Feeling the heat as the festive season approaches

Dalkeith Town Centre, circa 1955. Photo: Scotsman/Scran
Dalkeith Town Centre, circa 1955. Photo: Scotsman/Scran

Christmas cheer shut up shop in Dalkeith when the local police came down on shopkeepers looking to do some extra trade.

As reported in the Dalkeith Advertiser (December 20, 1951), “Dalkeith police chief Inspector D Ness created a sensation in the burgh on Tuesday when he ordered amazed shopkeepers, who had remained open for Christmas shoppers, to close.

“The Manchester House had advertised that the shop would be open all day Tuesday (normally half day).

“But the Inspector decided otherwise and cleared the shop of customers. The same thing happened with other local dealers, including P & D Lyle, Archibald’s and Inglis.

“Asked to describe what happened, Mr Lowrie, proprietor of Archibald’s Library, High Street, said he was beyond saying anything. ‘This is the most cock-eyed place in the country,’ he declared.

“Mr Lowrie went on to say the he opened his shop on Tuesday afternoon before Christmas for the last two years. ‘I’m going to demand compensation,’ he said. ‘Three of my staff have been here all afternoon and not a thing sold. And I will have to pay them.’

“Footnote – The Shops Act, 1950, states that a shopkeeper may open on his or her recognised half-day during the week before Christmas, providing that the half-day does not fall on the same day of the week as December 25. This would affect Dalkeith only once in every six years.”

The striking Dalkeith firemen are starting to feel the effects of their industrial action, as reported in the Dalkeith Advertiser (December 13, 1951).

“Twelve Dalkeith firemen who took part in the recent ‘spit and polish’ strike were tried last week by Firemaster AB Craig of the South-Eastern Division.

“Eleven of the 12 men who took part in the strike will lose three days’ pay – as punishment. Firemaster Craig imposed these fines in a written statement to each man on Tuesday morning.

“A Fire Brigades Union spokesman said that the men felt they had been victimised. Other areas in the country had got off ‘Scot free’.

“Only one Dalkeith fireman defied the injunction of the Fire Brigades Union by appearing before Firemaster Craig and admitting the charges of disobeying orders. He was fireman G Johnston. His punishment is stoppage of two days’ pay.

“Most of the men refused to appear at their trial. Two did come before Firemaster Craig but refused to make any comment pending instructions from their union.

“Fireman Johnston was tried in Edinburgh. The other 11 were tried in Dalkeith. Firemastter Craig was accompanied by District Officers Roy and Roberston and Mr Veitch, his head clerk. when he sat in judgement on the men.

“The three days’ pay stoppage will mean of a loss to the firemen of approximately £3. This will be spread over three weeks’ pay.”

Meanwhile, the tenants in some Bonnyrigg “dream homes” were up in arms over a planned increase in rents, according to the Dalkeith Advertiser (December 13, 1951).

“Over 100 angry Bonnyrigg tenants, disillusioned with their ‘dream houses’ in the town council’s big centrally-heated Lothian Street scheme, decided last week to ‘fight against’ a two shilling per week increase in their rents.

“Annoyed by continual hot water difficulties and troubled by damp floors, faulty paintwork and electrical fires that will not work, the tenants feel that the rent increase is too much of a bitter pill for them to swallow.

“At last week’s special protest meeting in the local football club pavilion, they decided to send a 10-strong deputation to the council to protest against the increase which brings their rents up to 29s 6d per week.

“For over 90 minutes tenant after tenant stood up and fired a bombardment of criticisms against the centrally-heated homes in the Lothian Street scheme, and after it all, a list of complaints was drawn up to present to the council.

“It is alleged the council has increased the rents to meet a £5000 deficit on the scheme. This 2s increase follows an increase of 1s 6d in October.

“One of the major outcomes of the meeting was the formation of a tenants’ association.

Two shillings (10p) may not seem a lot to us nowadays but in 1952 men earned an average £9 a week, and women received just £5. A state pension was £1.50 – with a further £1 paid to married women.