Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.
Past Times

Holiday memories in and around Dundee – including Longforgan berry picking and Camperdown donkey rides

The six-week summer break was packed with beach visits, big play parks, runny ice creams or travelling to the quiet coastal towns to escape the hustle of busy cities.
Graeme Strachan
Photograph showing a group of young boys enjoying their day of berry picking in Longforgan in 1985. Image: DC Thomson.
Photograph showing a group of young boys enjoying their day of berry picking in Longforgan in 1985. Image: DC Thomson.

Childhood summer holidays seemed to last forever.

Now months pass like the flash of a spark.

The six-week summer break was packed with beach visits, big play parks, runny ice creams or travelling to the quiet coastal towns to escape the hustle of busy cities.

It feels like yesterday.

People of a certain age will also remember piling on to battered old buses and heading for the fields in Fife, Angus and Perthshire to go berry-picking for some extra cash.

Remember the berries?

The anticipation before the going rate was set by the farmer was palpable.

It was hard work — make no mistake.

Long hours crouched in the fields, with little protection from the blazing sun, and, by its end, most people’s hands would be stained red with the juice of the berries.

Berry picking at East Balgillo in 1963 as youngsters make some extra pocket money. Image: DC Thomson.

Trading banter at the dreels was a welcome distraction from the hard toil of picking which was a rite of passage for many people in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

The cry of “Berry up!” announced the end of picking for the day.

Like many in his beloved Fintry, Gary Robertson would get up at the crack of dawn, rush to the berry bus and be transported out to the countryside, where he would spend his days gathering as many berries as possible to make some extra pocket money.

The Dundee poet and playwright was seven in 1974 when he went “nabbling” for the first time with his dad and his sister, which inspired his sell-out play The Berries, which received no end of praise, enjoying that most holy of holy grails, a critical and commercial success.

Only a Dundonian could have captured the unique brand of humour and the fruits of Gary’s journey ‘doon memory dreel’ is set for a revival at Dundee Rep in November.

Berry pickers were hard at work in Wellbank in the summer of 1984. Image: DC Thomson.

He said: “Even though it was a hardship it was a great way of making money because everyone was skint.

“The thing that got you through the day was definitely the humour.

“Kids were picking for their school uniforms and people were picking to put a bit extra on the table – or to get out at the weekend for a bevvy!

“Those were great days, full of hard work, but plenty of banter and laughter. I always thought one day I would write about it in some way.”

Seaside holidays in Angus

The arrival of the mass package holiday was still some years away when the ramshackle old berry buses trundled around those Dundee housing schemes in the 1970s.

People flocked to Angus coastal towns which enjoyed their last great, mass-appeal decade before most “bucket and spade” breaks were taken in European destinations.

Thousands of people would spend their annual vacation in Arbroath when the town was one of Scotland’s top holiday resorts in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

The Arbroath pool is shown illuminated at night during its glory days. Image: DC Thomson.

Sun, sea and smokies brought the masses flocking to the Angus town!

Little wonder.

Arbroath’s outdoor swimming pool was the largest of its kind in Scotland and the backdrop to fun, laughter, and even romance.

It was capable of accommodating 1,200 bathers and more than 4,000 spectators.

The Arbroath pool reopened in 1973 following a facelift but the sun was already setting.
The pool was the perfect place for some rest and relaxation back in 1973. Image: DC Thomson.

The pool was notoriously chilly and could hold 1.25 million gallons of water, which was pumped directly from the North Sea and kept in constant circulation.

Competition between coastal towns was high and the pool was advertised as “the finest filtered sea-water bathing pool in Scotland and was equipped to please all its patrons”.

Then the annual Miss Arbroath pageant at the open-air pool was the highlight of the holiday for many spectators.

Packed carriages leaving Kerr’s with Matt Kerr junior at the helm back in August 1982. Image: DC Thomson.

Kerr’s Miniature Railway also drew thousands of visitors to Arbroath each summer and postcards from the little line winged their way to all four corners of the globe.

The railway at West Links Park was one of the shortest public lines in Great Britain and lives on vividly in grown-up children’s memories.

Who could forget the miniature buses and fire engines?

Sadly now long gone.

But these were carefree summer holidays.

A time before gadgets and devices took centre stage.

Where else did we go?

Castle Green play park next to Broughty Castle kept generations of children entertained during the summer break with attractions including crazy golf and electric cars.

It has been a popular and permanent fixture in the Ferry since 1954.

Children having fun on the electric cars at Castle Green in 1972. Image: DC Thomson.

A number of injuries occurred on the concrete playground, alongside the risk of getting your bum or legs burned when the metal slide heated up in the sun!

