Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Stories and Stovies
My Life as a Child

There are so many memories associated with snippets of information I found in a recent tourist guide to Dundee, which is now using the title 'City of Discovery'. I imagine the 'jute, jam, and journalism' I grew up with aren't so important now in this computer age. No matter what title Dundee is known by, today the old three j’s will always be important to me -- the jute, because my mother left school at fourteen and went to work full time in the mills; the jam because of my Grandmother working at Keillors and, at Christmas, bringing home so many boxes of chocolates from the 'regulars' who got their tickets from her in the Box Office of the Palace Theater, the journalism because my leaving school desire was to be a journalist but I had to settle on being a secretary and not going to University because my family needed me to have a steady job and bring in some income.

Take a little tour around Dundee with me:

The Unicorn - to me it was always 'The Cressy'. This is a frigate of about the same era as Old Ironsides in Baltimore Harbor. My mother and I would go there every Remembrance Sunday, around November 11th, for the memorial services to the war dead. I remember the Church services being held on the deck, just about where that gangway enters the ship and I remember singing the Navy Hymn. I didn't realize just till now how meaningful those services must have been to my mother. She, too, was raised without her father and has no memories of him because he was killed just 10 days before the end of the Great War. These Remembrance Days services and Poppy Days were probably the only link she had with him.

The Unicorn

The Unicorn was always part of the headquarters of HMS Camperdown, the Naval Reserve component in Dundee. The name, as you should know by now, is associated with Old Uncle Adam, our famous family sea captain ancestor. One night when I was about seventeen I thought I would go down to the Cressy and join the naval reserves. Just so happened that same night, and I didn't realize it, there was a German training ship visiting Dundee with a very large component of healthy, young, blonde, blue eyed sailors.

Well, in this case, you're going to get the short story. I didn't join the WRENs (Women's Royal Naval Service) that night after all. But I did meet Dieter and had a lovely three days during the ship's visit to Dundee, including the dance when these great guys (remember, I'm seventeen!) asked us to dance with lots of military courtesy, such as heel clicks, German boys, etc. Had a wonderful time and my mother and Grandmother were so good not to focus on the past two World Wars with Germany which impacted these women so terribly.

Marks and Spencers had the world's best Bramwell Tarts - kind of an apple pie that my Granny would often bring home on Mondays when she got her retirement and Navy widow's pensions.

Our paydays were Fridays for my mother, and Mondays for Granny. I even have my Grandmother's leather pension book because these allotments were paid by transferring the coupon for money. Granny would dress up in her best dress every Monday, curl her hair with her tongs (like the electric ones today) that she heated on the gas stove, put in her teeth (she had these beautiful, shiny false teeth and the plate was a deep, dark red - but what fascinated me most was the gold tooth on the side of the bottom plate that was also part of that set) and she would go to town each Monday.

On the occasions I might have been ill and off school, Granny would always let me have the Monday off as a special treat to go to town with her. I really liked it when she had to go to the Tax man. My Granny was assessed back taxes because she didn't know her Navy widown’s pension was considered fair game and she had never paid tax on it. I loved it when she went to pay that. Every time I was with her she would really let the tax collector have an ear full. "You're saying this is unearned income." she would rage. "It certainly is not. My husband earned this income with his blood in the War because of that old bugger (or whoremonger if she was really upset that day) Churchill sending in another submarine when my man's sub was already there and got drowned just a week before the end of the First War."

And having that off her chest, she would pay the money, and off we would go. Little Charlotte having learned a lesson on how strong women handle death, widowhood, taxes, the Navy, and Winston Churchill.

Apparently, my grandmother had learned somewhere that my grandfather’s submarine (the G7) had been torpedoed off Scapa Flo by another British submarine because, according to what she learned, Churchill as the First Lord, or something, of the Armiralty, had sent in other British submarines after my grandfather’s was already stationed there. Hard to imagine that it wasn’t so long ago that effective radar and sonar were invited – they just didn’t exist during the first War for the pioneering men who went down under the sea in their boats. And, so, my grandmother lost her husband and blamed Churchill for the death.

Interesting, that when my father went to Dieppe in the Second War, my mother also had a few words concerning Churchill. There were "Churchill" type tanks sent with the Canadian troops on this ill-fated raid, and these "damn things" as my mother described them, "got stuck in the bloody sand." I know there were other reasons so many Canadian soldiers, my mother and father’s friends, were killed that day, but the name Churchill bore plenty of the blame for it in our house.

As I mentioned, part of my Granny’s going out ritual was to put these tongs – one handle was broken and I always marvelled at how she never burned herself – in the flames of the gas stove until they were really hot and then she would curl her hair. I remember the day she curled my hair for me with them. I was so thrilled, felt so adult, and had this picture taken with my brother. I’m sitting in the little pink wicker chair that I remember so well. If you look closely you can see the ropes of my Granny’s washing line behind my brother’s head. The building in the back is Hill Street primary school. Those are the windows of the nursery classes, the very classrooms my mother sat in as a child, and my brother and I followed.

Me and my Brother

Going back to "Markie’s", the quality of their goods was amazing. There’s a little blue sweater that has been worn by everybody in this family (Johnny, Tina, Stephanie, Elisabeth, Alys, Xochitl and Adriana and Nathan) as evidence of Mark’s and Spencer's quality work. I think I know which one of the kids, adults now, has this sweater packed away so the others can’t get it as their souvenir – but I’m not going to tell who it is!

Who knows, maybe a great grandchild of mine will wear it once, and it will become a true heirloom just like christening dresses are to the Royal Family!

