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LORRAINE WILSON: The old Overgate, a ‘secret’ city and going home after 13 years – this is my Dundee story

Lorraine Wilson during her days at St Luke's Primary in Fintry.
Lorraine Wilson during her days at St Luke's Primary in Fintry.

Dundee was this week named one of the world’s 21 places of the future alongside the likes of Toronto, Atlanta…and Outer Space. The Courier’s Head of Arts & Entertainment Lorraine Wilson writes about her relationship with her home city.

My Dundee experience is unique. As is yours.

It’s shaped by when you arrived here, in my case the late 1960s, and if you decided to leave.

Lorraine as a child in Dundee.
Lorraine as a child in Dundee.

I returned in 2005, after 13 years away and saw the city through the more mature prism of having lived in a bigger city that brought many opportunities, but didn’t feel – well, like me.

Overgate memories

Due to my vintage as a child of the 1970s, the tragedy of how they could have torn the old Overgate down is lost on me.

The old Overgate is my Overgate, where I liked nothing more than scraping a knee playing on the concrete geometric structures of the upper level.

Overgate Shopping Centre, Dundee, 1981.
Overgate Shopping Centre, Dundee, 1981.

The current acres of glass and Christmas twinkles are all very well, but my Overgate makes me think of Mary, Mungo and Midge, chips from the Deep Sea, and swinging my legs from a function room chair at the Angus Hotel, bored of waiting as my mum attended her weekly slimming club.

It has also left me with me an overly pretentious attraction to European Brutalist architecture.

The Olympia, as it was, on the banks of the Tay.

The Dundee of the 1970s is etched on my psyche, a young sponge who would take the 33 bus from Fintry into the city centre and wander happily on a Saturday afternoon.

The McManus, the Barrack Street Museum, sometimes a trip with friends to the Olympia, a Saturday morning show at The Gaumont, and the final act, the parting of the ways with pocket money in Woolies – a Winfield jotter or two, some pick ‘n’ mix and maybe a 7-inch single when I wanted to be more grown-up.

When we ventured as far as Blackpool on holiday, none of my temporary friends had heard of Dundee. It seemed to be a secret place.

Prodigal daughter of Dundee

I’m one of many prodigal children who were told there was nothing here and believed it.

I thought I hated it and then spent the years until I returned defending it to anyone who dared call it Scumdee.

I was allowed to criticise it, they weren’t, and anyway they came from East Kilbride (insert one from a whole list of other locations in here).

The V&A Dundee pictured in December 2017.
The V&A Dundee pictured in December 2017.

I have nothing poetic to say about the city that shaped me. Dundee is not “a light across my heart” as Michael Marra put it so elegantly.

It’s part of the family certainly and I think I would have been a different person had I been born and raised anywhere else.

‘Dundee keeps me grounded’

In a previous generation would I have worked in a mill, been married to a kettle biler, and behaved badly in the city’s hostelries?

OK, that last one might still have been true at some points, but I stand on the shoulders of women like my mum, aunties, and grannies who did the heavy lifting so that I could complain about being so tired after slaving over a hot keyboard.

Lorraine growing up in Fintry.
Lorraine growing up in Fintry.

As long as I remember that, it keeps me grounded.

Dundee keeps me grounded and I believe it’s that dry-witted, quietly confident pull that allows people to be drawn here, or return, and contribute to its continued success.

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