The location of the current Herkes Undertakers, formerly the site of Gorebridge Police Station, at the foot of Gorebridge Main Street is possibly the scene of the most infamous and bloody moment of all of Gorebridge’s history. The local press were quick to succinctly detail the dramatic and deadly events of a late Saturday night in dreary February 1846:
The violence, however, was far from over. Under the pretext of retribution for the savage beating of the policemen (rather than the pre-existing animosity and religious tensions), Scottish and English railway workers – accompanied by colliers from local mine works such as the Lady Victoria at Newtongrange – descended on mass upon the Irish camps. Contemporary estimates vary wildly, however some reports suggest that as many as 1,500 English and Scotsmen rallied, bagpipes, bugle and all, towards the location of the Irish at Crichton Miss, not far from Crichton Castle. Upon seeing the miltia which was fast approaching their homes, the Irish men fled south, leaving their camp unoccupied and at the mercy of the superior numbers. The drunken mob, who had met at local pubs in the area before their march, evacuated the flimsy wood and turf residences of woman and children and burned them to the ground – helpless wives and mothers, sons and daughters, left to watch as their only source of shelter in cold February burned to the ground. With no battle, and having laid waste to the camp, the band of Scots and English returned to their local watering holes and then home.
By this time word had, naturally, reached Edinburgh of the serious disturbance and, with the uncertainty of whether further unrest could be expected, a troop of the 4th Irish Dragon from Piershall Barracks were sent out, along with Sheriff Speirs, to bring peace to the county. Ultimately, there was little need for further assistance as the English and Scots had retreated, and the Irish were nowhere to be seen.
A mixture of the culpable parties would be arrested throughout the day and into Tuesday.
In total 28 were arrested for the burning of the Irish huts with 13 Irishmen arrested for the rioting which would lead to the death of a police officer. The Irish would ultimately return to their wives and children – and employment – and the tensions would exist from many years to come. As previously mentioned, no arrests would be made for the murder of young Richard Pace, his wife widowed and a town left with the scars of a pay day weekend which turned into a murderous rampage.A story of drunken disorder, rioting, death, fire-raising, arrests, the army, theft of a watch, which all began at the foot of Gorebridge Main Street.