A community gathers to remember its fallen

Dalkeith War Memorial
Dalkeith War Memorial

The Rev William Dunnett and Alfred Noble were the lucky ones – they came home from the War, writes Alan Mason (Dalkeith History Society).

One hundred and seventy-three Dalkeith men did not, and many others came back having suffered wounds to both their minds and their bodies. Many had fought in the 8th Royal Scots, the first Scottish Territorial regiment to be sent to France.

In towns, cities and villages all over the world, war memorial committees were set up, and Dalkeith was no exception.

The Dalkeith Memorial was designed by J.P. Alison of Hawick and built by John Monteith from Duddingston stone with granite panels, on a piece of ground donated by the Duke of Buccleuch in King’s Park and unveiled by the duke on the evening of June 28, 1921.

I’d like to quote from the Advertiser’s report:

“That the occasion had a deep and more or less personal interest to every section of the community was evidenced by the vast and thoroughly representative assemblage which gathered to witness the proceedings.

“Within the enclosure on which the memorial stands, special seats had been provided for members of public bodies and relatives of the deceased soldiers, several hundreds of whom took advantage of the privilege so accorded.

“A guard of honour, comprising 50 soldiers from Glencorse, was drawn up immediately to the rear of the memorial, whilst the Regimental Band of the 2nd Royal Scots and the Burgh Band occupied positions of close proximity.

“The members of the general public, numbering several thousands, for the main part took up their stances on the Eskbank Road directly in front of the monument, but in addition many clustered round the enclosing fence, while the lane leading to Park Road was also lined with spectators.

“It was evident that the solemnity of the occasion made a strong impression on the assembled multitude, around which a reverent silence reigned during the proceedings. The fact that all vehicular traffic on the Eskbank Road and shunting operations at the railway station had been suspended also added to the quiet and peacefulness of the scene.”

Little did they know that in less than 20 years more names would be added to the roll of honour.

As I’ve shown, my family paid brief visits to the Dalkeith area in 1900 and 1914-16, but it wasn’t until the early 1930s that both sides of my family returned to Dalkeith.

My father’s family came to Dalkeith from Galashiels in 1934, and the Bruces returned from East Lothian to Fordel Mains in 1935.

My granddad Tom Mason was a mill worker in Gala, who was forced to migrate north, first to Portobello then to Dalkeith, where he found work as a kerb layer for Midlothian County Council. As well as my grandparents, there was my Dad, Tom, who was 14 and found a job with Dobbies as a gardener, and my Uncle Jim, aged eight, who went to Dalkeith High School Primary.

They lived at 7H Gothenburg Buildings in Lothian Street, which were attached to the Black Bull.

Along with the pub, and a functions hall above it, the houses were built in 1906-07 in a block of flats four storeys high, reached by open staircases with open balconies.

They were built by the Dalkeith Public House Improvement Society, to be run on the Gothenburg system, whereby profits from the pub were to be used to benefit the community.

The Dean Tavern in Newtongrange is still run on this system.

Dalkeith Town Council had been interested in the Gothenburg system since 1900. At one point, they considered buying up all pub licences as they became available, making Dalkeith a “Gothenburg pubs only” town, but dropped the idea, possibly because it was too expensive. Dalkeith was a town with many pubs.

Before we look at Dalkeith in 1934, let’s have a look at what was happening in the rest of the world.

The most important event at the time, from a historical point of view, took place a year earlier when the Nazis gained power in Germany in 1933.

In the UK, the standard red telephone boxes were introduced in January 1934. Before this, from 1920, they had been various shapes, sizes and colours.

In April, the government set up a committee to look at the possibility of a public TV service.

The government of the day had been elected in October 1931 to deal with the economic crisis. Led by Ramsay McDonald, one of their aims was to create employment by building 288,000 houses by 1938.

In May, the gangsters Bonnie and Clyde were shot to pieces in the USA.

In July, Fred Perry won his third Wimbledon title, and finally, H.G. Wells predicted there would be war by 1940. Obviously, he used his Time Machine!