Wallace’s famous pies and bridies became as synonymous with Dundee as the three Js of jute, jam and journalism.
They were to die for – the grease would just run out of them.
The Auld Dundee Pie Shop in Castle Street was a household name from the turn of the 20th Century and sold millions of pies and bridies.
The same recipe was used for 85 years.
At one point the restaurant was a popular meeting place for town councillors whose table discussions became known as the ‘Pie Shop Parliament’.
The shop was put up for sale in April 1977 and taken over by Reo Stakis.
At its height it used to sell 10,000 bridies every Saturday and Dundonians mourned when the curtains were finally drawn on a little bit of Dundee history.
The birth of the Dundee Pie
The business had been in the Wallace family since 1892.
The Dundee pie is credited to David Wallace who set up the Auld Dundee Pie Shop in a long-lost street known as The Vault and quickly regretted it!
It was only to be expected that it would take a little time to gain a reputation but he knew his pies were good and was prepared to work hard.
He sold four penny pies on his first day’s trading in May 1892 but decided to stay open on Victoria Day, which was a recommended holiday for shopkeepers.
But instead of the expected bonanza he sold only one penny pie by lunchtime.
Wallace locked up the shop and went down to the docks and threw in the shop key.
He turned and went home but fortunately his wife persuaded him to go to the locksmith the next day to have another key made.
Trade started to pick up as his reputation grew.
Word got round the many pubs and appetites sharpened with ale and whisky were drawn to the little shop with the mouth-watering aroma wafting from it.
In 1924 Mr Wallace moved to the building in 22-24 Castle Street when The Vault was due for demolition.
The premises were big enough to open a tearoom and a bake-house on two floors.
Mr Wallace died in 1926, leaving his wife and sons to run the business, which continued to be a favourite eating and meeting place for thousands of Dundonians.
As time went by the pies, taken home to all parts of the town, whether by request or as peace offerings, became available in the various districts, as branch shops were opened.
The Wallace family bought Loftus House in Broughty Ferry and subsequently opened the business in the grounds which was called Loftus Tea Rooms.
Other branch shops included those in Hilltown, Westport, Princes Street and Lochee.
Up to 10,000 bridies would be turned out from the Castle Street shop each Saturday, which remained open until 10.45pm.
In Broughty Ferry, late on Saturday night, 10 dozen pies were baked for folk returning from Dundee on the 11.30pm train.
Dundonians have always been enthusiastic about pies and this was officially recognised when food rationing was introduced during the Second World War.
It was accepted that pies were, through long tradition, a more or less essential part of the Dundonian’s diet and allocations of meat were granted to the pie-makers.
Those were a welcome supplement to wartime rations.
Wallace’s pies and bridies became a way of life in Dundee and round about.
The meat for the pies and bridies was bought at Forfar Market.
The onion bridie was a sought-after delicacy and was slightly more expensive than the ordinary bridie, with two holes on top of the pastry to distinguish it.
Other popular offerings included braised steak, cabbage and potatoes, mince and tatties and home-made soup.
And, of course, their cakes.
The Wallace’s pie and bridie success story was proudly contributed to by generations of bakers, including some who took the know-how overseas to set up themselves.
For a time there was an Auld Dundee Pie Shop in Sydney!
Founder Mr Wallace’s brother, Andrew, was equally successful in his foodie venture, Wallace Land o’ Cakes (formerly Wallace Family Bakers).
With a head office in Stobswell and a number of other shops around the city, this bakery and pie shop also held a very special place in the hearts of many Dundonians.
End of an era for Auld Dundee Pie Shop
Wallace Land o’ Cakes would receive a boom in sales when the Auld Dundee Pie Shop closed its doors after being put up for sale in April 1977.
Ronald Wallace decided to retire following the death of co-director Angus Highland and the Reo Stakis firm purchased the building for £75,000.
Pie-lovers mourned when the news broke and one of the Castle Street restaurant’s earliest customers was there to make a final toast when it finally closed.
Gordon Cruickshank, of Victoria Road, knew the Wallace family and he was a pupil at Dundee High School when he spent his first lunch break in the restaurant.
Aged 64 in August 1977, he was in reflective mood.
“I’ve always had an excellent meal there,” he said.
“I remember when it cost two shillings for a three-course meal.
“Now it’s about £1.15 – but it’s still excellent value.”
The shutters then went up for the final time to mark the end of an era.
There were gravy tears and now only memories remain.
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