The East Lothian town of Musselburgh is the largest settlement in the area, and home to more than 20,000 people. One of Scotland’s oldest towns, the former fishing community has a harbour, two beaches and is named after the mussel beds along its shore.
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The Town Through The Decades
YouTube channel tourscotland created a slideshow of black and white photos showing the town through the decades.
A collection of old photos, postcards and newspaper adverts pulled together in this photo montage by Fraser MacDonald, who added titles identifying each location. All topped off with jolly music.
Both old and modern photos shown, with good location titles, so you can see how the area has changed through the decades.
Making Paper In The 1920s
North African grass was transformed into art paper, so in 1929 Pathé came to film the process. The titles explain the processes shown in this silent, black and white footage. It’s a strange mixture of huge, industrial equipment and workers who look like they’ve stepped out of a Victorian rural landscape.
Tragedy During The Second World War
In February 1940 a plane was shot down but received so little damage it was towed through the streets on its way to Turnhouse. It was then repaired and given RAF colours. Unfortunately 7 or 8 people died in the same plane when it crashed after an accident involving American aircraft.
Musselburgh Rail Crash New Year’s Day 1941
How did the train crash happen?
On New Year’s Day 1941, around 7.17am, a goods train was accidentally diverted into Musselburgh.
Signalman David Little Ramage (of 17 Dean Street, Edinburgh) said when the engine passed his cabin on the branch line to Musselburgh he waved a red lamp and blew a whistle, thinking the train was a runaway.
The locomotive skidded along the steep (1 in 111) gradient of the icy rails for about a mile, unable to stop, despite the actions of the driver and guardsman. The train smashed into the buffers, and the carriage piled into the station.
Damage and loss of life
Unfortunately a teenaged employee of John Menzies & Company, Ltd, 19 year old Helen Currie Krause Krause, (known as Ella), was killed inside the station bookstall.
Born in 1921 in Scotland, Ella and her parents Gustave and Jean Krause (nee Pearson) emigrated to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada. The year before the train accident she came back to Scotland, with her parents and siblings Jean, Tommie and Gustave remaining in Canada. Ella moved in with her aunt Mamie Pearson at 2 South Street, Musselburgh. She was on duty at the station bookstall that fateful day because she swapped shifts with a colleague called Charlotte.
Part of the stationmaster’s house above was also damaged, where a family lived. The bathroom collapsed and the bath lay on top of the wreckage. Since some of the wreckage went 30 feet into the air, two gaping holes were left in the roof.
Fortunately the stationmaster’s office and the porters’ room were unoccupied at the time. John Hunter, the station foreman, was at the signal cabin He was answering a phone call alerting staff to the runaway train, and put down the receiver as the crash occurred. Walter Irvine, the station manager, was in bed. One of his daughters would normally have been in the bathroom getting ready for work at that time, but she had the holiday day off.
What happened afterwards?
The train’s driver (43 year old Mr. John Hunter of 170 Main Street, Tweedmouth), fireman (Mr. John Welsh, Foul Ford, Berwick) and guardsman (Alexander Gray) survived unharmed. They were apparently arrested for manslaughter but later released without charge.
The locomotive (a 6390 Hobbie Elliot) appears to have been repaired and back in service just over a month later.
The Public Enquiry in the Edinburgh Sheriff Court, led by Sheriff Brown, was unable to determine with clarity the cause of the accident. It is believed that the accident was not the subject of a published formal accident investigation, despite the fatality and amount of damage caused.
This accident occurred during the Second World War. Many staff worked unfamiliar jobs and routes, and fatigue was common. The train may have been a Scottish Director and may have been not the best locomotive for goods work.
The station was demolished in 1964, and is now a car park located between Olive Bank Road and the river just by the end of the Roman Bridge.
Dedicated volunteers unearthing history
Thank you to all the contributors at LNER encyclopedia for their hard work researching this event and making it available to the public.
Ella’s nephew also added a lovely photo of her on the forum, which can be found here.
A bit more about the railway station: –
The town’s original railway station is now a car park, with today’s station having opened in 1988 at a different location. This is a quick 1-minute recap about the history of the original station (opened in 1847, demolished in 1964). Includes maps, photos and film.
The late Keigh Chegwin (1957-2017), aka “Cheggars”, a brave lady called Sandra and an elephant appear in an item for Kids TV.
Crusader’s Riding Club was formed in 1937 and a Club Charter was presented to the club in 1949. Each year the Club Charter is read out during the flag-raising ceremony. The Honest Lad raises the Saltire (the flag of Scotland) to signify that Musselburgh Festival has begun.
This clip is too far from the events to hear what is going on. But t’s an interesting mix of the impressive Fa’side Castle and the dusky sky silhouetting the castle top events.
24 July 2015 saw the annual fancy dress parade which is part of the town’s festival. Hundreds of people take part.
The town’s reaction to a historic worldwide pandemic? A cheerful look at the dressing up local townsfolk like to do in normal times.