Early in WW2, the school was evacuated from Belhaven Hill, and the building was requisitioned by the War Department. It became a special training school for the Special Operations executive (SOE). The SOE was established by Winston Churchill soon after Dunkirk, with the instruction to “Set Europe Ablaze”. Trained SOE agents would be dropped in occupied Europe to work with local resistance groups whilst gathering information. Belhaven Hill’s function was to train operators and agents in wireless telegraphy skills, and the site was chosen because it was 400 miles from the SOE base in Southern England, giving similar transmission distances to operational sites in Europe.
There were two types of trainee at Belhaven Hill. Women wireless operators were all recruited to the FANYs (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) and were destined for listening posts in UK. The Jedburghs were the three person teams deployed into Europe. Although the true function of the School was a closely guarded secret during the War, the trainees were not quarantined, and mixed socially with the many uniformed service men and women in the town at the time. The true nature of SOE activities at Belhaven Hill did not become clear until well after the War.
George Robertson’s family befriended two young men from Belhaven Hill during their stay in Dunbar. They were deployed forward, and both survived the war. One of them, Eric Sanders, now aged 101 years, is a talented musician and a prolific author. We are privileged that Eric will join us for our on-line zoom talk to give his own account of his time in the SOE at Dunbar and elsewhere. This is a unique opportunity to hear some living history about wartime Dunbar.
A zoom link for the talk at 7.30pm on 8th April will be circulated nearer the time.
Members of the East Lothian Antiquarian and Field Naturalists Society gathered at the Maitlandfield House Hotel on 8th February for another in their series of Winter lectures.
Honorary President, Stephen Bunyan, welcomed Liz Curtis of Dunbar who is a member of the Scottish Place Names Society. She gave a fascinating talk on the history behind some of the place names of East Lothian. These have been a subject of interest to historians for centuries with myths muddying the facts. For example, it was long suggested that Humbie got its name from the humming of the many bees to be found there! In reality, many of the names can be traced back to the languages of the many peoples who settled in the area from the earliest times – Brythonic, Old English, Norse, Scots, Baronial French. Strangely, although in East Lothian for some time with a fort at Inveresk, the Romans brought no Latin links.
Many names stem from the words for landscape features or land use in the different languages. Many relate to different types of farm e.g. those with ton, hame or by in them. Dunbar comes from the Anglo Saxon – Dyun Baer – Fort on the Point. A Saxon fort was found when the Leisure Pool was being built. Other names come from religious links e.g. Nungate in Haddington.
After a time for questions, including the correct way to pronounce Gullane, Mr Bunyan gave a vote of thanks. He noted that the day was also the 650th Anniversary of the granting of a Charter to Dunbar by King David the Second.
The next Winter Lecture will be a talk on the History of St Martin’s Kirk at the Maitlandfield House Hotel – 2pm on 14th March.
On Saturday 6th June the Society visited Aberlady Bay the outing was organised by John Hunt and led by the warden John Harrison This was a very pleasant afternoon.
Please note different dates from the sheet issued. Continue reading
4h June Celebration of John Rennie
b 7/6/1761 d 4 /10 /1821
For background information see document already issued.
The exhibition “ John Rennie FRS eminent Civil Engineer” opens in The John Muir Birthplace High St Dunbar at 10am
We are to meet as a group at 1130
Lunch will be available in West barns Hall
Meet at 2 30 at the Memorial at Phantassie for a commemoration, followed by a walk through the grounds of Phantassie and tea at Prestonkirk Stables. Continue reading
The 2011/12 programme. Continue reading
Saturday 10th June The May island is now an important National Nature Reserve particularly for seabirds in the Firth of Forth. It was an important ecclesiastical settlement in the Middle Ages particularly associated with St Adrian.It ceased to important in this way at the Reformation. The Reformers were interested in preaching to the people but not in venerating Holy Places. This will be a whole day excursion because for a party of any size the island has to be approached from Anstruther.