Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Hilltown Dundee


What you always wanted to know and were afraid to ask - Or sorry you did!!

The Hilltown in Dundee probably reached its epoch in the late forties, early fifties. It fostered its largest population; the war was over, the returning men had started procreation again; the place was awash with children, and most importantly, the mills were running at full-tilt. I think anyway (then I would), that this was a unique time in place and history. Many stories and reminisces have been written about the Hilltown. However, this is not intended as a chronology of facts, nor nostalgic recollection, but more of individual memories, reflections, suppositions, and yes, ramblings, of events, people, and places in the ‘Town on the Hill’.


The folks who lived on the Hill.


Playing dominoes in the pub was one of the main pastimes of the ‘Kettle Boilers’. The derogatory term for Dundee men, who supposedly kept the kettle boiling while their wives were working in the Jute Mills. The ‘double six’ being the highest ‘bone’, would always be played with a great flourish, to the accompanying delighted calls of ‘Wellgate Steps’. Why this was I could never fathom, as the celebrated steps coming up the Wellgate from the town centre to the bottom of the Hilltown were never confined to twelve. Depending on the angle of approach (they came up from a curve in the road) it could be anything from three to sixteen.
Dominoes apart however, once you physically scaled the renowned steps, a pause was in order, not only to get your breath back from travelling all the way up the Wellgate with the anticipation of the climb ahead, but more to reflect upon the extraordinary vista presenting itself in front of you. The Hilltown would rise majestically into the sky, paving the way, if not to the ‘Promised Land’, perhaps to the Land of Promise for those optimistic job hungry settlers from other parts of the country (my mother Jessie came down from Elgin and her best friend Monica came from South Shields) who rallied to the cry ‘Jobs in Jute’ - Or at least leading to the ‘Land O’ Cakes’ the slogan of one of the leading bakery shops (Wallace’s) in the area. For me though, in the 40/50’s, it was ‘Home Land’ as I was one of its children.

How aptly named - ‘The Hilltown’, not Hilltown Street or Hilltown Road, Hilltown Mews? For it was in reality a town on a hill. As far back as the 17th century, it was indeed a town completely independent and a serious rival to Dundee. Under the patronage of the Lords of Dudhope it was then called Rotten Row, no, not a sign of times to come as there are many derivations of ‘Rotten Row’, all of them complementary. I would like to consider the one from the Saxon ‘Rot’ meaning pleasant and cheerful. So, this pleasant and cheerful land became an approximate golden square mile of prosperity, profit, and untold wealth, not of course for the people who lived there, but for Mill owners, who manipulated things from their palaces, miles away in Broughty Ferry. Built in a hurry I should imagine, the mills given priority of space, with housing designed to squeeze as much of the workforce into the minimum that was left. I appreciate that mill towns, such as in Lancashire and Yorkshire for example with their monotonous rows of terraced two-up two-downs epitomised slum housing of the time, but these industrious slum designers must have thought that the Hilltown Boys were having a laugh – “They’ll never get away with it!” Creating streets of congested tenements, not with the flashy sandstone of Glasgow, or sparkling granite of Aberdeen, but with nondescript bland stone. However, that wasn’t the half of it, they built tenements behind the tenements, with a pend or close access from the street (Norrie’s, and Shepherd’s Pend for example) leading to two, three, or even four, inner ‘Lands’ accommodating more and more buildings at the same address. I stayed at 18 Ann Street, with a small close leading to three ‘Lands’ at the back; certainly the postie must have been on the ball, delivering to 24 households with the same address in that close alone. Basically they were all literally one or two rooms, with small ‘Garret’ rooms on the roof for the ‘Auld Maids’, all sharing communal toilets in freestanding blocks, which seemed to have been added on as an afterthought.

Access was afforded in most cases by ‘Pletties’, like concrete shelves attached to the side of the tenement bridging front doors, stairs, and toilets. Not entirely without merit these ‘Pletties’, as the aforementioned two-up two-downs did not have the luxury of a balcony for the kids to play, and to sit out in the sun with the neighbours. Dr. Peter Semple, a friend of mine, also professes to be a Dundonian, albeit it in a very different world, he lived in the Perth road and went to private boarding school (Father was a Head Consultant). He tells the story of accompanying a maiden Aunt involved in charity work (wore a big hat apparently) who took him one day on her rounds in the Hilltown. What a revelation! It was surely a cruel culture shock to be embedded forever into the memory of a refined and sophisticated young lad. Peter is an ardent reader of my stories from the other side of the fence, he never misses an opportunity to discuss them, and I do suspect a tinge of jealousy (Was the Hilltown more fun?).

Dense as it was though, little bucolic patches seemed to have been caught unpredictably in the frenzy of hasty construction. Just beside the Plaza cinema for example a little track led to some stables, and further up there was Kennedy’s Dairy – I used to deliver the milk for him – And at the top of James Street I seem to remember a smallholding. Street names such as Forebank, Bonnybank, Rosebank, were also symbols of pastoral times, and mainly around William Street a few houses with large gardens were also in evidence, featuring the Gray Lodge in South George Street, and Doctor Jacob’s house where we used to scrump for apples – Yuck! Little green things, I don’t know why we bothered, probably the novelty – Scrumping for apples on the Hilltown? My mother was a cleaner for Dr. Jacob for a time, a good man, who was eventually hounded out of Dundee in the late 70’s on a wave of anti-Semitic persecution - He eventually retired to Israel. Now, considering some of Hilltown’s cramped tenements were over 150 years old when the slum clearance began in the 60’s. They were replaced by modern slums (Alexander Street Multis, etc.) that lasted only around forty years – Which goes to show, there’s more to life than indoor toilets.

The central character in Dundee jokes at that time was a punter named Jock McCool. One of the stories goes that Jock was encountered at the foot of the Hilltown frantically searching for something. “What’s up Jock?” – “lost a shilling” - “Where did you loose it?” – “At the top of the Hill” – Why are you looking down here?” – “There’s more light ”. I often used this analogy (together with other Jock McCool stories) illustrating many business situations – Are we looking for a solution in the right place, or the most convenient? However, the bright lights at the bottom of the Hill is where we’ll start, meandering to the top, perhaps, if not finding Jock’s shilling, discovering a land of intrigue, character, and fascination.

The bottom of the Hilltown provided a range of practical ‘Facilities’ all in the middle of the road. A large Police Box facilitating law & order, a phone box facilitating good communication, a big box of sand facilitating motorists stuck in the snow, a tall lamppost facilitating abundant light for Jock’s search, and an underground Gents Toilet facilitating public convenience. Sometimes though you would have thought that you were walking on the shale beach at the Stannergate, for the ground was strewn with crushed whelks. A lady in a shawl with baskets full of whelks would ply her trade to fervent punters. For a pittance, she had little overheads; you were supplied with a poke of whelks and a pin to eke out the delicate flesh. Not the sort of fast food you could eat on the hoof without pricking your fingers, so people tended to linger around devouring their titbit, discarding the carcasses to be trampled into a carpet of crushed shells resembling the appearance and waft of the seashore at the Stannergate where they originated.


If you consider that the first two addresses you encounter at the foot of the hill are Pubs (The Central Bar at No.1, next door to the Rowan Tree No.5), then you would appreciate that Hilltown was anything but a Dry-Town. There were more pubs on the Hilltown than any other commercial premises; I would wager that wherever you lived, you were never more than 50yards from a watering hole. “Drink is a curse” my mother-in-law used to say, and as I repeat, to a great deal of retort from my wife every time she opens a bottle of red wine. But she was right (my mother in law). Alcohol accounted for everything that cursed the Hilltown. Fighting, family disputes, hardship, and the premature death for a lot of its men. I must admit that even with the dawn of a more enlightened age, a lot of my childhood compatriots went down the same path. Perhaps the case of my own father sums things up.
Jimmy Murray, as well has having relatively good looks (not inherited), and a bit of a personality, was gifted with a wonderful singing voice, much appreciated at his regular hostelry – The Gun, across the road in Ann Street. This all contributed to him being carried away with the general ‘Bon-Ami’, so even when his money ran out he was still supplied with drink. My father was 41 when he died (I was only two) with heavy drinking being the contributing factor. Even after the doctor’s final prognosis that he wouldn’t last the night he continued singing. A policeman came to the door around three in the morning (following complaints I should imagine) to find out what was up, my mother explained the situation, and he left giving his condolences. In the full throes of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ of all things, the singing suddenly stopped, another victim of the Hilltown Curse. An extraordinary thing, 15 years later, on leave from the Boy Service in the Army, I visited the Gun on two occasions, just for a single pint – They wouldn’t take my money – How did they know who I was? – Perhaps the looks were inherited!! - I’m glad they didn’t ask me to sing though.
Let’s face it – The pubs had it all there own way, didn’t they? – Providing nothing but drink, with sparse facilities, and an austere atmosphere left to the punters to enliven. But here’s the beauty, they only opened from early evening till nine, with all the consumption being condensed into a brief drinking binge, aided by the odd ‘Nip’ (1/6 Gill), and for those whose bladder capacity resisted the excess of beer, “Just put a ‘Dump’ (Fowler’s wee heavy) in there”. Then it was time to close and count the money.


 The only concession afforded customers was fast service; it had to be, for drinking up time was from a quarter to nine, with everyone being chucked out into the street promptly for nine. Now you can imagine, drunk, jolly, argumentative, aggressive, caught short, an alcoholic powder keg charged by the Licensees, then dumped into the Hilltown streets. Now, let’s face it, this drunken Tower of Babel would have came tumbling down, washing the whole community down the hill into the Tay if it wasn’t for one simple fact – It was the woman who held the purse strings!!!

