Striking Dalkeith men were playing with fire

A bus stops at traffic lights at the High Street, Dalkeith, Midlothian. It was announced in 1953 that a one-way system was to be introduced to ease the bottleneck in the High Street.
A bus stops at traffic lights at the High Street, Dalkeith, Midlothian. It was announced in 1953 that a one-way system was to be introduced to ease the bottleneck in the High Street.

The plight of Dalkeith firefighters was one of the top issues of the day back in November 1951.

However, the age old problem of parking was causing consternation as was the siting of some zebra crossings.

Dalkeith firemen were involved in a bitter, national pay dispute with the government. The men held a two-day sit-down strike as they sought parity with the police scale of wages and allowances.

The Advertiser reported (November 22, 1951): “How would you like to suddenly pack up your job and sit round a fire for the next 48 hours? For that is what Dalkeith firemen did, and most of them like it fine. Others preferred to work but were determined to get through with their sit-down strike to gain their point.

“The strike was on a nationwide scaleand until Wednesday morning at 8 o’clock when it finished any ‘spit and polish’ jobs were absolutely taboo. Firemen want equal pay with police and mean to get it.

“Dalkeith firemen were ‘booked’ on discipline charges but up to Tuesday afternoon no action had been taken against them.

“Not that they worried. When an Advertiser reporter visited Dalkeith Fire Station on Tuesday he found some of the men gathered round the fire, obviously enjoying their life of ease.

“The warning, given by Fire Force Commander A B Craig of the South-Eastern Brigade, that disciplinary action would be taken against those who did not obey orders did not unduly worry the Dalkeith men.

“But not for a moment think that they were sitting round the fire all the time. Oh, no!

“They were in action early on Monday evening. They received an emergency call to deal with a fire at The Cottage, Edgehead, Ford, and strike or no strike they were at the scene quicker than Firemaster Craig could draw his next breath to order a suspension.

“The fire, however, was not a serious one. Woodwork surrounding the fireplace caught alight.

“Firemaster Craig early this week declared a state of emergency in the South-Eastern area. During the first day of the strike he toured his area warning that disciplinary action would be made against those disobeying orders.

“This is the second time that Dalkeith firemen have come out on a 48-hour token strike inside two months. This latest strike ended on Wednesday morning.”

The Advertiser reported on fears about High Street traffic congestion in Dalkeith (November 29, 1951): “Burgh Prosecutor Mr George Dick is worried about the parking situation in Dalkeith and one Saturday he warned the Burgh Magistrate: ‘Something will have to be done about it. It is a question the Magistrate will have to sonciser carefully in the future.’

“Mr Dick gave his warning after a personal investigation into the matter when he found that parked vehicles in the High Street were causing considerable traffic congestion.

“His pronouncement on the parking situation came mid-way through proceedings against a 23-year-old driver who pleaded guilty to leaving a Morris commercial motor van outside the Royal Bank of Scotland in Dalkeith High Street longer than necessary.

“Nearly all cases dealt with at Saturday’s court were for traffic offences.”

The latest in road traffic management was being considered for the county town with plans to instal ‘zebra’ crossings at various locations.

The Advertiser reported (November 8, 1951): “Dalkeith may get two, possibly three of the now famous ‘zebra’ crossings. Midlothian County Council, as the road authority, has appealed to the Ministry of Transport to sanction the installation of two ‘zebra’ crossings in the town. Dalkeith Town Council, however, are pressing for county to ask the Ministry to provide a third one in the burgh. On Monday, a county council official declined to comment on the matter. He told the Advertiser: ‘It is merely a proposal.’ Musselburgh already has three ‘zebra’ crossings installed.

“It is proposed to establish the crossings in the High Street, between Manchester House and Baird’s, the clothiers, and in the Lauder Road at its junction with Peaseflat Road. The Town Council hopes to see a third one established at Stewart’s Garage in Newmills Road.

“The new ‘zebra’ crossings came into force under a new Ministry of Transport regulation which came into force last Wednesday.”