Fowlis Church and the Howff are important to us because of our family history. There's quite a few names in our history coming out of Fowlis Church records - (Duncans, Beats, and Benvies) and the Howff is where some of the Mclntosh's are buried.

Right across from the Howff in 1965 was the Breadalbane Arms, a nice little pub, where John and I had our wedding lunch. Maybe if we ever go back to Scotland we’ll have another lunch there.

Fowlis Church

Claypotts and Dudhope and Mains Castles and Camperdown House were favourite Easter egg rolling spots. As far as Camperdown House is concerned, Johnny remembers that from his trip to Dundee. Maybe someday he can connect with the Duncans and learn a little more this beautiful house that, except for a few degrees of genealogical separation, might have been his childhood home!

Blair Castle

Blair Castle isn’t too far from Dundee, and is only one of the many wonderful, beautiful and interesting places to visit in Angus and other towns and villages close by.

St Andrews comes to my mind because that was one of the places I took the children in 1974. I especially remember Johnny and Tina on the trampolines in the park there. Instead of being elevated on stands, these trampolines were held by springs over small holes in the ground and I didn't have to worry about anybody falling off and breaking their necks.

It's too bad that the children don't remember St Andrews Castle because I always wanted to visit that on our yearly bus trips around Scotland. The Castle had this marvelous prison called "The Bottle Necked Dungeon." Shaped as its name, this was a narrow circle in the middle of the castle yard, covered by a grate, that had a fairly long neck and I imagine, about 20 to 30 feet down opened up into a small circular dungeon. Presbyterian martyrs, besides being burnt at the stake there, were thrown into this awful pit and left there or otherwise ignored until dead or near dead. I always liked that.

St Andrews also had a very interesting outdoor swimming pool that was filled and emptied according to the ebb and flow of the tide. Believe me, that's cold swimming water.

Speaking of swimming, I have this great slide of Johnny and Tina playing on the beach in Scotland that year all wrapped up in coats and sweaters while those two hardy Scots stroll by in their bathing suits. Perhaps one of the few things you'll not find me reminiscing about when it comes to Scotland is the weather.

Here’s another picture of the Hilltown, just as you reach the Top of the Hill. You might like to compare this photograph with the one in an earlier section of this book taken out of Dundee by Gaslight.

Hilltown, just as you reach the Top of the Hill

From an undated clipping of an article in the Dundee Telegraph, approximately 1967

(The piece about the Strathmartine Road dragon is the closest I’ve found so far to the version my Granny raised me with – I’ll tell that story in another book.)

Newtyle Cannibal’s Reign of Terror

Dundonians live in a romantic district.

Within 15 miles of the city you can visit a dragon’s burial place, a highwayman’s hunting ground, a cannibal’s lair and two spots where Scots kings died violently.

Let’s explore them on an imaginary ramble.

An easy first step, to the summit of Dundee’s Law.

Look west towards Liff and survey a scene of disaster.

Scots Routed
In the 9th century Alpin, king of the Scots, stood on the Law and watched his army waver before the enemy’s attack.

His men were falling quickly under the weapons of the Picts.

Alpin and a detachment of his men charged to his army’s assistance but the Scots were routed.

Alpin was captured and beheaded.

The names of Alpin Road, Pitalpin Road (where he was buried) and King’s Cross Road (where he was executed) commemorate the savage event.

On towards Downfield and from there to Baldragon and Strathmartine.

The story here is of a young man’s revenge on a dragon that had eaten his sweetheart.

A farm named Pitempton, near Downfield, was the scene of the tragedy.

The farmer sent one of his nine daughters to fetch water from the well.

When she did not return he sent one daughter after another, until all nine had gone.

Killed Them All
Only them did he go out himself, to find a dragon had killed them all.

Then young Martin, suitor of one of the girls, arrived on horseback. He chased the dragon and wounded it while it was crossing the Dighty. The spot was afterwards called Strike-Martine, or Strathmartine.

Almost at the Sidlaws he killed it and a railed-off monument standing in a field marks the spot.

Climbing Craigowl, you can see the muddy track of Old Glamis Road, where coaches once trundled on their way to Glamis and beyond.

It’s said a highwaymen used to swoop on travelers there and he was hanged on nearby Gallow Hill, just west of Lumley Den.

Saved Their King
Down towards Glamis is Glen Ogilvy. And there, William the Lion become separated from his hunting party and was attached by ruffians.

Earl Gilchrist and his three sons came to the King’s rescue, undoubtedly saving his life.

In gratitude he gave the Glen of Ogilvy. The family took the name of Ogilvy, which they have borne ever since.

Right over the Sidlaws now to Kinpurney Hill, west of which is a defile once called the Glack of Newtyle.

Here in the 15th century lurked a human monster who killed men and women to eat their flesh.

This man and his wife had a small daughter, who shared their diet.

Civilized Ways
The parents were captured and killed. The little girl was spared, brought up under the guardianship of a good family, and apparently learned civilized ways.

Then in her teens, she disappeared. Cannibalism occurred again in the Newtyle area.

The girl was captured and burned at the stake.

As the flames licked round her she was unrepentant.

South-west from Newtyle, over the hills and across Tullybaccart and you are on your way to Dunsinane.

And there lived Macbeth, who murdered King Duncan to snatch the Scottish throne.

Then came that famous march from Birnam, when Macduff took his vengeance on Duncan’s slayer.

It’s said we live in violent times. Weren’t they all?

Return to Stories & Stovies


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus