Dundee and Perth: From the City of Discovery to the Fair City

July 8, 2022
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AFTER NORTHUMBERLAND, I travelled north to Dundee, nicknamed the City of Discovery, a go-ahead industrial city where the first purpose-built British research vessel, the RRS Discovery, was built at the end of the Victorian era.

Dundee and environs. The Tay is roughly 1.5 km wide between Tayport and Broughty Castle. Map data ©2022 Google. North at top.

It was good to see the relations again: Dundee is where my father comes from, and where my 76-year-old aunty and my cousins still live.

One of my cousins was among the first people to stand for the SNP in the Dundee local body elections, in 1987.

Plus, a member of my family was stressed out with legal proceedings, so I figured I could help out.

I stayed with my aunty and my cousins, including a cousin named David who was born in New Zealand and then reverse-emigrated to Scotland. They live in a beautiful village called Liff, just northwest of Dundee.

Liff Village sign

We went to the Law, which means hill in the local dialect, which has a war memorial on top and a good outlook over Dundee.

The Law

The memorial atop the Law

An overview of Dundee and one of its bridges from the Law

The following day, we went to Broughty Castle, a strategic fort commanding the mouth of the river Tay.

Broughty Castle in Dundee. Photo by TimVIckers (2006), public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

We went to view the Royal Research Ship Discovery, built in Dundee, which took Scott and Shackleton to Antarctica on their first journey in 1901.

The RRS DIscovery’s pavilion

The RRS Discovery

And the new, immediately adjacent, Victoria & Albert Museum Dundee: an offshoot of the original V&A in London, which advertises itself as Dundee’s museum of design.

The Dundee V&A

However, I wasn’t too impressed with what was inside. They need to get more exhibits. In London, they have exhibitions like Saturday Night Fever and people really go and see those.

We checked out Magdalen Green, a park that’s 400 years old, one of the oldest city parks anywhere.

My history in Dundee was my grandfather and my grandmother and their family came out to New Zealand. Some went back. Others did not come over because they were close to others in Dundee. But apparently, my grandmother heavied everyone to join them out in New Zealand, where both David and I were born.

I visited my grandmother’s parish church, St Salvador Episcopal Church (Anglican) in the suburb of Hilltown. The church is also the site of the MaxWell community centre.

St Salvador from the outside

The church is beautifully decorated inside, simply stunning.

Inside St Salvador

Here is a video that I filmed inside this amazing church.

Outside, Hilltown hasn’t changed much. But they are doing up the area.

I went to two more art galleries. One of them was the Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) gallery, which I found quite impressive. The DCA is right next to St Andrew’s Cathedral in Nethergate. (As in other parts of Scotland and the north of England, ‘gate’ means street).

The DCA Gallery, next to St Andrew’s

There was another good one in a famous old building, called the McManus Art Gallery and Museum.

The McManus Gallery

Inside the McManus, there were Pictish and Gaelic stones, paintings, photography, and an exhibition about old-time shops in the local museum.

Dave told me he believed he was descended from the Picts, who were somewhat more indigenous to Scotland than the Gaels (who came over from Ireland), though the Pictish culture and language has since died out, while Gaelic still survives in many areas of Scotland.

Both groups were Celtic. But you can tell the difference easily on the carved stones. The Pictish stones have all kinds of strange designs, while the Gaels tended to carve symmetrical-looking designs based on crosses, since they were Christian by the time they came over to Scotland.

A Pictish stone, in the McManus Art Gallery and Museum

An information panel describing Pictish symbols, many of which are still mysterious

A Gaelic Cross

Victorian Dundee

The Royal Arch, now demolished

Sign describing an exhibition of photographs

An old painting of Highland cattle

The grocer’s role explained, from a museum display called ‘The Street’

Here is a short video I made of the display called ‘The Street’.

And we walked along the river Tay, and up the Perth Road, where there was a bar called the Giddy Goose.