Christine Wallet, a friend of mine, was brought up in Govan. Her mother used to recount the time when she would join the other wives at the Shipyard gates on a Friday hoping to get first call on their husbands wage packets as they finished work. As if someone had shouted ‘Open Sesame’ the massive iron doors would creak gradually open and thousands of men clutching brown envelopes would come gushing through. In the middle of the turmoil, either by coincidence or connivance, a good portion of the prey would avoid detection, disappearing into one of the nearby pubs. This didn’t happen on the Hilltown; well it did, but to some extent, the other way around. Some husbands would linger around the ‘Lodge’ gates, having drunk their wages, or more likely, dole money, in anticipation of a wee handout from a benevolent spouse. This they generally received, a few bob being surreptitiously palmed to save embarrassment, and to stop the bugger begging. These women epitomised the special Hilltown breed of being tough, resilient, resourceful, but most of all grafters. They worked fulltime, running the household, and raising sometimes-large families. Completely self reliant, they managed by working shifts, pooling childcare, falling back on surrounding family, and of course the Grannies (Not all blood related as all woman over 50 was your granny). In demolishing much of the Hilltown in the sixties Trojan Plant Hire played a vital part in the devastation. The founder of the firm (A Mr. Stewart I believe) named the company after an adage of his mother’s - “Work like a Trojan” – Typifying I think the ‘Trojan Women’ of the Hilltown. Looking at Dundee directories today a number of businesses are still registered (Mainly in the Building Industry) with the name ‘Trojan’, obviously nostalgia from a new wave of Managing Directors for their mothers (or Grannies).


And what about the men? OK they didn’t all work – My mother used to say that my father and brother were often out of work, but she and my sisters were never short. A typical song of the day (since recorded on Springthyme records by Lowland Folk to the tune of Bye Bye Blackbird) went - “We’re the Lads frae the tap o’ the Hull – Never work and never wull – We’re on the Bureau – We’re the Lads frae Norrie’s Pend – Never work and don’t intend – We’re on the Bureau”. Some men did work, although generally of a very physical nature (This was before the NCR and Timex got up and running). One of the larger employers was the shipyard (Caledon) which was a place I never visited, I just remember a ‘Field’ of steel sheets lying on the other side of the road almost lost in a jungle of weeds, apparently out to ‘mature’. With the price of scrap metal these days, it wouldn’t get a chance to develop never mind mature. In fact my father’s death certificate lists him as a ‘Shipyard Labourer’ – I obviously wasn’t around at the time.
The docks was something else however, I was sent there once on a mission to convey an urgent family message to my brother-in-law Jim Brown, an ‘Inherited’ Docker, you see it was a closed shop with privileged union membership normally only passed on to family members. I had never then or since seen men working so hard, the place was such a hive of activity, bales of jute being manhandled, transported and stacked a rate of knots with big metal hooks attached to jute covered grips. No time for talk, banter, or niceties, just the occasional distraction to wipe the sweat from the brow. Was this slave labour, an overseer with a big whip hiding around the corner ready to lash out at any malingerers? Were they trying to get the World Record for empting a Jute Boat? Or was this an example of the typical conscientious work ethic of the industrious Dundee working man? No, in fact they were paid by the boatload, so if the job was costed as a days work, and completed in a morning, the pubs were open. Although minimum retainers were paid, these men didn’t in fact have a regular job; you turned up early in the morning, hung around until a supervisor appeared with a list of names he had selected to work that day, and if your name wasn’t on the list – Tough!!! This system obviously led to some jiggery-pokery, my brother-in-law cites the case of a supervisor entering the pub –“What have I got behind the bar?” – “You’ve a pint from so and so, a nip from so and so, etc.” – “Anything from so and so?” – “No” – “I see”. The scrapping of the National Dock Labour Scheme in 1989 changed things completely, with my ‘favourite’ brother-in-law receiving a substantial lump sum in compensation for being laid off. This coincided with his final ultimatum from the Doc – “Go dry or die” – He joined the AA, and with their help managed to give up drink completely, a pity in some ways, as he was always more generous as a drunk. In one of his frequent visits to hospital with drink-aggravated symptoms, the receptionist asked his occupation, “I’m a Docker” he proudly replied, she mistakenly typed in ‘Doctor’. He wondered why he was continually being referred to as Doctor Brown, with the staff genially treating him as a trusted colleague. Just as well he wasn’t asked to give any assistance – Although he had helped to reshape a few faces in his day.


If you were a fit young man, and not afraid of hard work, you could always find a job delivering coal. Not for the faint-hearted it must be said, climbing two, three, and sometimes four flights of twisting rickety stairs with a cwt bag of coal on your back was a dauntless task. However, Protective Gear was graciously provided, consisting of a solid leather back-plate covering the lower neck and upper rump, and tied with straps over the shoulders and across the chest. This offered protection not only from knobbly coal lumps, but also from the often rain-soaked (Hilltown?) Hessian sacks. Consequently these guys became supper fit, lithe and strong, you didn’t mess with them, unless you were a heavyweight champion, completely drunk, or helluva quick on your feet – Preferably all three!!! Delivery was quite a straightforward process; the lorry would cruise along the street tooting its horn, you went to the window and gave the lads the finger or a ‘V’ sign (for one or two bags), up they’d come and dump the coal in the bunker, usually in the corner of the room. We had a fireplace in each of our two rooms; only when my mother felt very flush or it was extremely cold did she light the fire ‘Ben the hoose’, but this was a real treat, as I’d sit on the carpet alone, in front of the roaring fire concocting images and dreaming dreams. Nowadays this is of course is substituted by television where you tap into someone else’s imagination. Coal fires were a messy business though, the ashes having to be cleaned out every morning, put into a bucket, and carried down to the bins in the back court (‘Courtie’). This, it has to be said constituted the main contents of the 4 bins provided for the twenty or so families living in the ‘Back Lands’. It was quite adequate however, as there obviously wasn’t much waste and no recycling was involved. Paper for example, would be cut into convenient squares, threaded and hooked on the back of the toilet door for a relaxing read before disposal – Glass items were ‘Return to sender’ with lemonade bottles for example having a deposit on them – It was said that jelly jars could get you into the cinema – We tried this at the Tivoli once and got chased. Now and again thick plums of acrid black smoke would fill the Hilltown air - Somebody had put their lum up. Chimneys would accrue layers of soot over time, and had to be occasionally swept, but there was obviously a cost involved. My mother was as honest as the day is long, and always did things right, she was all for calling the sweep, but my sister Cathie had other ideas. She lit a piece of paper and deftly positioned it to float gently up the lum. After the third or fourth attempt it set the soot alight, and up in flames went the chimney. Everybody knew the set-up, and would ignore the smoke and flames shooting out the rooftop, but on this particular occasion, some bugger called the fire brigade. Insisting that it was an accident (my sister was very plausible – My mother hiding ‘Ben the hoose’) we got off with a warning – The chimney Sweep arrived the next day but it was already as clean as a whistle.

Leaving the two pubs (Is it that time already?) and travelling a little further up the hill, you would probably encounter the first of the few restaurants on the Hilltown itself. Oh yes, gastronomic dining delights were much appreciated by the discerning palates of the populace. Little dining rooms (Called ‘Cookies’- No bigger than the average shop) would serve the popular delicacy – ‘Tripe & Tatties’. You could have mince if tripe turned your stomach (it did with some people), or you could be even more adventurous and add some Dulse (Type of seaweed) as a vegetable. There was also a number of carryout/cook-it-yourself ‘Tripe Shops’ catering for those who couldn’t get enough of the stuff. But by far the most popular, and dearest to my heart, restaurant on the Hilltown was Danny Barbieri’s Fish & Chip shop and restaurant halfway along Ann Street. Danny’s invariably had a queue for carryout and a long wait for a table, but people didn’t mind, you see the food was always fresh and delicious. My mother told the story that she was queuing for a Fish Supper one night when she saw my father tête à tête at a table in the back with another woman. My mother wasn’t the type to make a scene, or create a fuss, so it was never mentioned. Anyway, she knew he didn’t have any money so his ‘Girl Friend’ must have been paying not only for the meal, but the drink before & after – She hoped he was worth it!!!

