Dalkeith residents take to the streets for peace

Buccleuch Street Church, Dalkeith. Photo courtesy Midlothian Council Local Studies
Buccleuch Street Church, Dalkeith. Photo courtesy Midlothian Council Local Studies

September brought the arrival in Dalkeith of the “Ban the Bomb” marchers at the end of the first day of their march from Edinburgh to London, to attend a rally in Trafalgar Square on September 25, writes Alan Mason.

Nowadays, the threat of nuclear war has receded, to be replaced by the threat of terrorism, but back in 1960 the threat was very real. The Cold War was at its height, thousands of troops were stationed in Germany and we all knew about the four-minute warning we would get before the bombs arrived. I can still remember a dream, in which I was stuck in Edinburgh when the bombs fell.

The 100 or so marchers, along with 1,000 supporters, were led through Edinburgh by the Arniston Pipe Band and Newtongrange Silver Band. When they reached Dalkeith, they marched through the streets behind Dalkeith Pipe Band, watched by hundreds of people.

A rally was held in the Buccleuch Street Church Hall “with many prominent Dalkeith citizens present, including a large number of ministers”.

The Rev Angus McKinnon, of the Congregational Church, asked the people to support the youngsters in their opposition to what he called “this hellish bomb”. He said: “Although many of us here are old and may not have long to live, we should be concerned about the fate of future generations.”

Councillor David Smith said: “If we hope to make Dalkeith a better and more beautiful place, we must support any move to world peace.”

In his speech, Emrys Hughes, MP for South Ayrshire, stated that Dalkeith Town Council was the first in the county to ally itself with the anti-nuclear movement, and referred to the U2 and B47 incidents.

The U2, an American spy plane piloted by Gary Powers, had been shot down over Russia in May 1960, leading to the cancellation of a summit meeting between president Eisenhower and Nikita 
Kruschev of Russia.

The B47 referred to the bomber which released a supposedly armed nuclear bomb off the coast of Savannah in the USA two years before. To this day, the bomb has never been found.

The marchers, who were fed and watered by Councillor Pat Neilson and her colleagues, stayed overnight in Croft Street School and headed off to Galashiels the next day.

l MOT tests started on September 12 but were not compulsory. The test covered brakes, lights and steering on cars more than ten years old.

On December 8, The Advertiser reported that the response to the test had been “unspectacular”; only 45 had been done so far.

The fact that one mechanic said that most of the older cars coming in for petrol would never pass may have been the reason!

In 1962 the test was made compulsory and in 1971 all cars more than three years old had to be tested.

Petrol in 1960 was 4/9 per gallon (1/- or 5p per litre). At today’s values that is about £1 per litre, not far off the current price.

The first Mini had appeared a year before, in August 1959. I don’t have any new car prices but you could buy a one-year-old Vauxhall Velox for £850 (£17,000 today), a two-year-old Ford Consul for £665 (£13,000) and a ten-year-old Standard Vanguard for £235 (£5,000). So cars were not cheap.

There had been an interesting motoring case earlier in the year, when an Eskbank woman driving home at 3am failed to stop near Eskbank Toll when requested by the police. The car slowed up, then took off again without stopping. Luckily, the police had an arrangement with the Motor Taxation Department in Edinburgh for getting licence details, even at night, and went to the owner’s house in Dalhousie Road. The lady admitted her guilt, and in court was found guilty and admonished.

The interesting bit came when Sgt. Geekie told the magistrate it was the practice of Burgh Police to stop all cars on the road after midnight for a routine check. Can you imagine that happening nowadays? The human rights lawyers would make a fortune!

l A Bonnyrigg man, who was in Dalkeith on September 7, thought he would take a bunch of flowers home to his wife. The only problem was that the police caught him stealing them from a flower bed in King’s Park.

Baillie Moffatt said there were very few vandals in the town – most of them came from outside (just like today!) – and he was fined £10.

l The Shadows’ Apache was the No 1 hit in August, and was still there in September. So maybe you can tell me what was at No 2?