul’s Project and an English charity.


Dunbar has a number of twinning arrangements, some of which are part of the John Muir link. In 1980 discussions were held about possible links between Martinez and Dunbar and in March 1981 Martinez declared that Dunbar was to have sister-city status. Discussions were held here and a reciprocal declaration was made. Links were to be made through East Lothian District Council twinning officer. Individuals made visits from both communities. Molly Keith and Elizabeth Taylor visited Martinez and various individuals involved with the promotion of John Muir in California came to Dunbar. Links were established with Haines, Alaska in January 1999, and with Meaford, St Vincent and Sydenham in the watershed of the Bighead River, Ontario on 21 April 2000.

A school exchange scheme was set up and, despite the distance and the costs involved, several valuable exchanges took place, including one by my own son in 1988. I have to hand, a copy of the official declaration making 3 July 1986 ‘Ewen McMillan day’ in the city of Martinez and know how proud he (a senior boy from Dunbar Grammar School, one of several senior pupils who went on official visits) was of it, as Alasdair (my son) was of his, two years later. I am sure the Americans who came here were equally appreciative of the efforts made for them.

Stephen Bunyan

The idea of pupil exchange was mooted in 1984 and a proposal was made for a home exchange between the head boy of the grammar school and an American pupil. The head boy was willing to go and the community council, the district council and the civic week committee agreed to provide funding of £500. There was however no responding visit from the USA. The following year Kathleen Bailey, the head girl, agreed to go and an exchange was set up. Kathleen left on 30 June for three weeks and Julie Karlsrude came back with her for three weeks in Stenton.

Euan Macmillan went in 1986 and Carl Porter came from Martinez. Heather Brennan went to Martinez in 1987 and Alastair Bunyan in 1988. Shawn Peffell returned with him to Scotland. In 1987, some consideration was given to the idea of sending a larger group and in 1988 to exchanging in alternate years, because the young people felt a six-week commitment was rather heavy. In 1989, Kelly La Rosa stayed with the Stewart family in Templelands, and their daughter Victoria, a pupil at St Margaret’s School in Edinburgh, went to Martinez in 1990. She brought back flags for the John Muir House. In 1991, Michael Royle, a pupil at Daniel Stewart’s College, was proposed but did not go. Michael had done a project on Muir and was younger than the pupils who had gone up to then. By this time, Alhambra was not sending pupils and Dunbar was increasingly involved with Lignieres so the scheme went into abeyance. It was revived in 1996 when Samantha Badger, Avril Gilchrist and Stephen Doyle went to Martinez and three pupils returned with them. It did not prove possible to continue this initiative but a school group of six adults and fourteen pupils went in 2004.

Here, Alastair Bunyan gives an account of his trip:

The establishment of a student exchange programme to Martinez, California in the USA three years previously, served well to whet my appetite for foreign travel during the summer of 1988. The exchange program had been set up in conjunction with Alhambra High School in Martinez and Dunbar Grammar School, celebrating our common history with regard to the celebrated naturalist John Muir.

I had been interested in going, after hearing how well the exchange had gone when Euan McMillan had been the previous year, I was delighted to find out (and somewhat amazed) that I had been the only person to put my name forward for consideration.

The journey over was largely an exciting blur, being my first (solo) long haul flight, travelling from Prestwick via Boston and on to San Francisco. The journey served as a perfect introduction to American culture, which I had naively assumed was the same as ours, only with a different accent. I had a six-hour wait in Boston Airport transit lounge en route. I had a small amount of change, which thirst required me to use in the vending machine. I thought trying root beer would kick-start the ‘all-American’ experience. I know now why it isn’t imported here in large quantities. We went on to San Francisco, arriving about 03:00hrs, from where I was collected by my host family, the Peffalls.

The three-week visit started with an extended family and friends trip to a nearby lake with their boat, which introduced me to waterskiing and the searing heat of a Californian summer. I returned at the end of the first day exhausted from jet lag, slightly sunburnt, sort of able to water ski but overall excited about the prospect of the next few weeks.

The whole exchange programme had been conceived in conjunction with both schools and the community council in Dunbar and the Mayor’s office in Martinez, supported by John Davis of the Kiwanis’ Club who help run the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez.It was at a reception hosted by the John Muir Historic Association and the Kiwanis’ Club that I had the honour of meeting the Mayor of Martinez, Mr Michael Menesini who presented me with a certificate proclaiming that the 14th July 1988 was to be ‘Alasdair Bunyan Day’ in Martinez. It was a great honour to be made so welcome by my hosts.

