Dundee

The city at the heart of the “Friend”

The People's Friend - - Front Page -

YOU’D think that pen­guins would be ac­cus­tomed to the cold, but just the same, it’s nice that some­one has been con­sid­er­ate enough to pro­vide the bronze pen­guins out­side Dundee’s Over­gate with cosy scarves.

It must be right enough what they say, that Dundee is Scot­land’s friendli­est city.

It’s ap­pro­pri­ate, then, that it should be home to “The Peo­ple’s Friend” mag­a­zine. And, what­ever the tem­per­a­ture out­side, Jan­uary 13 will be a big day for cel­e­bra­tion. It’s the mag­a­zine’s 150th birth­day!

Imag­ine all the changes it’s seen along the way. When the “Friend” first hit the shops there were no tele­vi­sions, com­put­ers or even tele­phones and wash­ing ma­chines. Cars and aero­planes hadn’t been in­vented yet, ei­ther.

I’m glad I put my own scarf on to­day, for although the De­cem­ber sun’s shin­ing, it’s none too warm. Not too cold, though, to dis­suade shop­pers from the high street and the Christ­mas Fair in City Square.

A few hardy young­sters are queu­ing for a ride on the merry-go-round, while a piper whose fin­gers must be frozen rat­tles out some tunes.

Dundee has stood here longer than the dusti­est his­tory books can re­mem­ber. Some sug­gest the ori­gin of its name comes from dei donum

– the gift of God.

Oth­ers be­lieve that it could stem from Dun-tay since an an­cient fort or dun once oc­cu­pied the sum­mit of the 572-feet-high Law above the Tay Es­tu­ary. We’ll never know for sure.

What’s more, through the past mil­len­nium its spell­ing changed more than 30 times from Dunde, Don, Dund, Dude to Dwndie. Oddly, it’s an early spell­ing, from the late 1200s, that we seem to have gone back to – for now at least.

It’s over 40 years since my col­lege days in Dundee. My digs were handy, be­ing a fairly easy walk up to the Dundee Law or down the steep brae of Con­sti­tu­tion Road to the col­lege in Bell Street. I know which di­rec­tion I pre­ferred!

Like any old town or city, it is con­stantly chang­ing and evolv­ing, with the old be­ing sac­ri­ficed to make way for the new. This wasn’t al­ways through choice. Dev­as­tat­ing fires and de­struc­tive at­tacks by our auld en­emy took their toll.

But the city of the Three Js – Jam, Jute and Jour­nal­ism – bounced back stronger.

By the 16th cen­tury, Dundee was sec­ond only to Ed­in­burgh in terms of trade. It was well placed to trade with the world, hav­ing one of the safest nat­u­ral har­bours on Scot­land’s east­ern se­aboard.

To those who look be­yond the al­lur­ing shop win­dows and walk through some of its streets and wynds, Dundee re­veals a rich ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage, well steeped in colour­ful sto­ries from days gone by.

Last year was an ex­cit­ing one for the city with the open­ing of the new V&A down by the wa­ter­front. De­signed by distin­guished

Ja­panese ar­chi­tect Kengo Kuma, this £80-mil­lion mu­seum is one of Scot­land’s most stun­ning works of mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture.

One of its aims is to re­con­nect the city with its his­toric wa­ter­front and it achieves that goal, hav­ing as a neigh­bour the

Dis­cov­ery – the fa­mous Dundee-built ship that car­ried Cap­tain Robert Fal­con Scott and his crew to the icy wa­ters of Antarc­tica just over a cen­tury ago.

Sadly, the grand Vic­to­ria Arch that stood be­tween the Earl Grey Dock and King Wil­liam IV Dock has gone.

The 80-feet wide im­pos­ing land­mark com­mem­o­rated the visit of Queen Vic­to­ria and the Prince Con­sort in Septem­ber 1844. The Royal Party would of­ten pass on their way to Bal­moral.

The arch was blown up in 1964 as it was in the way of the slip road to the new Tay Road Bridge.

You can still see what it looked like, though, as there’s a minia­ture model of it, along with Cox’s Stack and the Wishart Arch, at the en­trance to the Over­gate Shop­ping Cen­tre.

If you’d like to see an­other well-known work by the ar­chi­tect who de­signed the Vic­to­ria Arch, just go and visit the Wal­lace Mon­u­ment at Stir­ling.

From the shore it’s a short walk up Union Street to the busy Nether­gate and high street. At the west end is the Steeple Tower of St Mary’s Kirk dat­ing from 1460 – one of the city’s old­est sur­viv­ing build­ings.

Across the street rises the equally tall tower of the Play­house. Dundee’s cinema was once the sec­ond largest in Europe.

At the east­ern end of the high street is the old Cly­des­dale Bank build­ing. It’s an im­pres­sive ed­i­fice with its carv­ings and stat­ues, but by all ac­counts its pre­de­ces­sor, the clas­si­cal Trades Hall, was just as im­pres­sive, re­flect­ing the pros­per­ity of the city’s trades.

It’s an­other of the things lost in Dundee’s evo­lu­tion.

A while be­fore the Trades Hall was built in 1776, the trades’ tra­di­tional meet­ing place was Greyfri­ars Gar­dens, still known as the Howff – howff be­ing an old word for a meet­ing place.

In the mid 1500s, by Char­ter of Queen Mary, the Howff was to be­come the city’s new ceme­tery. We passed the old one ear­lier with­out ever re­al­is­ing it was there – be­neath the City Square.

Dundee’s In­cor­po­ra­tion of Trades, in­clud­ing shoe­mak­ers, dy­ers, glovers, bon­net­mak­ers, weavers, butch­ers, bak­ers and ham­mer­men, paid the Town Coun­cil £5/12- for the priv­i­lege of meet­ing in the Howff. The old stump of stone is still there where, in Jan­uary 1581, an agree­ment was signed unit­ing the nine trades of the city.

