Royal Burgh of North Berwick
[Coat of Arms]

19th Century
Biarritz of the North
Early Settlers
Pilgrim Ferry
Royal Charter
Nunnery and Witches Coven
Town Council
Parish Kirk
Harbour and Fishing
Times of Change
Between the War Years
Coastguard and Lifeboat

Coat of Arms 1373

  Harbour and Fishing

Where the harbour now stands was originally a tidal island which encompassed the ground of the Auld Kirk and graveyard, this gave way to a sandy cove where the esplanade is now sited. The island was twice the size it is today, quarrying of the red leck reduced its size dramatically. The harbour originally took the form of a breakwater built along the crown of a ridge leading from the Platcock Rocks. The breakwater ended about eighty feet short of the present harbour entrance and consisted of boulders and large rough blocks. It's outer face was constructed of irregular dry-stone masonry secured with wooden wedges (picture below), similar to the original East Pier at Dunbar, which was dated in the sixth century. The earliest mention of a port at North Berwick was in a charter of 1177. In ancient times there were guest-houses built by the Lauder family to accommodate the pilgrims crossing to Elie. The site of the hostels are now occupied by the granaries constructed on reclaimed land. The island remained tidal until 1799.
[Lobster Boats] That year a man from the town was press ganged into His Majesty's Navy and the community had to raise £25 to secure his release. The Town Magistrates instructed the man to go about the town warning the fishermen and seamen of the Naval Impressment.

Herring fishing was first minuted in August 1809 when the Town Council applied to the Trustees of the Fisheries for funding to fish for herring. The Council was concerned the herring would be fished by boats from the north side of the Forth and they would land their catch at North Berwick harbour.

The present harbour is the result of many alterations, mainly due to reconstruction following storm-damage. In June 1593 the Town Council requested support from the Convention of Burghs to repair the harbour and this was the first of many appeals for assistance. The north east quay covered during the construction of the former swimming pool was first mentioned in the Burgh Accounts in 1726, with a reference to a sluice used to wash the silt out of the harbour. The south east wall was built in 1788 and the south west transverse pier, at the outer end of the harbour was constructed in 1803 by John and James Grieve, masons in North Berwick.

Following the storm-damage in 1811 the south west pier was relaid and the original breakwater extended, forming a new pier head at the entrance, the top of which was reached by a stair. John Boyd, a shipmaster of North Berwick was appointed an Honorary Burgess and Freeman of the Burgh in 1786. The following year he was asked by the Council to recommend a number of men as pilots. He listed Peter Marr, Peter Marr Jnr. Henry Jackson, Matthew Jackson, Alexander Comb, John Smith, Robert Murray, Robert Murray Jnr., and James Kelly. They were provided with a badge with the name of the burgh and dated. In October 1876 the pilots were licensed by the Town Council for the first time.

A crane for the boom at the mouth of the harbour was installed by Andrew Walker (wright) in June 1780 costing £10 sterling. In 1786, Robert Bertram (Brewer) purchased ground to the south of the granary on the lower quay. The Magistrates appointed Francis Buchanan as the first Shore Master in August 1808 when regulations for all ship masters was drawn up and printed. The deepening of the harbour was carried out in 1804 by Messrs Grieves and Thomas Bamber of North Berwick and again in 1862 by J. Young of Sutherland. Cut-back rock-faces can be seen under the quays where encroaching rocks had to be removed, when the harbour was deepened.

Repairs to the harbour was a burden on the Council and to raise the finance required they proposed to sell off the island of Craigleith. On 17th September 1814 a disposition had been executed in favour of Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple who agreed to pay £400 for the Craig, by yearly instalments of £100. Originally it had been intended to dispose of the island by lottery, but this was found to be illegal. To improve the entrance, the Northern Lighthouse Commissioners placed a light on the north pier head which was not turned on during May, June and July. To cover the expense each herring boat paid 10/-, and visiting boats paid 1 penny everytime they passed the light. The Board also place a buoy on the Maiden Rocks in 1861.

During the deepening of the harbour in 1862, a serious disturbance occurred on a Saturday night, which was pay-day, when a number of the labourers employed in the works got exceedingly noisy leading to riotous behaviour. Police constable McMillan was called to the harbour and cautioned the men on their behaviour, which resulted in one of the Irishmen directing a knock down bow to McMillan. On seeing this, Alex Russell one of the local fishermen ran forward to assist the policeman but the navvies served Russell in the same manner as McMillan.

This proved too much for the other fishermen who had gathered and they rushed forward, resulting in hand to hand fighting. Shortly afterwards one of the Irishmen named Dailly was identified as the man who had struck the policeman and was captured and lodged in jail. On Monday at the Burgh Court, James Dall the Chief Magistrate convicted Dailly and sentenced him to pay a fine of £2 or 30 days imprisonment. His comrades paid the fine.

In 1832 there were nine vessels belonging to the harbour and four were engaged in foreign trade. In previous years there had been a decrease in the export of grain and lime but an increase in turnips and potatoes chiefly to Newcastle and London markets. There were no foreign vessels trading in North Berwick during this period. The import of rape, oil cake, and crushed bones for manure was increasing, while coal for the town and neighbourhood came by sea. Four large vessels had been added to the harbour since 1829.

In 1834 the fishing boats at Canty Bay paid no anchorage fee and the Town Council decided to bring them in line with North Berwick harbour and charge one guinea annually. In 1836 the Town Council levied James Strong, a Merchant of Leith, a fee of one guinea for keeping a box in the harbour for storing his lobsters. James Strong & Company, 5 Haddington Place, Leith employed all the fishermen who caught lobsters at North Berwick.

In 1840, lobster fishing was carried out by two men in each boat, dressed in canvas frocks with sheepskin trousers and coarse gloves. To catch the lobster they used a strong hoop about sixty inches in circumference, suspended from a nine-fathom buoy rope. A small conical net with a three inch mesh was fixed round the lower part of the hoop. Each boat would carry up to twenty-four such nets. The bait generally consists of cod, skate or flounder.

Colonel James Paterson invented and patented the first machine that could tie knots to help with fishing net production in 1812. J.W. Stuart bought the patents and his company on Paterson's death set up a plant on the site of Eskmills in Musselburgh. They went on to become the world leaders in the 'Scottish Weave Nets' industry employing around 800 people.

Associated with the harbour was a coopers yard where boats were repaired or laid up. This was approached by way of a slip in the harbour's east corner near the burgh stable yard which was also used to stable the local constabulary horses. Two warehouses were built on the quay side, the present buildings occupied by East Lothian Yacht Club and the Harbour Terrace with their original outside staircases. These buildings were used for the storage of grain, wool and potatoes for export. Later they also accommodated a number of fishing families who had migrated from Buckhaven. Coal was transported to the town by boat from Bo'ness, the Fife coast and Newcastle with the coalyard situated on the site of the former Sun Parlour. In 1839 it cost 14/- a ton for Scotch Great Coal or 17/- a ton for English. Coal was very expensive and a great burden on the poor family.

The original level of the road leading to the harbour can be seen below the railings at 19-29 Victoria Road. This property incorporating Lower Quay was constructed in 1868 by Keddie & Herriot whose joiners yard was situated at the back of the Quadrant. At that time John Herriot was a Town Councillor and the row of cottages were known as Herriot Place. The outside staircases remain but the coal cellars underneath were removed when the road was raised and the building on the south end added. The Fisherman's Hall was built in 1883 and in April 1890, the Town Council and the Coastguard Service signed an agreement on the position of the new Semaphore Station on the Platcock Rocks. In 1896 The Coastguard Station was connected by telephone to the Post Office when four telegraph poles were erected along the beach.

Anchor Green Memorial

Following a drowning accident in 1889 Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple initiated a subscription for a memorial cross to be erected on Anchor Green. Miss Kate Watson third daughter of Mr Watson of the firm of Messrs J.R.Young and Co. shipbrokers, Glasgow lost her life in a heroic attempt to save a boy from drowning at North Berwick. Two boys and a girl the sons and daughter of Mr Curie, solicitor, Melrose were bathing at a spot where several fatal accidents have occurred in past years, when they were drowned apparently by an undercurrent. They were being carried away when their perilous position was noticed by Kate Watson and others from the shore. The young lady who had been bathing and had just finished dressing at once swam out to the rescue. Though the distance was considerable, she reached one of the boys Gerald. The boy was saved, but the young lady was either seized with cramp of became exhausted as she immediately afterwards disappeared. The other boy and girl were rescued. Miss Kate Watson was about 19 years of age.

The red granite Celtic Cross, with the inscription ' Erected in memory of Catherine Watson of Glasgow, aged 19 who drowned in the East Bay, 27th July 1889 while rescuing a drowning boy. The child was saved, the brave girl was taken.' The memorial was designed by S. McGlashen in 1890 and crafted by Catherine Watson's fellow students at Glasgow School of Art and surround by a decorative metal railing. Sir Walter suggested a bye-law should be passed to remove the unsightly clothes lines on the Anchor Green, no nets drying, line baiting or boats or fishing gear from 10am-8pm from May to October 1890. Sir Walter gifted the Old Rocket House on the Anchor Green to the Town Council to be used as a mortuary in 1895. [Lobster Boats]

As the nineteenth century progressed herring became an important food for the whole of Britain and the government offered a financial incentive to any Scottish fisherman building a boat over sixty feet. The vessel required a crew of five and was able to sail 200 miles in a single day. The herring was fished with drift nets that hang down from cork floats on the surface. By the late nineteenth century the fishermen were using cotton nets which were much lighter than hemp, its predecessor. The Fifie had a lower cabin with a coal fired stove for drying the wet clothes and cooking the meals. From about 1890 until the introduction of steam and later petrol powered engines, the Fifie and the half-decked Zulu were the Rolls Royce of deep-sea sailing drifters.

In 1839 the Council was requested to approve the formation of a Fishing Company and to allow the fishermen to dry their nets on the Toun Common. The Company also requested an area on the south west corner of the west quay to clean their fish which was approved on the payment of 6d annually. In 1841 the Town Council applied to the Royal Institute of Fisheries for funding a new harbour to be built at the Bay of Green, near the Leithes. Although the Board agreed they replied that the number of requests for funding meant this project would take years to come to fruition. The same year Robert Walker applied to the Town Council for permission to have a lobster fold in the Leck Rocks.

In 1888 there were 90 men and boys working 30 fishing boats at North Berwick and by the turn of the century Canty Bay had its own small fishing community with 31 people working on six fishing boats. The deep-sea fishing was chiefly carried out from fifty to one hundred miles east of the Bass, where cod, ling, turbot, halibut and skate were caught.

In the 1840s John Neillans cooperage was situated on the site of the present Museum and Library in School Road. Along with his sons John, Robert and Thomas they made thousands of barrels for the herring fishing. John Neillans, the son of a fishmonger was born in North Berwick in 1786. Using a bow saw to cut the round top, base, and staves. They would open the joints with a flaggering iron, insert river reeds and fill the holes with a putty made from herring oil and whitening. Barrel making was an important part of the fishing industry. Before refrigerating, ice was scarce and expensive and the only way to preserve the herring was in a barrel cured with brine. In 1852 his son Robert Neillans was a cooper and fish curer while Thomas Neillans continued the business on the site behind the coastguard cottages known as 'Cooper's Well'. Washing herring barrels in the street was banned in 1856. The following year the Water Company piped water to the harbour for the first time.

At the Public Roup in 1858, 12 herring curing stances on the Lower Quay were auctioned and the successful bidders were John Jamieson, (Edinburgh); James Aitken (Fisherrow); John Downie (Fisherrow); Peter Cowe (Berwick-upon-Tweed); William Sinclair (Leith); McDonald (Berwick-upon-Tweed); George McLaren (Fishmonger, North Berwick); Thomas Eason (Fishmonger, North Berwick); William Manderson (Fishmerchant, North Berwick); Mr Gourlay (Cockenzie); James Methven (Leith); Anderson (Grocer North Berwick). The Harbour Master was William Noel and he was followed by William McLaren in 1861. Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple wrote to the Town Council in April 1885 regarding the harbour master Alex Campbell being drunk and uncivil to his yacht captain. Campbell resigned in August 1885 and the position of harbour master was advertised on handbills distributed throughout the town. There were six applicants and James Marr was appointed Harbour Master in August 1885. In 1930 James 'Daddy' Marr (1835-1933) was the oldest Harbour Master in the British Isles still working at the age of ninety five years. Also in 1885 Mr.Sedgwick Chief Coastguard was instructed to supply life bouys, one on the east bay, one at the harbour and a third on the west bay.

In 1862, 42 North Berwick fishermen signed a petition requesting the Town Council to write to the Fishery Board to stop trawling being carried out along the coast. In 1863, the herring fishing was carried out around the Craigleith but the herring suddenly disappeared around 1874 and were seldom seen west of the Bass. When the herring was abundant off North Berwick, a typical evenings fishing could yield an average of four or five crans, some boats landed nine or ten and one boat nearly twenty cran, which stood as a record for a number of years. The prices in 1860 varied from 26 to 31 shillings per cran. The biggest haul was taken from 10th to the 18th August. At the height of the herring fishing 7000 barrels were obtained in one week, the ordinary take was about 12,000 barrels in a season and the boats came from Fife and the South.

The women got up early to gather the mussels for baiting the fishing lines which could take four hours. The line had a thousand hooks and each boat had two lines. When the boats returned the wives were often assisted by single woman from other areas to gut and box the herring. The knife was so sharp they would wrap their fingers in sacking for protection.

Most of the fishermen were in the employment of fish curers and merchants, such as John Jamieson, William Manderson, and Alex Henderson from Anstruther to whom they had to sell all the fish they caught at a stipulated price. The fish were then sent by rail to London, Leeds, Birmingham, and Manchester. The fish merchants in North Berwick being close to the railway line could command better prices for their herring than other areas not connected. In 1866 the prices could reach the high level of 30/- to 50/- per cran (1 cran=3.5 cwt), while on the Caithness coast, still unserved by railway, herring of the same quality could realise only 5/- to 20/- per cran during the same season. In former times the fishermen's wives and daughters travelled through the countryside to sell their fish.

