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.
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,
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.