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A Dundee Lass
The Road To Dundee


 A FEW OF THE ROADS THAT LEAD TO DUNDEE

My mother and grandmother must have spent what was to us a small fortune in taking "day here and there" and "Mystery Tour" bus trips so we could get away from the "big toon" for a day and I could learn about my country.

I remember going down to the Docks and walking with my mother past the different buses as she decided how much money we had and where we would go that day. The bus drivers would have their tour route and the price, half price for children helped our finances a lot, and my mother would decide where we could afford to go that day. Mystery tours were just that – you never knew where you would end up, but Arbroath or Carnoustie or Perth were pretty sure bets. And you never came home the same route you took out.

There’s many a night my head was asleep in that big comfy bus on the way home on the road to Dundee. So, to all you Dickson’s or Watson’s bus drivers who might still be working your trade – a big thanks from a wee lass for taking me all over Scotland and telling tales as you drove and keeping me safe while you did your job. For those trips to Brechin, Forfar, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, the Devil’s Elbow, the Beech Hedge. Braemar, Ballatar, Dunkeld, Carnoustie, Glamis, Dunfermline and points beyond and in between my holidays wouldn’t have been possible without you, the busmen.

I know I have children who want to come to Scotland and trace our family footsteps. I hope they see a bit of Scotland at least once from the window of a Mystery Tour bus.

The Beech Hedge
The Beech Hedge, huge trees near Meiklour planted in
1745, that are so thick and close together they’re like a
wall – a favourite Mystery Tour destination.

The City of Dundee
My Home Town

Click here to see Road Map of Dundee
(and you can then zoom in to see city area map and street map)

I think my most favorite sights of Dundee are anything showing the Law, and anything showing the Esplanade.

the Esplanade.

the Esplanade.

Click here to listen to a MP3 music clip of Road to Dundee (1.1Mb)

I grew up around the Law, an extinct volcano that I managed to fall down once when I was about 9 or 11, and still have the scars on my knees to remind me. (It’s interesting as I write these memories that the things I remember seem to have taken place in those magic years of nine to eleven!)

I remember many Sunday afternoons walking up Hill Street with my mother to the gardens on the Law where the old men had vegetable and flower plots, and little garden sheds, and rain barrels filled to the brim. My mother seemed to like chrysanthemums and dahlias and would bring them home in big fragrant bunches. She’d also bring home cabbages, and brussels sprouts, and carrots and potatoes that the gardener would dig up right from the ground and we’d take home for my Granny to make into soup. I remember, too, the treat that would often be waiting for us – clootie dumpling or crisp puff pastry slices spread with thick yellow custard, or warm scones right out of the gas oven, spread thick with (always unsalted) butter and Robertson’s sweet raspberry jam or tart lemon curd.

I also remember on the days I would ride the bus home from the Harris for my lunch seeing my Granny leaning out of the bedroom window, looking for me as I would run down the street to eat some lunch in the few minutes I had left before the bus came back. "Dinna rin so fast, lassie," she’ d say. "Ye’ll burst yersel’." I’d mumble something appeasing, and quickly eat the lunch – maybe a bridie, or a meat pie, or mince or soup – that my Granny had waiting on the kitchen table for me.

Dundee Corporation bus routes

These are the Dundee Corporation bus routes – I liked taking the No. 22 from Downfield down Victoria Road to catch a Number 40 at Reform Street to take me to school out the Perth Road because, if I was lucky, just up from the Vic pictures there might be a Clydesdale backing its load of jute into the works there. That meant the bus would be held up, I’d miss my Number 40 and I could lay the fault for being late on the really blameless Clydesdale.

Other routes I often took were the 1B to St Mary’s, the Number 4 home to Hill Street past the Infirmary and up the Hilltown; the Number 5 out to Blackscroft, the Stannergate – where the slaughterhouse was – past the West Ferry up to Broughty beach; but the Number 7 circular was the best trip to the Ferry because it went past the Sinderins, Tullideph Road, the Infirmary, the Hilltown, Maryfield Hospital, Douglas and Angus, Forthill, then to the Ferry and back to the City Center by Craigiebank. The Number 9 was another route that took us up the Hilltown and home to Hill Street. When we went to Camperdown Park we’d take the Number 13 and catch it up at Clepington Road. The Number 20 I mentioned first would be the bus my mother and I would take in the opposite direction from home for our long Sunday trips with Laddie, the Border Collie I "borrowed:" for his long walks in the country out past the West Port and Balgay Road.