The inshore fishing yielded haddock, whiting, flounders, sole and brill. The herring fishing was carried out entirely by drift-nets, the other fish were caught by lines, except that trawling was practised for sole and brill. Lobsters and crabs were caught by means of creels and shrimps were gathered along the shore in summer. Oysters were found near the Bass but they were dredged with difficulty.

Cod, mackerel, salmon, and trout were occasionally caught in the herring-nets and sometimes porpoises and even sharks. The dog-fish, part of the shark family, was regarded by the fishermen as their greatest enemy, because it not only destroys the fish but often damages their fishing gear. Bait was obtained with difficulty near North Berwick. Mussels were not found in abundance until nearer Aberlady Bay. At North Berwick the live mussels were put till required in compartments made by loosely building up large stones against the inner wall of the harbour, thus preventing them from being scattered and lost through their own movements and tidal action.

The fishermen started work about five o'clock in the evening, and continued until sunrise. They could cover up to twelve miles in a night setting the nets in many different places. On some occasions, in favourable weather they could catch six or seven dozen in a night. When the lobsters were laid in the boat, their claws were tied with cord and great care was taken to keep them away from bilge-water, rain or the sun, which would destroy them in a few hours.

The night's fishing was deposited in large bags which remained in the sea until carried off once a week by a fish merchant or agent. In 1846, the fishermen were paid three-and-a-half pence for each lobster, anything under eight inches was counted as half price as well as those minus a claw. The agent placed the lobsters in boxes secured under the sea until they were up lifted by the London smacks which were specially built for that purpose.

[Elizabeth Kelly] In a 'Guide To North Berwick' published in 1907 fishing was described as follows:- The fish generally caught about North Berwick are haddock, codlings, whiting and flounders. When herring are in the Firth, mackerel are more or less abundant; and as the season advances saithe and pollack take a large white fly readily enough in the evening. Mackerel is trolled for with a white lure of kid or of gurnet skin, or even with a phantom minnow or angel. Near Craigleith, with Fidra showing to the outside of the Lamb, is good ground for haddock; while a hundred yards or so to the east of the Lamb, and somewhat inshore of it, flounders ought to be plentiful. By flounders is meant the common sand-dab, at its best in September.

(Left) The mussels are placed on hooks on the line and kept in a wooden container called a scull. It was not unusual for the fishermen to set off to sea each day with 1200 hooks on 240 yards of line, all baited by his wife.

East of the harbour there is also good ground for flounders, quite close inshore, on either side of that long disconnected ridge of black rock jutting out from the Rhodes Links, known as the Leithies; and also in the bay between them and the Leck Moran. The best ground for the larger sized fish is off the Bass, which however is too dangerous a trip to make in a small rowing-boat. The baits commonly used are mussels, lobworms, and sand-eels which can be readily procured from the boat-hirers or from the fisherman.

In 1831 a razor-backed whale was stranded to the west of the town. The news of its arrival spread like wild fire and great crowds came to visit it on the Sabbath. The town was completely inundated and the day was remembered as 'Whale Sunday'. The whale was ultimately purchased by Dr. Knox a lecturer at Edinburgh University and exhibited in the Industrial Museum (now in Chamber Street, Edinburgh). Again in March 1870 a shoal of whales were sighted between the Craigleith and the Bass, one was measured at 90 feet in length but fortunately they made it safely out of the Firth.

Smuggling was at its peak during the early 1800's as taxes were high to pay for the Napoleonic Wars. According to the North Berwick Statistical Account complied by Rev. Robert Balfour Graham, minister of St Andrews Kirk in 1839, a boat with eight coastguards was stationed at North Berwick in the 1820s to restrict the practice of smuggling.

One particular group of smugglers who were well acquainted with each other, worked the coast between Berwickshire and Cockenzie. They dealt mainly in French wines and brandy and legend has it that they supplied their contraband to many of the respectable families in the district. Whisky was then scarcely known and the farmers and working class generally used malt liquors.

In putting down this trade armed skirmishes between the smugglers and Excise Officers sometimes took place. Before the widening of the main-road to Tyninghame, a hawthorn tree, locally called 'the ganger's tree', stood at the sharp bend beyond Whitekirk, where the side-road to Loch-houses branches off. This marked the spot where two Officers were shot dead by smugglers they were endeavouring to arrest.

In August 1880 harbour pilots David Miller and Charles Marr were suspended following an incident with a steamboat full of visitors when the antics of the fishermen endangered the life of several excursionists. The Chief Magistrate endorsed their Parchment Certificate with their suspension as pilots for three months.

Coastguard and Customs

The first reference to a Customs Officer was Patrick Douglas, Captain of His Majesty's Customs House, Boat Station, North Berwick who was made an honorary burgess in June 1766. A Coastguard Station and Custom House was constructed on Anchor Green in 1857, North Berwick and the Board of Trade established a Rocket Brigade when twenty-two men volunteered to join. The new station linked with the Seacliff Station to the east and covered the coast westwards as far as Leith. Seacliff, in turn linked with Dunbar and so the whole southern approach to the Forth was covered from the shore.

The Coastguard Officers lived with their families in the Coastguard Cottages built in 1870 in Melbourne Road. All were ex-Royal Navy, mostly Petty Officers from England. Among the names were James Davidson (1841), Alexander Bruce (1841), Joseph Lindsay (1861), James McLean (1861), Patrick Hartnett (1881), Halbert Henderson (1881), John Sedgwick (1881), James Keys (1881), John Maheny (1881), James Forrester (1901) Henry Thorne (1901), Joseph Kenny (1901) and Captain Thomas Woodrow. In October 1884, Lieutenant Fletcher divisional officer of the Coastguard Service submitted plans for a new Rocket Cart House, adjacent to the Coastguard Cottages.

The lifeboat crew and about two dozen launchers mustered on the firing of the signal gun sited near the Coastguard Station. The 'Rocketeers' as the members of the volunteer Rocket Brigade were known, operated a rescue rocket apparatus with a thin wire attached which they fired over the stricken vessel. The line was then attached to a thicker rope which was used to pull the crew a shore. The apparatus was taken by horse and cart along the main road to the nearest access point to the vessel in trouble. This system was partly thought up by George Miller MRPSE, General Practitioner from Dunbar and the apparatus was stored in their bothy in the Auld Kirk porch on the Anchor Green where the fireplace they used still remains. Captain Thomas Woodrow was the local agent for the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Society at 4, Quality Street. The society was able to offer financial assistance to the widows, orphans and parents of fishermen and mariners lost at sea. It was custom for sailors to wear a gold earing, this was to pay for their burial if they perished at sea. The society also helped with the cost of boarding, clothing, returning shipwrecked seamen home and other persons cast destitute on the coast.

The 'puffer' more associated with the Clyde was also a common sight on the Firth of Forth, carrying cargo of eighty to one hundred tons up and down the east coast. They earned their name puffer from the noise the early steam engines made when their exhaust was released into the atmosphere with a load puffing noise. They stopped puffing when condensers were fitted but the name stuck. The closure of the Firth of Forth for security reasons during WW1 dealt a deathblow to the east coast trade. Commodities were moved by road and rail for the duration of the conflict and the 'puffers' were never seen again.


In September 1854 a public subscription was started to provide a Barometer to be placed on the Anchor Green where the memorial cross now stands. In 1880 the barometer was beyond repair and a second Barometer was placed in the Lifeboat Station gifted by Captain James Braid Whitelaw (Kings Knoll). When the Station closed in 1926 the Negretti and a Zambra Barometer was moved to the Fisherman's Hall where it remains. The Barometer installed on the gable of the old granary building by East Lothian Yacht Club's Commodore Norman H. Butterworth in the 1950s. The barometer was restored by local craftsman David Wellwood in 2021.

In one of the final acts of Provost's MacIntyre's tenure of office in January 1919, he recommended that Mrs. Isabella Lyon should be conferred Honorary Freedom of the Royal Burgh for her work as President of the Local Voluntary War Workers Organisation for the great work done locally throughout the War. Similarly Mrs. Lilian Whitelaw wife of James Braid Whitelaw of Kings Knoll for her work in the YMCA Hut in the Parish Church Hall comforting our soldiers stationed in North Berwick and the men both at East Fortune and West Fenton. They were also presented with a decorative Burgess Ticket in a metallic casket, the first female recipient of such a prodigious award. They were presented with their award at the Dinner organised by the Town Council for all returning soldiers from WW1.

Galloway's Pier

In March 1886 the Town Council received a letter from Matthew Galloway requesting permission to make a temporary landing and footpath on the Platcock Rocks for the purpose of landing and embarking passengers during the summer months, which he believed would be the pioneer of permanent works. The Galloway Saloon Steam Packet Company applied to the Town Council to lease ground on the Platcock Rocks and construct a low water pier. The application was posted on the Parish Church door and printed on hand bills circulated throughout the town. John Anderson & Son, fish merchants objected to the harmful interference the proposed landing would have on his salmon nets. The Architect and Civil Engineer was Belfrage & Carfrae, Edinburgh and the application was approved on a 21 year lease with a rent of £5 annually. By tradition, all legal documents drawn up by the Town Council were witnessed by the local police constable and that year constable James Anderson signed the document. The Magistrates also stipulated that no sailings were permitted on a Sunday and agreed with the applicant that only Galloway's steamboats were permitted to use the pier.

In June 1887, Robert Henderson the engineer for Matthew Galloway found the sand had shifted very materially since he made his first measurement and was now so scoured away as to be insufficient for the stability for the seaward end row of piles. In consequence of this he proposes to secure the piles by means of concrete 6 feet deep all over the area of the pier head which would be 2 feet above the water at low tide and strengthen the pier by bracing with diagonals between the piles.The Civil Engineer R.C. Brebner & Co. was awarded the contract to construct the pier, but due to the difficulty in obtaining iron rails the start of the work was delayed until the following year. The timber work was carried out by Thomas Himsworth & Son, 103 High Street, North Berwick. To celebrate the opening of the new pier in May 1888, Matthew Galloway invited the Magistrates and Town Councillors on a trip to Elie on the steamboat Stirling Castle.

On 2nd August 1897, Police Inspector James Snowie reported to the Town Council that the Galloway Steam Packet Company had landed passengers at North Berwick on a Sunday against the agreement. The Police Inspector reported that at 10.30am on Sunday 1st August the steamer Tantallon Castle landed 30 passengers east of the Platcock rocks (Kirk Ness) and took-off 170 at the same place by means of small boats. On the return journey the steamer landed 170 passengers on Galloway's Pier and took on 24 from the same place. The Town Council wrote to Mr. Galloway expressing their disapproval. He apologised and explained that the steamer was sailing to Berwick-Upon- Tweed and they had received a large number of requests from North Berwick to join the special trip to Berwick.

Following the lifting of the Ministry of Defence constraints on the movement of shipping during WW1, Galloway struggled to increase the passenger numbers and in 1918 they decided not to renew the lease of the landing rights. In 1920 Matthew Galloway gifted the pier to the North Berwick Town Council. In 1925 the Stanley-Butler Steamship Company from Kirkcaldy offered to repair the pier and make it safe for public use if they were granted permission to land passengers. In 2014 the pier was refurbished by Anderson Construction Group Ltd based in Inverness. The project cost £488,288 and was funded by SEStran and East Lothian Council. On 7th August 2015 a new ferry service organised by Seafari Adventures was launched between North Berwick and Anstruther in Fife.

John Anderson & Sons (mentioned above), fishmonger at 106 George Street, Edinburgh and several other premises in St Patrick Square, North Bruntsfield Place, and Haymarket Terrace, held the lease for most of the salmon stakes on the Firth of Forth including the nets on the board sands at Fidra. The stakes had a long net or 'leader' which diverted the fish into the fish court, an opening on the seaward side. The out building adjacent to the eighth fairway on the West LInks was known as 'Anderson's Ice-box' were the salmon was stored before being uplifted to market. The Green Committee on the West Links golf course purchased the building in 1895.

One of the many characters at the harbour was Jackie 'Oscar' Combe who was easily recognised as he stood up while rowing his fishing boat, a former life-boat from an ocean going liner. Born in North Berwick in 1912, Jackie rowed out to his creels at the Bass Rock every day. Originally his boat had an engine but one day he returned to the harbour with the leg of his trousers in tatters. Apparently his trousers caught in the drive shaft of the two stroke engine. The engine was promptly ditched and from that day Jackie stood up-right while rowing his boat with the strength of an ox. The Kelvin engine, known as the 'Fisherman's Friend' was developed in 1900 with a 6/8 petrol paraffin engine.

In November 1896 a fire extensively damaged the Dirleton Granary in Forth Street. The building was used by the fishermen and others to store their equipment which was destroyed in the fire. The Town Council organised a subscription to compensate those who had lost their nets and £88-10/- was collected and distributed by the Magistrates.

At the Burgh Magistrates Court on 14th October 1898 in front of Ballie Wilson, the following juveniles Robert Thomson, Walter Brown, James Ferguson, David Ferguson, George Thomson, David Grant, Thomas Stephenson were found guilty of 'Malicious Mischief' in breaking up an old boat at the harbour which belonged to George Stewart. They were each fined 5/- or 2 days in jail. Within a few years 'The Harbour Gang' had emigrated as professional golfers to America and Europe.

