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
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
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, huge trees near
Meiklour planted in
1745, that are so thick and close together they’re like a
wall – a favourite Mystery Tour destination.
My Home Town
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.
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.
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.
A DUNDEE SONG
ROAD AND THE MILES TO DUNDEE
Cauld Winter was howlin’ o’er moor and
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."
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
O never be sweer to convoy a young lassie
Though it’s only to show her the road to Dundee.