Italian families were an integral part of the plasma running through the lifeblood of the Hilltown. Honest, enterprising, industrious, they came afar, from their own, strapped situations, integrating seamlessly into the new society, and stimulating a taste for the very best in ice cream and fish & chips. They were essentially all family business, run and worked by single families. The Barbieris were no exception, Danny, his wife, his son Dino, and his daughter Linda, all worked in the shop.
It’s now time for a confession – I had a terrible crush on Linda Barbieri!!! A few years older than me, she was my first actual contact with an attractive, ‘Sophisticated’ young lady. She dressed in the latest fashion, drove around in the family car, had her own business (Her father set her up in a chip shop across the road from us), and when I saw her in her short skirt playing tennis with the ‘In’ set at Dudhope Park, that was it!!! Linda had a very genial personality, she was friendly with everybody, but I imagined it was especially with me. Although usually a bit tongue-tied in her company, I actually did have an in-depth conversation with her once. We’d both seen the film ‘Jazz on a summer’s Day’ at the Tivoli, and she was raving about Mahalia Jackson’s rendition of The Lord’s Prayer. I agreed it was absolutely awesome, and the best Jazz performance I’d ever experienced. Liar!! I didn’t mention that my highlight was Louis Armstrong (with Peanuts Hucko on clarinet) playing Tiger Rag.
I went into the shop once, and they had this enormous coca-cola machine covering about a third of the area in front of the counter. A big round, coca-cola red thing it was, not a vending machine, in fact a fridge. The idea was that you bought a bottle across the counter, put it in a slot on top, pull a slider on the side, and a fresh, chilled, bottle would drop out the bottom. The very height of innovation and marketing wizardry. That was until it soon dawned on people that if you put an empty bottle in the slot a full one would still come out. You can imagine the fuss when someone paid for a bottle only to find they got a ‘Chilled’ empty one in return – It didn’t last long. Linda Barbieri eventually joined the Health Service, and her brother Dino became a Representative (For a Tea Company I think). I remember him coming along to Gestetner Duplicators in Whitehall Crescent for an interview while I was working there in the sixties, he didn’t join us, perhaps it was the low pay they were offering. Hard to keep away while there was a good living to be made in something you know best, Dino went back into the ‘Business’.
In partnership with a chap named Marino he first opened a shop in Stirling Street, then ‘La pièce de résistance’; they established the ‘Seahorse’ in the new development on the Hilltown near the corner of Ann Street, about 600yards from his fathers previous shop. Every bit as good as the original, and about three times the size, the proprietors had a convenient working arrangement – Each worked only half the week. The seahorse restaurant eventually deteriorated with the Highwayman pub next door and the rest of the ‘New’ development – Now (2012) everything’s just a bundle of rubble.
Danny Barbieri’s funeral; was the biggest ever seen on the Hilltown. St. Mary’s Forebank was packed to the gunnels, with mourners overlapping onto the street; the cars encircled Powrie Place, and stretched along Ann Street and down Forebank. In my youthful imagination it was reminiscent of that scene in the gangster movies when the great Mafia Don is laid to rest, with all the pomp and pageantry attributed to the well-loved and respected Godfather. In Danny’s case, although dotted with Italian men in wide suits and women in black veiled outfits, it was most of all the locals who mourned his loss – After all, with his long provision of the best Fish Suppers in Dundee, he was certainly the ‘Cod’ Father of the Hilltown.
Time for another Jock McCool story – Jock was paying a visit to relatives who lived in a house at the top of the ‘Highlands’ tenement, which was at the other end of the town in Brook Street. Now, this was a quite a phenomenal building, a Multi-storey before Multis were invented. Pride of Dundee’s ‘stuff them in’ design, a nine-storey tenement spectacular, and a coalman’s nightmare. Saying goodbye to his relations, he happened to look out the stair window. There on the ground below he spied a silver threepenny piece (You may remember them?). Hurrying down the stairs, just checking, on the seventh landing he had another look. It wasn’t three pence; it was a brand new gleaming shilling. Another couple of floors, it was a two bob bit. Down again, he was absolutely elated when he looked out from the fourth floor to discover it was actually a half crown - Whoopee!! He finally ran out into the court to retrieve his prize. Well, it was a dustbin lid. Nothing’s what it seems!!! And this brings us a little bit further up the Hill to yet another Bar. But wait a minute; this is one that doesn’t sell alcohol!! Ned’s Temperance Bar was a Hilltown delight for young & old, those on the wagon, or those just drying out from the night before. With all the trappings of a small pub, you could lean on the bar, sit at the rustic tables, or just stand in the middle of the sawdust floor drinking, chatting, and enjoying the ambiance. The speciality of the house was ‘SARSPARILLA’ freshly spiced with Baking Soda; this also extended to Raspberry, strawberry, orange, etc. But if you wanted to get into the ‘Hard Stuff’ there was ‘Hop Bitter’ a non-alcoholic beer, or for a right stiffener, a nip of ‘QT’ strong ginger wine. Ned, the affable ‘Mine Host’ was always up for a bit of crack and up-to-date news, perhaps not the Al Murray of his time, but a genuine Hilltown worthy loved an appreciated by the punters. Of course, you could get a reasonable Sarsaparilla at Greenhills in the Overgate – But that was fundamentally a chemist shop, and it wasn’t the same – They didn’t sell those little flat, crusty, rhubarb pies either.

Travelling onward, and a little way upward, on the right hand side, before reaching the Plaza cinema, and through yet another Pend, would take you onto some hallowed ground – The Celtic Supporters Club, who’s members were mostly of the St. Mary’s Forebank pedigree. I believe also that there was a Rangers Supporters Club across the road. These two well supported clubs represented not only the diversity of football fervour on the Hilltown as the home club was Dundee, but also had something to do with a perceived religious divide. There were never any Orange Walks or Republican Marches on the Hilltown, Belfast was a lot nearer to Glasgow than Dundee, and outside football the men weren’t that dedicated, anyway, the women wouldn’t have put up with it. However, we did do our best to inflame religious intolerance, if only just a little. Each year around St. Patrick’s Day, battle stations would draw up between Catholics and Protestants. ‘Scotch and Irish’ it was called – As primary School children I was supposed to be Irish, while my wife Sheila was Scotch. Instigated by the Catholics (Protestants obviously had no idea when St. Patrick’s Day was), the rallying call would go out, and press-ganged by a few older boys with the encouragement of some grownups, we would muster for battle. Troop numbers were sometimes quite substantial, like anything else; these things tend to gather momentum with the non-committed having to choose sides. Gangs of a hundred or more would roam around the Hilltown, Ann Street, and Alexander Street, shouting slogans waving sticks, and looking (Half-heartedly) for confrontation. When both fractions did collide it was generally the same scenario. A dozen or so ‘Big Boys’ would front the masses made up mainly of Primary School kids. After a bit of shouting “C’mon then” the order to CHARGE!! Was bellowed. As the warring fractions got menacingly nearer, the younger children would chicken out and run in the opposite direction. With no battle cry coming from behind, and a cautionary glance showing no support, the front-runners would turn and run themselves. Things would get a bit more serious however later on when the kids went home with tales of courageous conflict ringing in their ears, and the diehards took over. The affair would be still simmering when the pubs came out and the real battles would kick off – Alexander Street seemed to be the focal point of combat, with all religious consideration gone by the wayside and affiliation to whichever side completely confused. Hundreds would be confronting each other by this time, with Police (some mounted) coming between a hail of stones raining down from both sides. Casualties would start mounting, mostly with split heads gushing blood, then being relayed to the DRI (Dundee Royal Infirmary – Only a mile away) for a stitch up. In church the following Sunday we would sing “Hail Glorious St. Patrick dear Saint of our Isle” or the more arousing “ Faith of our fathers living still, in spite of dungeon fire and sword” a few displaying war wounds, but most filled with a misplaced sense of pride in ‘Defending the faith’. Perhaps we should also have given up a prayer for the grateful participation of our Protestant mates from Ann Street and Rosebank Schools, without who’s willing participation our show of patriotism would not have been possible.
Although there must have been a few agnostics in the Hilltown community most people held allegiance to one religion or another, all be it with very few practicing. Holding the middle ground as it were, was the Hillbank Evangelical Church (We called them ‘The Belly Bandies’ for some reason), they were the only body out to enthusiastically spread the word, in the streets if necessary, providing a heaven for worship, abstinence, and fellowship. Fully submerged Baptism was facilitated in a specially heated plunge pull – No swimming allowed. Like all the Churches on the Hilltown, the Hillbank Evangelical Church still survives to this day on Cotton Road at the top of Laing Street, it must have originally been a works building of some sort, but the church has been in existence for over eighty years, and unlike most of the established churches they still retain a large following from outside the immediate area.


Have I wondered of the mark again? What was I on about? Ah yes, football.

The only top football team at that time was Dundee FC, with Dens Park just across the Dens Road boundary of the Hilltown Kingdom. Dundee United’s Tannadice Park did exist across the street from Dens, but it was a lowly club with the ground surrounded by a broken corrugated fence, where one could just walk in and out for free. Mind you, it was the same for us at Dens. As kids, all you had to do was stand in front of the turnstiles until people would come along and lift you over.
The greatest free show on earth at that time, and the star was a man called Billy Steel, arguably the best player ever to don the dark blue and white strip. The boys always stood at the very front only a few yards from the pitch. The ball came out to me, and I threw it back to Billy to take the throw-in “Thanks son” he said – Made my day – Billy Steel spoke to me!!! His skill was such that opponent’s best bet was to try and nobble him, but he was always too nimble footed, leading to much frustration for the opposing players and fans. One time, the opposing centre half was a fellow called Richard somebody. “C’mon Dickie, get the boot in” their fans were shouting every time he tried to tackle Billy – “C’mon Dickie, get the boot in” – “Never mind the boot, you’d have better luck trying to get the Dickie in” shouted a Dundee fan. The story also goes that Billy paid a visit to his number one fan 'Blind Mattie' at St. Mary's Street and waltzed her around the room "He's a braw chappie" she commented. After the match, we were the last to leave, maybe lucky enough to pick up a few empty bottles, the terraces were awash with urine (Some of the bottles we picked up were full of it as well) the stench was overpowering, certainly toilets were available, but it was much more convenient to have a pee where you stood, with all the drink consumed you may not make it in time, and anyway you’d miss some of the match. Bovril was for some the favourite half time drink – Keeping out the cold – And accompanied by a Wallace’s pie – Heaven, which we couldn’t always afford.
Then it would start, the Hilltown ‘Tsunami’. Forty thousand men would swarm out of Dens destined for the town centre pubs, busses, and trains, mount the shallow gradient of Mains Road, and then start to descend the Hilltown. The pace would pick up around North George Street and Alexander Street, and by the time the mass reached Ann Street, the even steeper incline would add to the momentum carrying away everything in its path – Traffic would come to a standstill and pedestrians would cower in closes and shop doorways to avoid being consumed by the crowd and ending up having to climb the hill again.

 Just across the road from the Celtic Club Pend, we come across the one and only Jute Mill on the Hilltown, named appropriately ‘Hillside Mills’. One and only that is, on the actual Hilltown, but how many Mills on the Hill-Town itself? I would say, considering the boundaries from north Victoria Road (A. & S. Hendry) to south Dens Road (Grimond’s) there must have been around 10. Add to that the ancillary works such as Forebank Dye Works, W.R. Stewart’s Hackle Works, and Hendry Knuck & Co who seemed to specialise in jute waste, that makes one hell of a commitment to a single industry in just over a square mile. As I’ve said before, the mills vied with housing for space on the Hilltown.
What’s that almighty noise? At half past six and beyond every weekday morning the bummers would go off all over the Hilltown. Like air raid sirens, each mill would give the workers a gentle reminder that it was time to rise from their innocent slumber and muster to the daily grind. Although each mill would be shrieking at roughly at the same pitch, workers could discern the source of their individual calling, either by direction, tone, or volume. Yes, a splendid cacophony of sound, obviously not music to everyone’s ears, especially at that time in the morning.
Then it was grist to the mill, as the popular folksong went – “O dear me, the mills run ‘fest’, poor wee Shifters canna get nae rest – Shifting bobbins course and fine – They fairly make you work for your ten and nine”, or the more profound verse “ O dear me, the world’s ill-divided – Them that works the hardest are the least provided”.
In the late fifties and early sixties Frankie Vaughan was somewhat of a Pop Idol – We went to see him at the Palace Theatre one night. The stage was set with a park bench, street lamp, plastic trees and flowers, and he would invite a young lady from the audience to participate in his “Give me the moonlight, give me the girl” routine. Establishing her name, he asked, “Where do you come from Agnes” – “The Hulltoon” was the reply – “Hulltoon? Where’s Hulltoon?” – “Up the Hull ye ken!!” If Frankie was a bit bemused by this reply he was completely dumfounded by the next one – “ And what do you do for a living Agnes?” – “E’m a Shifter” she replied – “ A Shifter? I see?” said Frankie giving a nervous laugh – “Come and sit on the bench and I’ll sing to you”.