  Times of Change

In April 1885 the Northern Lighthouse Commissioners supply vessel 'Pharos', delivered furniture to Fidra lighthouse which was completed that year. The Commissioners requested permission from the Town Council to raise a Flag Staff on Platcock Rocks for signaling Fidra and Bass Rock lighthouses. This was agreed at a rent of 5/- per annum. By the early part of the twentieth century, the traditional line fishing had given way to more modern methods and the scene of women baiting the lines with mussels at the harbour had disappeared. Although the squared out holes in the rocks beyond the paddling pond in the East Bay, known as the 'drippin' pans', continued to be used for gathering salt and holding lobsters. The town was now supplied by water from the Thorter and Dunolly reservoirs situated above Garvald in the Lammermuirs with storage since 1881 of 179,298 gals at the Heugh Farm. There were a number of societies active in the town including the Freemason's, Foresters', Oddfellows and Good Templars'. The old tenement known as the 'Gunboat' was demolished to make way for the Ben Sayers golf club factory, on the site now occupied by the building at 15-21 Forth Street. During the factory excavations a 14th century kiln, 25 feet high was unearthed. In earlier times this had been used to dry barley when the Dirleton Granary occupied this site.

In February 1912, R. Thompson & Co, Engineers in Leith applied to the Town Council for special terms for landing iron from the wreck of the steamer S.S.Bull, estimated at 400 tons. The Council refused to reduce the rates and charged the normal Harbour dues of £5. The collision between the S.S.Bull and the steam trawler Rosslyn of Leith happened on 6th December 1893, between Craigleith and the Lamb when S.S.Bull sank, no crew were lost.

On 1st June 1900 the town celebrated the capture of Petoria by taking a half day holiday. There was a large procession through the town and at four o’ clock there was a fire works display and bonfire on the West Links.

In May 1896 the Town Council asked Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple to provided land for a new burial ground suggesting the Old Abbey Park (Redcroft). Sir Walter refused permission as the sale of houses in that area would be effected. Another site was proposed on the west side of the road leading to Berwick Law this was abandoned in favour of a site in Tantallon Road. The Council asked James Taylor and David Purdie, gardeners in the town to quote for laying out the new cemetery which was opened in 1902.

Visit of King Edward VII

In October 1902 King Edward VII visited North Berwick as a guest of Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar who hosted the King's visit and as such was later awarded the freedom of the Burgh. His Majesty drove through the town in a carriage with two horses to Carlkemp, a mansion over looking the West Links where His Majesty watched the golfers playing the fourth and fourteenth holes. He also watched the children on the Ladies course. Prior to the arrival of the King the newspapers suggested His Majesty would play in a foursome match with Mr. Arthur J. Balfour (Prime Minister) and Ben Sayers the local professional but they ran out of time. Ben Sayers was presented to his Majesty by Prince Edward and the King ordered a set of clubs from Sayers which included four woods and six iron clubs and in the afternoon Sayers played the West Links with the King's Equery.

After lunch at The Knoll, (Clifford Road) where the King was residing with Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar, His Majesty planted a purple-leafed sycamore close to the Town Council Chambers in Quality Street to commemorate his visit and the crowd sang the National Anthem. The Town Clerk asked The King to sign the Council minutes and he turned the pages to see the minutes of his first visit to North Berwick in August 29th 1859.

At 3 o'clock the Prime Minister Arthur J. Balfour was waiting in his powerful motor car to drive the King past Tantallon Castle, through the village of Whitekirk to a reception at Whittingehame where he was introduced to the Balfour family. In the evening the King returned to North Berwick brilliantly illuminated in his honour and prepared for the long journey to London at ten o’clock the next morning.

In December 1904 the Burgh Surveyor, Robert Blackadder was instructed to remove the notice board on the beach prohibiting mixed bathing. That year the town hearse was independently financed by the Hearse Society and was used 34 times compared with 66 times the previous year, reflecting the health of the community. The gas company introduced a new street lighting system in 1905. The apparatus consisted of a little tank and bell which were actuated by extra pressure from the gasworks, forcing the bell to raise, opening the valve and allowing gas to press to the burner. The result being that lamps which extended over a wide area could be lighted within a few seconds of the increased pressure. By reducing the pressure at the works the valve was closed and the light extinguished. The gas company presented the Town Council with two decorative street lamps each with the Burgh coat of arms engraved on the glass. One lamp was erected at the foot of the stairs leading to the Council Chambers and the other outside the residence of the Provost, which for over 70 years was traditionally moved each time a new provost was elected.

Building Boom

During this period North Berwick experienced an amazing boom in property building - Marmion Road (1885), St. Margaret's Road (1899), Dirleton Avenue (1901), York Road (1902) and St. Baldred's Road (1907). Clifford Road was named after Alice Clifford, wife of the 8th Baronet, Sir Walter Hamilton-Dalrymple. This tradition of naming roads after the Baronet's wife continues to this day. St Ann's House in York Road was built in 1882 for The Right Honorable Lady Elizabeth Duncan, the architect was Sydney Mitchell and Wilson, 122 George Street, Edinburgh. The property was extended in 1903 and sub-divided in 1959. Some of the finest buildings were designed by Sir Robert Lorimer from 1893 - 1910, The Grange-1893 (Lord Traynor, a High Court judge); Marly Knowe-1902 (Professor Edward Schaefer an eminent physiologist). Sir Robert Lorimer designed the extension to Hyndford for Frank Tennant-1903, The Grange for Captain Harry Armitage-1904, Kings Knoll-1907, and he was consulted on Westerdunes-1910. He designed the Porch of St Baldred's Church-1917 and the entrance to the Roman Catholic Church. Lorimer used Rattlebags stone quarried at East Fenton and the finest craftsmen.



Murray House, No.4,West Bay Road was a private boarding school supervised by Rev. David McCalman Turpie D.D in 1866. The school was continued by his daughter Dr. Mary Turpie until 1930.


Tantallon House (No.2) was built in 1864, the first Guest House in North Berwick kown as Annie Abel's Guest House. Royal Hotel.


Lieutenant-Colonel, David Edward Hely-Hutchison, son of 6th Earl of Donoughmore of Knocklofty, Ireland. died Cranston 1923. The property fell to the distinguished, Knightly and Baronial family of Riddell or Cranston-Riddell also called the Baron of Riddell.


John Ross Menzies grandson of John Menzes founder of the Bookseller and Newsagent business, built the property at 5 West Bay Road, North Berwick in 1865. The business was established in 1833 when his grandfather opened a bookshop at 61 Princes Street, Edinburgh. John Ross Menzies remained single and died in North Berwick in 1935.


Lucy Hope was the daughter of George William Hope MP, Luffness. In 1890 Lucy resided in Angus House, 7 West Bay Road (now No.16) North Berwick. In May 1898 Miss Lucy Hope purchased the old Slaughter House in Forth Street and built the Hope Rooms also called the 'Caddie Institute'. She not only assisted in the regulation of the Caddie Institute in the Hope Rooms but had a sympathetic ear for the welfare of the men's families when times were hard.


The ground was originally part of the Gas Works which was demolished in 1862. That year Duneaton House was built by James Lewis, an Edinburgh Merchant. His daughter Isabella Lewis donated funds to the North Berwick Town Council to erect a water fountain at the top of the Quadrant.


Inchgarry House was built in 1862 by Thomas Campbell, a metal merchant in Leith. Specialising in lead gas pipes. His niece Dorothy Campbell was a fine golfer and the first woman to win the national championship of five countries, USA, Great Britain, Scotland, Canada, and Bermuda.


In 1903 the property at No.9 West Bay Road was built by Ethel Marguerite Maxwell and named East Gribton after the family estate in Dumfries. Her brother Robert Maxwell was twice Amateur Champion in 1903 and 1909. The property was later named Point Garry House. Robert Maxwell purchased the property at No.22, Dirleton Avenue, and named it East Gribton.


James E. Cree purchased the ground at Tusculum, 8 York Road in 1907. James E, Cree was in partnership with John Crabbie & Co. producing green ginger wine in their premises on Great Junction Street, Leith. In 1916 the property was passed to Irene Mabel Cree who died in 1974 aged 79 years.


History of the Property on Abbotsford Road

Kaimend Edradour Carlekemp Teviotdale St Aiden's Shipka Lodge Quarry Court Bunkers Hill Westerdunes Invereil


Kaimend,17 Hamilton Road overlooking the famous fifteenth hole named 'Redan'. The property was built by Benjamin Hall Blyth Snr. in 1885. Blyth was an engineer and acted as adviser and engineer to most of the principal Railway Companies in Scotland. Benjamin Hall Blyth Snr. had a long association with North Berwick and on his death he bequeathed enough funds to secure the building of the United Presbyterian Church (North Berwick Abbey Church) in 1868.

Kaimend was left to his son Benjamin Hall Blyth Jnr. who was an engineer like his father. He founded the firm of Blyth & Cunningham, which eventually became Blyth & Blyth. Hall Blyth Jnr. was a consultant engineer to the Caledonian, North British and Great North of Scotland Railway companies. He was responsible for the construction of Waverley Station, the North Bridge above and extending the North Berwick branch line to include stations at Aberlady, Luffness and Gullane. He was also President of the Scottish Football Union in 1875-76. Following the death of B. Hall Blyth in 1917 the ownership of Kaimend remained in the family when J.C.Couper a lawyer in Edinburgh took ownership. In 1937 it passed to his daughter Millicent Couper, the first lady Provost of the Royal Burgh of North Berwick. In 1971 the property was sold to Philip McKenzie Ross, the golf course architect of Turrnberry and many other golf courses


Edradour House situated east of Carlkemp overlooking the Children's course on the West Links. The property facing Strathearn Road was built in 1919 by John David Tweedie a land owner and cattle rancher in the Argentina Republic. His son John Tweedie was born 10th September 1914 at 26 Dirleton Avenue, North Berwick. Following WW2 John Tweedie acquired three pleasure boats and sailed visitors round the islands.


In 1898, two brothers Robert and James Craig from Midlothian purchased land on Ferrygate Farm from Mrs. Nisbet Hamilton of Archerfield Estate. The rivalry between the brothers produced two fine houses, Carlekemp and Bunkershill on Abbotsford Road in the Parish of Dirleton.

James Craig commissioned Edinburgh architect John Kinross RSA to provide drawings for the manor house, but he lost out to Sir Robert Lorimer for the construction contract in 1898. The honey-coloured stone work came from Rattlebags Quarry at East Fenton. During the visit of King Edward VII to North Berwick in 1902, His Majesty was invited to meet Robert Craig at his house Carlkemp. The King watched the golfers from his balcony playing the fourth and fourteenth holes. The property was converted into a convalescent home for Army Officers during WW1. In November 1918, a young officer recalled seeing from a window a leather-booted horse drawing a mower over the golf course and in the background was the surrendering German Fleet, sailing up the Firth of Forth.

In 1945 the building was converted into a Priory School under the supervision of the Friars from Fort Augustus Abbey. In July 1948 golf professional Henry Cotton won the Open Championship at Muirfield. The following Monday he played an exhibition match on the West Links and visited Carlekemp Priory School to show the pupils the famous trophy. That was the last time the Claret Jug was in North Berwick. The Priory School closed in 1977 and the property was divided into apartments.


Sir Robert Lorimer and John Fraser Matthew designed the house for John C. Stewart in 1898. Stewart owned the Kinlochmoidart shooting estate north east of Acharacle, Argyll. Teviotdale was later leased to R. J. Addie chairman of an investment company Singapore Cold Storage Company in 1917. Following WW1 the property was empty. In the 1960s Teviotdale was owned by the Oliver family of race horse fame from Hawick.


Originally named St.Finans the property was constructed in 1904 for Lady Adelaide Catherine Hall third daughter of Robert Kerr Elliot of Harewood and Clifton Park, Roxburghe. The property was renamed St Aidans after the ancient Celtic saint and was purchased by the McEwan family owners of Garland & Rogers Ltd, timber merchants and several public bar's in Edinburgh.


Major Kenneth Windham Arbuthnot served in the Seaforth Highlanders in Sudan and South Africa. During WW1 he was mentioned in dispatches and led his battalion into France. He was wounded in the second battle of Ypres and died on 25 April 1915. His wife Janet Elspeth Arbuthnot continued in the property.

The property was named Shipka Lodge after the fourth hole on the West Links. When the golf course was extended to the Eil Burn in 1877 and the narrow fairway leading to the fourth green was known as the Shipka Pass when the accuracy of the tee shot was crucial. The Shipka Pass was a scenic mountain pass through the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria. The Russian and Ottoman Empires came head to head in four battles over Bulgaria's independence. Turkish troops made repeated attempts to capture the vital Shipka Pass in December 1877. Today the Shipka Pass is in the Bulgarian Nature Park where a memorial lists the Bulgarians and Russians who died in the battle.


Built in 1896 and originally named St Christopher, the property was the summer residence of Colonel John Jacob Astor an American business magnate, who died in the Titanic disaster in 1912. The name of the property was altered to Quarry Court after the former quarry adjacent to the sixth hole on the West Links. During WW2 the house was used as a hostel for the Women's Land Army. The property was owned by Sir. J. Wishart Thomson of Glenpark, Balerno, Midlothian, son of William Thomson co-founder of the Ben-Line. Later Quarry Court was owned by Alfred Lawrie a stockbroker in Edinburgh. His son Charles D. Lawrie learned to play golf on the Children's course at North Berwick. Charles trained as a golf course architect and designed the Duke's course at Woburn. He was also a fine amateur golfer and was captain of the Walker Cup team in 1961 and 1963.

In the late 1960s the house was divided into apartments and James Mitchell purchased the east wing on the upper floor. Mitchell was a solicitor in Glasgow and a talented amateur golfer. He was club captain of Royal Troon and later captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield. He had no children and gave his personal fortune of over three million pounds to charity.


Sir Robert Lorimer designed Bunkers Hill for Robert Craig in 1904 with the front of the property facing south. Robert Craig and his brother James Craig trained as papermakers in their father's business Robert Craig & Company at Balerno, Midlothian. They also had works at Moffat Mills near Airdrie and Caldercruix Mills. The stone used on Bunkers Hill came from Rattlebags Quarry at East Fenton.