During the course of my trip, time quickly disappeared as I saw many sites around the Bay area of northern California. Locally we visited San Francisco, where highlights included Alcatraz Federal Prison via Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Chinatown and Coit Tower, which sits atop Telegraph Hill, giving excellent panoramic views of the surrounding area. We travelled further to see the Pacific Ocean at Santa Cruz (where ‘The Lost Boys’ was filmed), Berkeley, the John Muir Woods, Yosemite National Park and Disneyland in Anaheim, which topped off a number of visits to theme and water parks.

The Peffall Family made me very welcome in their home and treated me as one of their own. This certainly made the whole experience more fulfilling. Shawn, their son, and his good friend Randy went out of their way to include me in all that was going on for them that summer. I met most of their friends and was included in any activity that was planned. They were very proud of their town and school. I was able to get a real insight into how young Americans lived their lives in comparison to us here in Scotland.

Around the time of the long drive back from Disneyland, I began to have concerns about what I could show Shawn on the return leg in Scotland that could match up to the amazing places he had been able to show me in California. I needn’t have worried. Whilst I was blown away by the magnificent Yosemite National Park and Half Dome Mountain, the massive redwoods of the John Muir woods, the stunning diversity of San Francisco and the warmth of welcome I had received from all of his family and friends, not to mention the theme parks and the Pacific Ocean, Shawn was equally inspired by the Highlands, including Cairngorm and Glencoe, our own Forth Bridges, Edinburgh and the warmth extended to him by everyone he met in Dunbar.

I found California a vast, yet warm and inviting place. Shawn, Randy and I spent hours in the car travelling around the state. I thoroughly enjoyed the great adventure of getting to see the best places, meeting interesting people and being one of three young men finding out about each other’s lives and cultures. I was amazed that there were local shopping malls and drive-in facilities everywhere. The landscape was hot and dry inland and surprisingly cool and temperate in San Francisco by comparison, heating up nicely again at Yosemite and on the Pacific coast at Santa Cruz.

The exchange was a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. I was very grateful to have had the opportunity to go and be a part of the twin town initiative. Spending a relatively short time immersed in another person’s country and culture is a life-enhancing experience which can open your mind to the wider world.

Spending time in the John Muir Woods and the Yosemite National Park in the US whilst on the exchange, and regular visits to the Highlands and our own John Muir Country Park has allowed me to see first hand why John Muir has become such an important figure, both in Martinez and back home in Dunbar, and why his name and legacy are so synonymous with and important for the protection of wild places both here in Scotland and in the USA.

Dunbar and Lignieres

In 1974, a young French couple came to Dunbar to continue their studies of the English language; Andre Monrocher became a post-graduate student at Edinburgh University while Danielle became a French assistant in the secondary schools of Dunbar and Haddington. It was an intense and important period of their lives. It was natural that when Andre became head teacher at Lignieres College and Danielle the head of English there, they looked to Dunbar to arrange pupil exchanges.

The first school exchanges look place in 1992. This was a success and it was suggested that the towns form a twinning link. After enjoyable preliminary reconnaissance visits between steering committees of both towns, it was decided to proceed with twinning. In 1994, twinning protocols were signed on behalf of East Lothian District Council, to twin Dunbar and the surrounding villages, and the civic leaders of Lignieres and 11 surrounding communes (Mareuil sur Arnon, Ineuil, Ids Saint Roch, Venesmes, La Celle Conde, St Hilaire en Lignieres, Montlouis, St Baudel, Touchay, Chezal Benoit and St Symphorien) in splendid ceremonies, on 16 April 1994 in Dunbar Parish Church and on 8 October in the Chateau de Lignieres. At the ceremony in Dunbar, East Lothian District Council was presented with the European Flag of Honour.

Since then school exchanges and visits continued, there have been visits by Dunbar Choral Society – they gave a performance in Bourges cathedral in April 1995. M. Pagenal (the organist at Bourges cathedral) and M. Dutot (trumpeter) gave recitals in St Mary’s, Haddington and at St Paul’s & St George’s in Edinburgh in 1996. The Dunbar Royal British Legion Pipe Band and the Thaiulins (French traditional folk culture) have played an integral part in harmonizing visits and exchanges of their own. Music has played an important part in uniting the two communities.

