Call to fund Dalkeith welfare hall

Bonnyrigg councillors rally to the defence of the under-threat railway line through the town.
Bonnyrigg councillors rally to the defence of the under-threat railway line through the town.

It’s a new year and Dalkeith residents launch a new endeavour – to raise £5000 to pay for a permanent old people’s club building.

As reported in The Advertiser (January 1962), a public meeting was held where Provost J Quinn officially announced the fundraising campaign.

Fifty-five years ago townsfolk were set a challenge to raise the funds for a new hall.

“The building must conform to three conditions, said Provost Quinn. It must be in the centre of the town; it must have adequate accommodation; and it must be comfortable.

“It was up to the people of Dalkeith to see that this came true.

“‘Goodness knows the old folk deserve it,’ said Provost Quinn, ‘And by providing these premises we will be filling a large void – not only in the lives of the old folk, but also in the conscience of the nation. The whole of Dalkeith should respond to this appeal. Let us tackle it in a big way.’

“Provost Quinn went on: ‘I am going to make a challenge. I am going to offer any 60 people £1 each from my Provost’s allowance but in return I want them to use that money in some way to make £5 by themselves as a contribution to the appeal fund. In this way, we can raise at least £300.’

“The platform party consisted of ex-Provost T Lean, Chief Constable Smail, County Councillor A Ross, Dr J Williamson of Southfield Hospital, Mr J Evans, the new county clerk of Midlothian, Mr Gullane, a representative of Vitamins Ltd, the Rev D M Bruce, chairman of the O.P. welfare committee, Mr Thomas, architect, and the Rev Dr Selby Wright, minister of the Canongate Church, Edinburgh.

“Introducing Dr Selby Wright, Provost Quinn said that he was a very busy man and the Welfare Committee considered it a privilege to have him present at the meeting.

“The Canongate minister said that his interest in old people had risen out of an interest for young people. They were similar in ways he said, because the one needed a guiding hand, and the other asked only for a helping hand as they grew old.

“Referring to the club, Dr Wright said: ‘You must never be discouraged. The main thing is to make a start, because nothing was ever done without making a start, but once having done that, you must get on with it.

“‘Let me draw attention to the success of Margaret Tudor House, and Lamb’s House, Leith, which are both old people’s clubs. Before we could start building Lamb’s House we were told our original estimate had doubled but we went ahead and the money flowed in.”

“He spoke of the modern attitude of ‘letting others pay’. Far too often he said, we relied on the State of the church paying, but never paying ourselves. We owed a big debt to the old people, and it was something we should all be proud to take part in.

“‘Some of the old people are fairly comfortably off,’ he said. ‘Others are not so well off but all need comradeship and friendship. Let us make a united effort as an expression of our love and gratitude to our old people by getting the money for the club building.’

“The Rev D M Bruce, giving a brief history of the Old People’s Welfare Committee over the past few years, pointed out that the committee did not hold a unique position in the community. The Red Cross, the WVS, the Old Age Pensioners’ Association, the Old Men’s Club had all played their part in looking after old folk.

“The purpose of the club said Mr Bruce, is to co-ordinate our elderly citizen activities. We can do very little in a church hall as at present but a permanent club will give them a sense of purpose and it will give them friendship. This is not charity – it is a human right and we should be privileged to be able to allow our senior friends to be part of the community,’ he added.

“‘The Welfare State is not all that wonderful,’ said Dr J Williamson, when called upon to speak. ‘but if I could draw upon the most wonderful plans in the world for a brand new Welfare State, it would never combat the worst evil of old age – loneliness.’

“Suggestions were asked from the body of the hall as to how the appeal campaign would be carried out.

“T Lean proposed that a door to door collection should be undertaken. Other suggestions included donations from individual firms, a collection at pitheads, money deducted from the miners’ pay for a gala day should be diverted to thenfund, and collecting boxes be placed in strategic parts of the town.”

Meanwhile, 55 years ago The Advertiser reported that British Railways had written to Bonnyrigg and Lasswade Town Council informing them of proposals to withdraw the services on the Eskbank-Hawthornden branch line through Bonnyrigg.

“‘British Railways maintain that it is uneconomical to run trains on line to Bonnyrigg,’ said Bailie John Moffar. ‘But if we took this explanation to its logical conclusion, our entire transport system would grind to a stand still.’

“Town Clerk Mr E Thomson, reading from the letter, said that the average number of people using the trains each day were 170 at Bonnyrigg and 85 at Rosewell and Hawthornden.

“Provost J Young said if the trains were withdrawn it would mean at least another five or six buses would have to be provided each day to cope with passenger numbers.”