Stories from the Time

Eskmills in the 1860’s

Here are some interesting stories that appeared in the local papers at the time Eskmills was beginning to flourish. The area was still handling a cholera outbreak. However, there are town planning issues, enterprising new business opportunities, golf club members arguing, street brawls and employees with grievances…..just some of the rather familiar goings on at the time.

The Musselburgh and Fisherrow Co-operative Society originated at Stuart’s Net Mill among a group of men who, in 1861, decided to run a sweepstake of one shilling each on the Derby race of that year. After the race, however, the twelve agreed that they would begin trading in tobacco and other articles with their twleve shilling investment in the Derby. The goods for sale were kept in the home of Charles Maiden, one of the twelve, and the enterprise became so successful that they formed a co-operative society which was registered on 27th March 1862, with offices at 8 and 10 High Street, Fisherrow.At first the shop only opened in the evening after 6 pm, but business improved, and a woman was employed to keep the shop open at more convenient times. For this, new premises were found by the Auld Brig, Eskside. Then Mr. Stuart of the Net Mill built a shop on Bridge Street to let to the society and, finally in 1878, they built their own premises.

The Curling Pond   Musselburgh Times November 8th 1866 The work people employed at the Patent Net Manufacturing of Messrs J. & W. Stuart in this town, have frequently had the occasion of late to complain of the stagnant condition, adjoining the premises where they work, has been suffered to remain. They allege that they have suffered in their health from the decomposing vegetable matter and that it has accumulated in it, and it is therefore a nuisance that should not be allowed to continue. They had embodied their complaint in a petition to the Police Commissioners, which was submitted at a meeting of that body held last week. The Commissioners, after duly considering the memorial, instructed the clerk to write to the Treasurer or Secretary of the Curling Club, calling his attention to the grievance, and requesting the Club to remedy it.

Burning of Tar-barrels as an antidote to cholera Musselburgh Times November 8th 1866 On Tuesday evening last, in accordance with the decision come to the Local Authority a number of tar-barrels were burnt at the different places in the town, with a view to checking the serious ravages of cholera. These barrels were about forty in number, and they were burnt at different places in the High Street, Gibson’s Close, MacDonald’s Close, the South Vennell, &c. The proceeding attracted the attention of a considerable crowd of youngsters, who gathered around the blazing piles, and seemed to enjoy the spectacle amazingly. To defray the cost of these fires a gentleman, who does not wish his name to be published, has kindly given his sum of £5, and it is understood that a further sum of £5 should be required for the purpose. On Saturday night, in accordance with the decision come to at a meeting of the Local Authority, five bonfires were lighted – three in Newbigging and two in Fisherow – the materials consisting of a quantity of old wood which had been besmeared with archangel tar.

Stormy meeting at Larks Golf Club   Musselburgh News Feb 15th 1889 I hear the members of Larks’ Golf Club had a rather stormy meeting last night. The committee who had had the getting up of arrangements for the recent assembly brought forward a report of the event. Several allusions were made as to the way in which the committee had been supported in their endeavours, these gentlemen thinking that they had somewhat been shabbily dealt with by their fellow members. The captain, who presided, and in that capacity, it is said, was a law unto himself, and wished to be the ruler of the club, was unsparing in his criticism of the report. There was nothing in it to his mind worth reporting with the exception of the fact that there was a small surplus of 14 shillings, which the committee suggested should be devoted to buying prizes……several very sharp things were said on both sides…the feeling of some of the members is that it is really too bad, when they are doing what they can do to popularise the club in the town, they should be discouraged by official backwardness.

Demolition of old Free Church   Musselburgh News April 19th 1889  Musselburgh is busy – very busy – just now. The artificer and builder is on every hand. The station and several private establishments are undergoing alteration and improvement. The demolition of the old Free Church is in rapid progress, and in three months or so a new and splendid edifice is expected to be completed in its place. The removal of such material previous to the renovation of Bridge Street U.P. Church is also being proceeded with – all proclaiming the prosperity and extension of the “Honest Toon”. I hear that Mr Livingston, wine merchant, has just given a further proof of liberality to the church of which he is a member, by offering to build a lodge at the entrance gate to Inveresk Manse at his own expense.

Elphinstone Miners   Musselburgh News June 1889 The grievances of Elphinstone miners have surely been almost all remedied. Their latest one presently under consideration of the manager, and will, I think require careful consideration. That gentleman was recently “deputationed” on the part of the miners, and the gist of their application was that seeing “summer was coming, when the long days keep us late out of bed at night, we wish to start the “gig” an hour later in the morning – at seven instead of six o’clock, which will give us an hour longer to rest in bed”. I hope the manager will see his way to make the miners feel comfortable in this way.

Opposition to Cholera Hospital   Musselburgh Times 8th November 1866 Considerable dissatisfaction has been lately expressed by the inhabitants of the East Vennell at the use that has been made by the Local Authority of the premises that were recently converted into a Cholera Hospital, and this dissatisfaction took the form of a memorial addressed to the Local Authority, which was signed by 80 residents. A special meeting of the Police Commissioners was held last week, the Provost presiding, to consider the memorial, and after some discussion, it was unanimously agreed, while the meeting did not commit themselves to any right on the part of the petitioners to interfere with the arrangements of the Local Authority, that in the meantime no more cholera patients should be sent to the premises referred to.

Public House Brawl  Musselburgh Times 8th November 1866 Considerable annoyance was occasioned to the residents in the neighbourhood of Shirkey’s public-house, Fisherrow, on the evening of Saturday week, from the turbulent proceeding of three men who had been drinking there, and quarrelled over it. The disturbers of the peace were William Ritchie, a carter, and Peter Banks, a labourer, both residing at Lochend, Fisherrow, and John Fairney, a carter, living in the High Street, Fisherrow. Their conduct was so riotous that they were summoned before the Police Court on Friday last, to answer for it. They all denied the charge, but evidence having been adduced which clearly proved the charge, they were found guilty, and fined 7s. 6d each, or 7 days in default. The money was paid.