Nostalgia - A midnight fire failed to hamper Pathhead bakery

Dalkeith councillors on parade in the 1930s
Dalkeith councillors on parade in the 1930s

In October, the Dalkeith Savings Bank organised a concert and presentation of prizes in the Corn Exchange, writes Alan Mason, Dalkeith History Society.

Admission to the concert was free, and as a result “it was one of the biggest gatherings seen in Dalkeith for many a day”. Indeed, the chairman of the Bank, in his speech, thought it was a record audience for the Corn Exchange and said that they were delighted that such a large number of people from Dalkeith and district had accepted their invitation to attend that evening. The concert and a schools’ essay competition was seen as a good way to advertise the bank and bring it to the attention of the general public.

After the concert, there were a number of speeches, where it was explained that the bank was only three years short of its centenary. The bank was originally an offspring of the Dalkeith Scientific Association and its descendent, the TSB, still exists in Dalkeith. It had 3000 depositors with deposits standing at £173,000. The bank also organised savings schemes for local schools and gave out home savings banks to encourage the habit of saving pennies. The speaker then quoted the old Scottish proverb “There’s nae freend like a penny!” It’s not a proverb I’m familiar with – maybe because a penny isn’t worth so much nowadays.

Prizes were presented to pupils of Dalkeith High School and Dalkeith Burgh School who took part in the essay competition on the subject of thrift. One essay said, “The real idea of thrift is resisting the temptation to spend money heedlessly and needlessly”, another said it was to help mother and father tide over a difficulty. All very commendable. No doubt others said it would help them buy a bike or get more sweets and comics every week!

Each prizewinner was presented with a bank book credited with their prize money, which ranged from 10/- down to 2/-. Roy Stewart from Ford, won the top prize from the High School and Archie Donald from the Back Street took the top Burgh School prize. In all there were 26 prizewinners who between them shared £8.

The council gave permission to a local man to hold public dancing in the Corn Exchange, but things didn’t go well. After one week, he gave up. “It was a complete wash out.” he said. I wonder what went wrong?

A fire broke out about midnight in a garage behind John Baxter’s bakers shop in Pathhead. Luckily it was spotted by a neighbour who warned Mr Baxter and his sister who were asleep on the premises. They managed to find some hoses to get water on to the flames and the arrival of the Edinburgh Fire Brigade soon had things under control, but not before a van and the roofs of the garage and a stable had been destroyed. But Pathhead people are made of tough stuff – the morning rolls were still on sale at 7 o’clock the next day.

In the Burgh Court, Provost Spalding had to deal with what was described as a “now rare sort of case”, wife assault, and a nasty case it was. A Dalkeith man was accused of kicking his wife between the legs with his booted foot, to the effusion of blood. The Burgh Prosecutor, George Dick, said that the strained relations between the man and his wife were due to a difference in religion. He had returned home, slightly under the influence but aware of his actions. Some words passed between them and he had thrown a cup at her but missed. She attempted to leave the house and he kicked her, causing internal bleeding. It was a serious case, without provocation, and for “this cowardly attack on his wife” he was fined £3 with the option of 30 days in prison.

Provost Spalding, along with Baillie Cochrane, was retiring from the council and would not stand in the November elections. She had been a councillor for 14 years, Provost for the last three and represented Dalkeith on the County Council and the County Hospitals Committee for the last six years.

Finally, the council decided to close the public convenience at the corner of the Wynd and Edinburgh Road. This convenience was described as more of a public nuisance than convenience. It had no light, with results that could be well imagined during the hours of darkness. If you look at the wall at the corner, you can still see where the convenience door was. There was a more modern building in Eskbank Road, near the gates to King’s Park. Takings at the Eskbank Road convenience in September were 16s 7 1/2d. So either someone made a mistake, or you could spend a halfpenny rather than a penny in 1935.