The aim of this project is to give a glimpse into the ever changing architecture and culture of Dundee over the decades. It is quite remarkable how some sections of the city remain the same as they did previously whereas in other parts the scenery has changed dramatically. I decided to convey this by collecting old photographs of Dundee and combining them with my own photographs. By capturing these pictures from exactly the same spot where they were originally taken, you can get a real sense of the movement of history. I also spoke to local residents who had grown up in the city about their memories and experiences as well as researching Dundee’s history. This took me on a nostalgic trip and I discovered many insights on my photographic journey.
The Wellgate steps are all that exist of all the old ‘Wellgait’ or Well Way. Known as the heart of Dundee, it was a thriving street full of shops and pubs leading up to the bottom of the Hilltown and the city’s main well ‘The Lady Well’ hence the name. There is a pub round the corner named the Ladywell Tavern commemorating this.
“Oh can you see the folks on the hill, they’ve never worked and they never will.”
“This place used to be buzzing back in the day, much more busy than the centre of toon anyway. You’d be shoulder tae shoulder in awe the pubs, wiz hard to even get near the bar for a drink and you’d still come hame with change aff a tenner at the end of the night. Now it’s dead, awe the shops and pubs are empty.”
“Lochee Or Tipperary as it was then know was originally an Irish Immigrant Ghetto, the descendents of Cox’s Mill workers back when it was a separate borough from Dundee. I grew up in Lochee in the 60s when it was a thriving thoroughfare full of shops and pubs. It had a great community spirit, a real sense of identity.”
” After being a thriving suburb of Dundee for generations, Lochee suffered a rapid demise in the 80s. With the closure of Cox’s and many other factories in Dryburgh Industrial Estate, unemployment became an epidemic! Shops closed, people left, buildings and streets were demolished. The heart was ripped out of Lochee, physically and spiritually! It has undergone a couple of makeovers since then and seen many changes, but despite all the hardship, poverty and struggles, I think Lochee has survived as a community, in some form at least. This is a massive transformation period for the Lochee community, but I think its indelible spirit will live on”.
The City Arcade was a much loved shopping centre just at the back of the Caird Hall in Shore Terrace which contained retail units from the 1930s until it closed in 1981. It was well known for the McLeish Brothers fishmongers and Champion the Wonderhorse from the popular TV series which the children used to play on while their parents shopped. There are now plans to reopen this centre in 2018 as it looks out onto the new green space which is part of Dundee’s new £1 billion Waterfront redevelopment.
The Royal Arch was a monumental sandstone archway that led to the city’s piers and docks. It was built to commemorate a royal visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1844. It was then destroyed in 1964 due to land reclamation work required for the construction of the Tay Road bridge and the docks were filled in to accommodate the slip roads for this. Fragments were uncovered recently in 2015 during the ongoing waterfront redevelopment and there was a petition raised to build a replica but Dundee City Council turned it down, placing granite slabs and trees in the new green space to commemorate the monument instead.
“I remember the old Overgate centre when Grouchos used to be beside the Angus Hotel, that’s where Debenhams is now. There was a cool punk shop called Breeks and a wee card shop on the corner run by a sweet old lady that had Dundee’s largest porn selection! There was these weird concrete abstract art sculptures that used to be used as climbing frames by all the local kids and I remember having to avoid all my school pals when my parents dragged me into What Everyone Wants for cheap clothes.”
Changes are inevitable and all cities go through them. With the advent of photography it has become a great tool to record aspects of these new developments. We can now see through a lens into more recent history how changes have transpired. Photography is a tool that enables us to bring the past to life in ways we could have only imagined before. It’s exciting to think of future developments that are coming to the city and how photography can document these transitions.
Photography & research by Naomi McIntosh
Old photos of Dundee used by kind permission of DC Thomson & Co Ltd
With special thanks to DC Thomson archives, Dundee Historic Society, Phil Reilly, Paul Kennedy, Russell Barrie, Shirley Townsley, Graeme Lowe and all the other Dundee residents who shared their memories.