Social visits, on both a formal and informal basis, have played a great part in developing lasting friendships between the two committees. Dedication, hard work and enthusiasm carried this project through into the new millennium


Freemen of the Burgh (or to give them their proper title, Honorary Burgess) were created within the period. General Sir F.R. Wingate, Bart. of Dunbar and Port Sudan, had been a Freeman since 1902 and the 50th anniversary of that fact was noted. He died on 28 January 1953 and was given a ceremonial funeral with a parade along the High Street, the coffin being carried in state on a gun carriage.

On 10 November 1961 William Chapman was made an Honorary Burgess in recognition of over 50 years of public service including 31 years on the town council. The final Freemen were created just before the end of the town council; at the final meeting of Dunbar Burgh Council, it was agreed that the freedom of the burgh should be conferred on Mr S.W. Brown, the outgoing and last town clerk, at the Civic Reception held on Friday 9 May 1975.

Molly Keith received the Lothian Regional Council Award in 1980 in recognition of her work for the elderly in Dunbar.

Jim Rylance (1951-97) was awarded the Rotarians’ Community Services Award, and (1996) the community council’s award for his dedicated work with the youth of the town. He was the sea cadet commanding officer (1991-97) and a member of the lifeboat crew.

John Imrie CBE (1928-2000) was an ex-Dunbar Grammar School pupil of note, ultimately serving as Keeper of the Records of Scotland for some 16 years.

Derek White (1958- ) the Scottish Rugby Internationalist was first capped in 1982; over the following decade he was capped 41 times. He was a British Lion in the Australian tour in 1989 and a member of the Scottish team which won the Grand Slam in 1990.

Ross Cooper (1972- ) lived in Dunbar from 1981; he began dancing aged ten, making up dance routines on his own. In 1989 he won a scholarship to the London Studio Centre, the second Scot to go there. From there, he went (also on a scholarship) to the Bejart Ballet in Lausanne where he worked with some of the biggest names in the world of dance. He then went to South Africa and danced in the National Ballet. He returned to London and worked in a variety of companies, including Adventures in Motion Pictures, that staged the controversial all male production of Swan Lake. Ross established The Curve Foundation in Edinburgh in 1996. Since then a number of his productions have received excellent critical acclaim particularly Diamond Dogs and Alien, described by Christopher Bowen in the Scotsman, as ‘an impressive development’.

Tony Cownie (1960- ) came to Dunbar in 1974. He left Dunbar Grammar School and trained as a chef, obtaining a City & Guilds certificate and worked in Edinburgh. Tony had an ambition to work in theatre and in 1983 was accepted by the R.S.A.M.D. in Glasgow. After three years he was awarded a Diploma in Dramatic Art and first prize for a ‘Pupil in a Comedy Role’. He worked extensively in theatres in Scotland and London and won the prize for best actor in the Fringe at Edinburgh Festival in 1999.

Following this success in acting he decided to change direction and turned his sights on directing. He is now an associate director in the Lyceum Theatre and has had the privilege of guest directing in other theatres. He looks forward to continuing a career in theatre.


On 8 February 1970, the town celebrated the 600th anniversary of David II’s Charter.

HRH the Duchess of Kent visited the Dunbar lifeboat station in 1991, and then Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple BT. KCVO JP, Lord Lieutenant on behalf of HM the Queen, invested Mr Ralph Brunton, mechanic, Dunbar Lifeboat Station, with the British Empire Medal.

The town celebrated the Millennium with a parade from the High Street to the harbour and a firework display on the evening of 31 December 1999.


  • Sonia Baker: General information
  • Kevin Blair: Fire Service
  • Paul Buglass: Economy – shellfish
  • Gordon Easingwood: Economy – fishing
  • Donald Grant: Environment – climate
  • Ally Knox: General – West Barns
  • Hilda Laurenson: Twinning
  • Ella MacGregor: Economy – the Pinkerton Stud
  • Ann Hampshire: Leisure – Dunbar Youth Club; Dunbar Area Festival of Youth

Thanks are also due to others who gave time and thought to the project, especially the team from the history society, who shared knowledge and reminiscences – including Mark Beattie, Jean Colley, Walter Cowan, Roy Pugh, Pauline Smeed – and also Ray Halliday, Chris Roberts, David White and Bill Willens. Also the many owners of businesses who endlessly answered questions.

And the recollections of Evelyn Bradd (transport – the postal bus); Vi Marshall (her childhood at East Barns); Sandy Amos (Thomas Sherriff’s)