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

Pictures show Dundee Caird Hall memories from bygone days

Dundee city centre was changing from a medieval burgh into a 20th Century metropolis when the Caird Hall opened in 1923.
Graeme Strachan
A view of the Caird Hall in 1969.
A view of the Caird Hall in 1969. Image: DC Thomson.

Dundee city centre was changing from a medieval burgh into a 20th Century metropolis when the Caird Hall opened in 1923.

The DC Thomson archives team has rummaged through the photo files and dug out a selection of photographs featuring the building which was built between 1914 and 1922.

Some of these photographs have not been seen for years.

Plans for a new, modern building near Crichton Street were first submitted by the city architect, James Thomson, in 1910.

At that time, the plans proposed a civic centre to stand at the harbour – where the V&A museum is currently located.

When Sir James Caird offered to fund the project, he made adaptations to the architectural designs.

However, several features from Thomson’s originals remain in place.

A delve into the Caird Hall backstory

The laying down of the Caird Hall foundation stone.
The laying down of the Caird Hall foundation stone. Image: DC Thomson.

King George V and Queen Mary pressed buttons at Caird’s Ashton Works, a mile away in Hawkhill, sending a signal to lay the foundation stones in 1914.

The button pressed by the king was made from an emerald which he then gave to the city and today it forms part of the Lord Provost’s chain.

An undated image showing the rear exterior of the Caird Hall.
An undated image showing the rear exterior of the Caird Hall. Image: DC Thomson.

It was to be built on a site between the 200-year-old Town House and the docks, resulting in the clearance of the historic vault and Greenmarket.

Building work was soon halted by the First World War.

A picture from 1923 of the Caird Hall organ
A picture from 1923 of the Caird Hall organ. Image: DC Thomson.

It later restarted and the project was not completed until 1923.

Caird had died by this point.

However, he did predict that the building would eventually become part of the new City Square – which it did.

The Prince of Wales arriving in the city in October 1923 to officially open the Caird Hall.
The Prince of Wales arriving in the city in October 1923 to officially open the Caird Hall. Image: DC Thomson.

His sister, Grace Marryat, donated £75,000 to allow its completion, which permitted the construction of the façade, a colonnade of ten massive Doric columns.

She also gifted the Marryat Hall, attached to the west.

Greenmarket in Shore Terrace showing the rear of the Caird Hall in 1932.
Greenmarket in Shore Terrace showing the rear of the Caird Hall in 1932. Image: DC Thomson.

The official opening of the Caird Hall by the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, did not take place until October 26, 1923.

However, parts of it were in use well before then, with the first public event at the Caird Hall being a Labour Party “rally” which was similar to the modern day conference.

A view of the King William IV Dock and the Royal Arch at the back of the Caird Hall in 1934.
A view of the King William IV Dock and the Royal Arch at the back of the Caird Hall in 1934. Image: DC Thomson.

As well as hosting events and conferences, the Caird Hall has played host to some of music’s most famous faces – including The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, David Bowie, Elton John and Queen.

Its magnificent acoustics have ensured audiences have been enthralled and entranced, whether enjoying a rock band, orchestra, or comedian in action.

A view of the bus station and passenger stances behind the Caird Hall in 1952.
A view of the bus station and passenger stances behind the Caird Hall in 1952. Image: DC Thomson.

Its outstanding pipe organ, one of the finest in the UK and among Dundee’s most treasured cultural jewels, was installed by Harrison & Harrison of Durham in 1923 to the design of eminent Edinburgh-based organist, Alfred Hollins.

The Caird Hall organ has attracted some of the world’s best players to Dundee to sample its character and unique sound.

The city landmark illuminated on Christmas Day 1952.
The city landmark illuminated on Christmas Day 1952. Image: DC Thomson.

A series of joyous celebrations and switch-on events have taken place in front of the Caird Hall since the first Christmas tree was raised in the City Square in 1952.

The tree, at 42ft tall, was 12ft taller than the council had agreed to but the city fathers felt that it was worth the inconvenience since it had come from the Duke of Atholl’s estate in Perthshire.

Schools audience in the Caird Hall to hear the Scottish National Orchestra in 1965.
Schools audience in the Caird Hall to hear the Scottish National Orchestra in 1965. Image: DC Thomson.

However, the Earl Grey and King William IV docks were filled-in in the 1960s to make way for the Tay Road Bridge which pushed the shoreline away from the Caird Hall.

The relationship with the Tay was further changed in the 1970s with the construction of Tayside House which became Dundee’s most hated building.

Crowds of people enjoying the summer weather in Dundee in June 1967 in front of the Caird Hall. Image: DC Thomson.

It was right in the eye line of traffic coming across the Tay Road Bridge and was originally leased for 63 years before being bought for £8.6m in 1984.

It was an image of modernisation when it was built but over time it came to be decried as a symbol of everything wrong with brutalist architecture.

Tayside House being constructed in January 1974.
Tayside House being constructed in January 1974. Image: DC Thomson.

One of the more memorable points in the hall’s history was when it stepped in as a ‘lookalike’ for the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, during the filming of the Alan Bennett play An Englishman Abroad.

Rather than film in the pre-Glasnost Soviet Union, the Caird Hall and Whitehall Theatre stood in for the Moscow theatre for the real-life story in February 1983, prompting at least a few double-takes from baffled locals.

Snow being cleared during filming for An Englishman Abroad in 1983
Snow being cleared during filming for An Englishman Abroad in 1983. Image: DC Thomson.

Following a decommissioning concert by Gordon Stewart in 1991, the Caird Hall organ was taken to the Harrison workshop and returned later in the year with a raised pitch so that it could be played with orchestras.

It was recommissioned in 1992 by Carlo Curley in another concert.

A team dismantling the Caird Hall organ and taking parts away for repair.
A team dismantling the Caird Hall organ and taking parts away for repair. Image: DC Thomson.

Historic Scotland re-designated the Caird Hall from Grade B to A in 2010 to reflect its special architectural and historic interest following a refurbishment programme.

Little wonder.

An undated aerial shot of the Caird Hall in Dundee.
An undated aerial shot of the Caird Hall in Dundee. Image: DC Thomson.

Most folk who hail from Tayside and Fife – and many from further afield – have fond memories of events at the stunning venue.

Its magnificent acoustics have ensured audiences have been enthralled and entranced, whether enjoying a rock band, orchestra or comedian in action.

Here’s to the next 100 years.

  • These images from the Caird Hall through the years appear courtesy of The Dundonian, which appears in the Evening Telegraph every Wednesday.

Conversation