The buses had their own smell –made up of countless fish suppers eaten by the passengers, cigarette and pipe smoke drifting down the stairs, wet raincoats and umbrellas , the contents of the women’s "message" , or shopping, bags. They had their own noise , too – the conducter or conductress asking "Fares, please" or announcing during busy times "Standing Room only" and then instructing the standing passengers to "Move to the front of the bus, please." Newspapers rustled, girls and boys like me reading books or doing homework on the long ride home from one side of town to the other from the Morgan or the Harris, and the quiet sqeak on a rainy day as a child drew pictures in a steamed up window. There were mothers minding their children or having them give up their seat to an adult, conversations between the passengers maybe about the weather or Dundee United’s chances in the Cup Final, the occasional inebriate on a Saturday night singing his way home, and the courting couple exchanging secrets as they caught the last bus from JM’s ballroom or the Palais in Tay Street.

Unlike here in Phoenix, there was never a shortage of buses. Dundee’s green double deckers were fun for a wee lass – dogs and smokers had to go upstairs and the prams were shoved under the stairs. I wanted to grow up and be a "conductress" and take the passengers’ money, jingle my change, ring the bell once for the driver in his cabin to go and twice to stop, and yell at the passengers, "Come on, missus, are ye comin’ on or gettin’ aff?"

I was happy in Hill Street. My mother and granny were good to me. Both worked hard, both put my needs before their own, and both wanted me "to make something" of myself. There are certainly ways I’ve let my mother down in not always showing her the respect and appreciation she deserves for the good things she did for me. But, I do believe, in respect to "making something" I’ve lived up to their expectations. My family wouldn’t have the good life they have if it weren’t for these two women because their sacrifices gave me the education that’s helped me survive widowhood in this country.

The Esplanade is my association with John. Our courtship pretty much began on a bench there by the Tay, not too far from the dock where the Fifie came in and out of. That’s where we decided we’d get married and that’s where, later, John took me back, almost to the same bench I believe, and said "Charlotte, I never asked you to marry me." (And that was true, because we both seemed to come to the same conclusion together in a long talk no more than ten days after we met that we should get married!) "And, so," he said, "Now I’m asking." What a man. I loved him and still do.

So, family, maybe you’ll take my ashes back to Dundee and scatter some of them from the Law to take me back to my childhood and drop the rest over a nice spot over the River Tay to remind yourselves that the love your father and I had was a true one.

West End, Dundee, and River Tay looking towards Perth

A DUNDEE SONG

DrawingTHE ROAD AND THE MILES TO DUNDEE

Cauld Winter was howlin’ o’er moor and o’er mountain
And wild was the surge of the dark rolling sea,
When I met about daybreak a bonnie young lassie,
Wha asked me the road and the miles to Dundee
Says I, "My young lassie, I canna’ weel tell ye,
The road and the distance I canna’ weel gi’e.
But if you’ll permit me tae gang a wee bittie,
I’ll show ye the road and the miles to Dundee."

At once she consented and gave me her arm-
N’er a word did I speer wha the lassie micht be.
She appeared liked an angel in feature and form,
As she walked by my side on the road to Dundee.
At length wi’ the Howe o’ Strathmartine behind us,
The spires o’ the Toon in full view we could see
She said, "Gentle sir, I can never forget ye
For showing me far on the road to Dundee."

DrawingI took the gowd pin from the scarf on my bosom
And said, "Keep ye this in remembrance o’ me."
Then bravely I kissed the sweet lips o’ the lassie,
E’er I parted wi’ her on the road to Dundee.
So here’s to the lassie – I ne’er can forget her –
And ilka young laddie that’s list’ning to me:
O never be sweer to convoy a young lassie
Though it’s only to show her the road to Dundee.

 

 


 

 


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