Up the Hackie, and Doon the Blackie
Were the lads frae Norries Pend, Never worked and dont intend
Were the lads fra the Tap o the Hull, Never worked and never wull
I always remember Saturdays as busy days in Dundee, full of
hustle and bustle as women shopped, men loitered mostly in front of pubs, and girls
and boys went out looking for lads and lasses. (I particularly got a thrill if I caught a
glimpse of Sophie, whom rumor identified as our local madam took me a while to
figure just exactly what her occupation was!).
I remember having
this little photograph taken, could have been about 8 or 9, while we were waiting for the
Number 3 bus to take us home. Cant remember the name of the street, but it was at
the bottom of the Caird Hall/City Square area and the woman and the boy behind me were
probably going into either the Post Office or the big pend there that had lots of little
cubby type shops there.
As little girls we were really enthusiastic scrap collectors
I wonder if girls still do that? You needed a few special items: a big book,
usually an old encyclopedia if you were a really good collector (which I was) and a mother
who was willing to spare her coppers (small change) for you to get scraps and was willing
to go all over town to the very best scrap shops.
Now, scraps to girls in Scotland was as big as collecting
baseball cards to little boys in America. Scraps were sheets of glossy pictures, cut on
the outline, held together by little tags of paper (kind of like paper doll clothes were
and thats another activity I spend a lot of time on), on larger sheets, about
letter size if I remember correctly. Scraps came in everything flowers, people,
animals, fish basically every animal, vegetable, or mineral you could think of.
Angels were very big especially the round fat, curly haired ones leaning on their
elbows and tall full sized ones.
These scraps were never pasted into anything. You simply
turned your big book that you saved them in the thickness and the size protected
the scraps from tearing and kept them flat and spent your time organizing your
scraps and sitting in a corner with your girlfriends trading them, with as much
dedications as those boys do their baseball cards! Oh, I had a wonderful collection, and
the best scrap shops (apart from the newsagent at the Top of the Hill) were in the dark
recesses of that little pend under the City Square/Caird Hall complex!
The Saturday streets were crowded. Older folks were shopping
and people my age went out on the Overgate, the Wellgate, and the Nethergate
sometimes up as far as the West Port (yes, the West Port of the song, "Unhook
the West Port, and let us gae free, For its up wi the bonnets o Bonnie
Dundee!") looking for a pickup for dancing or going to the pictures that night. My
walk would be down the Hilltown, over to Woolys (Woolworths) and Markys
(Marks and Spencers) in the Murraygate on the few Saturdays I wasnt working. If
girls had dates, or hopes for dates, that night they would wash their hair at home, roll
it up, put on lovely clothes and makeup and cover their rollers with scarves, and off
wed go "up and doon and around the toon."
Now, you cant have busy streets on Saturdays without
street foods, can you? (Every section in this little book has its foods, remember, and
here comes this ones.) Popular street foods were fish and chips, of course, and
sweeties, or candy. But I never did acquire a taste for whelks little shell fish
like an English periwinkle that were harvested out on the sands at Broughty Ferry,
then, in little carts on the side of the road, boiled alive and sold with sewing pins in
little bags made of greased paper and newspaper. "Sewing pins?" youre
asking? Well, the art of eating a whelk involved winkling out that little worm looking
thing out of its tiny shell with your straight pin, and then eating it off the pin. Pretty
gross, even to this Dundonian.
I did like the buster stalls, and it was a rare treat
(meaning very enjoyable and not done too often) when my mother and I would have a buster,
or plate of peas and chips. This would usually be after a stroll up the Overgate to where
the "barra boys" were selling every household item and childs toy you
could think of from a barrow or off the back of a lorry. And these guys had "the
patter". I suppose they were the Scottish precursors to what is now American
TVs "Home Shopping Network" as they hawked their wares and tempted people
to buy. My mother and I spent more time just watching the show than buying. I wonder now
how "hot" some of these things were.
an article in the Dundee Telegraph, date unknown, approx 1967.
