Haddington | Police

In 1945 East Lothian was still a constituent police force, and uniquely shared a chief constable with Midlothian, West Lothian and Peeblesshire. The Chief Constable – at this time Major Sholto Douglas – had his headquarters in Edinburgh. The superintendent in charge of East Lothian had his headquarters in the old part of the County Buildings in Haddington, while CID and traffic police were accommodated in a wooden hut to the rear. In addition to the superintendent the Haddington staff comprised an administrative inspector, a burgh sergeant and three constables, one of whom worked permanent day shift, and was responsible (along with his wife) for the police cells (now demolished), while the other two worked alternative back and night shifts. The CID had a detective sergeant and a detective constable; and the traffic police had a sergeant and two police constables. For some years after the end of the second world war the patrol car was a 1939 20hp Wolseley, augmented by occasional use of the superintendent’s car during the evening and night shift.

Reorganisation in 1950 produced among the first of the Scottish police amalgamations, Lothian and Peeblesshire Police, under Chief Constable William Merrilees. In 1954-5 the Haddington police station was moved to Weston, a house on the south side of Court Street, which included accommodation for the station police constable and his family. The staff had expanded to include three police constables who had administrative duties, a sergeant and five or six police constables for Haddington burgh. They were augmented, mainly at weekends, by the use of special constables and by the county men – one at each of Gifford, Garvald, Pencaitland, Elphinstone, Macmerry, Longniddry, Aberlady and Belhaven, and two at Ormiston, Gullane, and Cockenzie/Port Seton, while there were inspector stations at Tranent and Dunbar, and sergeant stations at Prestonpans and North Berwick.

The traffic section was increased to a sergeant, four men and two cars, while the CID remained as before. All the one- and two-man county police stations were closed from the 1960s onwards.

A new cell block, a lecture room and garage workshop were built behind the police station. A petrol pump was also installed to supply the two patrol cars (one a double 20 gallon tank Jaguar) and the Panda car fleet, by then in use. In 1969, when a full-time Road Safety Department was formed, and one of the traffic police constables promoted to headquarters, the patrol cars were withdrawn from Haddington to Dalkeith; CID cover was later moved from Haddington, first to Musselburgh, and then to Dalkeith.

In 1975, when a reorganisation was carried out under Chief Constable (later Sir) John Orr, East Lothian became a sub-division of Lothian and Border Police, under a chief superintendent at Dalkeith, with a superintendent still in Haddington. After downgradings in the 1980s and the early 1990s, sometimes to a chief inspector or even an inspector, the post of superintendent at Haddington has been restored and, for the past five years or so, traffic cars have again operated from Haddington in response to public request. There are a sergeant and four to five constables in Haddington, and administration has been civilianised.

William Harkness joined the traffic department in 1958, and during his time there (amongst other things) carried out experiments in 1971-72 to find out a more effective colour for the then red safety clothing. His recommendation of saturn yellow was accepted, and brought into use. This colour of high visibility safety clothing has since been adopted in other countries all over the world. He was awarded an MBE, and received his medal from the Queen in 1987 for services to road safety and traffic education.

Fire Service

In 1945 the auxiliary firemen who had manned the fire station during the war were given the opportunity to become employed as part-time firemen, or ‘retained’ as they are now known, and Haddington’s fire cover is still provided by this same method. It is a two-pump station manned on a part-time basis with one station officer, one sub officer, two leading firefighters and twelve firefighters. In 1945 the fire station was based at the Sands, in the property now occupied by Peter Potter.

In 1964 a new fire station was built next to the police station in Court Street, on ground that had previously been an orchard. This was the most up-to-date retained station within the area of the South Eastern Fire Brigade, the title it assumed on re-organisation in 1948. The move, with the introduction of modern appliances, was a morale booster for the men. In 1976 another major re-organisation took place, and the brigade was renamed the Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade. The call-out method was changed from sounding the air raid siren to each man having a personal pager. Hi-tech machinery was installed which gave a detailed print out of the incident, all improving efficiency.

Since the beginning of the second world war, there has always been at least one member of the Blackie family in the Haddington Fire Brigade. Mr J.F. Blackie served as an auxiliary during the war and continued in the service until retiring in 1967. His son, Richard was promoted to station officer in 1973, and held the post until he retired in 1991, when he was succeeded by his brother Gordon, who, on his own retirement in 1996 was in turn succeeded by Richard’s son Brian, still in command in 2000. All four have received the Long Service Medal. Richard’s son-in-law is also an officer in Haddington Fire Station.