A Nautical Nomad ( Landlubber Version)

Chapter three of walk through Dundee Saturday 25 April 2020

Ok , so to continue with the walk through Dundee, I managed to get as far as Peter street and the site of the burning of the last witch in Dundee, so onward along the Seagate to Trades lane across from the bus station turning left up St Andrews street. with a fine view of St Andrews church known also as the trades kirk with interesting history, dating from 1774; built by Samuel Bell with plans by James Craig, Edinburgh. Beautiful stained glass. Includes former Glasite Kirk of 1777 (The Kail Kirk), now part of the church hall complex. Handsome spire with peal of fine musical bells.
Now if my memory serves me well, James Craig ,of Edinburgh was also the architect who was given the remit to design the New Town area of Edinburgh which sits to the North if princess street.

St Andrews parish Church

Turning left into the Cowgate I look at the once fine building I knew as the Gaument Cinema Built as the King’s Theatre and Hippodrome, the auditorium was converted to a cinema in 1928. The name was changed to ‘Gaumont’ in 1950 and again to ‘Odeon’ in 1973. Closed as a cinema in 1982, part of the building was subsequently run as a bingo hall and then partly as a nightclub. Next door was the Continental Ballroom which had an interior of similar design to the Kings Theatre.
When I was young I used to take the bus or tram from Downfield to my Aunt Marys she lived in Charles street which was off the Wellgate . She would often take me to the “pictures” which was the common term for the cinema at the time . Quite often the Gaument, usually preceded by a Wallace’s pie for lunch,

Gaument Cinema

Continuing along the Cowgate in a westerly direction, I come to the junction with the Murrygate and indeed the Welgate shopping Mall. The entrance of which was once the start of the Wellgate , The area my family originated from and as I said where my Aunt Mary and uncle Willie once lived in Charles street

Charles street looking towards the rear of Victoria Road

I have down-loaded a photo above, of Charles street, my family lived in a tenement just to the left of that photo and the building in the forefront was a hall in which my father and some if his friends started the Charles Star cycling club. I was born and spent my early years not far from there , across Victoria Road and up the Hiltown in Dudhope street. Although I was only four years old when we moved to Kirkton I still have vivid memories of that period of my life, at a time when a horse and cart were more common that a truck when they transported bales of Jute from the Docks to the Jute mills in Victoria Road. The Hiltown was to play a prominent part of my life in later years, but that is a story for another day ,or perhaps another book.

Continuing along Panmuir street , past Caws, one of the older pubs in Dundee I come to Medowside with the old Chamber of Commerce building on my right and looking towards the Albert institute, now called the McMannus gallery. This hall was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, and built 1865-68. The stained glass in the windows was by the London firm of Clayton & Bell. The building is now a museum and an art gallery which far outshines the more recent V & A museum at the waterfront. At one time the West elevation housed a library and in fact the reference library. I remember going there in the days, way before the internet, to look up things like the Scotland licensing act and the building regulations Scotland act. Generaly in connection with disputes I had with Dundee Council.

Albert institute

Sitting in front of the building is a monument to Robert Burns , Scotland’s greatest poet. Every New Year the whole World sings a song this man wrote , Auld Lang Syne.
A brilliant Poet a humanist and a prolific lover, he had a great propensity to write a poems depicting the loves of his life. When in Edinburgh he would frequent the white Swan in Grassmarket, He had a great propensity to write a poem about all his lovers and there were quite a few of them. To me , his greatest work was “A Mans A Man For A That”
The last verse is this:-
For a that and a that
Its coming yet for a that
That man to man the World ower
Shall Brithers be for a that.

Robert Burns

With my back to the statue of Burns I look at the imposing sandstone building of DC Thompson. DC Thompson are the largest publisher in the UK and have may titles such as the Courier the Telegraph, The Sunday post the Woman’s friend. They publish a range if comics such as the Beano and the Dandy, They own the Aberdeen Press and Journal and they contract print many of the mainline newspapers. This is their head office and they have a large print works and offices on Kingsway east. It was established by David Coupar Thomson in 1905.
During the referendum campaign in 2014 we found that because of the companie’s right wing leanings we in the independence movement never seemed to get a fair press from them and I personally was the subject of some very biased reporting from them.

DC Thomson head office

So, onward and along Meadowside and one of the most beautiful oasis’ in the city , The Howff., The land of the burial ground was part of Greyfriars Monastery until the reformation in the 16th century when it was granted to the people of Dundee by Mary Queen of Scots. It was used by the incorporated trades as a meeting place and became known as “the Howff” which is the Scots name for a meeting place. Unfortunately Dundee Council have seen fit to close the Howff during this lockdown, a rather silly decision in my opinion.

