Burns memorial not viewed as a fitting tribute

The Burns Memorial, Dalkeith
The Burns Memorial, Dalkeith

Dalkeith’s Burns Fountain is to be moved as the monument is becoming a safety hazard for motorists and pedestrians.

The town’s chief of police, Inspector D. Ness, has made recommendations to the Ministry of Transport and Midlothian County Council Roads Committee for Dalkeith to lose its Burns Fountain bus stop in the High Street.

As reported in the Dalkeith Advertiser (September 13, 1951): “All buses approaching the town from the New Edinburgh Road would then be diverted to the left at the High Street, and forced to approach the town from the direction of the Cross Keys Hotel. The Burns Fountain would then be converted into a safety island.

“The Inspector’s recommendations aim at solving the burgh’s traffic congestion problem, and are made in the interests of public safety.

“Last week he conducted representatives of the Ministry of Transport and the County Council Roads Committee round the burgh, and pointed out the shortcomings of the present arrangement of bus stops in the Fountain area of the High Street.

“Inspector Ness has also suggested that the ‘dropping’ stop just past McNab’s shop in the High Street should be moved farther down the road.

“He told an Advertiser reporter that the Fountain bus stop was the cause of a considerable amount of traffic congestion in the High Street – particularly on Saturday nights. Recently he made an attempt to count the number of buses that passed the Fountain on a Saturday night in the space of an hour.

“His count had reached over 60 when he was called away to deal with a local disturbance. He made another attempt later. No less than 98 buses passed the Fountain in an hour.

“The Inspector stated that one could readily appreciate the situation when buses were entering Dalkeith from South Street – the main trunk road for Edinburgh and the South – from the High Street and from the New Edinburgh Road. They all had to pass the Fountain and when a bus was parked there for the collection of passengers it resulted in a slowing down of the flow of traffic and, in many cases, congestion arose.

“By doing away with the Fountain as a bus stop, the Inspector believes that a very important step will be taken towards finiding a solution to Dalkeith’s traffic problems.

“In many people’s opinion, the Fountain bus stop constitutes a public danger, particularly to school children, although, of course, the traffic there is controlled by police at school dispersal hours.

“The Inspector expects an answer to his proposals quite soon.”

The following week (September 20, 1951), the Advertiser carried a letter from ex-Bailie J. Cochrane over the proposal to remove the Burns Fountain.

Supporting Inspector Ness, Mr Cochrane wants the Fountain removed all together and placed in King’s Park.

He wrote: “When I was a member of Dalkeith Town Council I proposed that the Burns Fountain should be removed to King’s Park.

“I consider it a tawdry, cast iron product of a foundry, alway rusty; and disfiguring to the High Street. I said it was a most unworthy memorial to Robert Burns, our National Bard and the greatest Scotsman of his day. The proposal was defeated.

“However, Inspector Ness has come forward with another argument, perhaps a more practical one. The congestion of the traffic travelling north and south on both sides of the street had made the removal of the fountain necessary. I humbly ask the Traffic Committee of the County Council that if the Fountain is to be removed, it be placed in King’s Park, and that water be laid on. If this were done, I feel the Fountain would be a great boon to those who take pleasure in the park.”

The memorial was eventually moved to the gardener’s cottage in St John’s and King’s Park. In 2003, it was refurbished and relocated to a new position in Komorom Court.

Since 2013, a Facebook campaign has been promoting the potential restoration and relocation of the monument to a more historic site within the town.

Earlier this year, Midlothian councillors approved plans to move the fountain once more.

This time to a soon-to-be refurbished area of Dalkeith’s High Street, outside the former Cross Keys building and close to where it once stood.