The Giddy Goose

Another view of the Giddy Goose’s small outdoor garden

I took photos of lots of places and went for a really long walk. It was beautiful.

The Dundee Hotel Malmaison

Balgay Hill

Downtown Dundee. The next several photographs are also of downtown Dundee.

The Overgate shopping centre, downtown Dundee

One of the local beaches which, as elsewhere in Scotland, are often surprisingly fine

Here is a video that I filmed at Monifieth Beach on the eastern outskirts of Perth, and at a port location between Perth and Monifieth Beach.

And here are some more still photos, to continue.

A historical sign, which includes a description of how the original, Victorian railway bridge across the estuary of the Tay was blown down in an 1879 windstorm

The author on the Tay, close to one of the two modern bridges across the estuary of the Tay in the Dundee area

Tayport, on the other side of the Tay from Dundee

The Tayport Heritage Trail

Yachts in the harbour

There was also a replica of one of the Pictish stones at Dunnichen, just east of Dundee, which Dave showed me a bit later.

The replica Dunnichen Stone

The replica Dunnichen Stone’s information plaque

The day after my big Dundee walkabout, I went to Perth, the former capital of Scotland, nicknamed the Fair City, which is located a bit further up the river Tay.

Perth and Abernethy (south east of Perth) in relation to Dundee. The straight-line distance from Dundee to Perth is about 30 km (20 miles). Map data ©2022 Google. North at top.

There I discovered Balhousie Castle, the home of the historic Black Watch regiment, and therefore indicated in the map above and sign below as the Black Watch Castle and Museum.

Balhousie Castle noticeboard

Balhousie Castle

Outside the castle café

For the last two hundred-odd years, since its foundation in 1725, the Black Watch has been pretty much everywhere that there has been a scrap on offer.

Black Watch battle honours

A mixture of static and audiovisual displays

The Black Watch badge
The author in front of the Black Watch tartan

Dad has a Black Watch kilt. He was in cadets but not actually in the adult regiment. However, various relatives and ancestors of mine were in the Black Watch from the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 all the way through to when my grandfather fought at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. (He had children late in life.)

It was probably the usual story of recruiting from the poor and indigent. Forty years ago, my Aunty June made fun of my father’s genealogical research into his ancestors, thus:

"He said his folks were well off

Was proud of the Walkers

But I found out about them

They were just mere paupers"

Paupers whose male stock no doubt signed up to go over the hills and far away, as an alternative to “parritch thin.”

The regiment was founded, originally, to keep watch on people called the Jacobites.

The Jacobites were opponents of the Hanoverian dynasty, which had been helicoptered into Great Britain from Germany after the death of Queen Anne in 1714. The Hanoverians are the direct ancestors of the present British Royal Family.

For most of the time between the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 and the death of Queen Anne in 1714, the British monarchy had belonged to the House of Stuart.

Even though England was the most populous of the British nations by far, the Stuarts were Scots, just as the Tudors before them had been Welsh and William III (r. 1689–1702, co-regnant with Mary II till 1694), Dutch. Oddly enough, you have to go back to the Middle Ages to find a family of straightforwardly English lineage on the throne, and they would have been Normans.

Queen Anne, the last reigning Stuart, had been picked to rule in 1702 over her half-brother, James, who would probably have been first in line as a male but suffered from the disadvantage, in those days, of being a Roman Catholic.

When Queen Anne died in 1714 her Protestant German cousin George, from Hanover, was chosen ahead of James, who in a fit of pique at being twice pipped staged the first Jacobite (Jacob=James) rebellion in 1715, along with another one in 1719. Scotland was the springboard for these rebellions along with the third and most famous one, which took place in 1745/46 under the leadership of James’s son, Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The Hanoverians did not have the resources to fill Scotland with redcoats. Nor would that have been popular. Instead, after the first two rebellions, the Black Watch was organised from local highland Scots deemed loyal to the Hanoverian Crown, to literally keep watch on potential Jacobite disturbances in the north.