In­ci­den­tally, as you post your Christ­mas cards, it’s here you’ll find the rest­ing place of James Chalmers, the in­ven­tor of the ad­he­sive postage stamp.

Con­nect­ing the high street with Al­bert Square is pos­si­bly Dundee’s most el­e­gant street – Re­form Street. It was named af­ter the 1832 Re­form Act.

The al­ter­na­tive “Mort­gage Street” was sug­gested, no doubt a dig at the huge cost of its con­struc­tion.

At ei­ther end of the street you’ll meet a cou­ple of weel-kent D.C. Thom­son car­toon char­ac­ters – Des­per­ate Dan and Oor Wul­lie with his bucket.

Dun­do­nians cer­tainly have a good sense of hu­mour. Some­one has given Wul­lie a cosy rein­deer sweater.

He looks chuffed with him­self, too, sit­ting on the dyke in front of the Mcmanus Gallery. He’s

def­i­nitely join­ing in the fes­tive spirit and is no doubt hop­ing Santa brings him a new cat­a­pult or pea shooter.

An­other cheeky char­ac­ter you could eas­ily miss in the high street is a lit­tle chimp that’s climbed on top of an in­for­ma­tion board and, with a wee bit artis­tic li­cence, has re­ar­ranged the let­ters to “In Ma Fair Toon”.

Cast­ing a long shadow over the Howff is the tall red sand­stone Courier Build­ing of D.C. Thom­son – home to, among many other favourite pub­li­ca­tions, “The Peo­ple’s Friend”. Im­me­di­ately be­hind it is Dundee High School with its fine Doric-columned por­tico.

Dundee is well known for ed­u­ca­tion. Not all of its pupils were like Oor Wul­lie – last in and first out.

Maybe the most fa­mous name to be schooled in Dundee was Wil­liam Wal­lace – the man who went on to be­come Guardian of Scot­land.

He was well ed­u­cated but seems to have missed out on the les­son of turn­ing the other cheek. When Sel­bie, the son of the English gov­er­nor of Dundee Cas­tle, in­sulted him, Wal­lace bru­tally mur­dered him.

Fear­ing the con­se­quences, he ran off to hide in the Carse of Gowrie. Lit­tle did he know what chain of events would flow from this and the ef­fect it would have, not only on the rest of his life, but on the coun­try, too.

Noth­ing re­mains of Dundee Cas­tle, which stood at the site of the present St Paul’s Epis­co­pal Cathe­dral. Af­ter Wal­lace’s vic­tory at Stir­ling Bridge in 1297, his rep­u­ta­tion went be­fore him, and on re­turn­ing to Dundee he gained a quick sur­ren­der of the English gar­ri­son that oc­cu­pied the cas­tle.

When Wal­lace headed south to Eng­land, how­ever, they re­turned and re­took the strong­hold. They were soon despatched to the here­after upon Wal­lace’s re­turn, and to pre­vent the cas­tle ever fall­ing back into en­emy hands, he or­dered that it be de­mol­ished.

One of the city’s most an­cient relics is the 16th cen­tury Wishart Arch in the Cow­gate. The old me­di­ae­val arch­way takes its name from the protes­tant mar­tyr George Wishart.

It’s said that he once preached from its wall­head to both the towns­folk on one side and to plague vic­tims ex­pelled from the city on the other. Only a locked wooden gate kept them apart.

Climb­ing down from the arch, Wishart al­most met his own end when one John Wighton, sent by Car­di­nal Beaton, at­tempted to draw a knife on him. For­tu­nately, Wishart spot­ted the sus­pi­cious-look­ing char­ac­ter and man­aged to stop him in his tracks.

Beaton may have failed on that oc­ca­sion, but poor Wishart was to meet his grim end at the car­di­nal’s home of St An­drews Cas­tle. I’m sure few tears would have been shed when rough jus­tice then saw Beaton as­sas­si­nated.

Which­ever streets you walk along – through the high street, the Nether­gate, the Cow­gate, the Mead­ows and down by the Shore – you can’t go far in Dundee with­out hear­ing voices from the past.

But Dundee isn’t just proud of its past; it very much has an eye to the fu­ture, too.

Dundee Uni­ver­sity is one of the UK’S lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties, its re­search mak­ing di­rect pos­i­tive ef­fects on the lives of peo­ple all around the world.

At Ninewells Hos­pi­tal, one of the UK’S largest teach­ing hos­pi­tals, some of the world’s top re­search sci­en­tists are striv­ing to make ad­vances in spe­cial­ist fields like Pre­ci­sion Medicine, Neu­ro­science, Phar­ma­col­ogy and Can­cer.

Re­search into agri­cul­tural science, too, is help­ing to find in­no­va­tive ways to tackle sus­tain­abil­ity of the world’s fi­nite re­sources and de­velop ways to im­prove crop yields for the world’s ever-grow­ing pop­u­la­tion.

In Dundee, recre­ation is treated no less se­ri­ously. The city is right at the cut­ting edge of the games in­dus­try with some of the world’s best-known ti­tles, like Grand Theft Auto and Lem­mings, be­ing born here.

In its 150 years “The Peo­ple’s Friend” has cer­tainly seen a lot of changes to our world and, over the next 150 years, Dundee is well set to show it a few more. ■

These cute pen­guins are ready for win­ter.

The RRS Dis­cov­ery greets rail pas­sen­gers.

The view from the top of the Law.

Bronze statue of Oor Wul­lie.

The V&A, its stun­ning shape jut­ting into the Tay.

Min­nie The Minx and Des­per­ate Dan in the city cen­tre.

Wil­liam Wal­lace stands tall.

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