At the beginning of the period transport was very limited. There was the railway still offering a passenger service but its location in the north of the parish made it a relatively long way from most of the homes. Jan Hoddinott recalls life at Innerwick railway station, from 1918-47
My parents, John and Jane Mack, came to live at Innerwick Station in 1918 when my father joined the staff as signalman. My brother, Robert was born in 1919 and I arrived in 1922 followed by my sister, Helen, in 1932. We were ‘railway children’, our lives revolved round my father’s shifts and trains. We specially liked the locomotives. Each had a name like ‘Cock o’ the North’ but ‘Rob Roy MacGregor’ was our favourite.
Every evening we watched for the Pullman with its special livery of cream and brown coaches and held our noses when the fish trains came through on the way to Billingsgate.
My earliest memory is that of our coalhouse stacked from floor to ceiling in anticipation of the general strike in 1926 when the railwaymen came out on strike in support of the miners. Unfortunately they went back to work with less pay instead of a rise in wages.
The station was staffed by the agent, David Smith, and his clerk, Andrew Spence, three signalmen, each on eight hour shifts, two porters, Bob McDougall and John Jaffray, with casual labour at busy times, a crossing keeper and a surface squad of seven men. Jock Hendrie and Frank McGill were from the village.
The hub of the station was ‘The Coffin’, a guard’s van minus wheels which served as the porters’ bothy, parcel storage, lamp room etc. On occasions it became a hairdressing salon where the men took turns to cut each other’s hair. A number of unusual styles resulted!
The station was a busy place. Train travel was the only alternative to horse and cart, bicycle or shanks’ pony. Eight passenger trains between Edinburgh and Berwick, four in each direction, stopped each day. The village was 1½ miles from the station so commuters had quite a walk to reach the train.
Mailbags and daily papers came with the morning train and the duty postman cycled down each day to take them to the village post office. Apart from boxes and sacks, other interesting items arrived: little calves done up in sacks and with labels round their necks, occasional coffins for the joiner, carboys of chemicals for the laundry, yeast for the baker, a collie dog on a lead for a shepherd. Hampers of rabbits and bags of whelks would be loaded for Newcastle or Billingsgate.
Goods trains brought coal and livestock, artificial manure and lime, farm machinery, bricks and building supplies and carried away corn, potatoes, sugar beet and pit props.
Loading and unloading livestock was always a lively and exciting affair. Men, dogs and cattle milled about the yard. The animals showed marked reluctance to get into the wagons. Perhaps they disliked the smell of the sawdust liberally spread in the trucks. It had a Wild West flavour about it. One morning my mother heard a bang at her kitchen window and found herself looking at a bullock! The porters had a lot of clearing up to do!
Our district had no electricity supply until after 1948 so coal played an important role in people’s homes. Coal wagons were unloaded in the sidings and sacks were filled and weighed before delivery to a wide area.
Farm workers took their times from passing trains and ‘railway time’ was considered correct. Waiting rooms had colourful posters of faraway places, Skegness for bracing air, Dovercourt or Walton on the Naze. The fences had advertisements for Sunlight Soap and Mazzawatte Tea. A penny in the slot machine dispensed very thin slabs of chocolate – we considered them poor value!
Due to petrol shortages, 1939-46 was the busiest time for rail traffic. With the re-nationalisation of road haulage after the war, the station fell into a gradual decline. Dr Beeching finished things off with his closure of so many branch and uneconomic lines.
Modernisation has brought many changes: electrification of the line, high-speed trains, central signalling, specialised machinery for re-laying tracks. The age of steam to those of us living in its heyday brings nostalgic memories of trips to Edinburgh or Berwick and weekly visits to our grandparents at Cockburnspath.
With our own move to the village in 1947 and my father’s retiral in 1960, our connection with the station ended. The old homestead and station bridge are the only reminders of a past age.
There were very few cars; it was possible to get a lift on the school bus, and many people had bicycles, and also walked to the A1 for the bus. In the next decade the number of cars increased. On the other hand, the passenger service on the railway stopped in 1953 and the station closed in 1963. The number of cars increased in the 1970s, and an occasional bus service was introduced three days a week
The mail bus, which took both mail and passengers, was introduced in 1986. Travelling between Dunbar, Spott and Innerwick, this was a Scottish first. It still provides a useful service morning and afternoon Mon-Fri and on Saturday mornings. Perrimans’ buses since 2002 offer a better service than ever before with six services in and out daily.
The parish is divided by the A1, which runs east/west; pre-1981, the road ran to the north-east of the railway. Opened in January 1981, the new A1 (between Broxmouth and Skateraw – the concrete road built by Blue Circle) ran south of the railway. In the same decade, the A1 that passed by Torness Power Station was upgraded after concerns about safety there. Nevertheless, the accidents continued, many quite horrific; by 2000, the A1 south of Dunbar – where full dualling had been deemed unnecessary – had been upgraded, albeit in a rather piecemeal manner. There remained sections of single carriageway through the parish, and at the Innerwick/Thurston and Skateraw junctions, traffic had to cross the opposite lanes. After some 30 miles or so of fast road from Edinburgh, it seems rather inevitable that this part of the A1 will continue to claim lives.
The village bobby had gone by 1945. The area is covered as part of Dunbar area from Dalkeith.