As for the ‘black’ bit, that may refer to the dark pattern of the Black Watch kilt tartan. Or to the allegedly black hearts of those who sided with the Hanoverians (which sounds concocted). Or, to the fact that the Black Watch also suppressed cattle rustlers who used to hold cattle for ransom, called blackmail in those days. Or perhaps even the black cockade of the Hanoverians as opposed to the white cockade of the Jacobites.

Plaque explaining the history of the Black Watch

It wasn’t long before the Black Watch became involved in many military operations outside the Highlands. The Black Watch rebelled in 1743 in fear of being sent to the West Indies, where, so the troops imagined, many might perish from tropical diseases.

But they were once more loyal in 1745 and distinguished themselves in that year at the Battle of Fontenoy against the French, in which the British and their allies were defeated but in which the Black Watch stood their ground. This image of a piper from around that time, one of the rebels of 1743, who was for a time locked up in the Tower of London and then exiled to America, suggests that the Black Watch did not always wear the dark tartan.

Piper MacDonnell

The great British defeat at Fontenoy emboldened the third Jacobite rebellion of 1745/46, which was really organised by the French and intended by them to help seal the final defeat of Hanoverian Britain. As we know, it failed.

The Coat of Arms of the Black Watch

The Black Watch also won a good few medals along the way. Each of these rows in the photo below begins with a Victoria Cross, followed to the right by the 1914/15 star awarded to troops who volunteered to fight in the early stages of World War One, then the British War Medal, then the Victory Medal. I am not sure what the last one is in the bottom row, and I see that this person gained a couple of additional clasps.

Two Rows of Medals

Anyhow, what you can tell from these medals is that both recipients joined up in the earliest months of World War One and then fought right through, each gaining a VC along the way. It’s amazing that they survived.

A typical Black Watch tour of duty

Here are some redoubtable heroes of the 1854–1856 Crimean War.

Black Watch veterans of the Crimean War

What I noticed was that nothing has changed in many places, the hot spots were all the same today as in the past, e.g., the Crimean Peninsula. There were several wars in the 1900s over the Suez Canal, and over the Sudan in the 1800s. There always seems to have been a war in the Sudan. Where there is war now there has been war for 300 years, really.

The kilt was also an endless source of amusement to the French, who at least get the dark colour of the Black Watch kilts right in this cartoon.

Scurrilous French cartoon, circa 1815

Here’s another amusing image, a demonstration of how to play the bagpipes while wearing a gas mask.

‘Piper practicing in respirator, Kirknewton, 1966’. This piper does not seem to wearing the Black Watch tartan.

The Black Watch has undergone several reorganisations in its history and is no longer a regiment in its own right but rather the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

A Diamond Jubilee street party at the castle

And then I climbed Kinnoull Hill, the local scenic lookout.

Sights to be seen from the top of Kinnoull Hill

The top of Kinnoull Hill

A view from Kinnoull Hill, over the river Tay

In the next two photos, you can see Kinnoull Hill Tower, a nineteenth-century ‘folly’. It looks very ancient, but by British standards it is not.

The Kinnoull Hill Tower and the Tay

The Kinnoull Hill Tower

Inside the Kinnoull Hill Tower

Here’s a video I made of Balhousie Castle and Kinnoull Hill.

On the hill, I met a lawyer who was a Queen’s Counsel from Edinburgh. He told me about the nearby village of Abernethy where there were Pictish stones and a more genuine round tower.

Abernethy Round Tower information plaque

The Abernethy Round Tower

Ancient Abernethy sign

Pictish designs explained, at Abernethy

Perth also has many beautiful downtown streetscapes and parks, indeed to the point that its nickname ‘the fair city’ is well deserved, though I did not explore Perth myself on this trip. But you can see some images of Perth in this webpage from The Visitor’s Guide to Scotland,The Fair City of Perth’.

In my next post, I report from Edinburgh!


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