Made in Dundee
Start - Desperate Dan
Look around you. You are standing in “a sink of atrocity which no moral flushing seems capable of cleansing”. That is how Lord Cockburn, a Scottish judge in the C19th, described Dundee.
He wasn't the last to be scornful of the city. When American travel writer Paul Theroux visited in the early 80s he described it as 'an interesting monstrosity' and 'an excellent example of a hard-edged horror'.
And when Samuel Johnson visited in the 18th century he found 'little of note'.
For years Dundee has been an easy target for the jibes of visitors. It is not as though the rest of Scotland has a problem with that. All across the country, from Gretna Green to John o Groats, you will find people willing to make fun of Dundee.
There is a certain truth to their mockery. Dundee was Scotland's most industrialised city in the nineteenth century. A greater percentage of the population worked in manufacturing than any other city in Scotland. And factories rarely sit side by side with loveliness.
Yet if you dismiss the city as 'Scumdee' you miss out, on its fascinating past, its dynamic present and its ambitious future. This tour will focus on Dundee's history – but it is worth noting how much the city has changed and is changing. £1 billion is being spent on developing the waterfront in a 30 year-long regeneration project.
But our emphasis today shall be on the past. Dundee has some of the most incredible history in Scotland. I can say that without any accusations of bias or favouritism. I am not a Dundonian. I am from Aberdeen, about 66 miles north of here. Can a city have a personality? Certainly the two cities feel very different, despite both growing up around their harbours.
If certain stories on this tour do not test the limits of your belief, then I have no hope for you. The real story of Dundee is far more than a boring tale of an old industrial town. That is the story that the haters would have you believe. We will go further than that. From the 'sink of atrocity' to the jewel in Dundee's crown, we will explore the quirky, the odd and downright bizarre stories that make up Dundee. Because this city's truth is much stranger than the fictions others have written about it.
My name is Lia. I run Scot Free Tours which makes audio guides like this for lots of different places around Scotland. The idea is to give you the freedom to explore in your own time and focus on what you want.
I like to focus on the unusual, the quirky and the grotesque, to give you a perspective that goes beyond the usual tourism narrative.
I told you that we would be going beyond the simple narratives told about Dundee. And before we dismiss them we should first address them. What are the stories told about Dundee? You may have heard of one quick way of summarising the city – the 3 Js.
You should be stood beside Desperate Dan, star of The Dandy comic and one of Dundee's most famous statues. This represents the third j – journalism. Dundee is famous as the headquarters of D.C.Thomson, one of the biggest publishers in Scotland. Even to this day they are responsible for 200 million magazines, newspapers and periodicals every year. Their publications include Commando, The People's Friend and the local Dundee papers and they used to publish the girls magazine Jackie. But they are most famous for their comics for children – The Beano, The Dandy, The Broons and Oor Wullie. At its peak in the 1950s The Beano sold almost 2 million copies every week.
Let's get started.
In order for us to keep up with each other you’re going to need to follow some simple rules.
VoiceMap uses your location to play audio automatically, at the right time and place. This means that you can put your phone away now. Don't worry if I'm silent for a while, when I'm not giving directions or telling stories. There's a map on your screen if you ever feel lost, and if you do get way off track without noticing, VoiceMap will let you know.
Once you start walking, keep going straight on unless I tell you otherwise.
Let’s give this a test.
Walk in the opposite direction to where Dan is headed.
On your left hand side are various shops. Keep your eyes peeled for a narrow passageway between the buildings with a sign saying Keiler's Shopping Centre.
If you do this right you’ll hear my voice again when you pass Keiler's Shopping Centre.