Fires, fights and robberies - it’s Dalkeith in 1960

Dalkeith High Street, near the Corn Exchange. Photo courtesy Midlothian Council Local Studies

Dalkeith High Street, near the Corn Exchange. Photo courtesy Midlothian Council Local Studies

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There was another fire in Dalkeith in February, when Slight the Joiner’s workshop in the High Street (near the Corn Exchange) was completely destroyed by “a blaze so fierce that the metal table of a band-saw was melted”.

The fire was first spotted at 8.30pm on a Saturday evening and tenants in nearby houses were evacuated. The fire was under control just after 10 o’clock, and luckily, none of the neighbouring houses were damaged.

Mr Slight, the owner, didn’t find out until the next day. He lived near Crieff and the police didn’t know his address.

A 22 year-old miner was fined 20/- for buying a drink in the Lothian Arms Hotel on a Sunday. Nowadays, you can buy a drink anywhere on a Sunday, but in 1960 you had to be a “bona fide traveller”, i.e. passing through on your way from A to B, and Paddy, who came from Woodburn, claimed to be on his way from Edinburgh to Gala.

An old primary school pal of mine also got into trouble after drinking in the Lothian. He began to argue and shout and challenged everyone in the bar to a fight. He was thrown out but tried to force his way back in. When charged he said, “A cannae mind what happened!” and was fined £2.

Fights were a regular occurrence in Dalkeith and may still be for all I know. Pubs, chip shops and cafes were the usual venues. Dalkeith wasn’t the only place where the lads went looking for trouble. In Nitten, a 15 year-old boy was found to be carrying a 12 inch cosh and a flick knife. Fined £10!

For Alan Mason’s full feature see this week’s Advertiser. On sale now.