THIS BUSTER WAS A FEAST
Round the Greenmarket with JAEM
It was freezing cold and the tail-lights of the bus
that should have been carrying me homeward were vanishing into the sleet-laden darkness of
East Dock Street.
To convince myself that I had feet I thudded my shoes against
the paving of the bus shelter.
I sighed and reflected on the less efficient but more human
time not so very, very long ago when, right where I stood, I could have thawed out my
miserable frame before the glowing embers of a coke fire, and cheered my inner man with
one of Mrs. De Gerniers busters.
The De Gerniers came originally from France whether in
the tide of the Huguenots or in the wake of Mary, Queen of Scots I do not know. But if the
Auld Alliance had given us nothing but the buster I, for one, would be satisfied.
To attempt to analyse a buster is to distract from its glory.
Essentially it was just peas and chips.
The wooden-walled, canvas-roofed booth over which Mrs. De Gernier
officiated had a wide and welcoming doorway.
Through it drifted the appetizing aroma: the mingled melodies
from steam organs and calliopes; the buzz of excited and noisy chatter; in short the
sights, sounds and smells of a warm, merry, neighbourly community.
Round the walls of the buster-stand, and just comfortably
away from the fierce heat of the brazier were the narrow wooden benches on which the
customers sat, their eyes attracted to the gleaming red coke, their nostrils sniffing the
Anyone can fry chips. Anyone can cook peas.
But only the genius of a De Gernier could transform the
humble tattie into such a gastronomic glory.
The buster was really the culminating point of a day
"round the market."
In a small way the Greenmarket was open every Saturday but there were
three occasions when it blossomed out.
These were at Christmas and New Year, during the summer
holidays and at the Lady Mary Fair.
Even as you approached the market you noticed the difference.
The crowds were thicker and more urgent. The chatter grew
noisier and the eyes of the lasses sparked as linked arm in arm, they exchanged badinage
with the lads who, with their hair oil and best suits, had put on a new confidence.
The air trembled with the laughter and music. No single tune
was at first dominant but, as you get nearer, the great calliope of the switchbacks
drowned out the squeaky organs of the wee hobbies.
Our parents did not understand modern music, but the Great War was behind
us, the future before us, and ragtime had crossed the Atlantic.
To the circling rise and fall of the opulent motorcars on the
switchback we sang as the organ blared,
"Im coming back to you,
My Hula Lou,
With your Yukka Hula
Hikky Dula Doo."
We shot at rifle ranges, and threw balls at the funny heads.
We even believed the colourfully clad young lady at the
hoop-la stand that all the rings would encircle the square boxes in which nestled the
trophies we tried to win.
In the glance of feminine audiences we belted the great
wooden hammer on to the wooden peg that sent an iron missile soaring up a long wooden
scale towards a bell.
And how sheepish we looked when the missile achieved only a
miserable three feet.
With our jackets decorated with the tinselly trophies of our
prowess we flaunted our mastery of dance steps on the cakewalk, and in guffawing clusters
we waited as the lassies shot off the helter-skelter in a hilarious froth of underwear.
By evening the naphtha flares on the stands were lit and the
auctioneers voices grew more raucous and their ruddy faces redder.
Possibly their sorties into Mrs. Steels cosy hostelry
helped to colour their cheeks and noses. It certainly had an effect on their grandiloquent
But all things come to an end and so to the culminating point
of the days outing a buster.
Some long overdue tribute should be paid to the originator of
the buster-stands, maybe a plaque in the City Center
It shall bear the lilies of Dundee intertwined with the
fleur-de-lys of France and a scroll underneath carrying the motto,
"De Busterbus Non Disputandis Est."
I will lead a deputation to the City Chambers. I can hear the
good citizens applauding: I can feel them slapping my back, yes, I can feel . . .
"Come on, old-timer! Ye canna stand there
dreamin a night! Fowk want tae get on the bus, ya ken."
I shuffled through the sleety darkness on to the waiting No.