Very often, I have a backlog of posts I want to write here. I have adventures that don’t appear here just as I have ideas that flit out of my brain before some words hit the keyboard. In the last couple of weeks, I have neglected to write about a recent trip to Dundee. I was really there to watch Hibs. As it turned out, they got beat but that wasn’t the most important bit to take from that trip. I have been to Dundee a fair few times before, at least three times this year, and I quite like the place. It’s no Glasgow but it’s fine. It has a deep history and it is like Liverpool and indeed Glasgow because its history is defined by the sea and what lies across it, with whaling and jute only but two facets of the city’s past.
I had thought about journeying to Dundee via Fife, perhaps the East Neuk, but a lie in put paid to that so I took the Citylink bus instead, enjoying the journey up past Stirling Castle and through Perthshire. It was nearing dark and I headed straight to the McManus Galleries, Dundee’s big public museum and to my mind one of the finest in Scotland. I spent about an hour wandering its halls, focusing particularly on its natural history, Pictish and art galleries. Taking each of those in turn, I have always liked to quote the wonderful line from The Blue Guide to Scotland, that it is always better to travel to Dundee than to arrive there. It’s true and particularly passing by the Tay with its great variety of bird and wild life as you go towards Dundee in any direction. Dundee is near the south of what was once Pictland and the McManus has three cracking Pictish stones on display, including some bearing Z-rods. No one has a clue what they mean but they are no less beautiful as a consequence. The art galleries upstairs in the McManus are particularly fine, with lots of 19th and 20th century art, including a few crackers by James McIntosh Patrick and William McTaggart. I always feel better every time I go there, inspired by the range of collections and the history of Dundee. For instance, Winston Churchill’s reputation in history mainly comes from his speeches and actions during the Second World War. A lot of folk don’t know he got absolutely horsed in an election in Dundee in 1922 by a Prohibitionist candidate.
After I left the McManus, I still had a little while until the game so even though it was dark, I went for a walk down by the Tay, nearly as far as the Rail Bridge before turning back to get some food. I walked down past the RRS Discovery, lit up in lights to try and compensate for the massive construction sites next door (the V and A) and across the road (the new railway station), and spent much of the walk gazing across the Tay to the lights of Newport, Wormit and Tayport. It was commuter time but short of the steady stream of cars passing on the nearby duel carriageway, it wasn’t too obvious. The path was quiet that time of night. I like walking along waterfronts in cities and Dundee’s honestly getting better. It was cold but the twinkly lights had a nice effect as I walked, not thinking all that much except beginning to drift towards the football later in the evening.
The walk back to the bus station was quick but downhill so I managed to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time. The bus ride to Glasgow was a fight to stay awake with some fine music. I don’t remember much except Stirling Castle wasn’t lit up, unfortunately. Stirling will be back on the calendar soon – like Linlithgow and quite a few other places in the Central Belt but there are other places higher up the list. Dundee might be saved for a repeat visit in a wee while, though Broughty Ferry with its fine castle museum might be one for next year. That night, though, I fell asleep and didn’t really mind that Hibs had been beat, for once, since my day hadn’t been half bad and that I can live with, if not the hoofball my team were playing.