Former Dalkeith Provost’s local history articles to be published

Former Dalkeith provost, town councillor and district councillor David R Smith.
Former Dalkeith provost, town councillor and district councillor David R Smith.

A new book on the history of Dalkeith, compiled from articles researched and written by David R Smith and originally published in the Advertiser, will be launched next week.

Beginning in the 1950s and continuing until the first decade of the 21st century, former Dalkeith provost and local councillor David submitted many articles on the history of Dalkeith to the newspaper. This new book, ‘Dalkeith: Aspects of the history of a Scottish burgh’ comprises a selection of these.

The cover of Dalkeith: aspects of the history of a Scottish burgh, by David Smith.

The cover of Dalkeith: aspects of the history of a Scottish burgh, by David Smith.

One of the book’s editors, Alan Reid, said: “It is remarkable that time was found to research and compose the pieces while the author held down a full-time job with the Coal Board and was extremely active as a local councillor.

“The book originated when a small group of David’s friends and acquaintances agreed that the volume would represent a much-deserved tribute to his dedication to serving the people of Dalkeith and Midlothian as a whole.

“This was achieved not only in his role as a local politician but also his involvement in a range of bodies, among them Dalkeith History Society, promoting the history, heritage and culture of Dalkeith.

“The articles are wide-ranging in subject matter and the periods covered. The depth of research undertaken becomes apparent on reading them.Although not intended as a comprehensive history of Dalkeith, it is a remarkable insight into how Dalkeith was affected by national and international events as well as the town’s internal response to social issues like health, housing and crime is presented.

“Local politics is featured, as would be expected from someone who for decades served with distinction as a councillor.

“This is no ‘dry as dust’ history but a very entertaining read. In describing the local characters Showman John and Biting Mick, the author’s humour and humanitarianism shine brightly. In looking at slavery, witchcraft and grave-robbing, the rich tapestry of life in Dalkeith through the ages is revealed.

“In dressing up as a tramp and spending a night in a working men’s lodging house, the length to which David was prepared to go to gain knowledge of an issue is apparent.”

David R Smith was elected to Dalkeith Burgh Council in 1952 at the age of 21, the youngest councillor in Scotland. In 1975 local government in Scotland was reorganised and David became an elected member of Midlothian District Council. A further reorganisation in 1996 saw the creation of the unitary authority – Midlothian Council – at which point David stood down after more than 40 years service as a councillor. Over that period he also served, at different times, on Midlothian County Council and as Provost of Dalkeith and Convenor of the District Council.

Copies of ‘Dalkeith: Aspects of the history of a Scottish burgh’ will be on sale at the launch event, priced £10. Thereafter copies will be available from Dalkeith Library and Dalkeith

Museum. Admission to the launch, at Dalkeith Library on Friday, May 31 at 7.30pm, is free. Tickets for the event are available in advance by calling 0131 663 2083.