Three Score Years and Ten

Well another milestone in what can only be called an interesting life as yesterday I arrived at my three score years and ten and before I go any further, I would like to thank all the people who sent their good wishes. I tried to answer every one of them individually but I probably missed some. For that, I apologise.

I am sitting her at the Crieff Hydro where the family have gathered for the weekend looking out on a snowy landscape and thinking on the last 70 years, or at least the years I can remember, which go back to the early years in Dudhope street at the foot of the Hiltown. I lived there until I was four.

We lived in a tenement, many of which were built to house the influx of workers from the countryside and places like Ireland, to man the new industry of Dundee , which was the manufacture of Jute yarn for use in the making of hessian and rope.

The house I started my life in was a two-bedroomed flat with an outside toilet, situated on the mutual stairway. There was also a mutual sink, placed on the communal landing. Each toilet and sink would be shared by four houses.

To the rear of the tenement was a row of washhouses which again were shared by all the houses in the tenement. The washing facilities consisted of a cast iron boiler set into a stone base with an open fire beneath which could be fired using wood or coal.

As kids, we made our own entertainment, which generally consisted of ranging through the back lands between the tenements, the air raid shelters and closes of the area between Dudhope street and Dalfeield walk and there were indeed adventures aplenty to be had.

Little did I realise in those days that I would be returning to the Hiltown in later life in another adventure which was to be the Windmill Bar , but that is a story for another time and an interesting story it is.

So, leaving Dudhope street at the age of four we moved to Kirkton , one of the new housing schemes being built during the brave new World after the second World war. To house the families living in overcrowded conditions in the tenements surrounding the Jute mills of Dundee and the men having returned from the war. The war to end all wars, how hollow that sounds today.

Kirkton was quite different from the tenements of Dundee, with well-built semi-detached villas with gardens. A Paradise, in comparison to where we had come from but perhaps not the character and community spirit where everyone helped their neighbour.

I still remember my first day at school, soon after we arrived in our new home. Being used to the freedom of Dudhope street, it was somewhat of a shock to the system to be confined within a building and expected to sit and listen to someone talk about things which did not involve digging holes in the ground or climbing on and jumping from air raid shelters or choosing as a dare the last possible second before running across a road in front of a lorry or more likely a horse and cart. So, having weighed up the situation I decide that this schooling was not for me, so I walked out of class and up the road to my home telling my Mother that I had decided to give schooling a miss, whereupon my Mum gave me a thick ear, grabbed me by the collar and marched me back down Haldane Terrace, to school.

I think that was the day when I realised that if I was to buck the system in the future, it would have to be done in a subtler manner.

So the years rolled on and we moved from Kirkton to Downfield , converting a house next to my Fathers Slating business in Strathmartine Road , that was at the age of seventeen whilst I was serving my apprenticeship as a Slater with my Father. This was where I lived for the next three years during which, and at the age of nineteen I built a house in Auchrerhouse , a village set in the Sidlaw hills to the North of Dundee.

Now when I say I built a house, I mean just that, because when I started building it I had the princely sum of £10 in the bank, so I had to build every single brick myself with the assistance of family members and the odd person due me a favour.

Living at Kirkton Bank for many years and going through one marriage and on to the second I eventually moved half a mile up the hill to where I am now, at Lisheen. A beautifully situated house with an acre of garden and fantastic views over the countryside and, looking back to the City of Dundee where it all started.

During the last seventy years, I have seen many changes both to what is going on around the World and in deed to my own world. I have had successes and I have had failures. Somehow, I have always managed to get up again, when things have not gone exactly to plan. When it became clear that the plan was not working, then I changed the plan and was never afraid to realise that I was wrong.

Through all the businesses I have had, I have employed thousands of people. I have employed some very bright people and unfortunately some not so bright ones, but I have learned something from every single one of them and I hope that most of them have in some way learned something from me. I am sure every employee I have had could think of at least one thing they could do better than me in my business but not all the many hundreds of things that go on day in and day out in running a business, because if they could, then they would be running a business themselves.

I have always had an interest in politics, but never active, until the day in 2012 when Alex Salmond declared that there would be an independence referendum in 2014. Over the next two years, I put my whole being, my heart and soul, into the campaign and a lot of money too.

I donated a coach to Business for Scotland to campaign all over Scotland and one of my Sons, Jeff drove it. We took Chris Law’s old fire engine into our workshops and renovated it , turning it into  The Spirit Of Independence under the watchful eye of my Son Jamie. I had the idea of using the twenty-year-old Dennis Dragon to campaign throughout Dundee and district and made it available to any independence grass roots organisation to do the same. We naturally formed “ The Yes Bus Team” of wonderful and able people, like John Gibson ,Tony Banks, Billy Kay , Sheena Wellington, Deb Brown ,Harry Marshal, Ian the piper, and many ,many more and we made Dundee the Yes City ,turning in the highest percentage of yes votes in the country.

On the 18 September 2014, we had the referendum and we lost, it broke my heart. We will come again, there is no doubt of that and the Dragon for independence will be once more on the streets of Dundee and we will continue, on the road to independence.

So, sitting here watching the Snow fall and reminiscing back over my three score years and ten , I felt that I had to get just a very brief record down here. There is more, much more , some of it funny , a lot not so funny, and some which will never go to print, but all part of an interesting life.

Last night at dinner, the family gave me some birthday presents although I had told them not to. One of the gifts prompted me to write this piece. It is a framed print of the song “Caledonia” by Dougie McLean. There is something of the words in all of us I suspect.

Some more than others.

Our Journey.



I have been in business for well over half a century but I learn something new every day. My politics are the middle of the road. I believe that the far-right and far-left are equally harmful. Jim Murphy ( at that time, leader of the Scottish Labour party) asked me if I called myself a socialist. I said, "no Jim, I am not a socialist, I am a capitalist, but a capitalist with a social conscience.

2 thoughts on “Three Score Years and Ten”

  1. Very nice. First time I understood how you really are a self made man. May your next 70 be as rich with many exciting adventures as were the first 70.

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