The Howff

I walked down Barack street and into Bank street coming onto reform street and back to the high street. I had one special place I wanted to visit and that was at the very end of the high street where St Pauls Cathedral sits. It was built on a part of Castle hill, most of which was blasted away to make way for Castle Street, which runs down to Dock street , once the edge of the harbor.
What I wanted to see was two things, A statue of Admiral Duncan and a plaque dedicated, to a Man who was probably Scotland’s greatest hero and patriot, William Wallace.
Adam Duncan was born on the 1st July 1731 in the Seagate of Dundee. He was the second son of Alexander Duncan of Lundie and Helen Haldane daughter of John Haldane of Gleneagles. He became an Admiral in the British navy and his greatest battle was off the coast of Holland at Camperdown where he defeated the Dutch Navy. He was made Viscount and gifted a large piece of land and mansion on the outskirts of Dundee. It was eventually gifted back to the City and is now Camperdown Park.

Admiral Duncan

William Wallace was educated in Dundee at the forerunner of the High School of Dundee and it was in Dundee he fell fowl of the law and thereafter started a guerilla campaign to free Scotland from the English occupiers. After King John Baliol was defeated near Brechin by Edward the first of England, Scotland became an occupied country, and Dundee Castle was the headquarters of the English Governor for the area. Wallace was the Son of a minor noble and had been sent to Dundee under the charge of a churchman , William Mydford . One day he became involved in an argument with the son if the English governor. The governor’s Son tried to humiliate Wallace by touching the dagger he wore and Wallace in a rage killed him. He then had to flee the town. From then on the rest is legend, as he gathered a band of followers and carried out guerilla warfare against the English occupiers. Some successful, and some not,
The problem Wallace had was that as he was not a great lord he found it difficult to involve the Scottish nobility in his struggle. He did however manage to get the support of Andrew De Moray a brilliant tactician and after great hardship and deprivation Wallace eventually brought the might of the English army to battle at Stirling bridge in 1297
It is widely though that Moray made the battle plan – picking the ground and deciding the tactics. On 11 September the Scots met Edward’s army under the Earl of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham.
Stirling bridge at that time was a narrow wooden structure that made its way across the marshy shallows of the river forth. Wallace and Moray had placed archers on both sides of the bridge hidden in the undergrowth and they waited on Abby Craig. The English waited two days whilst they negotiated and took stock of the ground.
Eventually and because of the way they vastly outnumbered the Scots, they started to make their way across the bridge , infantry first, followed by cavalry , Wallace and Moray waited until a number which they thought they could defeat had crossed the bridge and then attacked, Probably up to two thousand English soldiers had crossed the bridge and the majirity of them died including most of the cavalry who by this time were on the bridge and couldn’t move, they came under attack from the archers at both sides if the bridge.
The English army was totally defeated and they retreated to Berwick. Unfortunately Moray was wounded and later died
It is believed that before the battle Wallace gave an address to his troops where he gave them the chance to leave the field, He Said to them

“Fight and you might die.
Run and you will live, at least a while
And Dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men, and tell our enemies, that they may take our lives but they will never, take our freedom”
Oh how I wish the present SNP had the spirit of Wallace.

Commemoration to William Wallace

The reference to the Chevalier De St George I believe is a reference to James the eighth of Scotland and third of England who made a brief appearance in the country in 1716 and indeed in Dundee on his way to Montrose to be shipped back to France to continue his exile, on the third of 5 Jacobite uprisings, culminating on the 16th April 1746 at Culloden moor.
So after a day of brilliant sunshine and a wonderful walk through some of the history of Dundee and indeed Scotland I made my way home, with plenty to occupy my mind on the way back.


A Nautical Nomad ( landlubber version)

Continuation of Saturday 25 April 2020

And so to continue the walk of last Saturday, rather later than I had hoped but you know what these lock downs are like , just never the time do the things you would like.
I ended last weeks blog in front of the Old steeple and St Mary’s church, having told the story of Mary Slessor and continuing along the High Street it brought memories of, as a young Lad I would come down here to a shop in Lindsey Street to buy molds and plaster for the models I made. an interesting hobby which if I remember correctly ,the models usually turned out perfect but the paint work to complete them was somewhat of a disappointment , not just to me but I assume also to the people I gifted them to.

