Times have changed. They call it progress

Dalkeith High Street in the 1950s/60s.  Photos courtesy Midlothian Council Local Studies
Dalkeith High Street in the 1950s/60s. Photos courtesy Midlothian Council Local Studies

The Dalkeith I grew up in has gone forever. On a recent visit I realised this. It is called progress, writes Murray Lawrie.

I have written this column for many years, and have relived Elmfield Square, Elmfield Park, never forgetting the neighbours who helped shape my life. George and Frank Little. The summer bus trips, the Musselburgh Fisherrow store that organised picnics and races catering for all ages.

One thing I remember was my father (Gordon Lawrie), the butchery director, complaining bitterly that the money he won in a race was not enough to buy a pint of beer. Jimmy McIntyre was the store grocer and did most of the organising and did a great job.

Talking of the “store” it was very prominent in the life of Dalkeith past. I think every need was covered. First was the butchery, where my father and mother met and love prevailed over the sausage machine.

The drapery was next and Tommy Duff ran the show. The grocery was on the corner and I still remember the scales where sugar etc was carefully weighed and poured into store bags.

The bakery was round the corner and Miss Scott was in strict control. I used to buy a bag of broken biscuits and if I dared sample one and leave crumbs Miss Scott would make me clean up my mess and inform me my father would be told.

The store office was crammed in beside the bakery. I remember the staff were caged in and on occasion I was sent in for “store checks”.

The office manager was Agnes MacNamara, a very intimidating lady who stood no nonsense. I always felt a wee bit intimidated as she glared through the cage netting at me.

Later when we moved to James Lean Avenue our lives changed. We had a house with a back verandah that looked over a lush green expanse bordered by the River Esk and a complete swing park thrown in.

The Avenue was indeed a wonderful place to grow up with neighbours who cared. I can still recall some neighbour yelling “am telling your father” if I stepped out of line.

The park is no more. The jungle where we had many adventures is overgrown. Our wonderful red phone box, housing the one phone for the area, where I was dispatched many times to get folks to the phone, has gone. I even remember the number “Dalkeith 231311”.

The first car was owned by Tommy Pride. KSF 604Y was the licence number. Tommy was married to our neighbour Marion Cummings. The Cummings family became our close friends and I am still in constant touch with George and Charlie.

We had our sad times on the Avenue during the black days of the Second World War and loss of life saddened us. Norman Carruthers, Jackie Newlands, Rob and Alex Miller, Jim Reid gave their lives to keep us all safe.

Who would have thought the gang who grew up on the Avenue and hung around the “big tree” down the park would end up in different corners of the world? I am delighted to be in touch, via computer, with George and Charlie Cummings and Eva Carruthers in New Zealand. It seems like yesterday we played until dark around 
the Avenue.

On a school day most of the lads and lassies were pupils at Dalkeith High School and every morning we could be seen heading down the Avenue to school.

No buses then, so we walked down to Newmills Road over the bridge with a quick look over to see the River Esk flowing silently toward the sea.

I will carry on next time about Dalkeith High School and the teachers who shaped my life especially “Geordie McKechnie”.