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Charlotte Juarez's Going Home
Monday, March 24th - My Dundee Again

March 24th, 2003
Dunlaw House Hotel, Dundee

I’m still a day behind, so any recounting that I’m able to do will be about showing my friends my Bonnie Dundee on a Sabbath day – yesterday.

It’s 7:10 a.m. right now. The troops are up and moving around in our “penthouse suite,” getting ready for breakfast at 7:30 and Steve coming to pick us up at 8:00 to get on our way to Dalwhinnie, Loch Laggan, Aviemore, Spean Bridge, Mallaig and then to catch the one and only ferry of the day at 4 p.m. to sail “over the sea to Skye.”

Since I unfortunately left all my carefully selected songs I was going to teach my friends at home, along with my equally carefully selected Burns poems I was going to share with them and teach a few words of Burns’ Scots doric, I’m afraid I’ll have to invest in a song book because I truly do want to sing a verse or two of the Skye Boat Song as we wend on our way.

Yesterday was wonderful. Our group was well on its way to blending together during our first two or three days together, but the pieces really fell into place last night at dinner in the Counting House – the pub on Reform Street, remember, that Xylia got us thrown out of – then our walk that was for us our second hike of the day up the Conshie Brae.

Lia, Suzanne, Robbie, Nickie and I left for Dundee, crammed as previously noted, in our taxi. We had our entire compartment to ourselves in that early Sunday morning train ride up to Dundee so we were able to have free and uninhibited conversations about our lives, our families, our jobs.

We had learned our lesson in Edinburgh and took three taxis up to Dunlaw – my driver was named Robert McIntosh and we chatted about our family histories in our brief trip up to our bed and breakfast stop.

After dropping off our luggage, I took my friends up the hill and showed them my part of town – the way up the Law, where Johnny Bachie (real name Bachelor, and best man at my Mum’s wedding) our local bookie had his corner and where my Granny would send me to give him her “lines,”; Bonnethill Church were I was christened, attended Sunday School and participated in cantatas; the location of my home, my school, and the pend where the Clydesdales that pulled the heavy jute carts were stabled; the Hilltown clock; the shops I ran messages to; and the ice cream and bakery shops where I worked from the time I was 12 till I was 17 on Saturdays and holidays when I was a schoolgirl.

When we were at the Hilltown clock I met an old age pensioner and chatted a while about old Hilltown. I slipped him a couple of pounds to have something for his tea on me, and I felt good about being able to do that. While I was talking with him, the girls stopped a lady passing by to ask her to take a group photo.

Now Dundee doesn’t get too many American visitors walking up to the Top of the Hill, so they told her my story about being a Hilltown girl bringing her mother back for burial. She stopped to talk with me and asked me if I knew Margaret Kerr. Of course I did – she and I were in Primary 7 together and she is a person Joy and I have been hoping to find. It turns out Margaret is this lady’s neighbour. I gave her my addresses and phone number and asked her to give it to Margaret. I hope I hear from her.

After that we went over to Ianneta’s, the sweetie and ice cream shop at the top of Dens Road where I had my first job as 12, as their message girl and shop helper. Mary who was my “boss” and who made the ice cream still lived upstairs in the same I worked as their helper. Mary invited me up and we had an emotional reunion after 40 plus years. I still remember how, when I first started working – illegally of course at 12, but even the Bobbie’s whose little police hut was just across the street and “kent weel enough” that I was working turned a blind eye – for about £1 (one old British pound) a day I had Mary take a shilling or two out each day so I could save enough up to buy my mother a box of American chocolates named a Whitman’s Sampler in a box that looked like it was embroidered for Mother’s day. Those Samplers still come in boxes that look like they’re embroidered, and every time I see one I’m reminded of my first earnings and first spendings of my own money.

Have you any idea how wonderful it is to be able, as an adult, to say “Thank you” to the person who had enough faith in you, whether you were 12 or 112, to give you your first paying job? It’s like saying Thank You to everyone who ever positively influenced your life that you missed along the way. Sweet.

I stopped in the close after saying Goodbye to Mary and promising to write, to cry a little before joining my friends. And these were tears of gratitude to be able to come back to the “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone” that are the people who live at the top of the Hill.

We spent the rest of the day walking down the Hilltown, with me telling the girl stories about Old Dundee and our history pretty much all the way over to the Discovery visitor Center where Joy joined us.
We were definitely given a VIP tour. My friends were very impressed with Dundee’s involvement in Scott’s journeys to the Antarctic, and I was able to share with them my feelings about how important is to have heroes in our lives and to be able to pass some of these heroes on to our children and our families. That is what I think the Discovery exhibit does for both children and adults who are able to get here – time and oppo0rtunity to think a little about, as they say, not just people of prominence and power but the ordinary persons, be they men or women or children, who somehow conduct themselves in extraordinary ways that improve the world in their own way. We can all do that. I’m grateful I had heroes and that my Granny’s stories about our family and ancestors’ lives led me in the path of being able to have faith in heroes and to believe these heroes, living or dead, cared about me, my safety, my happiness.

Maybe I can be a hero to someone, someday.

Lia and Kari joined us after their day Edinburgh and we hiked down the Conshie Brae to continue our party with supper at the Country House Pub where we were indulged by a very understanding bar tender and his staff. Then it was up the same Brae (I was accused of having a “wee touch of the sadist” about me by the bar tender) to Dunlaw House Hotel and an ongoing laughter and gab fest in “The Studio.” We finally separated for the night, getting some sleep for our next day tour to Skye.

And that’s where I will leave off until next I write about going over the sea to Skye.

Robbie and Nickie taking the train the Road and the Miles to Dundee from Waverley

A stop at my great, great granny’s church, St Salvador’s and where my granny went to Parish School on the way to Hill Street

Kinghorn Road corner where I used to run to Johnny Bachie with my Granny’s horse betting lines, just about where the people are walking – the new flats are on Johnny’s corner – the modern tenement on the right was there in my time as a young lass.

The Hill Street Corner of Butterburn Church, across the street from our house until the 60’s

The Church door and looking up Hill Street from Strathmartine Road

No changes at all, just new ownership of the shops, in Hill Street and the Strathie as I remember

The girls and me and the Clock and the Strathie

The pensioner who reminisced with me at the Clock – this little shop was everything from a fish shop to a betting shop in my day, but is closed now – once again

Mary’s Ianneta’s backies – behind the block wall is the “wee hoosie” where she made the ice cream every day for her shop where I started as a message lass, then progressed to serving ice cream and teas and then, finally, joy oh joy, getting to measure and sell sweeties and make and sell ice cream cones – even putting the raspberry sauce on themt. When the girls went in without me and bought ice cream, they didn’t know to ask for the home made ice cream with the raspberry sauce on it – just the same as I remembered it!

Looking toward the Tay Road Bridge and the Kingdom of Fife from the deck of RRS Discovery

Suzanne, Lia, Robbie, Nickie and Joy on the deck of the RRS Discovery on a sunny and warm March Sunday looking toward Dundee’s Mather’s Hotel

The Masts and the Master, our guide

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