In 1921 the property was in the ownership of William A. Wheelock and the Couturier Margaret Wheelock owner of Farquharson & Wheelock NY. A number of her evening dresses are on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Upon their passing the property was first owned by Stephen C. Wheelock an Architect with houses in New York and Long Island. The property then passed to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas G. Wheelock. During the 1960s Stephen Wheelock's American left-hand drive car was a familiar sight on the High Street, North Berwick. In the 1980's the property was purchased by John Martin, a Motor Dealer in Edinburgh.


In 1908, Westerdunes House was designed by architect John Dick Pedie for Sir Patrick Ford, 1st Baronet of Westerdunes. Ford was a solicitor and Member of Parliament in Edinburgh. Sir Patrick purchased 14 acres of land from Mrs Nisbet Hamilton Ogilvy of Belhaven and Dirleton. His regular house guest was the Irish artist John Lavery who painted several views of the West Links at North Berwick. The painting below by Sir John Lavery sold for £187,500 at Sotheby's in November 2017. Ford retained ownership of Westerdunes until 1936 when it was sold to John F. Menzies.

In 1947 the property passed to Lydia de Domenico and Commander Orazio de Domenico, and it became a hotel. In 1973 the building was converted into five apartments and in 2014 the property was returned to one house by American John P. Imlay Jnr. He was a self made entrepreneur and minority owner of his hometown NFL team the Atlanta Falcons. He sold his interest in a computer security company and purchased Westerdunes. He also commissioned four stone bridges on the West Links golf course and was conferred a Honorary Member of North Berwick Golf Club. He died 25th March 2015 when four of his friends purchased the property.


Invereil House overlooking the eighth fairway on the West Links was built in 1899 for John E. Laidlay the former Amateur Champion. The architect George Washington Brown was inspired to design Invereil after Seacliff House the Laidlay family residence east of North Berwick. In 1907 Johnny's brother Andrew perished in a fire which destroyed Seacliff House. Johnny Laidlay dominated the Amateur Championship for seven years from 1888, winning twice in 1889 and 1891 and runner-up 1888, 1890 and 1893.

Many of Laidlay's golfing friends were guests at Invereil including three Open Champions Harold Hilton, Freddie Tait and John Ball. Laidlay and his wife Jane had ten household staff until after WW1 when the Invereil Estate was sold to the Countess of Breadalbane. In 1969 it passed to Gerald Kirkby, Captain of Tantallon Golf Club (1960-62). His wife Janet Key owned hairdressing salons in Edinburgh and North Berwick. In 1993 the property was sub-dived and the former servants quarters were sold to Sydney Hudson a former Special Operations Executive in WW2 and winner of the Swiss Amateur Open Golf Championship in 1939.


The Golf Links, North Berwick (1921)
Sir John Lavery RA. RSA. RHA. (1856-1941)

First World War

In June 1905, the North British Railway Company introduced a motor vehicle service from North Berwick to Aberlady, offering better access to the coastal villages. Two vehicles were built by the Mo-Car Syndicate in Paisley to operate the hourly service from the railway station at North Berwick. The vehicles were fitted with a three-cylinder Arrol-Johnston engine, the gear-box was by Renold with a silent side chain to the rear axle, giving four speeds forward and one reverse. The solid tyres were to prevent punctures, and the body work was in varnished walnut. The motor was of the charabanc type carrying 23 passengers, with accommodation for luggage and parcels under the seating compartment. On Saturday 10th June 1905, a trail run was made from Edinburgh to North Berwick, when the journey was completed in 1 hour 30 minutes. The service to Aberlady started the following Monday, with the fare from North Berwick to the three villages being fourpence each stage, the full journey to Aberlady costing one shilling.

[Lobster Boats]

At the outbreak of the First World War, Provost MacIntyre called a meeting of the Town Council on Thursday 6th August 1914 to launch the Belgium Relief Fund and to form a General Committee which included military personal living in the town such as Major-General Sir Hamilton Bower (The Cottage, 38 Dirleton Avenue), Major William Kirkpatrick (9 Dirleton Avenue), Captain Harry Armatage (The Grange), Sir William G. Braid (Leuchie), James Richardson (7 Tantallon Terrace) and Arthur Ramage (5 Marine Parade). The August swimming gala was abandoned due to the European War.

Left: Westerdunes House overlooking the 7th green on West Links, North Berwick

The 1914-18 war brought uncertainty and hardship with 152 of the towns men folk loosing their lives in active service. The recruitment policy during the Great War was to keep men from the same area together, this meant that casualties were usually specific to local recruiting areas. As 'Pals' fought together, more often then not they died together. This meant that local communities experienced collective mass grief rather than individual loss. An unlucky shell could wipe out a third of the adult male population of a small town. The War Memorials in every town and village are testament to the sacrifice made by the rural society.


One of the most famous 'Pals' regiments was 'C' Company of the 16th Royal Scots, known as 'McCrae's Battalion'. Raised by Colonel Sir George McCrae in November 1914 and among those who enlisted was the entire Heart of Midlothian football team. Arthur Grant from North Berwick was a professional golfer at Monte Carlo before the war. As a teenager McCrae took golf lessons from Grant at Heriot's School. When Arthur Grant returned to Scotland in 1914 he didn't enlist with his friends in the King's Royal Rifle Corps but travelled to Edinburgh to join the 16th Royal Scots (McCrae's Battalion) and served as a corporal with them in France before being transferred to the Royal Fusiliers later in the war.

Charlie Robertson a North Berwick grocer was a staunch supporter of Heart of Midlothian Football Club and volunteered to join 'McCrae's Battalion' as C Company's Quartermaster's Store (CQMS). Robertson was described as a provision merchant and the Quartermaster's most reliable scrounger. Charlie Robertson survived the war and returned to his grocery business at 107 High Street, North Berwick. Sir George McCrae resided with his spinster daughter Glady's at 'Torluise', 9 Tantallon Terrace, North Berwick. Charlie Robertson died 14th May 1930, aged 40 years.

The First World War records suggest that two German Zeppelins were involved in the attack on Edinburgh during the night of 2nd April 1916. Airship L14 arrived first at least fifteen minutes before L22. The first came over Seafield from a north-eastward direction and L22 from the south-eastward approaching across the bay from Gullane. The police report described an incendiary bomb found at Archerfield which was later handed over to 'the military' at the Marine Hotel in Gullane (former Fire School).

East Fortune was established in 1915 as a Royal Naval Air Station to combat the anticipated threat from Zeppelins. During WW1 airships flew from East Fortune to carry out fleet spotting and submarine hunting duties. From 1918 aircrews were trained on the beach at Belhaven Sands in torpedo dropping techniques. This was pioneering work as the world's first torpedo dropping aeroplane that could operate from aircraft carriers (Sopwith T.I Cuckoo) was stationed at East Fortune. By the end of WW1, East Fortune was the largest military aerodrome in Scotland.

In October 1912 a state of the art signaling station in connection with Rosyth Naval Base was erected in the vicinity of Seacliff Old Tower. The building which was of stone with black plaster dressing, consisted of a large sleeping room fitted with bunks on the ground floor while on the first floor there was a watchroom. The roof was re-inforced concrete with a stone parapet wall all round and was equipped with an up-to-date semaphore. The large flagstaff was 50ft high and the building stood 250ft above the sea and could be seen from miles around.

In 1917, HMS Seacliff, was the landfall site of the easternmost line of detector loops that ran across the entrance to the Firth of Forth. The other line ran to the east of the May island and made landfall at Crail (RNAS Jackdaw). These 'detectors' were huge lines of hydrophones laid in a series across the seabed to detect U-Boots entering the Forth. It must have been a skilled and intensive task, listening to underwater noise, as apparently the operatives only did two hours 'on watch' before being relieved. During the Second War this earlier detector system was replaced with two great induction loops laid across the Forth with the whole lot being controlled from HMS Isle of May. The passage of any submerged Kreigsmarine steel over the loops induced a measurable current that would then betray its presence. The landfall of the cables can still be seen at Kirk Haven in Fife.

John McLeod was a leading boatman in the Royal Navy before being transferred to the Coast Guard service in 1905 and was stationed at North Berwick. He was commended three times for life saving and meritorious conduct. On 23rd September 1914 he was stabbed to death at Seacliff War Signalling Station by a Sentry of the National Reserve who mistook him for some unauthorised person and bayoneted him.

The airship R.34 lifted off from East Fortune to cross the Atlantic on 2nd July 1919 with a crew of 30, crossing the Nova Scotia coast in 59 hours. Then on to New York before the return journey taking 75 hours to become the first airship in history to complete the double crossing of the Atlantic. The R.34 was constructed in William Beardmore's gigantic airship works at Inchinnan outside Glasgow, and transported to East Fortune. The wire used on the airship was supplied by Brunton Wire Works at Inveresk. The company established in 1902, originally produced piano wire and were pioneers in the development of wire used in the early biplanes.

War Memorial and James Richardson

The 'Comrades of the Great War' requested that a hut be constructed east of the memorial garden parallel to the Vennel. This was approved by the Council to be used by ex-servicemen with the proviso that it would not be open on Sunday. King George V suggested on the anniversary of Armistice Day there should be a two minute silence after 11 o'clock forenoon and it was resolved by the Town Council to fix the two minutes following the striking of the St Andrews Parish Church clock and to ask Charles Bennet , a watchmaker at 80 High Street who was in charge of the clock, to see that it and the town clock were synchronized.

In one of the final acts of Provost's MacIntyre's tenure of office in January 1919, he recommended that Mrs. Isabella Lyon should be conferred Honorary Freedom of the Royal Burgh for her work as President of the Local Voluntary War Workers Organisation for the great work done locally throughout the War. Similarly Mrs. Lilian Whitelaw wife of James Braid Whitelaw of Kings Knoll for her work in the YMCA Hut in the Parish Church Hall comforting our soldiers stationed in North Berwick and the men both at East Fortune and West Fenton. They were also presented with a decorative Burgess Ticket in a metallic casket, the first female recipient of such a prodigious award. They were presented with their award at the Dinner organised by the Town Council for all returning soldiers from WW1.

In July 1920 the Town Council decided the site for the War Memorial should be on the vacant ground of the Beehive, 1 Quality Street. Designed by architect James S. Richardson, a partner in Richardson & McKay, 4 Melville Street, Edinburgh. James Richardson was born 2 November 1883 in Edinburgh son of Dr. James Richardson house surgeon at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. The Richardson family moved to 7, Tantallon Terrace in 1889 when he attended The Abbey and then North Berwick High School.

James Richardson apprenticed to the architect James Macintyre Henry who designed several buildings in North Berwick including Tantallon Golf Clubhouse, Oranmore, Cromwell Road and St Andrew's Clock Tower. In 1903 he was an assistant in the office of Sir Robert Lorimer. Richardson set up his own architectural practice in Edinburgh and in 1920 he was appointed Inspector of Ancient Monuments in Scotland. Alexander Carrick R.S.A, carried out the sculpture work, Miss Phyllis Bone modeled the unicorn, John Angus & Son from Edinburgh carried out the stonemason work and James Elliot, the local builder erected the memorial. On Sunday 19 February 1922 the War Memorial was unveiled by General Sir Francis J. Davies. Ten years later the British Legion conducted their meetings in the Council Chambers. James Richardson was instrumental in establishing a museum in North Berwick with funding from the Town Council and a grant from the Carnegie Trust in 1957.

On Thursday February 26th 1914 the church of Whitekirk was burnt down by a group of suffragette's and many valuable articles were destroyed. One of the suffragettes named Frances Mary Parker, the niece of Lord Kitchener and a schoolmistress was strongly suspected of having burnt down the stand at Ayr Racecourse, Perth County Cricket Pavilion and Whitekirk Church.

[Boat trip to Bass Rock]
  Between the War Years

With a regular bus service from Edinburgh and beyond, the town continued to attract families for their summer holidays. Hotels and Boarding Houses became common place along the seafront and Westerdunes House was converted into a hotel by Italian Lydia de Domenico. North Berwick as a tourist destination dates back to the 1850s when access to the town was made easier by the opening up of the railway line. During this period the number of visitors increased so dramatically that in 1871 the Town Council wrote to the Railway Company to request that the special cheap-day tickets be discontinued as the town was being over run by visitors, and there was inadequate accommodation available.

For the first time new businesses were being established in the town, catering entirely for the visitors, such as the letting of property, hiring bathing boxes and children's golf clubs. The first ice-cream manufacturer in the town was Erminto Valerio whose premises where situated beside the Lifeboat slipway on Victoria Road. In 1916 his ice-cream parlour moved to 46 High Street where he organised a Billard Salon and licensed bar. Erminto Valerio died in 1955 and the ice-cream parlour was taken over by the Capaldi family. In 1922 Alexander Hutchison proprietor of the motor launch St Baldred leased the timber building opposite the Lifeboat Station as a Booking Office where visitors could purchase tickets for a trip to Fidra and Bass Rock. Alex Hutchison resided in Auburn Cottage, Clifford Road and would later introduce the launch St. Nicholas. This was joined by the Britannia owned by Archie Thorburn and Bert Marr.

John MacIntyre established a factory producing aerated water in Forth Street Lane. It was also the practice during the summer months for many households to let out a room to visitors. The original Guest House was Mrs. Annie Abel's Tantallon House (4 West Bay Road ) and among the other boarding houses in 1871 were, Miss Smith at Parkend Villa; Mrs. Morgan, Rockville; Miss Elliot and Mrs. Hall in Quality Street and Mrs. J. Smith at 15, Shore Street. The Commercial Hotel (County Hotel) and the Dalrymple Arms Hotel in Quality Street, were the only post houses.

By 1861, the Royal Hotel was constructed and in 1872 an extension to the south elevation was added, also a bowling green and cricket-ground (on the site now Craigleith View Apartments). The addition was run as a separate Private Hotel by Charles Johnston and three years later he took over the lease of the Royal Hotel from the North British Railway Company and combined both into one establishment.

In 1875, the Marine Hotel designed by architect W. Beattie was built by J.& R. Whitecross, Shore Street, North Berwick at a cost of £20,000. At that time a new access road was also constructed (Cromwell Road). The speciality of the hotel was the salt and fresh water baths, with a pipe laid from the sea conveying salt water into tanks. The fresh water was supplied from a well in the grounds, which were laid out with a bowling green and putting green designed by Ben Sayers. Following a fire in 1882, part of the hotel was rebuilt to drawings by Mr. Pilkington. In 1900 Willie Sibbald was the Marine Hotel coachman. The Bradbury Hotel (1 York Road) was constructed in 1870 for Edward Bradbury; the Bass Rock Hotel at 6 York Road (Welbent) was opened in 1902 by Mary and Annie Maxwell, and Tantallon Hotel overlooking the East Links was opened in May 1908.

The Dalrymple Buildings (89-102 High Street) constructed in 1885, was originally designed as a hotel, but the developers went into liquidation before the site was completed. The ground floor shops remain from the original plans, but the upper floor was converted into the Temperance Hotel, which occupied the full length of the first floor. The entrance was by a stair in Balderstone Wynd, adjacent to what was the hotel kitchen and now the hairdresser's salon. The second and third floors of the Dalrymple Buildings were apartments, accessed from two common stairs. The ground floor premises (now Simpson & Marwick) was originally Simpson Henderson's Public Bar and later the Temperance Cafe Room.

During the 1880s there was a movement against drinking, gambling and playing sport on a Sunday. The Temperance Movement was at the forefront of this crusade, which also included a group named the Good Templars who met in the Burgh School in Market Place and whose members pledged to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, gambling and strong language.

The former urinal in Law Road known as the 'Maggie Bowie', was officially opened on 17th February 1902 when the Provost and Councilors met at the convenience to inspect the work. They suggested a lamp should be placed outside with the word 'Gentlemen' on coloured glass.

In 1906, almost every large property in North Berwick was let from June until September, including the servants quarters and stabling. George Sheil & Sons,104 High Street was the main letting agent and their 1908 catalogue listed over 250 properties for let in the town. The families who rented the furnished houses sent their staff ahead with all the household requisites for the summer season. Trunks packed with china, crockery, bed linen, and clothes were then transported from the railway station by local carriers in their horse and cart to the various residences.

In May 1909, J. Colin Campbell proprietor of the Royal Hotel submitted plans to the Town Council for a Motor Garage and Shops on the site of the old gas works in Station Hill which were approved. The Bass Rock Cycle and Motor Company which initially focused on selling bikes from their show room at 114 High Street. By 1909 the company moved to Station Hill and began to sell American cars such as the Belize, Cadillac and Enfield motors. The business was taken over by the Russell family after WW1 and they ran it until 1973. During WW2 the armed forces commandeered the garage for shooting practice. The back of the workshop was zoned off and used as a rifle range. In 1973 the McMillan family, from Largs took over the business and in 2013 the garage was demolished to make way for the West Bay Apartments.

In March 1912, the Traders Association met with the Town Council to discuss the weekly half holiday under the new Employment Act. Representing the Traders was James Dickson (Licensed Grocer) and J. W. Campbell (Draper, Victoria House) who proposed that Thursday afternoon would be the half holiday, suspended during June, July, August, September.

At this time motor vehicles were a luxury and daily excursions in a variety of horse drawn vehicles was the normal mode of transport. In 1909, a return trip to Tantallon Castle cost 4/6d and a request for a pair of horses was charged half-fare extra. Half-an-hour waiting by the driver was free, but two hours waiting was included if the journey was over 10 miles. A return trip to Haddington cost 15 shillings. Later the well-to-do families had a motor vehicle which was garaged in North Berwick during the winter months. James Gilbert and George Fowler rented out purpose-built lock-up space where the vehicles were stored. In 1926 the Town Council approved a license for storing petrol to the following businesses. Samuel Brown, High Street; George Fowler & Son, Balderstone Wynd and May Terrace; Bass Rock Cycle & Motor Company, 92 High Street; John Wightman, 23 High Street; James Cree, Tusculum; Mabon Cunningham, Dalrymple Arms Hotel and James Gilbert Old Abbey Road. One of the earliest motor vehicles to be seen around North Berwick was owned by the Rt. Hon. A.J.Balfour, the First Lord of the Treasury, who was to be come Prime Minister in 1902.

In 1924, a railway sleeper service began from London to North Berwick. The sleeper car was detached from the 10.35 pm night express from Kings Cross at Drem and conveyed from there to North Berwick by the branch engine, returning in the evening to Drem. A number of London sleepers continued to stop at Drem until 1980. This facility started in 1900 to accommodate local member of Parliament Arthur J. Balfour (Prime Minister 1902-05) who lived in the nearby village of Whittinghame. In 1926 North Berwick station enjoyed the highest ever number of passengers, almost 94,000 and at Hogmanay that year three extra third class carriages were required to cope with the additional traffic to Edinburgh.

To ensure the safety of the train, every driver had to collect a token mounted on a circular steel frame. This was passed to the driver on the out going train by the signalman standing below the signal-box under the bridge leading to Ware Road. When the train reached Drem the circular steel frame was then surrendered to the signalman and the single line to North Berwick was then free and safe for the next train. This safety procedure using a token was used on the line until the 1960s when it was replaced by modern communications.

Katherine Tennant played golf and learned to swim in the outdoor bathing pond where " the caddies urged her off the diving board".
In 1925, the farmer at Auldhame J.R.Dale requested permission from the Town Council to fit a draw-bar to his four ton Albion lorry so that he could hitch the town fire engine to his lorry in the event of a fire on his farm. In 1928, the Town Council purchased the first motorised Fire Engine which was housed on a site east of the Bass Rock Garage in Station Hill. It's bell is now on display at the present fire station. During the 1950s the call-out for the volunteer fire crew was the sounding of two Second World War sirens, situated at the old slaughter house in Dunbar Road and to the west in the grounds of the former Royal Hotel.

Edington Hospital

In November 1908, Miss Edington's legacy (Edington Cottage Hospital) was announced to the Town Council, by her solicitor C.E. Loudon W.S. 6, Rutland Square, Edinburgh. According to newspaper reports, she had directed her trustees to pay the Provost, Magistrates and Town Council the sum of £10,000, free of legacy duty, in trust to erect and maintain a Convalescent Home to be called 'The Edington Convalescent Home' providing an accident ward and also a ward for sickness, non-infectious and not incurable, the latter to be kept expressly for inhabitants of the town and its environs. The donation was made in the names of Francis and Elizabeth Edington and the home was formally opened in October 1913 by Miss Webster a niece of Miss Edington.

Francis (d.1901) and Elizabeth (d.1908) died before the Convalescent Home was completed. Mary Webster officially opened the building in 1913. She was a bar maid in the County Hotel and resided with the Edington family at 7, Dirleton Avenue where she looked after Francis and Elizabeth Edington.

Francis Edington (1819-1901) and his sister Elizabeth Edington (1831-1908) owned the Commercial Hotel (County Hotel) 15-17 High Street, North Berwick. In 1870 they added a second floor with dormer windows which afforded their guests an uninterrupted view of the west bay. Francis Edington was Treasurer of the Royal Burgh of North Berwick Town Council and founder member of Bass Rock Golf Club. He died 24th August 1901 at his home Ethandune 7, Dirleton Avenue and was buried in the St Andrews Kirk graveyard in Kirk Ports. Elizabeth died 4th November 1908 and was laid to rest beside her brother marked with a headstone. Their portraits hang in the vestibule of the Edington Cottage Hospital.

Edington Cottage Hospital © Digitalsport UK
William 'Ross' Young from Perthshire was appointed Burgh Surveyor in 1906. He was a qualified Architect and Civil Engineer and prepared the drawings for the Edington Cottage Hospital in 1911. During this period most families were large in number and having ten or more children was not uncommon. The Edington became a place where mothers could go for a few days respite and was known locally as 'The Home For Tired Mothers'.

In March 1909, William Taylor on behalf of Dr. Barnardos organised a public meeting in the Oddfellows Hall, chaired by Provost MacIntyre to gauge the views of the community to establishing a Barnardos Home in the town.

Overcrowding in the community was a problem with one third of the population living three or more to a room. In November 1919, the Scottish Board of Health submitted plans to build a housing scheme on two acres of ground west of East Road and immediately north of the Steam Laundry. In 1920, the Scottish Electricity Board was connected to the National Grid, and mains electricity was supplied to every property, although 6% of those connected did not own an electrical appliance. The Board of Health encouraged more house building and in 1926 the Town Council build six blocks containing 24 houses in the area of the present Lochbridge Road. Constructed by Richard Baillie & Sons, Pencaitland costing £384 per house. Richard Baillie also built the first fase of council houses in Dunbar Road. In 1927 the Town Council set about developing the cottages in Lochbridge Road and a year later the first 12 houses were complete on the street named Glenburn Road in February 1928. The single track bridge over the Glen Burn was considerably enlarged and Dunbar Road widened. The Lochbridge Toll House, one of last remaining road tax houses in Scotland was demolished in 1930.

Dundas Thomson

During the 1920s parts of the Mains Farm was sold off by the farmer Dundas Thomson to the Town Council for house building. The town could not have expanded and developed without Thomson's assistance. He died in 1951, but his name lives on with 'Dundas Avenue' and 'Dundas Road'.

Dundas Thomson, born 1885 at New Monkland, Airdrie son of Robert Thomson agricultural labourer and his wife Jane. The family moved to East Lothian and became tenants on Chapel Farm. In 1919, the enterprising Dundas Thomson gained the rights to graze sheep on the Burgh golf course from October to April. In the 1920s Thomson took on the tenancy of the Mains Farm which covered an area from the Lodge grounds in the north to the Glen on the east, Berwick Law to the south, and Gilsland on the west. In 1922, Thomson purchased the Mains Farm from Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple when parts of the North Berwick Estate was offered for sale.

In 1924 Dundas Thomson offered to sell ground to the Town Council for the widening of East Road and to disperse the excavated soil over the Mains Farm land. The following year the Town Council purchased more land from Thomson for the building of council houses in Dunbar Road, Lochbridge Road and later Glenburn Road. Thomson did not auction the land to the highest bidder but negotiated a price per acre with the Town Council. In 1926 again Thomson agreed a price to develop St Baldred’s Road and offered to sell the Glen Field as a Recreational Park. In 1926 Councilor John McKellar applied to the Dean of Guild to build three bungalows on the south side of St Baldreds Road.

Drinking Fountain on East Road

The drinking fountain at the junction of Dunbar Road and Quadrant and a horse trough at the Recreation Park was the result of a generous bequest by Isabella Catherine Lewis in November 1939. Mr Robertson the Burgh Surveyor was instructed to submit designs and a quotation of £263 to supply the grey granite from Charles McDonald Ltd. Froghall Granite Works, Aberdeen. Originally Miss Lewis lived in Edinburgh with her uncle James Lewis, a successful Grocer and Wine Merchant and her brothers David and John at 55, George Square. In the 1890s Isabella moved to North Berwick where she resided at Duneaton for over forty years. The house stands at the junction of Links Road and West Bay Road overlooking the West Links golf course.

In 1908, Sir Patrick Ford, a solicitor at 8 Moray Place Edinburgh engaged architect J.M.Dick Peddie to draw up plans for an Elizabethan style mansion house on Abbotsford Road. Construction began in June 1909 using Rattlebags stone quarried at East Fenton. In 1911, Patrick applied to the North Berwick Town Council for the installation of a water supply and a fire hydrant. Dick Peddie was also responsible for other properties in North Berwick including Redholm (1902), Glasclune (1889), Chelyesmore Lodge (1899), Windygates (1893) and the addition of a second floor to the North Berwick New Golf Clubhouse (1895).

Sir Patrick J. Ford - Westerdunes and Sir John Lavery

Following the completion of their weekend retreat at North Berwick, Jessie and Pat Ford commissioned artist Sir John Lavery to paint a number of family portraits. This developed into a patronage and among others Lavery painted for the Earl of Wemyss at his house in Buckinghamshire and sketched Asquith's daughter at their house on the Thames. Margot Asquith's brother was Frank Tennant, owner of Hyndford House, North Berwick. Margot married Herbert Asquith and was introduced to Lavery in Glasgow before her marriage and they remained friends during her years in 10 Downing Street.

Lavery began painting the stunning views from the upper windows at Westerdunes across the West Links golf course to the Islands. His most prolific years were 1919 and 1921 when he completed a number of canvases including The Ladies Links, The Putting Course, The First Tee, and The Bathing Pool. The most famous painting was titled The Golf Links, North Berwick (1921) featuring Lavery's step-daughter Alice Trudeau driving the ball from the fifth tee on the West Links. View samples of Sir John Lavery's landscapes

Sir Patrick J. Ford was Scottish Unionist M.P. for Edinburgh from 1920 to 1923 and again from 1924 until 1935. In January 1926, North Berwick Provost John Macintyre and the Town Councilors wrote to Sir Patrick Ford congratulating him on his knighthood and being created 1st Baronet of Westerdunes. The property was sold in 1932 and following WW2 it became a hotel.

The Scottish artist Patrick William Adam renowned for his interior paintings resided at Ardilea 43 Dirleton Avenue, North Berwick with his studio in the garden. Samuel Peploe best known for his still life paintings rented Cheylesmore Lodge at 67 Dirleton Avenue for several seasons.

Frank Tennant - Hyndford House

Frank Tennant (1861-1942) lived in Hyndford House, 18 Fidra Road, North Berwick. His father was Sir Charles Tennant Bart, and the family originally came from Ayrshire where they were tenants of a farm near Ochiltree called Glenconner. The family fortune was made on the back of a chemical empire devoted to the bleaching of fabric using a combination of chlorine and slacked lime. Sir Charles Tennant Bart. was an Industrialist, Liberal Politician, Chairman of the Union Bank of Scotland and a multi-millionaire by the time he was 25, independently of his father. Sir Charles purchased Glen House in Innerleithen, Peeblesshire and began to fill the house with a collection of priceless furniture and paintings. Frank's sister Margot Tennant became the second wife of Herbert Asquith (Prime Minister (1908-1916)

Sir Charles Tennant had three daughters from his second marriage. Nancy married Lord Crathorne, Peggy married Lord Wakehurst and Katherine married Major Walter Elliot, Minister of Agriculture. As youngsters the girls enjoyed the summer season in North Berwick. Katherine played golf and learned to swim in the outdoor bathing pond where in her words 'the caddies urged her off the diving board'. Sir Charles Tennant Bart. built Glenconner House at 28 Dirleton Avenue, North Berwick for his second wife, the widow of Major Geoffrey Lubbock. The coach house and gardener's cottage can still be seen in South Hamilton Road.

