Dunbar has two harbours: the Cromwell or Old Harbour and the Victoria Harbour, otherwise known as the New Harbour. Each has its own history – the New hewn from the rock of the Castle, watched by a young John Muir before he went off to America, the Old where Charles Edward Stuart landed around the time of the Battle of Prestonpans. I grew up not far from them both so they’re familiar to me as places where I would walk or even go on a boat from time to time. I remember being at the Old Harbour a few times as the sun was going up, around 5 in the morning, the sky lightening and broadening as all around was still.
Recently Dunbar was witness to the Aurora Borealis or the northern lights. I’ve never seen them though I’ve seen many fine solar displays there in my time, including a total eclipse as I walked along the High Street. I saw a photograph on Facebook of the end of the Aurora over Lamer Island, part of the New harbour, and it reminded me of being there as a kid. Lamer Island, or the Battery as I knew it, has the harbour wall and a derelict military hospital on it. The derelict military hospital is a ruin, a gateway leading to a grassy bit bounded by walls that rise higher over the sea beyond. I always liked to imagine it defending against naval sieges and barrages, even while it never actually saw anything of the kind. I liked to walk around it and just imagine.
It’s interesting that since I moved away, I’ve written more about Dunbar and East Lothian. I was lucky to grow up where I did, even if I didn’t always think it at the time. Writing helps bring out thoughts and recollections almost without realising it. It also leads to actively looking out for new ideas, especially when writing a blog like this, and sometimes they just come to you, with a glance or a swipe on social media. Whatever works. The best ideas come completely unexpectedly in my experience, as with the best things in life at large.
A week or so after this post was originally written, back in March, I was in touch with the Dunbar Shore and Harbour Neighbourhood Group who provided some intriguing information about Lamer Island. They have a project to use the now ruined space where the hospital was to bring together a new visitor centre, coastal garden and interpretation space, making the most of its fine setting with views across the Forth, to the North Sea and both of the harbours. Good luck to them – I’ll look forward to seeing what they do.