Thousands affected by big freeze and thaw

Father and children enjoy sledging in the snow on Lothianburn golf course in January 1972.
Father and children enjoy sledging in the snow on Lothianburn golf course in January 1972.

There was an extremly chilly start to 1982 in Midlothian as the county was hit by a week of freezing temperatures, frost and snow.

Midlothian District Council warned it could be “many months” before things returned to normal.

The council also expected the bill for repairing frost damage to run into several thousand pounds.

As reported in The Advertiser (January 1982), “The big freeze has taken its toll on houses, transport, schools and sporting fixtures.

“Snow and frost at the weekend meant that all the sporting fixtures in the district were cancelled. And despite the slight thaw, which started on Tuesday and which should continue, many of this weekend’s games are still in doubt, although final inspections of pitches will not be made until Friday or Saturday, if necessary.

“Since the freeze started, Midlothian District Council has been flooded with telephone calls from tenants reporting damage, mainly frozen or burst pipes.

“On Tuesday morning, a spokesman for the council said there were more than 2000 jobs still outstanding with the work being shared between the council and private firms.

“The spokesman warned it could be many months before the situation returned to normal. He pointed out the council had been coping with emergencies since December and this was holding up work that would normally be done at this time of year.

“Because of the flood of calls, the council has had to draft in staff from other departments to help but despite that there is still a delay of 20 minutes in answering calls.

“One senior property maintenance officer, who has been with the council for 20 years, said this was the worst winter he had ever experienced.

“The Arctic weather forced many Eastern Scottish buses off the road with only half the normal Monday services operating.

“Hundreds of Midlothian schoolchildren enjoyed an extra day’s holiday as nine schools were closed, either because of inadequate heating or because of frozen water supplies.”

A week later The Advertiser reported on the aftermath of the freeze, with news that Midlothian District Council had started a door-to-door survey to find people at risk in Birkenside – one of the areas worst hit.

“The survery, which started on Tuesday, is being carried out to identify old people and disabled to find out if their homes have been damaged by either the freeze of the following thaw.

“Householders are also being told about a special emergency centre which the council has set up in Gorebridge Leisure Centre. The emergency centre is one of five that were set up by the council late last week to cope with the expected torrent of burst pipes.

“However, only the special centre in Dalkeith Community Centre has been used for overnight accommodation and is the only one being kept open by the councl.

“Each centre is equipped with beds and bedding lent to the council by both the Army and the Scottish Home and Health Department.

“Since the freeze started in December, more than 6000 houses – almost half the council’s stock – have been hit by burst pipes. All the council is doing is turning off the water at the mains and making sure that the house is safe. Repairs are not being carried out unitl later.

“A council spokesman said this means some people have been without water for up to 14 days.

“Since the start of the emergency, the council has decanted 30 tenants. There has been severe damage to a further 38 homes, ceilings are completely down in 99 homes and in a furthe 53 houses at least a third of the ceilings have come down.

“Large sections of Penicuik were without water last Thursday because of burst pipes and leaks. Most of the affected homes were in the Queensway, Cuiken and John Street areas of the town.

By the end of the month, Midlothian District Council was taking stock of the poor winter weather. It was reported that Dalkeith and Danderhall were the two worst-hit areas in the county, according to an interim report submitted to the council.

Up to January 21, the council had received 5,820 requests for repairs, the majority following the deep frost early in January.

Meanwhile, plans for the rehabilitation of the Ramsay Bing in Loanhead were still proving unsatisfactory.

The council was angry that the development opportunities of the site have not been fully realised.

“Planning committee chairman councillor John Hope stressed the rehabilittion of the bing was an important development for the area. ‘The bing has been an eyesore in Loanhead for many years and I want to see it all removed.’”

Councillor John Borthwick continued: “We will be able to build residential developments on the site and Loanhead, like so many other areas, has a long housing waiting list.”