Gilfillan Memorial church Whitehall Crescent buit 1879

So onward along the high Street passing Whitehall street looking down towards Whitehall crescent and the Gilfillan Memorial Church. Arriving at the City Square . Now I could write a book about this place as it was, where, in 2014 we, the Yes Bus team campaigned almost constantly during the last months of the referendum. Some day I will write a book about all that happened here and I promise , it will open some eyes and cause a few bad moments for certain people . However, that is for another day, and today I cast my mind back to the good times we had during that campaign for Scottish freedom from the last vestiges of the British Empire.
In the Months before the referendum my family decided to do a few things to help the cause of independence. We donated a full sized coach to act as a battle bus for Business for Scotland, an organization of businesses who were supporters of independence., It spent two months traveling around Scotland, making the business case for an independent Scotland,
We took Chris Law’s ( now Chris Law MP) 50 year old ex Army fire engine into out workshops and completely refurbished it including a full re paint. Chris then took it on a very successful campaigning trip around Scotland and after the referendum Chris with the help of the Yes Bus team was firstly, selected by the SNP to stand for the UK parliament and then, was successful in fighting the seat for Dundee West., Unfortunately Chris like most of the MP’s we sent down to Westminster has been a disappointment, as five and a half years after loosing the referendum we are no nearer to taking the field once again to gain our independence.
The other thing we did as a family to help the referendum campaign was to put the yes bus on the road and make it available to any of the disparate groups of yes campaigners, to campaign in their own particular manner. The yes Bus was a double decker which started its life some 20 years before in Falkirk where it was built by Alexander Dennis . We naturally, also formed the Yes Bus team which was made up of anyone who wished to campaign with us. I believe the yes bus team played a very big part in making Dundee the highest percentage of yes votes in the whole country. Again all of this is for a more detailed story some time in the future.
The building at the end of the square is the Caird Hall, gifted to the city by the Cairds , owners of Ashton Works and latterly Craigie works , they also gifted Caird Park to the city.

City Square , if the referendum had been successful we had decided that it would be named Freedom Square

With my back to the City square I looked up Reform street towards the High school of Dundee the forerunner of which was the school where William Wallace, one if Scotland’s great heroes was educated.
Then my vision wandered above the School to the hill sitting to the north of the city Centre, Dundee Law, quite commonly and mistakenly called the Law Hill. Mistakenly, because the old scots for hill is Law.
Now the Dundee Law has more of a place in History than a lot of people realize as it was the place where John Graham of Caverhouse raised the standard in the first Jacobite uprising in 1689. Ok, so briefly. James the seventh if Scotland and second of England was deposed firstly by the English parliament and then by the Scottish parliament in favor of William of orange this happened in 1688 in England and in 1689, a convention if the estates was held in Edinburgh and it was decided to depose James seventh and invite William to be king. At that meeting John Graham walked out and marched his men to Dundee where he was the constable, He then , on the 13 April 1689 raised the Jacobite standard on Dundee law. Claverhouse was known as Bonnie Dundee, a phrase often wrongly associated with the city itself . Burns wrote a song about the affair called, Up Wi The Bonnets Of Bonnie Dundee. Again wrongly ( although tenuously) associated with Dundee, In the song it says ” gang doon the west port and let us gang free” Well it was the west port of Edinburgh Burns was depicting, not the West Port of Dundee and it was after Ckaverhouse stormed out of the Edinburgh parliament, However, he did bring his regiment to Dundee and did raise the standard on Dundee law ., He then went on a progress around Scotland raising the clans to fight for King James , which is also where the name Jacobite comes from as Jacobus is the Latin for James.
Eventually after several near encounters with the British forces, Claverhouse met General McKay on the slopes of Killiecrankie on the 27 July 1689 . The Jacobite’s were victorious but Claverhouse was mortally wounded. There was an indecisive battle a few weeks afterwards in Dunked but the cause was finished without the characteristic leader that was John Graham of Ckeverhouse, Bonnie Dundee,

Reform street with High School of Dundee and Dundee Law

Heading east along what is left of the High street and turning into the Seagate I walked along to Peter street where at the foot of the lane there is a cross marked out in the cobblestones. This is where the last Witch to be executed in Dundee was burned, her name was Grissel Jafferay, Generally Witches were people who were natural healers and this fell fowl of the church at the time, The reason being that the church believed that they were the only people who could indulge in black magic and cure people so they persecuted those who they saw as competition, The difference was of course that the people they called Witches were more able to cure using pants etc. than the church was using prayer.
Grissel was tried on the evidence if two ministers of the church, found guilty sentenced to death and was strangled then her body burned. Incidently the last witch was a Scottish women named Hellen Duncan from Callander , She was tried in 1944 and sentenced to 9 months prison she died in 1956.

Spot in the Seagate where Girsel Jaffray’s body was burned

Right, so I have once again went on too long and this time instead of the two miles I walked I have only walked less than half a mile but started blethering too much, so to save you all falling asleep I will again cut this short and finish the walk with you ,hopefully tomorrow.

Take care and don’t venture out of the lock down except for essential supplies and of course your daily exercise. stay safe