Post-War Reconstruction

Clearly a great deal had to be done to restore the normality of peacetime after the war’s conclusion in 1945. This section will examine a variety of measures taken to nudge the county back towards that normality that speaks of the everyday, something the UK population had been yearning for, for six long years.

Local Government

I have already included evidence written by the Reverend Canon P. Shannon, rector of Holy Trinity church, Haddington, in relation to his work with regiments in Amisfield Camp. Now he describes his work in local government as the war drew to a close. He wrote:

"Towards the end of the war, when we were beginning to look forward to post-war reconstruction, a bunch of us decided that we ought to do something about pepping up the Borough Council which had got somewhat somnolent during the war. So, we set ourselves up as a non-political body to fight the first local election after the war. There were twelve seats on the Council so we went to the people with a list of seven of us, saying to them that if you really want Haddington to come alive, vote for us and we will do something about it. We warned them that it would cost a bit of money to do all we wanted to do, but if they thought it was worth it then to vote for us. We scooped the pool and got all the first seven places which, along with Robert Fortune who was already a Councillor and was a very good chap, we had a pretty good majority.

The trouble was that we had to appoint Magistrates, and nobody had any real experience of court work. I declined being a Magistrate for more often than not I was the defending counsel when some of my young lads got themselves into trouble. So, I became the Dean of Guild and in that capacity was largely responsible for the post-war development of the town.

Our group consisted of Robin Mitchell, the minister of the West Kirk, Fr. Walsh of the R.C. church, Andrew Anderson, the Rector of Knox Institute, Bobbie Robertson, who was the manager of the cattle market and another working man who was a Roman Catholic to help us collar the Catholic vote! Plus, me, of course.

Robin Mitchell, Fr. Walsh and I appointed ourselves as the Housing Committee for we felt that between us we knew more about the actual circumstances of the people in the town than any other three. This stood us in a good position for when we went up as a sub-committee to bargain with the Scottish Office in Edinburgh for a greater allotment of prefab houses. George Buchanan, who was Secretary of State at the time, was so amazed to find a Presbyterian Minister, an Episcopalian Priest and a Roman Catholic Priest all working together, that he over-ruled the officials in St Andrew's House, and we got our larger quota of prefabs.

We then fought Sir Frank Mears, who was the Planning Officer for the region and who wanted to increase the size of the Borough by building concentric circles of new houses round the [town's] perimeter. We [disagreed and] felt that there were enough open lots within the existing boundaries to keep the town together and preserve its identity.

So, we eventually got permission to take down old Caponflat House, which was pretty ruinous, and built that nice scheme where we were able to preserve all the old trees. We were also instrumental in developing the housing area of the Butts, so I think we really left our mark on the borough. Eventually, having been sent as a representative onto the County council where I was on twenty-four committees which met monthly and [took] so much time away from parochial matters, [I found that] the only way to escape was to depart.

In October 1946 I left Haddington and went to Elgin. They wanted to make me a Freeman of the Borough, but I refused as I thought that honour should be confined to people who were natives of the Borough and not incomers like me. I may say, however, that it was heart-warming to realise that what I had done had been appreciated."