Inveresk Musselburgh | Police

The policing of the area is centred on Musselburgh Police Station although it is no longer manned on a 24-hour basis. Members of the public can normally receive attention during the day and in the evening but sadly this is not always the case. When the station is closed control of the policing in the parish is exercised from Divisional Headquarters at Dalkeith.

Policing changed drastically within Musselburgh during the period 1945-2000. In 1945 Musselburgh was the largest sub-division in the Midlothian Constabulary and was under the command of a police superintendent. In addition to the beat officers in the Burgh, others operated from police stations in Fisherrow, Millerhill (later Oldcraighall), Smeaton, Wallyford and Levenhall. At one time Danderhall was also attached to Musselburgh Police Station and barracks existed at the rear of the latter, which could accommodate up to ten single male officers. Policing in the parish was virtually male-dominated and it was not until the late 1940s that a policewoman was appointed to the area. All the peripheral stations have now been closed and the police barracks have now been converted to local housing for the elderly.

Corrigendum: In response to appeals for women to take on jobs previously done by men to free men to join the armed services during WW2 some women were allowed to join the police and the fire service.

Mary Begbie was allowed to enrol.and was one of three. She joined about the same time as another Musselburgh woman, Isa Hunter whose father was a Provost of Musselburgh. The third female to join nearer the end of the War was Lady Antonia Stewart who became Lady Antonia Dalrymple. of Newhailes She had been sent to Musselburgh, by her father The Earl of Galloway, to do ‘her bit’ for the War and stayed in lodgings. Lady Antonia was often at the Begbie family’s house having baths and meals.
Mary Begbie continued as a Policewoman until the early fifties when she resigned and moved to another job.

Daisy Begbie, her sister, was already serving as a fire-woman in Musselburgh. She was a despatch rider and also drove the fire engines . She drove the Musselburgh fire engine when the dreadful incident happened at Fernie Ness in 1943, when a bus full of naval cadets was bombed by mistake by one of our own planes. The Musselburgh crew were there to back up the Haddington crew. She wrote her memories of life as a firewoman which is in the Fire Service Archives down south.*
• A copy of her account has been lodged in the County archive

In 1945 police officers and their families were housed in police owned or rented accommodation and were not permitted to occupy property of their own until they had at least 25 years’ service and approaching retirement. This system no longer applies and officers, married or single, can occupy accommodation of their own choosing and not necessarily in the area in which they work. The new system meant that police officers no longer lived as part of the community or were not on call 24-hours a day at their respective stations.

The force itself has changed in name in Musselburgh. In 1945 it was part of the Midlothian Constabulary; in 1950 Midlothian combined with the forces in East Lothian, West Lothian and Peeblesshire to form the Lothian & Peebles Constabulary and in 1973 the latter amalgamated with Edinburgh City Police and the Berwick, Roxburgh and Selkirk Constabulary to form the present Lothian & Borders Police.

Recent annual reports from the Lothian & Borders Police reveal that serious crime, with one or two exceptions, has been reduced. While this is excellent news there are other aspects of anti-social behaviour, which the general public view as bordering on criminal activity. This is the rise of uncouth behaviour, lack of respect for other peoples’ way of life and property, vandalism and litter to mention a few. Many members of the public no longer report such matters to the police, as the general feeling is that very little action, if any, will be taken. Hence the current rise of opinion that the beat bobby should be reintroduced to curb this type of lawlessness.

However, in February 1955, the Musselburgh News reported that ‘… teddy boys were turning this “sleepy, law abiding town” into a hoodlum town at the weekends…’; nothing new there then!

Fire Service

In 1960 protests were heard when it was proposed that Musselburgh Fire Station was to be closed. Building began on the new station at Newbigging in 1963 and it opened in July 1964 – ‘the most up-to-date in Scotland’.