Their daughter Katherine was married in St Baldred's Church, North Berwick on Easter Monday 1934, watched by thousands of cheering holiday makers and the pictures were wired around the world. The wedding reception was provided by Frank Tennant in Hyndford House. Katherine became Baroness Elliott of Harwood and was bequeathed Glenconner where she spent many summers. Her sister Nancy and Lord Crathorne owned the property opposite at 49 Dirleton Avenue. Sir Charles Tennant's grandson Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner purchased the tropical island of Mustique in the Caribbean which became a favourite holiday destination for Princess Margaret.

The Tennant family where at the centre of the aristocratic gatherings in North Berwick which included Prime Minister Arthur Balfour and his circle of friends, Herbert Asquith, Lord Wemyss, Lord Harwood and the rich and famous in North Berwick for the summer season. Baroness Elliott was associated with Glenconner House until the 1970s.

The Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and his wife Countess of Oxford and Asquith played their holiday golf at North Berwick and in 1909 they resided at Archerfield House. During the autumn season they played golf on the private course at Archerfield to avoid the militant suffragettes. During this period when Asquith and his daughters Margot and Violet played golf at North Berwick six policemen would accompany them. Lord Kitchener also enjoyed the privacy of Archerfield where Kitchener and Asquith both took lessons from George Sayers in 1910.

Major General Lord Cheylesmore, the Lord Mayor of Westminster and his wife spent the summer season in North Berwick. His American wife Elizabeth French was a keen golfer and played every day. Her younger sister was Mrs. Alfred Vanderbilt. While in North Berwick on holiday the Lord Mayor accepted an invitation to open the St Andrew Church Bazar in the Forresters Hall which attracted a huge cheering crowd. They liked North Berwick so much they purchased a house in the town and renamed it Cheylesmore Lodge.

Medical Practice

Calling out a Doctor was expensive and giving birth in a Maternity Home was beyond the budget of most families, so the majority of babies were born at home. In 1921, 107 out of every 1,000 baby's died at birth and over 500 women died each year having an abortion. In 1817, Robert Lewins was born in North Berwick, the son of a medical practitioner. Lewins qualified as a physician and made a special study of the brain, publishing two works on the subject. Listed in the Town Council accounts in November 1831 there is an entry 'George Stewart, surgeon paid £5 for attending to the poor and supplying medicine.' The earliest registered surgeons and druggists in the town were John Kesson in the 1820s, John Watson for 16 years until his death in 1848 and Hugh MacBain (1862-1888). MacBain lived in Marine Lodge, 21 Westgate and was a Town Councillor and an elder in the Blackadder Church. He published an article in the Edinburgh Medical Journal in 1877 on the successful treatment of coal gas poisoning by steam baths. Dr Hugh Gillies MacBain died in 1902.

In 1891 the Public Health Act was passed and the Medical Officer of Health for East Lothian instructed the Local Authority to isolate those with infectious diseases in a separate building beyond the Burgh boundary. The North Berwick Town Council constructed Gilsland on the Newhouse Road and Gin Head at Casleton

John C. Hislop (1855-1868) was the general medical practitioner living in East Road. He was followed by Dr. John L. Crombie, Melbourne Villa (13 Melbourne Road) who retained the position for 54 years. When Dr. Crombie died in 1920 the funeral bells tolled while the Provost and Town Council laid a wreath on his grave. In the 1890s James Richardson, house surgeon at the Royal Infirmary Hospital lived at 7, Tantallon Terrace where his family still reside.

In September 1911 James Lyle of Edinburgh gifted to the Town Council a painting of a silhouette of Dr. John Wilson surgeon in North Berwick for sixteen years. Watson born in Pittenweem, Fife in September 1808 moved to North Berwick where he was devoted to his profession. Dr. John Watson died in November 1848 and is buried in St Andrews Churchyard in North Berwick with a headstone erected by public subscription. The framed painting of the silhouette was displayed in the Council Chambers.

In May 1912 the town raised £54 for the Titanic Disaster Fund. It was minuted that Col John Weir from North Berwick lost his life in the disaster and his body was never recovered. The Council passed on their condolence to his sister Mrs Hewitt, Ingleholm, Clifford Road, North Berwick.

For many years Dr. Angus Mathieson practised medicine from his residence at 'Duntulm', 19, Westgate. He was followed by Dr. Laurence C.M.Wedderburn, who established his medical surgery at 1 Dirleton Avenue (1927-1935). During the 1930s Dr. Douglas Donald M.C. held his surgery at 'St Helens' 1, West End Place where he was later joined by Dr. John MacDonald and Dr. Derek Morton. The other medical practice was at the 'Garve' in Beach Road where Dr. Alexander Mallace M.C. resided. He was joined by Dr. Mercer and following the foundation of the National Health Service in 1948, there was a marked improvement in the health of the community. When Dr. Mallace retired, Dr. John MacDonald moved into the 'Garve' forming a group medical practice with Dr. Derek Morton and Dr. Mercer. The first lady to practice medicine in the town was Dr. Jessie Eeles, the daughter of Provost George Eeles. With the population increase in the 1950s the surgery was enlarged and Dr. Jean Walinck joined the practice in 1958 and later Dr. Norman Waugh. In 1925, the Town Council appointed Adam Young as the ambulance driver to accompany anybody requiring urgent medical attention in hospital.

Gilsland was purchased in 1935 by Dr. Robert Macnair and the property was convered into a fever hospital. Robert Macnair's father was a minister of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh and Gilsland closed in 1941.

In June 1922 the North Berwick Estate was offered for sale by Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple at a public roup in Edinburgh. The land measured 90 acres, 3 roods and 24 poles and included farms at Wamphray, Heugh, Castleton, Blackdykes, Mains and Berwick Law. Each farm tenant was offered first option to purchase the land. The Town Council offered to purchase the club-makers workshop beside the first tee on the West Links, and the land east of the March Dyke which formed part of the golf course owned by the North Berwick Estate.

In January 1923, William Herries, the Burgh Officer retired after 14 years and the Town Council arranged to have his portrait painted by Charles MacGregor. He was followed as Burgh Officer by John Richardson. In 1924 the daughter of the Rev. Robert Balfour Graham minister of St Andrew Church presented the Town Council with a portrait of North Berwick worthy Sandy Dunbar painted in 1841. Sandy resided in Clarty Burn (Law Road) where he died in September 1841 aged 90 years.

Scottish Women's Rural Institute

Catherine Blair founder of the Scottish Women's Rural Institute and the famous Mak'Merry Pottery, lived in North Berwick for many years. Born in Bathgate Catherine Shields was interested in women's issues and supported the Suffragette movement by writing letters to the Scottish Press. She married Thomas Blair, a farmer at Hoprig Mains Farm near Gladsmuir, East Lothian. In June 1917, Catherine started the first Scottish Branch of the Women's Rural Institute where the ladies could meet socially and make jam and cakes to raise funds.

The first meeting took place in Longniddry village hall when Lady Wemyss was installed as President. One of the first talks the SWRI organised was a demonstration on painting pottery and this inspired Catherine in 1919 to establish the Mak'Merry pottery studio in a shed on her farm as a practical example of a co-operative rural enterprise. Her objective was income generation for poor and isolated rural women rather than leisure activities. The Institute members came from all over to design and paint the pottery while others would teach embroidery, rug-making and sell their work to enable them to keep going.

In 1932, Catherine and Tom retired to Seaworthy Cottage in North Berwick where a new Mak'Merry Studio was established. The pottery won prizes at many exhibitions and the Queen Mother ordered a crockery set at the 1933 Highland Show. Catherine died on 18th November 1946 at 1 Tantallon Terrace, North Berwick. Mak'Merry pottery remains highly collectable and is often featured on the BBC Antiques Roadshow.

The Foresters Hall (Tigh Mhor) was converted into a Picture House in 1920. The building was demolished in 1938 when The Playhouse Cinema owned by Scott's Empires later Caledonian Associated Cinemas was built. During this period it was becoming more acceptable for girls to participate in sports. Scottish speed champions Ellen King and Jean McDowall (both Olympic swimmers) were coached at North Berwick swimming pool at a time when a daily ticket cost six pence. Every swimmer of repute in the country appeared in exhibitions at the North Berwick pool, including regular visits from world famous American divers.

In 1926, many of the houses in the westend were unoccupied as the owners could not afford the upkeep. The owners of the property in Abbotsford Road in the Parish of Dirleton included Sir Patrick Ford - Westerdunes (occupied); W.A.Wheelock - Bunkerhill (abroad); Sir J. Wishart Thomson - Quarry Court (occupied); Kenneth Arbuthnot - Shipka (empty); Lady Adelaide Hall - St Aidans (empty); R.J.Addie - Greyholme/Teviotdale (empty); Kennedy Walker - Carlkemp (occupied); Captain Hamish Pelham-Burn - Invereil (for sale). The majority had a private generator to provided electricity and the others did not require electricity as they were only occupied during the summer months. That year they applied to the Town Council to be connected to the gas and mains water supply.

In January 1926, the Town Council congratulated Sir Patrick Ford of Westerdunes House on being conferred Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Ford was a practicing advocate and Member of Parliament for North Edinburgh. In July 1929 he was made 1st Baronet Ford of Westerdunes by George V. A Meteorological Station was introduced in 1933 and the Council Observer was Mr. Philips, the gasworks manager. In the 1934 Annual Report,1455.1 hours of sunshine was recorded making North Berwick the eighth sunniest place in Great Britain.

In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the Throne and his brother Prince Albert, Frederick, Arthur, George was the lawful sovereign. When the Town Council received the proclamation, a group of dignitaries lead by Provost Eeles, gathered at the Cross (beneath the Council Chambers) including the heads of several public bodies, the Clergy, and Sir Hew Hamilton Dalrymple when they pledged their Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty King George VI. They formed a procession along Quality Street, East Road, School Road, Melbourne Road to the Harbour where the Proclamation was again made by the Provost from the old Granary steps.

Second World War

With talk of war in 1935, came increased employment in the armament related industries, and by the following year unemployment had fallen to one and a half million. Drem airfield originally named West Fenton Aerodrome opened in 1916 and was used for Home Defense by 77 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. It was also a temporary based for the American 41st Aero Squadron in 1918, flying Spad and Sopwith Camel aircraft. Following the First World War the airfield was abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was re-opened in 1939 as No.13 Flying Training School. The base became an air defense fighter unit for the city of Edinburgh and shipping around the Firth of Forth with spitfires from 603 Squadron joining 602 Squadron.

The Spitfire was considered a magnificent flying machine but its long nose made it difficult to land at night. in 1940 the station was under the command of Wing Commander 'Batchy' Atcherly and he devised a solution. He placed lights on ten foot high poles that would only be visible to aircraft. A circle of lights was laid out around the field and pilots would fly around this until they saw the path lights on the runway. The system known as Drem Lighting was adopted by the RAF at all it's stations.

Drem operated as a station where crews rotated from the south of England during the height of the Battle of Britain in 1940. While resting at Drem these squadrons carry out convoy patrols watching over the shipping on the east coast.

The first action by the Scottish fighter squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force - the accountants,lawyers, farmers and bankers who were the so-called 'weekend fliers', some of them not yet 20, took place on 16th October 1939, over the Firth of Forth. The skirmish involving the Spitfires of 602 and 603 Squadron based at Turnhouse and Drem (Fenton Barns) happened when the Luftwaffe launched its first major air raid on Britain, with Rosyth as the target.

[East Fortune] A squadron of new Junkers 88 bombers flew to the Firth of Forth in search of HMS Hood, the Royal Navy's largest battleship, which they failed to find, but instead attacked two Royal Navy cruisers near the Forth Bridge. The leading Junkers 88 was intercepted just as it pulled out of its attack on HMS Mohawk, killing 15 sailors including the captain.

The German bomber was hit repeatedly off Kirkcaldy and finally shot down near Crail. The pilot, Pat Gifford from Castle Douglas was credited with bringing down the bomber. He led Red Section of the 603 Auxiliary Squadron in their attack and was given the Distinguished Flying Cross. Pat was killed in 1940 during the Battle of France and his remains were never found. During the attack over the Firth of Forth another German plane ditched into the sea off Port Seton and the pilot was rescued by local fisherman John 'Tarry' Dickson, and transfered to the military hospital at Edinburgh Castle. The dogfight, the first time Spitfires were used in anger, was witnessed by thousands in Fife and East Lothian.

In the course of the first few months the activity at Drem was such that two pilots had won the DFC and the station was visited by King George VI. In July 1940 there were 12 Spitfires from 602 squadron and 8 Hurricanes from 605 squadron based at Drem and among the 'fighter aces' was Caesar Hill and Peter Townsend who was later associated with Princes Margaret. Group Captain Peter Townsend DSO, DFC and bar was Station Commander at RAF Drem in 1941.

The North Berwick Observer Corps formed in 1938, was made up with volunteers and their lookout post was situated on Castle Hill. When war was declared the Observer Corps went into action with a 24 hour watch, two on at a time with direct communications with their HQ at Galashiels who in turn informed the RAF.