Dundonians of a certain vintage will, of course, have hazy memories of the striking, concrete sculptures in the paddling pool, which usually became climbing frames.

Castle Green is arguably still one of the Ferry’s greatest assets today.

Children having fun at the Castle Green paddling pool in 1976. Image: DC Thomson.

What about Carnoustie?

Each year holidaymakers and locals would flock to the golf town in summer and participate in the good old-fashioned array of family entertainment and amateur talent.

Bonnie Babies, Daring Dad, Glamorous Gran, Great Grandad, Marvellous Mum, Teen Queen and Mr Muscles were among the competitions which took place on the beach and dodged the commissars of political correctness until the late-1990s.

Carnoustie with its several miles of beaches was ideal for family fun and postcards from its heyday which appear on eBay make you sigh for the gentler times of yesteryear.

Boys fishing at the Swannie Ponds in Dundee. Image: DC Thomson.

Dr Kenneth Baxter from Dundee University’s archive services told me: “One important thing is that from the 19th Century until well into the 20th Century, local resorts with beaches and seafronts like Broughty Ferry, Carnoustie and Arbroath were all popular destinations during what was originally the holiday week.

“They all benefited from the excellent rail access offered by the Dundee and Arbroath Railway.

A busy scene at Broughty Ferry beach back in 1968. Image: DC Thomson.

“This rail access also brought visitors from other parts of Scotland for holidays and Arbroath was especially known for attracting tourists from Glasgow during the Glasgow Fair.

“Camperdown Park, the Swannie Ponds and Castle Green have indeed long been popular venues for locals during holiday time.

“Castle Green has had lots of attractions for children of the years, but the crazy golf course was a favourite of mine.”

Children queuing up to ride donkeys at Camperdown Park in 1977. Image: DC Thomson.

Who could forget the glory days of Camperdown Park?

Children could ride donkeys in the 1970s and the 1980s brought the popular old wooden play-ships which were “berthed” in the park and known as the “pirate ships”.

The ships would have today’s health and safety officials in an instant tizzy.

But the memories live on – as do the rope burns!

The kiddie cars at Camperdown Park were another popular attraction in 1983. Image: DC Thomson.

Swannie Ponds — or Stobsmuir Ponds to give it its Sunday name — were constructed to supply the city with water following the Dundee Water Act of 1845.

The ponds fell out of use as reservoirs in the 1870s and proved popular for boating from the 1920s which became one of the Swannie Ponds biggest attractions.

They were brilliant.

Children join a collie on a boat at the Swannie Ponds in 1964 before the days of health and safety. Image: DC Thomson.

You always had to wait for a boat because it was so busy but you could go to the lower pond and watch people sailing their radio-controlled boats in the sunshine.

Then it was a few times round the Swannie before being called back in.

There were no lifejackets handed out in those days.

But you would likely float if you were wearing a 1980s bodywarmer.

Relaxing at the Swannie Ponds in Dundee in 1979. Image: DC Thomson.

Not much has changed at Swannie Ponds in the past 40 years.

The rowing boats though are no more.

Just like the rails to some other popular holiday destinations.

Including Kirriemuir because of the availability of train services.

Children playing on the wooden ‘ships’ at the Camperdown Park playground. Image: DC Thomson.

Some didn’t venture too far when the school uniform was packed up.

Maybe you spent the summer kicking a football around the back garden where the only interruption was from the ice-cream van which always seemed to pass your street.

Or maybe you spent days in the local play park which seemed to be better then.

Dundee’s Lochee, for instance, had a Space Shuttle-themed playground in the 1980s.

Space shuttle chute.
Youngsters pictured on the space shuttle chute at the park in Black Street in Lochee. Image: DC Thomson.

Who needs Alton Towers or Disneyland?

Or did you spend much of your summer holidays splashing around in the fun pool waiting for the waves at Dundee’s old Olympia or Perth Leisure Pool?

Wherever we spent those six weeks – they were unforgettable.

Only memories now remain of the glory days of the old Olympia. Image: DC Thomson.

Of course, the seaside staycation is making a comeback post-pandemic during the cost-of-living crisis but could it ever match what it was like back in the old days?

Judge for yourself.

DC Thomson has opened its archives to celebrate summer in past times.

We can’t promise sandy sandwiches but our Meadowside HQ at Albert Square in Dundee will be showcasing exclusive images of nostalgic summer moments.

Reminisce: Summer Memories will give our readers the chance to relive days gone by with old friends and you can drop-in to the Courier community event from 9am-12pm on Wednesday and Thursday July 26 and 27 and Wednesday and Thursday August 2 and 3.

So grab your sun hat and join us for a trip down memory lane as we go all Marty McFly and head back to those summer days of yore that seemed like they would never end.