Midlothian turns its attention towards Europe

The centre of St Cyr L'Ecole, Bonnyrigg and Lasswade's twin town.
The centre of St Cyr L'Ecole, Bonnyrigg and Lasswade's twin town.

Zut alors! Midlothian residents were looking to strengthen ties with their European counterparts.

Fifty-five years ago, townsfolk in Bonnyrigg were keen to establish twinning links on the continent.

As reported in the Advertiser (December 14, 1961): “Councillor Robert Addison presided at a public meeting in the Municipal Buildings, Bonnyrigg, for the purpose of discussing the possibility of twinning with a town on the Continent.

“He outlined the scope pertaining to twinning through the United Towns Organisation, the parent body who maintain the administrative unit for liaison between towns.

“The list of potential towns, he said, was a long one and ranged from the Soviet Union to the Philippine Islands but to bring to matter to practical terms he suggested it would obviously be more advantageous to twin with a town enjoying relatively easy communication with Bonnyrigg.

“To make the proposed twinning effective an interchange of visits was essential and a start could possibly be made through organised trips run in conjuction with the schools and youth organisations in the town.

“Bailie John Moffat, in replying to points raised, stressed the benefits to be gained should the burgh establish links with a Continental town. He also pointed out that it appeared as though approximately £200 might be required to launch the venture and that any committee formed would of necessity have to concern itself primarily with fundraising activities.

“A committee was appointed and another meeting will be held on January 16, when it is hoped that more details will be available.

“At a meeting of the Town Council General Purposes Committee, Councillor Addison explained to the committee what took place at the twinning meeting.

“Dean of Guild Buchan said the nucleus was very good. ‘Young people, old people and business people all attended, and it was a most gratifying turnout.’

“Bailie Moffat said: ‘I am sure we will get something going next year and there is no reason why we should not succeed.’”

Bonnyrigg established a twinning link with St Cyr l’École, near Paris. The friendship celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014.

Meanwhile, there were no boundaries as far as love was concerned for David Smith, a former Provost of Dalkeith.

As reported in the Advertiser (December 7, 1961): “Many curious glances were directed towards a banner bearing the words ‘Welcome to Dalkeith’ held aloft as the south train arrived at Waverley Station on Sunday evening.

“The reason was that Treasurer David Smith and his Hungarian bride were on their way home to Dalkeith.

“To meet the happy couple at the station were numerous friends and members of the Dalkeith Independent Labour party who had arranged this welcome. There was a round of cheering as the couple were seen approaching the ticket barrier. Treasurer Smith glowed with pleasure and his bride, Miss Edit Rago, smiled and appeared rather overwhelmed with the boisterous welcome.

“There were handshakes all round before the couple left for Dalkeith on the last stage of a long drawn-out game of passports and visas which began in May after the wedding of Treasurer Smith and Miss Rago in Budapest.

“Treasurer Smith received word on Thursday that his wife was on her way to Britain and he hurriedly set off to meet her at Dover.

“When Mrs Smith stepped from the Ostend ferry boat on Saturday the couple ran into more red tape trouble.

“Customs officers wanted proof that the couple were really married but neither had a marriage certificate ready for inspection. The Treasurer was determined that customs officials were not going to keep his wife away from him any longer and be brushed past the customs gateway telling officials it would not do them any good asking for a certificate as it was in Hungarian and they would not be able to read it.

“Later he said: ‘I hope that’s the last time I have to argue with a bureaucrat.’

Then David broke his six-month silence about the wedding that took place in the British Legation in the Hungarian capital. ‘I was afraid to say anything before in case it spoiled Edit’s chances of getting out of Hungary. The danger of that has been on my mind all these months.

“‘The authorities made things difficult enough for us. When we were married we thought it would only be six weeks before Edit joined me in Scotland.

“‘But it has taken six months of red-tape and form-filling. I lost count of the number of letters and applications we had to write.’

“The Independent Labour councillor met Edit, who was a laboratory assistant, when he was on holiday in Hungary three years ago. ‘We met purely by accident when I was trying to find my way about Budapest,’ he said.

“He returned on holiday the next year – and the next when he proposed and they were married on May 14.”