A German Heinkel bomber was forced down over North Berwick just after midday on Friday 9th February 1940. It narrowly missed telegraph wires as it crash-landed in the south east corner of the field behind the Lime Grove bus shelter. The Heinkel 111 H-1 was shot down by a Spitfire from 602 Squadron piloted by Squadron Leader Douglas Farquhar stationed at Drem. The Spitfire fired 625 rounds at the Heinkel over Fife. With smoke pouring from its port engine and the undercarriage lowered in a sign of surrender, it turned towards the coast and made a forced landing tipping onto its nose. The rear gunner Uffz F. Wieners was hit by gunfire from the Spitfire and was taken to Drem where he died of his injuries and was buried in Dirleton Cemetery. The remaining three-man crew escaped without inquiry and spent the remainder of the war in a POW camp. The two observers on duty that day were Wishart and Sim who took the credit. George Sim (1922-28) and James Wishart (1959-65) were both Provosts of the Royal Burgh.

[Heinkel Bomber] Two weeks later the aircraft was taken by road to Turnhouse to be examined by experts. The wings were removed and the tail section mounted on a trailer before the aircraft was pulled on its own wheels and maneuvered along Dirleton Avenue in North Berwick, through Musselburgh High Street and along Ferry Road in Edinburgh. The aircraft was repaired and joined a group of captured machines on tour of RAF Stations to familiarise Allied aircrew with enemy aircraft.

The defence organisations in North Berwick included Air Raid Wardens, Fire Service and Home Guard. The fire watchers were based on the roof of the Post Office in Westgate where beds were installed in the rest rooms on the upper floor. The Home Guard who manned road blocks on Dirleton Avenue and Dunbar Road were based in the Hope Rooms and Caddie Shed on the West Links.

Miss Evelyn Coats, daughter of Peter H. Coats, cotton millionare, worked on Heugh Farm with the Women's Land Army as her contribution to the war effort in October 1939. The Coats summer resudence was at 34 Dirleton Avenue, North Berwick.

Throughout the Second World War when forty of the town's young men gave the ultimate sacrifice, life in the community continued, despite the constrictions and uncertainty that prevailed. The Bass Rock lighthouse was unmanned and the light extinguished for the duration of the conflict. Percy Pearson the local lobster fisherman was often instructed by the Ministry to make for the Bass and switch on the light, to allow a convoy of Royal Navy Destroyers save passage to Rosyth.

Many organisations in the town contributed to Jock's Box War Comforts Fund supported by the Daily Record, Evening News and Sunday Mail. Seven surface air-raid shelters were constructed in the playground of the High School which the neighbouring residents could also use. The Ministry of Home Security announced Free Air-Raid Shelters would be made available. The brick surface shelters at Elcho House, Quality Street and Dunbar Road were constructed by James Elliot & Son. James Archibald, 38 Quality Street was threatened with prosecution for not carrying out his fire watching duties in 1941.

The Town Council instructed the Manager of the cinema to screen public information messages several times each week to encourage the community to save quantities of paper and other salvage. The secretary of the Home Guard requested permission to play their golf competition on the Burgh course in June 1942. The Home Guard used the Golf Pavilion as a meeting place. The Ministry of Works instructed all local authority's to remove metal railings from private properties in the town for scrap. Following an appeal in 1943 the railings opposite the Vale in Forth Street and the railings in Dunbar Road were not to be removed. In November 1942 the Town Council accepted a gift of two pictures from Mrs. White of Haddington showing the Old Abbey and Baillie Balcrafties house. The Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders handed over the Harbour Pavilion to the King's Own Scottish Borders in August 1941. The KOSB band played every Thursday evening on the Anchor Green. The Polish Mounted Riffles drove a tank through the town causing damage to the roadway which they had to repair and all tanks were banned for the main streets.

In 1941, aircrew were trained at East Fortune in night fighting techniques for the RAF's Fighter Command. In 1942, Drem and East Fortune became temporary home to six Hurricane squadrons and several other Spitfire squadrons, notably the Poles, Canadians and Australian 453 Squadron. The command of the Polish Free Army was based near Kincardine, and the Poles stationed at East Fortune were billeted at Warrender House and Strathearn Hotel in York Road. Many of the Polish names familiar in the community today such as Sanetra, Helik, Gdulewicz, Borge, Skwara, and Rogawska came from that period. When a number of the exiles married local girls and settled in the area rather than returning home to the Soviet domination of Poland after 1945.

(A.S.E.E) Tantallon

The headland at Canty Bay named Gin Head was a radar research station and testing facility in 1937, part of Britain's early warning system that alerted the RAF to incoming enemy aircraft during World War Two. The Admiralty Signals Establishment Extension (A.S.E.E) Tantallon, was a research facility under the auspices of the Admirallty and Air Ministry, The top secret research on ship-based radar systems allowed (A.S.E.E) Tantallon, to intercept the system used by the German Luftwaffe.

The deception and jamming operations tested at Gin Head were key to the success of the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6 1944. They helped to deceive the German High Command into thinking that the British naval and airborne forces would arrive in France via the Pas De Calais, rather than in Normandy. The researchers also came up with a system of dropping aluminium foil from aircraft to jam signals to enemy radar stations. The buildings were used by the Admiralty until 1984 when it was sold to the defence contractor Ferranti and then to the American firm of Ranco.

The Ministry of War requisitioned Greywalls House in Gullane as an 'off station' and officers mess, where in the hedonistic atmosphere of an uncertain tomorrow the pilots and crew held many 'Champagne Parties'. Evidence of the high spirits still exist today in the form of a bullet hole shot in the copper ball of the pinnacle of the roof. Drem also provided the backdrop for one of the final actions of the war when on 11th May 1945 Spitfires of 603 squadron escorted on to the runway three German JU 52 transport planes carrying not bombs but Nazi officers suing for peace.

Walter Hume remembers growing up in North Berwick during WW2. His father, uncles and cousin were Forth Pilots and as such his main residence was Newhaven, Edinburgh with a second home at North Berwick. Walter Hume writes' With the continued threat of air raids we moved to our second home at North Berwick in October 1939. First to a grand old big house called 'Ardgay', ideally situated along the East Bay, with the magnificent beach literally on our door step and an uninterrupted sea view looking over to the Fife coast, the silenced fog-horns and unlit lighthouse beams of the Bass Rock, May Island and Fidra, due to the strict black-out in force. After a short while we moved to a more permanent abode, a delightful big apartment house situated above a pub named 'Auld Hoose', in Forth Street, probably remembered because it was such a happy time in spite of there being a war going on else where.

I enrolled at North Berwick school in School Road, where Mr Lonnie was headmaster. It always puzzled us that for music lessons we were encouraged to sing with gusto, the only problem being that all the red coloured hard-back music books handed out were quite useless, none of us could read music, or more to the point the words, which were all in the Welsh language!!!. Our daily lives were not affected directly with war time activities although with several air force stations nearby there always something going on. One of the more regrettable incidents which had us dashing down to the harbour happened on 12th December 1939.

With lots of Spitfire fighter aircraft zooming about just above roof top level, word quickly went round that they had just shot down a bomber into the sea a few hundred yards off the old disused Victoria Pier. In addition to numerous naval patrol craft that were quickly on the scene a local fishing boat, named Caithness Lass, put out to help pick up any survivors, as a few saturated aircrew clambered ashore at the old Victoria Jetty and trundled up past the open air swimming pool, we were looking to see the Germans, as we thought, and to everyone's surprise and dismay saw only our own RAF uniforms. The story came out soon after that several Hampden Bombers returning from a operation over the Norwegian coast failed to give the correct identification signal for the day and our defence Spitfires promptly brought it down just south of Craigleith Island, one of the Hampden crew died as a result of this dreadful mistake, some fifty years after that incident I actually met up with one of the crew in Poole, Dorset, he not only survived that ditching but went on to successfully complete more than one full tour of war time duties.

Pre-war the Forth Pilot cutters used North Berwick harbour as a base, but with the onset of hostilities they were moved across to the north shore at Largo, because of the huge concentration of shipping in Methil Bay, when yet again we were attracted like moths to a light when word got around the Pilot boat was seen approaching the harbour, and an ambulance in attendance, as usual we nippers were chased away, and when I arrived home to relate what had just been observed, was promptly told, yes, and its your father who they brought ashore, he is now in bed.

He had been on the Bridge of HMS Edinburgh conducting compass adjusting when the ship was attacked by German aircraft, he was fortunately not hit by bullets but a LIVE high voltage radio aerial which fell across his back causing a form of paralysis and severe electrical burns. He adamantly refused to be taken to hospital as family just lived up the road, had a couple of weeks off work (almost unheard of at that time) then back to Piloting ships to join the Russian convoys or hazardous Atlantic voyages, not exactly a quiet life in the sheltered Firth of Forth Estuary.

One of the few forms of entertainment, apart from the fore-going, was a visit to the only cinema, quite small but fairly new, built just before the war, the Playhouse visit once a week became a few hours of escapism, with so many service personnel stationed in and around the town it was a full house every night, but we did not mind waiting in the long queue, to see the likes of Kenny Baker in the Mikado, now there's nostalgia for you.' Walter Hume spent a life-time at sea and retired to Cowes, Isle of Wight.

In 1946, Hutchison's pleasure boats painted in camouflage returned to the harbour after being commandeered by the Ministry of War for duties in the Firth of Forth. Following World War II, the Italians made up the biggest group of immigrants in Scotland. Many setting up ice cream parlours and fish and chip shops, establishing the fish supper as a traditional Scottish meal, while maintaining close contact with Italy. The Tomassi, and Luca families established a business in the town while the Capaldi ice cream parlour was situated in the former Lifeboat Station in Victoria Road.

In the 1940s, the Royal and Marine Hotels were owned by Eglinton Hotels Ltd. The company purchased St Ann's in York Road and converted the building into a Children's Hotel where wealthy families sent their children for the summer months. In 1949, the two year old grandson of Emperor Haile Salassie of Ethiopia, Prince Paul Woseng Seged Makonnen Haile Salassie spent a few weeks at St Anns with his Scottish nanny and Ethiopian under-nurse.

The Town Fete was a highlight each year, held on the Coo's Green, in the area beyond the East Putting Green. Arranged by the North Berwick Traders Association, to raise funds for the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, this was in the days before the National Health Service, when Hospitals relied on public donations for their survival. (The first door to door collection in the town for the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was in September 1739). At the fete, as well as games for prizes donated by the residents there was a children's fancy dress competition, followed by a parade through the town. The Fire Engine and Town Council vehicles, decorated in flags and bunting, carried the children through the streets.

Lady Thomson Obituary 2017

Lady Bettina Thomson died at the age of 102, on 26th May 2017. Bettina's early childhood was spent with her mother and grandparents at No.1 Lorne Square, North Berwick. She loved North Berwick and returned to her house on the seafront annually for the rest of her life. She was probably the last person alive to recall hearing the distant thunder of guns from the Battle of Jutland whilst on the beach at North Berwick with her mother in May 1916.

Evelyn Margaret Isobel Thomson nee Douglas was born in Edinburgh on 1 January 1915. She and her younger sister, Jean lost their father during the Battle of Jutland. Her father, Lieutenant Commander David Douglas was third in command of HMS Black Prince when the armoured cruiser was surprised in the dark and sunk with the loss of 857 lives.

Her mother Frances, from the Stevenson family of engineers and lighthouse builders and cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson. Bettina married Sir Douglas Thomson in 1935 he was a M.P. for Aberdeen South and they were based in Edinburgh whilst he worked as Private Secretary to the Minister of Shipping in London organising war convoys. They moved to an estate in Walkerburn in 1942. Douglas retired as an M.P. in 1945 and devoted his time to rebuilding the family shipping Company, Ben Line that had suffered serious losses during the war.

Bettina took an active interest in local affairs representing Walkerburn on the Country Council from 1960 to 1974. She had a life long interest in family history and at the age of 82 published a book about her ancestors that included an Artic explorer, a war hero who won the Victoria Cross and an Admiral who founded the modern Japanese navy. Laterly Bettina resided with her daughter in Yorkshire where she died on 26 May 2017. When North Berwick's museum which was established by her stepfather and first Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Scotland, James Richardson closed she campaigned tirelessly for its reopening which finally happened in 2014.

During the 1930s the town's shopkeepers and tradesmen took part in the parade, many on horse back. In those days the procession took in the west end of the town, where the young shop assistants would visit the residencies in York Road, Cromwell Road and Dirleton Avenue, where they had delivered goods throughout the year. At each stop, they were offered 'refreshments' by the household staff, and collected donations from his 'Lordship' towards the fund raising. (More below under Sports Centre)

The Coo's Green was used for the last time in 1959 and that year also saw the final Fancy Dress Parade. The Town Council had purchased Lady Jane Park (Lodge Grounds) and mansion house in 1938 and the Town Fete moved to that location in 1960. At that time the Lodge Grounds had two fields, both fenced off for grazing cattle and sheep. Later the live-stock were moved to the east field and the other opened up to the public, although the practice of locking the gates to the Lodge Grounds at dusk continued.

[George Kelly]
  Lifeboat back on Station

The population of the Parish in 1951 was 4,580 (Burgh - 4001, Landward - 579). There were 35 private hotels, 6 licensed hotels, 6 restaurants and numerous boarding houses. During the summer months the town was attracting more day-trippers with as many as five times the population on a single day. Christmas day was now observed with Church Services and all the shops closed. In 1939, architect and builder George E. Shackleton started the construction of Dundas Avenue. In the 1950s his company sub-divided many of the large properties into apartments including Morseby, West Links House, and Inchdura. The land south of St Baldred's Road and Clifford Road was occupied by the Mains Farm, which stretched to the base of Berwick Law. The Town Council purchased this land in the 1960s and developed Gilbert Avenue, Wishart Avenue and Cooper Avenue for Council Housing. They also sold off part of the farmland to private developers who then built Lady Jane Gardens, Macnair Avenue and St Baldred's Crescent. (Pictured Above is George Kelly Snr.)

Throughout the early sixties the town remained a popular destination for holidaymakers, despite the ease of travel to more exotic destinations. By the end of the decade, holiday patterns began to change and the town gradually move from a tourist based economy to a dormitory for commuters to the capital, Edinburgh.