As if the bummers blaring outside the mills were not enough, inside, the noise was raised by considerably more decibels. The deafening clatter of machinery was such that it was not uncommon for first time visitors to be overcome with wooziness and sometimes even, faint. People always said that I have a loud voice – “We hear you before we see you Patrick” they say - Or that my Dundee accent is not as rhythmic as some from further north, or the west coast. But I suppose when people all around you have their hearing impaired by almighty clatter all day, they end up constantly shouting at each other in unrefined language, being picked up and simulated throughout a developing childhood. Practically every statement, opinion, or affirmation ended in the adjunct “Ken” – “We went to the pictures last night ken, we saw John Wayne ken” - This was confirmation that the recipient understood what was said through their cloth ears. I had a mate (Londoner) from the army come for a visit one time, after listening intently to our colloquial conversation for some time; he had a puzzled look on his face, and said “Who’s Ken?

Jute had a very pungent smell, not really unpleasant, but it was everywhere and on everything. The lack of optimum ablution facilities in the tenements ensured that personal hygiene wasn’t of its best on the Hilltown. However, the distinct ‘Jute’ aroma provided a common deodorant guaranteed to overcome any unpleasantness. The French may have smelled of garlic, but we all smelled pleasantly of jute. Little fibres covered everything, clothes, hair, and skin. Thank goodness that it was in fact a vegetable fibre, and had no adverse affect on the lungs; a lot of people in the industrial west coast were inhaling asbestos at the time.

Now and again a jute store would go on fire, perhaps a pity that closely linked vegetation such as certain derivations from hemp (of which Marijuana is one) was not an ingredient, otherwise the Hilltown could have been high on the smoke for weeks. You see, when jute fires were put out, it wasn’t the end of it. The material being so tightly packed in hundreds of bales, fire would continue to flare up time and again requiring constant supervision – “It’s defiantly out this time” – “Oh no it’s away again”. Finally, after maybe a couple of months, Hendry Knuck & Co would move in to do a deal on the salvage.

The beating heart of any jute mill was the ’Lodge’, a large room based at the entrance that logged materials, post, people, and services in and out. The lodge Keeper was the Company Sergeant Major, in charge of clocking in and out, and trying not to be hoodwinked by workers ‘Double clocking’ for their friends. His most exalted function however was the responsibility for the bummer, timed to perfection; he had the power to deafen half the population with his call to arms.
Another ancillary operation of the mill was the ‘Ticket Office’, and this was one I was personally involved with. Every product produced in the mill obviously had to be identified by customer; sort, type, etc. This information was printed on a ticket that accompanied the material throughout its transit. I was employed by a local firm called A. G. Hossick & Son Ltd. selling and servicing a machine called TicoPress, that was extensively used to facilitate this function. I was in and out of the mills all the time in the early sixties, but there was one thing I learned very quickly to avoid, and that was passing through the Lodge near clocking off time. The incident happened, not in one of the Hilltown Mills, but in fact the Eagle Jute Mill, just across the boarder at Victoria Street. Passing through the Lodge, which was absolutely packed with ‘feisty females’ eager to get away on the stroke, briefcase in one-hand documents in the other, with polite excuses, I had jostled my may to the centre when the shout went up – “Grab his balls”. Hands were groping in all directions, and in my panic I dropped the papers, making the big mistake of bending over to pick them up, presenting an even better target. They all had a good laugh, but I didn’t think it was very funny at the time.

 Crossing the road from the ’Only’ Hilltown Jute Mill, we pass through a Vortex that magically carries us off through time and space to a wonderful land of adventure, horror, drama, excitement, and rib tickling laughter. That vortex was of course the threshold of the Plaza Cinema. In fact these enchanting portals were strategically positioned, covering the perimeter and centre of our dear ‘Quarter’, providing neighbourhood access to an ever-rejuvenating resource of entertainment. Cinemas competed in numbers with the jute mills (but not with pubs) on the Hilltown, with the Vic to the south (Victoria Road), the Regent (Main Street) and Odeon (Strathmartine Road) in the North, the Empire in the West (Rosebank Street), the Rex in the East (Alexander street) and of course the Tivoli (Bonnybank) and the Plaza in the middle. One would deposit all life’s baggage at each door, but unfortunately you had to pick it up again on the way-out.
The price wasn’t prohibitive and a ticket would represent exceptional value for money. Two films would be shown, the ‘Main feature’ and a ‘B’ movie. Sometimes the supporting film would be more interesting and exciting that the one blazoned on the poster. Edgar Lustgarten for example, with everyday tales of murder, crime, and debauchery? – Well maybe not debauchery. They were shown on a rolling schedule, where you could enter anytime, maybe half way through a movie, and then watch until the bit you came in appeared again. Funny enough, this didn’t seem to distract people, and if there was a particular scene you liked, and you had the patience, you could see it over again. As ‘excitable’ 12-year-old boys, the scene with Marilyn Monroe standing over the subway grate in the Seven Year Itch aroused our interest; so we sat through the whole two and a half hour programme once again in order to somewhat enhance our artistic appreciation of this type of scenario. I recently visited the London Film Museum in Covent Garden, and they showed this clip on a continuous loop. Sitting there watching it over and over again for half an hour finally got it out of my system.
In addition to the films, there was much more – The cartoons - Bugs Bunny, “Eh…what’s up, doc” - Tom & Jerry + Tweety & Sylvester, “I tawt I taw a putty tat” - Speedy Gonzales, “Ándele! Ándele! Arriba! Arriba!” – Ah!! Who could forget the violent and sadistic method with which each antagonist was tortured and dispatched? Was this for kids?
Then we had the Newsreels. Without television, these were our only live window into news and events from home and abroad, but they weren’t always plain sailing. Winston Churchill was Prime Minister at that time, and obviously prevalent in news items. I only ever experienced this in Hilltown cinemas, but every time he appeared on the screen there was a riot, hollowing of insults, stamping of feet, things being thrown at the screen, sometimes they had to shut off the projector to calm things down. As ten-year-olds, we hadn’t a clue what was going on, but we joined in enthusiastically just the same. Apparently Winston was a ‘Popular’ MP for Dundee from 1908 – 1922, and although he never actually lived in Dundee, he resided occasionally at the Queen’s Hotel where he famously found a maggot in his kipper (Did someone put it there?). His turbulent love affair with the city ended with prohibitionist Edwin Scrimgeour sweeping to victory in1922. Churchill must have been really hated, Dundonians voting for a prohibitionist to replace him who advocated a term of five years imprisonment for selling alcohol, other than for medical, scientific, or industrial purposes. You can just imagine his inaugural ceremony at the City Chambers – “Prohibition? Well drink to that”. Churchy (as they called him) responded by refusing to accept the freedom of the city in 1943. So rancorous had things become that DC Thomson’s refused to mention the name ‘Churchill’ in any of their publications, making reference only to “The Prime Minister”.
The appearance of Mr. Churchill, sorry ‘The Prime Minister’ (I may get this serialised in the People’s Friend) on the newsreels wasn’t the only thing that shut the projector down. Sometimes it was a mechanical fault, again resulting in foot stamping, but occasionally it was for an ‘Emergency Announcement’. I’ll give you an example. My nephew Jimmy Brown and I (we were both around ten) went to see Mighty Joe Young at the Vic. Sitting in the front row with our necks cranked up to the limit, Jimmy started complaining about stomach pains, it got progressively worse until he was doubled up in agony, and we were escorted by the usherette to the managers office. An ambulance eventually arrived and we were whisked off to the Dundee Royal Infirmary (DRI). Wheels were set in motion, having been informed that his parents Jim and Cathie were at the Plaza, the police were dispatch to arrange a film interruption with an announcement for Mr. & Mrs. Brown to report to the manager. I met them upon arrival at the DRI with the sad news that Jimmy was still in the examination room. After a long fretful wait Jimmy arrived with a sheepish smile on his face, accompanied by the doctor, who explained that it had just been a case of constipation, he had been given some medicine, passed a motion, and was now fine. Now, instead of hugging his son in delight at the favourable outcome, my brother-in-law (the Docker mentioned earlier) proceeded to give him a severe chastisement. “You caused chaos at the Vic, stopped the film at the Plaza, had us trail all the way up here, sitting in the waiting room for an hour until after the pubs shut – All because you needed a shite!!!”


Another ‘Pleasure’ you would indulge in at the pictures was smoking (either ‘Main Stream’ or ‘Passive’), as the auditorium was always filled with the fumes from hundreds of cigarettes, easily identified by the thick clouds passing through the light stream of the projector. Patriotism was always to the fore – the National Anthem was played at the end of each night’s performance – Completely ignored by everyone, clambering to get away as soon as possible. Habit is a dangerous thing; I fell into the trap when working in Northern Ireland much later in life, the audience was standing stock still to attention while I incurred their severe wrath by trying to scurry out.

The name of J.B. Milne was synonymous with cinemas in Dundee. The Evening Telegraph each night would feature a column headed J.B. Milne Presents, followed by a list of cinema programmes. John Bannerman Milne started on his road to fame and fortune by working for Hyman Cohen at the Variety Theatre (later the Palladium then the Rex) in Alexander Street as Musical Director, cleaner, and general dogsbody. Later purchasing the building with the proceeds of a garage he shared with his sister, he installed the equipment to produce the first ‘Talking Pictures’ in Dundee. This set his entrepreneurial endeavours into the fast track developing into the largest private cinema and bingo chain in the UK, all from its humble beginnings on the Hilltown; in fact he was earning so much money he mused that being a bachelor, with no children, he couldn’t even spend the interest. JB was responsible for giving the celebrated violinist Angus Fitchet his first break in Show Business, and Angus repaid the complement by dedicating one of his finest compositions to him. The Reel J. B. Milne, later devised as a Scottish Country dance by Hugh Foss, regularly features on dance programmes all over the world, ensuring that the name J. B. Milne will forever remain renowned, although to be fair, many people enjoy dance in ignorance of its origins.

There were films outside the main distribution channels that could only be featured in specialist cinemas, depriving many enthusiasts of experiencing independent, Italian Neorealism, and French Nouvelle Vague movies. We were fortunate on the Hilltown that the Tivoli on Bonnybank developed into one of the first ‘Art House’ cinemas in Scotland. A lot of these films, being ‘Foreign’, contained scenes considered to be a bit risqué (remember, Hollywood was still somewhat under the thumb of the Hays code), so, as people tend to denigrate things they don’t understand or appreciate, the Tivoli got an unfair reputation of being frequented by the Dirty Mac brigade. It’s funny that even today some of my cohorts still snigger when I mention that I’ve been to see a movie at the Glasgow Film Theatre.
The first film I saw at the Tivoli was ‘La lumière d’en face’, Brigitte Bardot’s initial starring role and one of the earliest films in the Nouvelle Vague genre. Getting past the cashier was no problem for me as I was big for my age (14), but my mates didn’t get in. I think, enthralling them with my description, not only of Brigitte but the films style and atmosphere, got me turned on, not only to Brigitte, but also to the French language and culture, later learning French and becoming a confirmed Francophile. The Tivoli, typical of the pioneering attitude on the Hilltown you might say, was the first cinema in Scotland to be granted a bar licence. The performances therefore represented a very civilised evening, ‘Theatre Style’ with a bell ringing in the lounge when the film was about to start. Some people would in fact dress up for the night out – Not a dirty Mac in sight.

The ABC Minors Saturday morning sessions at the Plaza, was something to relish, hundreds of energised kids whipped into a frenzy by the initial ‘Club’ song to the tune of Souza’s Blaze Away – Follow the bouncing ball - “We are the boy’s and girls well known as the Minors of the ABC - “We’re all pals together, the Minors of the ABC”. The Manager would normally start things by coming onto the stage to introduce the ‘Monitors’, older children who each had around five rows to control (you think that wasn’t enough?) - Then the Birthday Parade – If it was your Birthday, you were invited onto the stage, and as the congregation sang Happy Birthday, little presents were handed out (Normally a free ticket for the following week). Were they all bona fide birthday boys and girls on the stage? Perhaps not – You would chance your luck week after week until you were recognised.
Sometimes a personality would appear, I remember Jimmy Logan turning up once, but it was mostly the cartoons and serials you looked forward to, the Hero having been trapped in an impossible situation the week before – Tied up, and about to be exterminated in a most grotesque manner by ravaging Martians – Would he survive? – Yes!! But only by a miraculous intervention, when the re-run presented something we weren’t privy to before. Dan Dare or Flash Gordon continuing their exploits until, once again, they landed at deaths door for the next cliffhanger. It was fair to say that no Flying Saucers were harmed in the making of these movies – They were all returned to the canteen intact.

The existence of the Plaza wasn’t always a pleasant experience for me, as our house at 18 Ann Street was just across from the back entrance.
I would be rudely awakened in the early hours of the morning by the clatter of film cans being delivered and exchanged. The almighty clang – clang – clang, resonating around the deserted streets was loud enough to wake the dead, maybe even the gentle souls laying at rest in Ned McHugh’s Funeral Parlour where the lorry would park. I’d probably just got to sleep as well. The tenement walls were quite thin, and sound intrusion was inevitable. Harry Barclay (How do I remember that name?) who lived in a single room through the wall, worked shifts at a local bakery, and indulged in excessive drinking on his way home. Around eleven most nights he would turn on the radio full blast, too drunk to settle on a station, he would continually turn the knob. The high pitched crackling, screeching and whistling of the sound waves continued until he fell asleep with the radio blaring away in no-man’s-land. I tell you, it was a relief to hear the film removal men get to work, as sometimes they would wake him out of his stupor and he’d kill the radio. It’s funny, although that would drive me mad today; somehow as a kid you accept things as normal.

18 Ann Street.

At the heart of the Hilltown, Ann Street & Alexander Street, teeming with activity, represented the Aorta and Pulmonary arteries. These two main streets, half way up the hill, flowed from east to west, with their veins branching out north & South. All the streets around them represented other Christian names, James Street, Elizabeth Street, Eliza Street, William Street, George Street, etc. Curious? Not really, David Maxwell, Lord Dean of Guild, a rich man who owned all the land around 1780, while preparing the feuing plan, decided to name the new streets after members of his family. How many children did he have? You guess. I think he ran out of names after Ellen Street. Several of those offspring in fact went on to become Provosts of Dundee. However, I’m sure they didn’t single out any of their namesake streets for special consideration.

Strolling along Ann Street from the Hilltown, passing a bakery factory and a few shops on the left we come across the close at number 18. Not an insignificant address in my life, as this is where my first memories began. Passing through the narrow, slightly dilapidated, close, we enter a cobbled back court, lined in front of us by a row of rundown sheds, obviously useful for something at sometime, but now barricaded up and filled with detritus. The slated roofs were still in good nick however; we had endless fun running around on them. The whole area emitted an old condemned building smell, you know, when old houses are being demolished, only these had another twenty or so years to run. You then had a choice of which way to turn, an outside stair would greet you travelling along to the left, or two adjacent stairs along on the right. These gave access to the three ‘Lands’ above the shops that came under the same address, 18 Ann Street. We’ll dwell here a while I think, as these houses, people, and circumstances, epitomized the lifestyle of the ‘Folks who lived on the Hill’. Climbing the twelve or so stone stairs (right from the close and right again) we arrive at a stone landing with a toilet on the right. These outside, exposed, lavies had long chains and massive tanks that continually froze up in the winter making the whole ‘convenience’ very inconvenient, until finally, the exasperated plumber (codenamed – “Chanty Wrestler”) would come around and relive us all. Entering the first floor landing we had two doors to our right and one to the left.


 If you knocked on the first house on the right you were unlikely to receive an answer, it would remain mostly devoid of inhabitants, you see, it was in fact a holiday home. Yes, strange as it might seem, a (rich?) family from Glasgow continued to pay the rent, utilizing the single room for themselves, friends, and relations as an escape from the Glasgow slums for a luxurious holiday in Bonnie Dundee.
Always was a man for the Ladies.
This was a great asset to adolescent tenement life, as it gave us kids a continuing supply of new friends to mingle with, sharing a fresh supply of different games, jokes, and stories from the other side of the world. The principal family would returned at the Glasgow Fair (there was about five of them) renewing old friendships, the children champing at the bit to get back on the ‘Slaties’ (on top of the sheds). You obviously don’t ‘Fall in love’ at that age, but I was always please to see Molly again.
Mary Laing, a single mother with a son called Jimmy Laing and another called Ronnie Fraser, occupied the second (two roomed) house on the right. Jimmy Laing was a young lad about town in his late teens/early twenties at that time, and regularly held quite wild parties, teeming with young ladies. So called ‘Parties’ these days consist of people standing around drinking, and chatting, with maybe some staid dancing, but then they were much more animated. The core of Jimmy’s parties was the games. All good clean fun, although a bit spicy, enhanced by the enthusiasm of the girls to go along (within reason) with any scenarios the boys would come up with. Things would generally start off with ‘The Dreamer’. The guests would all put a personal item into a hat (Earring, hair clip, comb, key, etc.), a selected item would then be drawn out with the words “ This is a thing, a very pretty thing, what should the owner of this thing do?” The ‘Dreamer’ by this time blindfolded so he couldn’t know what the object was or who donated it, would prescribe a task for the victim in order for them to retrieve their goods. However, there was obviously a code between the caller and the dreamer, as he always knew whether the victim was male or female. The ‘Sailors Dream’ for instance would find the man laid out on three chairs with an old army greatcoat over him, the arm extending up from his face. A dialog would then begin through the sleeve about the hazards of the sea, the dangers of drink, and what the sailor would invariably dream about. It would end with a jug of water being poured down the sleeve onto his face. ‘The Flasher’ forfeit would always provide some titillation for the ladies. A gentleman would strip to the waist and roll his trousers up past the knees. Bedecked in the ubiquitous army greatcoat he appeared naked underneath. Approaching each in turn he would partially open the coat supposedly affording the reticent female an exclusive glimpse of his manhood. After the initial tremor they would soon realise that he still had his trousers on, but with a packet of Flash dangling from his waist. This would be followed by giggling and pointing, which would intrigue and stimulate the rest of the victims waiting their turn.

I could go on with these games? – Oh well, maybe a couple more.
The ‘Crucifixion’ would see the man stripped to the waist, blindfolded, and positioned against a door. Each of the girls in turn would be allowed to kiss and run their hands over his body. He would revel in this until the blindfold was removed and he discovered he was covered in lipstick, soot, jam, makeup, anything they could lay their hands on. ‘The Tinker’s wedding’ was a game where everyone took part (even us kids). The Bride would pick a husband, the husband a Best Man, the Best Man a Bridesmaid, the father, mother of the Bride and Groom, etc. Each would sit on the floor in alternate positions with their legs in front of them. The rest of the ensemble would then summersault into the pack, and tumble to the other side, the boys assisting the girls with groping hands on their way through. The evening would eventually degenerate (or liven up) into a ‘Find the Lady’ stripping game, with the eager participation of the girls. Remember these were feisty ‘Trojan’ woman in the making. Modesty was always preserved however, as the last garments were removed under a sheet, although some drunk guy invariably got wrapped up in it as well. Mary Laing actually worked in the ‘Only’ Jute Mill on the Hilltown as described earlier. I overheard her once describing to my mother the ‘Initiation’ practice she was subjected to upon starting work there. Too lurid to relate in detail, suffice it say, and in Mary’s own words “ I ended up with a very sare erse”.


Across the landing from Mary Laing’s, and the ‘Guest’ house, was the Hooper’s. Mr. & Mrs. Hooper, although very fond of kids, unfortunately didn’t have any of their own. They regularly contributed however to the general bon Amis attitude of the tenements by hosting parties for the kids on the block and their parents. This is a remarkably good photo of one of these parties. Both a professional and gifted photographer must have taken it. Remember, that room was the Hooper’s whole house, 35 faces clearly defined around a table laden with cakes and sandwiches. Mr. Hooper is on the far left with his wife, a rather attractive lady at the very back (must be standing on a chair). Jimmy Laing, the young man about town mentioned earlier is also at the back. I’m in the middle next to the sandwiches with the young lady’s hand on my shoulder, and my mother is behind the young lady. Mr. & Mrs. Hopper’s family guests are the suitably dressed people on the left with little Lawrence Connor (also wearing a tie) next to his sister Monica expanding into the group of casually dressed neighbours. We will always be indebted to the Hooper’s for their generosity in providing such occasions where all the residents enjoyed the opportunity of a get-together with all the people they seemed to get on so well with. However, perhaps a little dull compared with the parties across the landing at Mary Laing’s. A photograph of these parties would have been interesting!!

We now climb a set if rickety wooden stairs to the next landing, encountering on our immediate right, a door that had a bit of a reputation on the Hilltown. This was where Mary Coley lived. Mary worked from home, providing a lucrative service to gentlemen with very discerning predilections. Small, attractive, with dark hair, Mary was an extremely cheery lady, always chatty and smiling, and exceptionally generous, not only with the kids, but ready to help out anyone in desperate need of a little financial assistance to tide them over. Despite her profession, Mary, a very genial character, was extremely well liked, and her general discretion in the circumstances was much appreciated, although sometimes her activities led to a little embarrassment. My future Brother-in-law Willie Donald was lingering at the foot of the close one night waiting for my sister Bette to come down. Mary happened to be seeing off a client at the time, and noticing Willie standing about said “Sorry to keep you waiting son, c’mon up now” – “No, I’m….” stuttered Willie – “Oh it’s all right son, first time is it? I’ll look after you,” said Mary linking in and escorting him up the close. Of course that was just when Bette came down to see him arm in arm with Mary at the foot of the stairs. They obviously survived the embarrassment, going on to get married, having a child (Maureen), with subsequent grandchildren, and a great-grandchild, which unfortunately they did not live to see.

Things do get confused though, don’t they? Word got around that Jock McCool was planning a trip to London. Old Mrs. Dunn got hold of him – “Would you do me a big favour son?” she said, “My son Neil – they call him Neilie – left for London two years ago, and we haven’t heard anything of him since, not even a letter, I wonder if you can look him up for me? The only indication we have of his whereabouts is that he lives somewhere in W.C.1”. Jock duly arrives at Kings Cross, and would you believe, the first sign he sees is W.C. He goes down the stairs and there it is, W.C.1. He bangs on the door – “What is it” a voice replies – “Are you Neilie Dunn?” asked Jock - “Yes, but there’s no paper” was the reply. “Well, that’s no excuse for not writing to your mother”.

Across this landing there were two doors. The disgruntled and noisy Harry Barclay, hard worker and even harder drinker, who would keep me awake at nights as I’ve described earlier occupied the one on the left. The French have an appropriate term for a life of urban drudgery – ‘Métro, boulot, dodo’ (Travel, work, sleep) – In Harry’s case it was ‘Boozo, boulot, dodo’ – There was no travel involved, he just worked in the Bakery next door, crossed the road to the pub, and crossed back again to bed.

Mum, Dad and Bette, when they moved into 18 Ann St..
On the neighbouring door was fixed a large brass plate (that my mother continually polished) with the name Murray engraved on it. This door was seldom locked; as the comings and goings were so frequent keys were a nuisance. My earliest memories of this house was before electricity, when you had to cross the room in the dark to light the gas mantle above the fireplace. When we did get ‘connected’ I remember reaching up to the light switch, and continually switching it on and off until my mother got exasperated. The ‘switch on’ also saved me the arduous task of lugging the radio accumulator battery full of acid, to get recharged. We had only two rooms, which must have been a bit cramped when you consider that when I appeared on the scene, my mother and father, a brother and two sisters (all teenagers) were all living in the house. By the time I had reached the ripe old age of two however, my father had died, and my sisters had flown the coop. Cathie married Jim Brown, had a baby, my nephew, only six months younger than me, and set up home in North Ellen Street. Bette was still in the WAFs, later to marry Willie Donald and move to St. Salvador Street. So that was just my mother, my brother Jimmy, and I. Jimmy had the bedroom and I slept with my mother in the big bed until I was around seven. This arrangement, although some may consider somewhat disconcerting, enveloped me with a deep sense of affection, security, and comfort, in my earliest years. The ubiquitous Army Greatcoat, which always hung on the back of the bedroom door, was spread on top of the bed in very cold nights adding an extra layer of comfort. These sleeping arrangements were abandoned when I returned, having spent six months in hospital with rheumatic fever, to a brand new fold down bed of my very own. Perhaps it was convenience, the cold in winter, or just plain laziness, but the potty under the beds were always full to the brim. You tried to be very careful carrying them out, but holding the pungent liquid at arms length would upset the balance, resulting in a sort of swirl developing, then it would start overlapping, spilling some of the contents onto the linoleum-covered floor. No matter, a quick wipe was all that was needed – Now, if we could have afforded carpets? One of my particular pleasures in that house (I wish I could still do it) was to place a pillow on the window ledge in the back room and lean out over Ann Street.
My sister Bette, my niece Maureen, and me.
I would gaze down on my fellow Hilltonians going about their business (those that had business to go about) for hours (sometimes falling asleep), particularly when I was convalescing from my bout of rheumatic fever . People watching is still one of my foibles, pavement Cafes in Paris, Onsen in Japan, McDonald’s in Sauchiehall Street even, wherever, but nothing can compare with the animation and activity of the busiest street on the Hilltown. Who are these people, where are they going, what are they up to? I could see three pubs from my window, around 20 shops, a small factory (directly opposite – I never knew what they made), and an undertaker. What vista could present such a varied prospective?,

Leaving the ‘Murray Mansion’ and going back onto the landing, there was another set of twisting wooden stairs leading up to the two attic houses that shared our toilet facilities. Lizzie Murphy who lived on the left, was a Child Minder. A wiry old, grey haired lady (although probably younger than I am now), she always had her sleeves rolled up and getting stuck into something, washing the stairs, cleaning the toilet. When I came under her wing, there were four of us being ‘minded’. I can just imaging an Ofsted inspector carrying out an inspection on Mrs. Murphy’s house today. 2.3 square meters per child? – That was half the size of the whole house. Clean kitchen & bathroom? – There wasn’t any. ‘Granny’ Murphy was however an excellent Child Minder, we were never bored, songs, games, trips to the park, and little treats to eat. For lunch, she would spread butter thickly on slices of bread, then sprinkle sugar on top while singing “Precious Jewels” – Then we’d all join in – “ Precious Jew-els, precious Jew-els”. We were always in the middle of something when my mum came home from work, regretting the interruption, and looking forward to the next handover.

Across the landing from Granny Murphy lived Willie Carroll, again in a single room attic house. Willie was a happy-go-lucky Irishman, a bit of a chancer in fact, never drank, never worked, but then again, never idle, he always had some deal on the go. He seemed to have lots of mildly unsavoury contacts that supplied him with items to sell on their behalf, more ‘fell on the back of a lorry’ stuff really. The main scam they got involved in was goods from catalogues. I don’t know how they worked it, but goods would be ordered on the never-never, and literally never-ever paid for. Willie would often approach my mother with different things, bed linen, crockery, clothes, etc. at ridiculously low prices, convincing her that everything was aboveboard, and having been bought by mistake, she was doing someone a big favour taking them off their hands. In the summer, Willie would take us on our first trips to the Berry Fields at Longforgan, but that’s another story, which I’ll delve into later.

My mother and I were the very last residents to leave 18 Ann Street in 1963 - way behind all the others. We lived for about two months in the deserted tenements while waiting to be re-housed. All the mice and rats had been left to their own devices, and although some cats were left abandoned, they quickly became feral, and were as much an annoyance to us than the vermin. Sometimes it felt as if we were under siege as the only source of habitation in the neighbourhood. Cats would come down the chimney during the night and clamber about covering everything with soot. My mother, at the end of her tether, managed to trap one, one night, and strangled it with her bare hands, that ended up covered in scratches – We threw it out the window. I went through the room to bed one night, and lo and behold, there was this enormous rat sitting on the pillow. It didn’t move, but gave me a quizzical look as if to say “What are you doing here?” Some drastic means were resorted to (some of which I now regret) – As well as the regular poison and traps, there was this stuff, like glue, you spread on thick brown paper, the mice would be attracted to it and stick fast. Three or four would be found in the morning, limbs torn apart trying to escape, and their bodies inert with the exhaustion of their fruitless attempt to release themselves - Dead. The budgies had to go – Too much of an attraction for the cats – We let them fly away out the window – A big mistake – Their fate probably as bad as if the cats got them – We weren’t thinking straight – My mother was working as a cleaner in Wallace’s in Castle Street, and I had just started a sales job with Gestetner Duplicators – We weren’t getting any sleep. Finally the papers came through, and we were transported to 15 Hepburn Street. Not too far away (My mum didn’t want the schemes) but far enough.

 
The Spoils of War!!

  On a dank November day in 1939 a Battalion of the Black Watch marched out of their billet at Butterburn School on Strathmartine road, and without any pomp or ceremony (even the tartan of their kilts were covered with khaki aprons), swaggered silently down the Hilltown, and off to war – Many of them local lads, never to return. Just the year before however, along at a Hairdressing Shop in Kinloch Street, Jessie Jordan was also doing her bit in advance for the war effort - albeit for the other side!!! Jessie had married a German waiter from the Queens Hotel, spent some time in Germany, and returned to Dundee to become the Hilltown Spymaster Extraordinaire. Her extensive espionage involvement was only discovered by accident when her cleaner Mary Curran found documents and maps hidden behind the till and under the lino. Mary reported her suspicions to the police, who, although originally a bit sceptical, passed the information on to the relevant authorities. Mary was paid the princely sum of one pound by MI5 for her diligence, and ordered, under threat of incarceration, to keep her mouth shut. Her unrecognised patriotism however resulted in a major American Spy Ring being infiltrated, leading to the saving of many important lives – Jessie Jordan? She eventually went back to Germany where she died in Hanover in 1954,no doubt revelling in her notoriety of being the first spy arrested in the 2nd world war, and a Hilltown worthy.                      
                                                   
When Italy entered the war in 1940 some Hilltown people with Italian lineage were interned as a possible enemy threat – Obviously some people in authority were becoming paranoid. The situation did manifest itself within civilian populations in other parts of Scotland, with Italian Ice-cream parlours and Chip Shops being attacked and damaged by malicious gangs of misguided, and manipulated youths – This did not happen on the Hilltown - After all, they were our own kith and kin – It would be like menacing your own family whilst depriving them of an ice-cream or a fish supper.


