Ferranti factory pledge for Dalkeith

The Corn Exchange, Dalkeith. Photo courtesy Midlothian Council Local Studies
The Corn Exchange, Dalkeith. Photo courtesy Midlothian Council Local Studies

At the beginning of December, two boys appeared in the Juvenile Court charged with stealing store milk tokens from three houses.

If you remember, tokens could only be used to buy milk which was delivered to your door, and were used because it was safer to leave tokens, rather than money, on your doorstep along with your empty bottles. So I’m not sure what the boys hoped to do with the tokens.

Provost Lean took a serious view of the matter, but as the boys were from good homes he advised them to join a suitable club and admonished them.

My old classmate, who was in trouble at the beginning of the year, ended the year on the same note – he was fined £2 for fighting with one of his pals (not me!) in the Schoolhouse Close.

But the big news came when it was announced that the work of the Development Committee was bearing fruit. The Town Council had agreed to offer Ferranti a temporary lease on the Corn Exchange and give them six houses for key workers if they decided to build their new factory at Thornybank. Ferranti hadn’t yet decided where the factory would be, but it was certain to be somewhere in Midlothian.

This caused some dispute in the council. Councillor Quinn wanted the offer to be made unconditionally, because a factory anywhere in Midlothian would bring jobs. Provost Lean didn’t agree. He had had the unpleasant task of persuading the Empress Ballroom people to give up their lease six months early, and Baillie Moffatt thought that the County Council might persuade Ferranti to bypass Dalkeith altogether. “The factory must be in Dalkeith, not in Arniston or Gowkshill,” he said.

The council agreed that Councillor Quinn and the town clerk should have discussions with Ferranti, and when they reported back it was agreed to offer the Corn Exchange, without conditions, from January 9. One hundred people would be employed, with a further 500 jobs when the new factory was built. The County Council also announced that they had done all they could to persuade Ferranti to build the factory at Thornybank.

Mr Toothill, the managing director of Ferranti, said that his board would make their final decision on January 4 and that the factory would take about 18 months to build. So things were looking good.

Meanwhile, the shops were offering their Christmas goodies. For the kids, Rintoul’s had electric railways for £3-8-0, dolls cots for 24/- and Mettoy typewriters for 21/6. Manchester House had baby doll pyjamas for 23/6 and cosy dressing gowns for men at 67/6. BA Steele had a musical jewellery box at 78/6 and eternity rings for 30/-, and Pryde & Scott were selling electric blankets at £6-1-0 and portable transistor radios from 14 ½ guineas (that’s £280 at today’s prices!)

The Advertiser said that electrical gadgets made ideal gifts and suggested door chimes, hair dryers and pop-up toasters. But the best suggestion I saw for a Christmas present was – A COAL SCUTTLE!

“The new Bex scuttle is so designed that it will stand up on its base or lie flat on the floor equally well and the carrying handle is adjustable to either position”.

And no doubt gave a good grip as you tried to batter your kind husband over the head with it!

The Post Office was preparing for the Christmas rush by employing extra staff and taking over the Drill Hall, opposite the Post Office in Buccleuch Street, to handle the mail which was expected to be four times the normal amount. Christmas cards in unsealed envelopes need a 2d stamp (less than 1p).

The schools held their Christmas concerts, nativity plays, church services and dances. St David’s dance was very up-to date – it included a jiving competition which was won by Rosina Breslin and John Mitchell.

The Buccleuch Church had an illuminated cross on the church tower for the first time, and the town’s Christmas tree, gaily decorated with coloured lights, stood in King’s Park in front of the war memorial.

The No 1 spot in November was Elvis’s It’s Now or Never and it was still there in December. So ended 1960.