Our visitors have always been more aware of the town's golfing heritage and the late sixties saw an increase in the number of golfers from round the world wishing to experience the West Links. The popularity of the course was boosted when Arnold Palmer and Tony Jacklin played the famous 15th hole 'Redan', with legendary golf commentator Henry Longhurst during the filming of '18 holes at 18 different courses helicopter round '. The Open Championship at Muirfield in 1959, 1966 and 1972, added to the profile of the area and the West Links became an integral part of the 'golf package tour'.

Blue Peter Lifeboat

In May 1966 a lifeboat was stationed at North Berwick for the first time in over fourty-one years. Following an appeal by the children's BBC 'Blue Peter' TV programme, four inshore lifeboats were purchased and Blue Peter III was assigned to North Berwick. The 16 feet D-112 inflatable, was limited to a five mile radius and operational from March until November. The boat is now on display in the RNLI Lifeboat Museum at Chatham.

Since then North Berwick has had five successive D class lifeboats named Blue Peter III. The early lifeboats had no radio on board and the crew were supplied with coloured flares to signal to shore and each colour meant something different. For example, the crew would launch a green flare if they required the assistance of a doctor. The crew had only oil skins to wear back in the early years, no dry suits, they were usually soaked to the skin just as soon as they launched and the plywood decking was pretty hard on the knees.

In June 2013, Blue Peter III was replaced by a new lifeboat which had the latest technology including Chart Plot system and AIS, a tracking system used for identifying and locating vessels which allows the Coatsguard to track the position of the lifeboat and coordinate search and rescue operations. The new lifeboat named Evelyn M. was funded by the Evelyn M. Murdoch Charitable Trust. She lived in Edinburgh and enjoyed her family holidays in North Berwick.

Bubona Shipwreck

The first lifeboat to be stationed in the town came about after one particular tragedy left the community feeling helpless, when a rescue boat may have saved the lives of the five crewmen who perished. The tragedy happened on Tuesday 25th October 1859, when the schooner Bubona loaded with coal from the Tyne, was making for Aberdeen with Mr Adams as master. Nearing Dunbar Bay, the wind shifted to the north-east, and a tremendous sea got up. By nine o'clock in the evening, the wind had strengthened to near hurricane force, and the vessel was spotted in difficulties inside the Bass, her sails had given-way and the crew had no choice but to make for the shore.

The Bubona, landed among rocks about two hundred yards west off Canty Bay, and the Coastguard proceeded at once to the scene with the life saving apparatus. They fired four-rockets over the vessel and were successful in landing a line across the stern of the boat but the crew who appeared to be lashed in the bows, were too exhausted to take advantage of the situation.

By this time a large crowd had gathered on the shore, watching in silence as the vessel continued to break up on the rocks, her masts were over the side and the sea was breaking over her. The poor crew, five in number, stuck together in the fore-part of the vessel, until she finally broke up about midnight, when they all perished.

That night the hurricane force winds caused havoc along the coast of the UK and resulted in 200 shipwrecks and the loss of 800 lives. Captain Robert Fitzroy from Suffolk, was so appalled by the number of deaths and the inability to warn ships of bad weather that he developed a line-of-sight communications system. This system consisted of 15 stations around the country which would raise a 3ft cone to warn ships of imminent storms. Fitzroy was also the founder of a scientific system to predict weather conditions, he called it 'the weather forecast'.

In late November 1859 two of the bodies from the Bubona were washed up and taken by cart to the graveyard in Kirkports. The loss of the crew was felt deeply by the community and to avoid such a tragedy happening again, a move to have the town's first lifeboat was instigated by Rev. Stewart from Liberton and coastguards Walter Malcolm and Captain Thomas Woodrow. A committee was formed, subscriptions raised and within twelve months the Royal Lifeboat Institution agreed to allocate a lifeboat to the town.

In October 1860, the new lifeboat arrived, gifted by Messrs. Jaffray & Son of London, along with its transport carriage and equipment. A.W.Jaffray and his father of St Mildred's Court, London funded the lifeboat at North Berwick. Their legacy also provided lifeboats at Thurso and St Andrews. The Town Council provided ground for the Life Boat House at the end of Shore Street (Victoria Road) and feud the ground to the Royal Lifeboat Institue for one penny per annum. £20 was raised to play the Coxswain salary and crew.

Despite continuous rain on the day of the launch, the whole community turned out, lining the streets and cheering on the parade. Four horses bedecked with flowers, were yoked to the lifeboat carriage and transported from the station in Shore Street, along Back Street (Forth Street) as far as the West Links, before making a complete circuit of the burgh by High Street and Quadrant to the east beach. A number of the committee climbed on board, including the tall figure of Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple completely enveloped in oilskins, directing the procession from the bow.

The crew consisted of Captain Woodrow, John Murray (coxswain), Richard Thorburn, John Thorburn, David Thomson, James McLean, Robert Marr and Alex Thomson. Protected by a broad life preserver strapped round their bodies, they took their places on board and with oar-in-hand sat ready for the launching apparatus to be brought into action. With the echo of three cheers still ringing in the air, the 'Caroline' as she was named, slid down to meet a coming wave and North Berwick's first lifeboat was successfully launched. The Lifeboat Station was opened on 20th June 1900 and cost £300, it closed in January 1926. The building was leased to George R. Thomson, Cedar Grove Dairy who converted the property into a tearoom and restaurant.

The drowning of a local fisherman was the worst tragedy the community experienced in living memory. It happened at 9.15am on 10th January 1965 when fisherman Benjamin Pearson was reported missing. He was last seen within the western channel, west of the harbour. As word of the tragedy spread hundreds gathered in silence on the Elcho Green staring hopelessly out to sea. By mid-afternoon the search was called off. It is understood he slipped and struck his head on the boat before falling into the sea, his waders filled with water and the tangled seaweed pulled him down. The Pearson family followed the custom of the fisher-folk in not being able to swim. The sea gave up the body of Benjamin Millar Pearson at 12.30pm on 22 January 1965. D. Brown Macfarlane, Procurator Fiscal declared the cause of death as drowning.

There has been seven lifeboats stationed at North Berwick over the years and four Blue Peter inshore vessels. The latest, Blue Peter 7 is an all weather boat, on call all year round and is housed in the original boat-house in Victoria Road, where the names of the crews and the lives they have saved are listed.

In 1984 the lifeboat crew members Benjamin and Jim Pearson were given the top bravery awards for their part in the dramatic rescue of a drowning teenage girl in the East Bay. The brothers Jim and Benjamin each received a Blue Peter gold badge. They retired in 1993 after 25 years service to the RNLI.

In the 1950s, the Town Council purchased Rhodes Farm and used the outbuildings as workshops and stabling for a pair of Clydesdale horses which were in regular use until the early 1960s. The agricultural land on the Rhodes Farm was rented out, and in 1954 new council houses built by James Millar & Partners formed Lime Grove. A pig farm was established on ground where later the Burgh Caravan site was laid out. (Rhodes Park). The Town Council collected all domestic food waste in separate containers and this was fed to the pigs, a very profitable venture which reduced the town rates.

In 1960 the Town Council installed electric street lighting for the first time. They decided to use warm white fluorescent light rather than the more efficient and economical sodium filament. The fluorescent light gave a very pleasing warm glow and was so popular with residents and visitors that the street lighting was switched on during the summer evenings. The gas works at Ferrygate closed in 1972, when the town's gas supply was produced at Granton.

In 1959, shortly after the death of Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, Leuchie House was used as a convent and is now leased to the MS Society. The dowager moved out of Leuchie and resided at Blackdykes where she died in 1979. Their son Sir Hew and his wife Lady Anne Louise Hamilton Dalrymple commissioned architects Law & Dunbar-Nasmith to design and converted a cottage on the Leuchie estate as their family home in 1960. Their eldest son Hew, and his wife Janey returned from London in 1992 and now reside at Blackdykes.

In the 1960s Grange Road was a quiet country lane and Green Apron Park was farmland. In those days each field was identified by a name and being shaped like an apron its was originally called the Masonic Apron. Glenorchy Road and Highfield Road ended at timber gates leading to the fields of Williamstone farm (Priory Meadow). To the west of Ware Road was fields of grazing sheep, part of the Hamilton-Dalrymple estate which stretched (Lord President Road) to the market garden at Smiley Knowe. Where the glasshouses produced the first ripe tomatoes to reach the markets in Scotland. (Williamstone Court).

The modernist designed property Minaki, 12 York Road, North Berwick was constructed in 1961 in the grounds of St Ann's House (1882) overlooking the West Links. The landscape architects were James Morris and Robert Steedman and their design was influenced by the 'Glass House' built in Connecticut in 1948. The owner of Minaki was Robert Cheyne, a chartered accountant who previously resided in Kelowna, British Columbia. The property was purchased by Robin Wotherspoon, the North Berwick Town Clerk in the nineteen eighties. His legal practice Wallance & Menzies, was located at 21 Westgate, North Berwick. In 2020 a street in the new development south of the town was named ‘Wotherspoon Green’ after the former Town Clerk.

With full employment in the 1960s, a new affluence arrived. Teenagers had more money in their pockets and in 1969 everyone in Britain over the age of eighteen was allowed to vote. The 'Saturday Night Dance' at the Harbour Pavilion was the most popular venue in the county and the Playhouse cinema opened on Sunday, reflecting the times. The swimming pool was heated and the midnight gala with live music on the esplanade was a highlight of the summer.

On 25th January 1965 Benjamin Millar Pearson drowned in the western channel, west of the harbour while fishing for lobsters. As news of the missing fisherman spread throughout the town over a thousand gathered in silence on Elcho Green. Benjie Pearson lived at 25 East Road and was the brother of Jim Pearson a local fisherman. It was reported that Benjie fell over board and as his boots filled with water he was trapped in the seaweed. It is understood that Benjie Pearson could not swim, which was a fisherman's tradition.

The town was expanding and the population numbered 4,750. Throughout the decade the Town Council were under pressure to attract more visitors by offering amusement arcades and other entertainment facilities available at more popular resorts. Fortunately common sense prevailed and the town has continued to attract the discerning visitor, all be it in reduced numbers. The community were raising funds towards the building of a sports centre and the town was about to enter a new chapter - a good place to end part one of the story of North Berwick.

The North Berwick Sports Centre

In the 1920s the North Berwick Traders Association organised a Garden Fete with all proceeds going to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. This was in the days before the NHS and the Royal Infirmary was reliant on charity. When the National Health Service (NHS) was established, fund raising was not required and during the 1950s the Traders Association continued to organise a Garden Fete and raise money for the town. The Garden Fete was held on the East Links beyond the east putting green followed by a fancy dress parade throughout the town. The children, dressed in colourful costumes were transported from the East Links on the Town Council vehicles and the lucky ones travelled on the Fire Engine.

In 1960 the Garden Fete moved to the Lodge grounds and by 1966 the Traders Association decided to form a sub-committee named the North Berwick and District Community Association to take the project forward and recommend where the funds should be spent for the benefit of the town. On 19th September 1969, various North Berwick organisations led by North Berwick Community Association announced that plans were in hand for the construction of a community sports centre. The original aim of the community association was to use their £12,000 assets to build a community conference hall but unfortunately due to rising costs this became prohibitive. There was a lack of indoor sporting facilities in the district and the Community Association decided to use this money and all their efforts to provide a large indoor sports centre which will cost in the region of £40,000.

A fund raising thermometer was placed in Quality Street and each week the community watched the red line raising higher and higher as the funds increased. James Y. Russell, a farmer at Muirton, Drem was particularly inspired by the efforts of the local community to raise money for a Sports Centre. Fowler's Garage was a regular meeting place on a Friday afternoon for many local farmers servicing their vehicles and catching up on the farming gossip. The fund raising thermometer in Quality Street caught Mr Russell's attention as each week the funds increased dramatically. He would later bequeath a substantial trust fund known as the Russell Bequest which continues to offer financial assistance to the present day.

There were many ways to raise funds including offering an Honorary Membership for a donation of fifty-pounds. The board listing the Honorary Members included Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, and many more can be seen today in the hallway of the Sports Centre. The North Berwick Town Council purchased the Mains Farm and developed Gilbert Avenue, Couper Avenue and Wishart Avenue, and they offered the remaining land for the new Sports Centre. In 1969 the fund raising reached £10,000 and the builder John Neil & Co. started the work.

During this period there was a youth club in the former British Legion hall in Dunbar Road where they played badminton. The roof space was not high enough and the shuttle-cocks stuck on the beams. The players moved to the Masonic Lodge in Forth Street which was higher but still prohibitive. The badminton players suggested the new Sports Centre roof should be high enough and the committee decided the main hall should be a single-beam agricultural farm barn which has served the community for over forty-five years.

On 8th June 1971 the North Berwick Sports Centre was officially opened by Princess Margaret and the Community Association chairman Johnny Fowler and vice-chairman William Seaton were introduced to the Queen's sister. She was also invited to plant a tree at the entrance to the Sports Centre on the corner of Haddington Road. The centre was organised by volunteers and by 1973 the Sports Centre was so popular with the East Lothian public that the volunteers could not cope and the Centre was sold to the East Lothian Council for £50,000 which was paid back to the Community Association. For over thirty years the funds were invested and the interest awarded annually to sport related projects in the town.

In March 1993 a group of Bosnian refugees found safety in East Lothian. After escaping the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, they resided in Cheylesmore Lodge in North Berwick. In September 1994 plans to transform the derelict Harbour Pavilion into a Sea Bird Centre were approved. The proposal was first raised by Bill Gardner, a member of the North Berwick Community Council in 1992. Bill was part of a sub-committee looking at how the harbour area could be transformed. Since then Bill Gardner and his associates have drawn up plans to alter and extend the pavilion with a new facade. Later more ambitious plans were submitted fo the award winning Scottish Sea Bird Centre. All that remains of the Harbour Pavilion is the 'Glitter Ball' which is now on display in the North Berwick Museum.

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