Even with today’s sophisticated means of conducting war, and every other major conflict for that matter, there is one utility that is completely indispensable. Something that symbolizes that there’s actually fighting going on – And that’s where the Hilltown came into its own – Sand Bags – Jute for the use of – Available on every front. The Germans obviously did not appreciate this important military/civilian war commodity as no Luftwaffe squadrons were dispatched to obliterate the Hilltown (They probably had a look, and considered that enough damage had been done already). However, if they did, we were ready, not only were there was an inexhaustible supply of sandbags, but more importantly, solid concrete air raid shelters were built on every bit of spare ground, back courts, gaps in tenements, derelict spaces, etc. Hundreds of them, rectangular fortresses, standing proud, each with narrow entrances leading to sometimes several rooms with en suite?  – Not exactly – I don’t know what you were expected to do for ablutions, perhaps if bombs were falling it would be the last thing on your mind (or the first!!), or you could always go across to the house, use your own toilet and come back. These, bomb-proof? Heavens were never used for their purpose, but for the kids on the Hilltown in the 40s & 50s they were a legacy of war utilised to great advantage for gang huts – We would buy candles and stick them to the walls with melted wax, giving the shelters an atmosphere of sacred crypts, and secret dens of mystical societies. With recycled old furniture (not that there was much), and with a bit of really threadbare carpet, it became a little home from home. To be candid, most of our sexual experiments were also carried out within these hallowed halls of discretion. Some of the shelters were a bit creepy however, and some would only be entered for a dare if you felt really brave. We also used them to store salvage for bonfire night, although some bugger would occasionally come along and set the place alight. The buildings were so constructed however, that the fire was self contained, and would burn out prematurely, leaving most of the cache intact.

The most prolific use of the shelters however was for ‘Jumpies’. The majority were sufficiently close to each other, by varying degrees, to facilitate leaping from one flat roof to another. The more popular jumps were given names, like ‘The Fireman’s Leap’ – ‘The Twin Sisters’ – ‘The Twister’ – each rendering a degree of difficulty which would receive much appraisal on completion. Perhaps the highest achiever was the ‘Monkey’s Puzzle’ (Sited in the back lands of North Ellen St.) which required three jumps in succession, the momentum building to overcome the final expanse.  Another particularly difficult group of shelters were situated in the back lands of Stirling St. for some reason called the ‘Holly Land’. Although occasionally the target was missed, the shelters being only about ten feet in height, a few cuts and grazes apart, there were never any casualties. In fact, another feat was to jump from the shelter to the ground and roll over like the commandos in the pictures.

Our ‘Backies’ (As opposed to the ‘Courtie’, directly behind the houses in Ann Street) stretched from James Street to Hilltown, and contained five shelters (Only two were close enough to jump between), which left a quite expansive play area, certainly enough for a good kick-around. My Nephew Jimmy and I were always fighting (He was an argumentative Sod), it got a bit out of hand one afternoon, I landed awkwardly on top of him, and noticed that his right arm was lying at an unusual angle, he was quite unfussed at first until he followed my gaze and realised that his arm was bent in a direction opposite to normal - Then the screaming and howling started, quickly responded to by neighbours rushing in with tea and blankets, and an ambulance being called. Now, it was my turn to go up to my sisters in N. Ellen St. and relate the unfortunate fate that had befallen her precious son. Arriving at the door, out of breath and full of remorse, I could only mumble through floods of tears “It’s Jimmy - It wasn’t my fault – It was an accident”. Only after a severe reprimand and a good shake did she get the full story. Jimmy obviously made a full recovery, and I was forgiven – Until the next time we had a fight. This incident did however leave me with a bit of a reputation for violence. A man came up to me a few weeks later – “I hear you’re a good fighter” he said “Could you beat Andrew Fitchet?” “No problem” says I “OK I’ll give you a shilling if you’ll give him a bashing for me”. He then went on to explain that his little daughter was being bullied by this boy, and was coming home from school every afternoon in tears. He didn’t feel that he could do anything about it himself, but he reckoned that if she had a champion, the problem would be resolved. So I gave Andrew a bit of a kicking, got my shilling – Then all hell broke loose – The mother came out, had a go at me – the girls father came out and had a go at her, Andrews father came out and had a go at him, the girls mother came out and had a go at the father. I slunk away to Cabrelli’s with my shilling, bought an ice-cream for me and Jimmy, who, slurping away at his cone using his good hand, and not knowing the entire story, continued examining me with a look of complete mystification on his face “What was that all about?”

The old Alma Mater (St. Mary’s Forebank)
Dundee did have some schools that represented the upper echelons of academia, but St. Mary’s Forebank on the Hilltown wasn’t one of them. The High School, Morgan and Harris Academies (Fee paying at that time) provided the ultimate in education, mentoring future potential Toffs into distinguished careers - St. Mary’s Forebank on the other hand catered for pupils with horizons perhaps a little bit more obscure.


However, I consider, suffering as I do with dyslexia, I received an education complementary to my abilities and social standing which was second to none, mainly due to a dedicated bunch of long suffering teachers who prepared their charges for life’s ups and downs whilst endeavouring to maximise whatever abilities they had been blessed with – In other words taping them into ‘The rhythm of Life’. Besides that, it was a lot of fun, and quite eventful, otherwise I wouldn’t have remembered it so well.  


You can tap into the following link for a little bit of school life at St Mary’s, savouring its characteristics and attributes.
 

https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=4791706778307418910#editor/target=post;postID=2369444790737925416;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=7;src=postname

     School Days.       

                                        
 

 TO BE CONTINUED.

58 comments:

  1. Patrick that was a wonderful description of the hilltown. Thankyou

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    1. There's more to come!!!

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    2. Hi Paddy,
      Hope everyone is okay:how are Ian and Patrick getting on?

      I Love the Blog Paddy;it's great to read things about the family I know nothing about. Keep it going.

      Alan

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  2. Nancy Cleveland (nee Boyd)18 December 2012 at 07:12

    Patrick, loved this for these are memories I play back in my head many, many times. I was brought up on the "Hulltoon". We lived with my Gran in Ann Street (the 'new hooses' top of Forebank) until I was two then Mum and Dad got a house in Shephers's Pehnd. Lived there until 1956 shortly after I'd turned ten. Those days were the happiest of my childhood and youth! So much so that when I came back to Scotland for a while, in 1980's, I organized a Hilltown Reunion for a'body from 47. We'd to turn folk away as we'd so many wanting to attend...one former resident, an old woman in her 80's, came home from Australia to be there and it was an amazing night. Do you remember the Progie? :-) Rosebank school? Thanks again! Love the blog.

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    1. Hi Nancy,
      Glad my tales brought back some happy memories – I’m still adding to ‘The Folks who lived on the Hill’, so keep an eye on the blog for updates – Working along Ann street at the moment with tales of number 18 – You never know, perhaps it will be published one day – More and more people seem to be enjoying it, even those who have never lived there. I think it’s important to document such things or they will be lost forever, and I try to do it in an interesting and satirical way – By the way, my wife Sheila (nee Grant) went to Rosebank with her brothers Stuart and Stan.

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  3. Thanks Patrick
    My Grandparents immigrated to Vancouver from Dundee in the 60’s, and although they told tales of their early life on the ‘Hultoon’, your blog really tells it as it was, bringing things to life. They’re both gone now, but reading your recollections keeps their memory that little bit closer.
    David Kennedy

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  4. My goodnes Pat, what a diverse land you lived up!!!!!!
    It sure opened my eyes........however I do remember Murray flitting.......think I was about 7 and Larry was helping and was bitten on the hand by a cat!!!!!! He was off to join the army shortly thereafter and I think that cat bite might have delayed his departure...however it did not!!!!! The things you remember from childhood.

    I think I vaguely remember going to see Murray in Ann Street, it was a dark dreary building and I think I was even scared going into the close. All stemming from my luxurious lifestyle having being born in a tenement in Douglas and Angus!!!!!

    Take care, love as always,

    Barbara x

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  5. Wow, I have am meant to be working, but have been engrossed in your blog for ages and I definitely look forward to hearing more. I searched the history of the Hilltown after speaking with work colleagues about the areas we have lived in. My parents moved to the area from Alloa, Stirlingshire in the early 90's when I was just two and I lived there for 24 years. I lived in the masionettes 31 Jamaica Square, in front of Our Ladys Primary. I have so many memories of that area and feel sad when I go past and there is nothing left. Remember bfore it all got a makeover and as a kid I hade lots of fun playing and hiding and tag running around baloconies and closes leading up to alexander street from Ann street.. Interesting facts about the histore. Shama :o)

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  6. Hi Pat,
    Loved reading your blog. My great Grandmother Isabella Brown Paterson immigrated to Australia in 1885, her Grandfather William McInroy owned to tennaments in Hilltown 70 & 72 Hilltown, l am told they were pulled down in the 70's. Just wondering if you know of any pictures of these buildings??? would be much appreciated.
    Thanks Pat
    Dianne Powell
    dianne.powstan@optusnet.com.au

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    1. Hi Dianne,
      Glad you enjoyed the Blog. Sorry I can’t help with pictures, but I’ll ask around and get back if I get any further information.

