Bottom of Reform Street Facing the Caird Hall


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Kevy: You now find yourself at the bottom of Reform Street, facing the Caird Hall & City Square in front of you and the Overgate Centre to your right hand side. If you look up to your left, you can see the H Samuel clock, which has been a clock a lot longer than H Samuel have been jewellers here. What you may notice is that the three clock faces all show different times because if they all showed the same time then the clock would only need one face.

Anna: It is showing three different time zone for three of the areas of Dundee, Lochee, Douglas and Dundee City centre. The time zones were synchronised when the United Kingdom started using Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) as its standard time in 1880, and when the disparate parts of Dundee were connected by a concerted road building effort. Back when local time reigned, it was said if you high tailed it from the city centre at closing time, you could still get a couple in, in Lochee before the bell was rung for time and the pubs shut. Not an easy task as it’s all uphill to Lochee.

Kevy: Let’s go and look at the three bronze statues off to your left. Here we have Desparate Dan, Beryl The Peril, and Banjo the Dog. All three are beloved DC Thomson characters who appeared in cheap comics for children for a hundred years until the internet became popular.

Anna: The spur on Dan’s right cowboy boot has been rubbed golden by those seeking some good fortune or hoping it will “spur them on” to good luck in their lives. People with scratchcards will use it to rub one out.

Kevy: The sculptor, Tony Morrow, is well known in Dundee, if you tap Desperate Dan’s stomach you can hear that it is hollow. In the comics sadly Dan could never feel full regardless of how many enormous cow pehs he ate.

Anna: The statues are situated here on what was the site for public hangings in Dundee, almost exactly where the gallows sat. There were many hangings in Dundee, which was quite bloodthirsty in its time, folk from the outlying hamlets would travel in to Dundee for a good day out when they were hanging somebody. People were hung for very serious offences like murder but also offences that we would view now as less serious like mocking a public official, or whistling a bawdy tune.

Kevy: So popular were the Dundee hangings that criminals were brought from other municipal areas in Scotland to make sure there was always something to do on a Sunday.

Anna: Pies were sold, and flagons of ale.

Kevy: If you turn away from the Desperate Dan statue and walk towards the Overgate Shopping Centre, you will see three maquettes of larger structures. These are Dundee landmarks. Beginning on the left hand side we have Dundee’s Royal Arch. It was built in the mid 1800s for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to traverse through on their holidays. It was demolished in 1964 and briefly rebuilt in cardboard in 2016.

Anna: In the middle is the Wishart Arch, predating 1600, the gateway to the original Dundee City. The very narrow window there was just big enough to fire arrows out of when marauders threatened the city.

Kevy: Architecture can be viewed on a wider angle as a response to, or being complicit, in conflict. From castles in feudal times that were designed to withstand attack, to modern park benches designed to be deliberately uncomfortable to deter poor people from sitting too long. Razor wire, anti climb paint, pigeon spikes, poor doors, gated communities, cctv poles – it’s the architecture of hate, and that hate flows from the rich towards the poor and has done for thousands of years.

Anna: The third maquette depicts Cox’s Stack, which was built in 1865, up in Lochee. Local people long help the idea that the top of this huge chimney was so broad that you could ride a horse around its circumference.

Kevy: There is a local bylaw that was made to prevent this, following a high number of horse deaths at the turn of the 20th century. Now, turning your back on the three statues, let’s walk towards the Caird Hall.