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Have you a memory of HMS Unicorn as good as the boy who found a ‘hidden’ door?

HMS Unicorn and visitors

A man has spoken of how he found a hidden entrance inside Dundee’s HMS Unicorn as a youngster.

Gavin Marshall discovered an “out-of-bounds” section on the iconic visitor attraction when he was 10 years old.

Gavin, now 49, says he has been fascinated with ships ever since.

His recollection comes as the Unicorn appeals for participants to get involved in a new oral history project.

HMS Unicorn in the 1950s.
HMS Unicorn in the 1950s.

“As a child I used to go to the docks quite often and visited the Unicorn,” says Gavin, who grew up at the Kingsway end of Pitkerro Road.

“One time I was on there and noticed the hatch open on a door. I went through it and the steps leading down and ended up in the bowels where the bilge is and water comes up to.

“I was looking at a skeleton of the ship and it felt so special. I was on my own and only later it dawned on me that I shouldn’t have been down there.

“Maybe the hatch had been left open by mistake.

“I got to see the real ship and how it was built just by looking at the framework.

“From that day on it’s given me a love of ships.”

‘It is so special to have it in Dundee’

Gavin now lives in Northampton, where one of his favourite hobbies is building model ships.

Gavin Marshall.
Gavin Marshall.

“My first model was HMS Belfast, which was not long after visiting the Unicorn,” he says. “I am fascinated by how they are put together.

“I have finished HMS Hood, which was sunk by the Bismarck in 1941. It’s 1.5m long.

“I have done many ships and have actually got a model of the Unicorn but haven’t put it up because I want to get it right.

“The Unicorn is so well preserved and it is so special to have it in Dundee, my home city. It’s amazing.

“The Unicorn is a big reason why I come back to visit.”

Shauna Gauntlett and her daughter Charlize, 3.
Shauna Gauntlett and her daughter Charlize, 3.

Another fan of the Unicorn is Shauna Gauntlett, who began the ‘I Love Dundee‘ Facebook page.

She has visited the Victoria Dock ship a few times with her children.

“They have really enjoyed themselves there,” says Shauna, 34.

One of the world’s six oldest ships and a hugely precious intact warship from the age of sail, the 200-year-old Unicorn is the subject of research being carried out by St Andrews University academics.

HMS Unicorn.
HMS Unicorn.

Pip Mitchell, one of the Kent-built frigate’s student volunteers, writes: “Unicorn is launching a new oral history project and we are currently recruiting participants.

“The HMS Unicorn has been a landmark in Dundee for 148 years, and the project’s purpose is to better understand how the ship intertwines with community narratives.

‘We want to hear how she has impacted lives’

“At this point in time, we need individuals to come forward and share memories and experiences relating to the Unicorn.

“Whether these memories stem from school trips, special events on board, maritime service or other encounters, we want to hear how she has impacted lives in Dundee.

“We plan to invite participants aboard the ship for individual interviews which will be audio recorded by me. By collecting this information, we will be able to explore the ship’s diverse role within Dundee and identify how it serves as a heritage asset.

“The audio is intended to be edited and later made accessible to Unicorn’s audiences for educational outreach purposes.”

How can you share your Unicorn memories?

To take part, email Pip at Kam35@st-andrews.ac.uk or Mathew Bellhouse Moran via Matthew@hmsunicorn.org.uk

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