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  7. Loved reading your blog about Hilltown. My dad had his fruit shop at the top of the Hilltown, beside Andrew G Kidd, Lyon Brothers, Largs etc etc

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  8. Awesome Uncle Pat , all my love to you and the family xxxxxx

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  9. I read your story about the Hilltown with interest,as I lived there in 1954-55 at 20 Hilltown through the passage to the very back block of flats. At this stage I should point out that Im from Shrewsbury England , my mother was living in dundee with a man who was a foreman docker she met just after the war. I was sent to live with her in 1954.The things I remember well are the Picture houses, Plaza and the Vic.Dundee FC Jute everywhere,The police box when in winter we used to sledge down the hill and jump off just before it hit the police box then run like hell before the police came out shouting where are you you bastards, I went to Stockwell School while I was there. AS a boy of 12-13 it was an adventure for me exploring the city,I never paid to get in the Plaza I had a piece of wire with a hoop on it put it between the exit doors round the pull bar ,pull then your in crawl on your hands and knees through the curtains so the light didn't show till you found a empty seat .Crawl under the turnstiles at Dens Park .there was no end to the challenge to get in anywhere as we had very little money then

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    1. Hi Geoffrey,
      You certainly were a little rascal – Adapted very well to the Hilltown lads.
      These entrances behind the Hilltown were like rabbit warrens, goodness knows how they crammed in so many houses.
      Was it ‘Rockwell’ school you went to?
      We never paid to get in the Plaza either – Not as ingenious as you – They always left the back door open, and we sneaked in when the usherette was distracted.

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  10. Gavin D Elder,Peterhead.4 February 2014 at 10:04

    A fantastic story well done,my late dad Eddie Elder worked for JB Milne and was the manager of the Plaza for a while.I have very great memories of Dundee,they shall always be with me.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the story Gavin – J.B. Milne must have been some character.
      So your Dad was the Manager of the Plaza – Just as well he didn’t catch Geoffrey (the previous correspondent) and me sneaking in. It must be said however, that it was a very well run cinema and the back doors were always unlocked for safety reasons.

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    2. Hi just thought I would say my Granddad Andrew Jenkins worked in the Plaza as well in the 60s

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  11. Hi Patrick
    Thank you for bringing this area to life- I only know of Hilltown through family tales of my late Grandfather's shop there, a Gentleman's outfitters. name was Donald Cameron, and he lived in Broughty Ferry, with his daughter Sheila. He was a tailor and opened his own shop in Hilltown on returning from Army service in France after WW1. He traded there I believe till late 1950's. I don't suppose you remember the shop? Jennie

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    1. Do you know Jennie, I do remember the shop, and I got my first pair of long trousers from Donald Camerons. They don’t have shops like that now. The next chapter I’ll do is on Hilltown Shopping – I’ll give them a mention – Keep in touch.

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  12. brilliant read, really enjoyed , i started on what became rosebank primary school,i remember sweet factory, dog kennels and best of all nellys ice lollys,

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  13. Where was the Sweet Factory?

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    1. Could it be the sweet shop in mains rd..they made sweets in the back.

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    2. Sweet factory was in Dons Road

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  14. Hi Patrick,
    Do you know anything about the history of the following buildings?
    Forebank House, 2 Eadie's Road?
    Launderette building on the corner of Hilltown/Kinghorn Road?
    Corner Shop at Hilltown/Main Street?

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    1. I can remember the corner shop being a bakery shop.

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    2. Think it was Rough and Fraser that had a wee bakery there next to a fruiterer's.

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    3. Forebank House was run by Marist Brothers, who taught young/poor kids i believe.

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  15. Sorry Keith, have thought about this, and asked around, but can’t come up with anything.

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  16. Hi Patrick.
    what a wonderful read, I was born in kinghorne rd 1960....then moved to Alexander st Multis in 1968 brand new house....had a very happy childhood on the hull.

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  17. Enjoying your blog and have been more than surprised to find references and pictures of my relatives! Patrick and Agnes Donghue are cousins, their mum and dad Patrick and Nessie being my aunt and uncle! My mum and family were brought up on the Hilltown in the twenties and thirties. So recognise a lot of the places you are describing. Looking forward to more of your blog

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    1. Patrick & Agnes were of course twins – They were ages with me – Any news of them

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  18. betty love brown24 August 2014 at 11:30

    loved your blog stayed at 7 dallfield walk from 1952 tlll 1960 was looked after by mary cowley at 210 hilltown whle my mum and dad worked went to rosebank school until 1961 then moved to kirkton have great memories of these days my gran lived at 21 glamis street [happy 21]

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  19. Patrick you make the Hilltown alive again : great story !

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    1. Thanks Charles - Your comments make it all worth while.

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  20. Hi Patrick, I am not entirely sure but I think they have both passed on. As I said not 100% sure only reading the local newspaper notices. I tried to contact one of the contributors as I thought he might be Patrick's son, but have not heard back from him.We lost touch when my Uncle Pat died (my dad's brother) Thoroughly enjoying the blog.

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    1. Sorry to hear that Patrick & Agnes, my childhood pals, may have passed on – I remember taking Pat Donghue to Holy Communion at St. Mary’s Forebank with me one time – He of course wasn’t a catholic – We both got hell and I had to ‘Confess’ to the Priest – Getting on for a mortal sin!!!!!

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  21. Hi. Mum was buried on Friday from St Mary's Forebank and she had been born in 18 Ann St. The O'Brien family lived there and I remember my mum speaking about Jess and Bette Murray and Jimmy and Pat too. Mum was Annie, the youngest of the O'Briens. Also Mr Creegan, your teacher was my uncle-my dad,Franks brother. Remember going to watch his team St Stephens playing. Uncle Jim was a character for sure and a hard disciplinarian too.

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    1. Hi Ann,
      Condolences for your mum,
      I think the O'Brien family lived up the stair opposite us – The same land as the Donghues and Larry and Monica Connor. Larry’s long gone and Monica died about six or seven years ago. However their children are still on the go – Monica lives in Switzerland, but Larry, Gerry, and Barbara are all still in Dundee.
      Mr. Creegan was one of the main mentors in my life - a remarkable man - I still remember his stories – He had a son, Jerry I think – What ever happened to him?
      No doubt you have read ‘School Days’ on the Blog – All about St. Mary’s and Mr. Creegan.

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  22. Hi Ann nice to see you enjoying Patrick's blog too. Patrick my mother and uncles went to St Marys Forebank too (a little before your time) They lived on the Hilltown opposite Alexander street. I think it was called the Cannel Row. Uncle Pat and Aunt Nessie moved to Fintry. My mother was good at knowing what went on with the family but she passed away last year.

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    1. I remember that land ‘Cannel Row’ was it? It’s what I talk about on the Blog – Rows of tenements up the same close (I think there was 5 of them) – I’ve never seen the like anywhere else. How many people lived there – Compared to that address, 18 Ann Street was a wilderness!!!

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  23. Loved reading about the hilltown i was brought up there from 1960's great memories still go back and look around now and again i lived above the ice cream,butchers and newspaper shops at no.. 69 . Used to go out the back and get the empty lemonade bottles and go and get sweets great times playing on the roofs of the pawn shop and going in the airraid shelter in the back garden .

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  24. How wonderful to find your blog!
    My granny lived at 51 William St, the second tenement from the right on the third floor, shown in the picture.
    My family were the Brymers. They were well known by everyone as there were 11 children, my mother being the second youngest.
    I was born in Maryfield hospital in 1945 and we lived with my granny for 6 months before moving to England where my dad was from.
    I have wonderful memories of Dundee. We spent all my childhood holidays there.
    Sadly the family is now all gone apart from one aunt who is 91 yrs old and lives in Broughty Ferry.

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    1. Funny enough, my father’s name was James ‘Carr’ Murray – Some distant connection? – Often wondered where that came from.
      I was born in Maryfield in 1943 – Got there before You!! – And unlike you carol, was privileged to spend all my young life on the Hilltown, although I too had a granny to visit I - In Elgin – What wonderful summer holidays we had playing around the banks of the Lossie

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  25. My Dad , Don McNicoll went to live with his Auntie Annie Lorimar in the Hilltown (from England)probably about 1946 from England to recover from Scarlett fever. He told me so many great tales about his time there. Does anyone remember him or his aunt?

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    1. If anyone out there remembers Don McNicoll or Annie Lorimer on the Hilltown – Can you help out?

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  26. Fantastic blog although I never lived on the Hilltown it had a big impact on my childhood, my dad had the sticky (the sawmill place) on milton street behind the old boxing club and we spend all our school holidays bunching sticks in the yard ...great memories my dad is Tom Glass

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  27. Brilliant blog, my mother, her brothers and sisters (Brackenridge) were brought up on the Hilltown, Stirling Street to be precise. My initial memories as a small child is visiting my maternal grandmother in that same street. I had aunts,uncles and cousins who lived there for many years, very happy times had by all.

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    1. Hi Norma,
      It was amazing that whole extended families lived within a few streets of each other on the Hilltown. This created communities that we never see these days. My Sister Cathie ‘Brown’ lived in North Ellen Street, and my other sister Bett ‘Donald’ lived in St Salvador Street.

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  28. Thank you for the mention of my Grandad Danny Barbieri but you forgot to mention my mother Edda Barbieri who also worked in Danny's Chip shop in the restaurant area.

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    1. Glad my blog reminded you of your Granddad. Must admit I didn’t remember your mother Edda. But then again I didn’t spend any time in the restaurant. My main memories (as I’ve already mentioned) are of Linda and Dino, would be your Aunt and Uncle?, any news of them?

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    2. Linda died in 2008. Only my uncle Dino and my mother (their sister edda barbieri) survives.

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    3. The Barbieri's - A great Hilltown Family - Life revolved around the Chip shop - Both the original and the Seahorse Many happy memories.
      Sad about Linda - I wonder what your uncle Dino thinks of the Blog?

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  29. I lived at the top end of Dens Road in the 40s and 50s and can remember getting into the pictures on certain Saturday mornings for the price of two or three jam jars. As a wee girl I had a real struggle carrying the things up the road.

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    1. Popular belief at the time subrosa, tried it a couple of times but got turned away.

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  30. Patrick do you remember where the Celtic Bar was exactly??????

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  31. Sorry Lillette - Not really a drinker at that time - My father would have known.
    Perhaps someone reading the Blog can help?

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  32. Hi Lillette, perhaps it's the Celtic Club's location you are searching for?

    Rob Boag

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  33. Hi Rob,
    Thanks for your answer to Lillette’s query on the location of the Celtic bar – It seems that there was such a Bar on the Hilltown – There’s a picture on the web – I’ve added it to the section on pubs beside the ‘Windmill’ on the blog. Hard to identify the exact position from the photo, but it could have been about half way up to Ann street – On the left hand side, next to one of the Pends – Norrie’s or Shepherds?

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