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

John Menzies Murraygate store in Dundee had something for everyone

Generations of shoppers will fondly remember the iconic John Menzies Murraygate branch in Dundee.
Graeme Strachan
The John Menzies Murraygate store in Dundee in 1985.
The John Menzies Murraygate store in Dundee in 1985. Image: DC Thomson.

Generations of shoppers will fondly remember the iconic John Menzies Murraygate branch which was the go-to store for anything and everything.

The distinctive blue, white and orange John Menzies sign would deliver the promise of sweets, books, magazines, records, games and toys for every taste imaginable.

It did.

The once-bustling store comprised multiple levels and different departments.

The maze of floors was an instant hit.

It was part of the city’s folklore but went from a retail force to a nostalgic memory when the death knell sounded for the Murraygate branch in October 1995.

John Menzies finally closed its doors in 1996.

John Menzies started life in 1833

Its history can be traced as far back as 1833 when John Menzies left a job in London’s Fleet Street and opened Scotland’s first wholesale bookseller in Edinburgh.

By the 1860s he had secured the rights to bookstalls in railway stations across Scotland on the way to becoming one of the most successful retail firms in Scottish history.

By 1965 it held 90 wholesale warehouses, 350 station bookstalls and 161 shops.

Dundonians of a certain vintage will have memories of the bookstall at Dundee Railway Station and the shop at Whitehall Street before it moved to the Murraygate in 1975.

John Menzies occupied the former Smith Brothers building on the corner of Commercial Street which was next door to the Goldbergs department store.

Doctor Who actor Tom Baker visits John Menzies in the Murraygate in September 1976.
Doctor Who actor Tom Baker visits John Menzies in Dundee in September 1976. Image: DC Thomson.

Doctor Who (Tom Baker) was the most popular visitor to the Murraygate branch and hundreds of people queued in the street in September 1976 for his autograph.

The Tardis delivered the Fourth Doctor 30 minutes early to sign copies of books based on the highly popular long-running BBC TV science fiction series.

There were no airs or graces despite his star status and he tackled the lengthy queue with the same cheery resilience he showed when foiling enemies from outer space.

He even brought mini Daleks with him!

Complete with his trademark long scarf, Baker proved he was a true gentleman and wouldn’t leave until he signed something for every single fan who turned up.

Baker overstayed his allotted time by some distance and refused to take a break for a coffee or something to eat because he didn’t want to leave anyone disappointed.

Elevated view of shoppers browsing the goods on sale in John Menzies in 1978.
Elevated view of shoppers browsing the goods on sale in 1978. Image: DC Thomson.

Doctor Who wasn’t the only one reaching for the stars.

John Menzies provided hours of fun to its customers and each floor had a gaming machine on the landing where you could play Space Invaders during your shopping.

Aladdin’s cave at John Menzies Murraygate store

Remember what was on the ground floor?

Stacks and stacks of books, magazines, newspapers and stationary.

Who could forget the blue spiral notebooks marked with the John Menzies logo?

People shopping in John Menzies in December 1979.
People shopping in John Menzies in December 1979. Image: DC Thomson.

The first floor was an Aladdin’s cave with a huge music department including cassette tapes and 33, 45 and 78 RPM vinyl singles and albums.

Which could be taken home in the orange John Menzies carrier bag!

Many a Dundee teenager purchased their first album from the store which was advertised as being “for people who appreciate music…and money”.

Photograph showing a wide angle shot of the John Menzies shop in Dundee from 1982.
Photograph showing a wide angle shot of the John Menzies shop in Dundee from 1982. Image: DC Thomson.

Cards, gifts and posters were also available on the first floor and there was something special about renting a VHS cassette from the video rental library in the 1980s.

The second floor sold toys including finger-flicking Subbuteo teams, Hornby model trains and Scalextric sets with cigarette advertisements adorning many of the cars.

How times change.

Shoppers at John Menzies in the Murragyate, Dundee in November 1982. Image: DC Thomson.

The glory days of John Menzies could rival Duncan’s Toy Chest in New York where Macaulay Culkin rocked up to the doors in a limousine in the movie Home Alone 2.

Talking of Hollywood A-listers…

The legendary General Lee car from popular television show The Dukes of Hazzard proved a big draw during a John Menzies charity event in April 1983.

The orange 1969 Dodge Charger with the Confederate battle flag painted on the roof of the car made a visit to the Murraygate which descended briefly into chaos.

General Lee roared into town as part of a Scottish tour sponsored by the Classic Car Owners Society and was due to park in front of John Menzies store at 1pm.

When the throngs of young children and onlookers saw the car arriving, they rushed across Commercial Street, blocking the road and cutting off access to the Murraygate.

The adventures of ‘good ol’ boys’ Bo and Luke Duke and the American muscle car foiling the schemes of county commissioner Boss Hogg which was one of the biggest shows of the 1980s.

The solitary police officer on duty, completely overwhelmed by the thousand strong crowd, was helpless to control the over-enthusiastic spectators.

After a delay of several minutes the General Lee found a gap in the human wall and eventually made a detour to dodge the jam before entering the shopping precinct from the Wellgate end.

General Lee was helping in a collection for the Strathmartine Home for Children, as well as a raffle courtesy of John Menzies.

Moving across the road in 1984

John Menzies moved across the road into the Woolworths store in 1984 with the opening being conducted by the unlikely duo of Darth Vader and Bertie Bassett.

The confectionary mascot and Luke Skywalker’s old man were the archetypal odd couple but nobody seemed to mind when the ribbon was being cut.

Darth Vader who opened the new John Menzies store in the Murraygate in 1984.
Darth Vader who opened the new John Menzies store in the Murraygate in 1984. Image: DC Thomson.

Everything was now on ground level including the computer section which was the place to buy games for the Amiga, Commodore 64 and the ZX Spectrum.

Boulder Dash, Jet Set Willy and Paperboy were amongst the most popular titles on the shelves in 1984.

Fancy a holiday?

There was even a travel agent in John Menzies.

 A Transformer robot met customers in 1988.
One of the most popular toys at John Menzies came to life when a Transformer robot met customers in 1988. Image: DC Thomson.

In-store there was always something happening for youngsters.

John Menzies staged the local heat for the Rubik’s Magic National Championship in 1986 and Hot Rod from the Transformers decided to visit in 1988.

Football supporters also packed out the store in 1988 for the Tayside area finals for the Subbuteo British Championships.

The Tayside area finals for the Subbuteo British Championships in 1988.
The Tayside area finals for the Subbuteo British Championships in 1988. Image: DC Thomson.

“Got, Got, Need.”

Say it to any football fan and they will immediately be transported back to the playground and the glorious world of Panini football stickers.

Completing your album almost became an obsession and John Menzies used to hold swop shop events where you could trade your stickers with fellow enthusiasts.

Live music was another big draw at the store.

Fife rockers Big Country performed live in the store in 1994 to promote their first live album which was called Without the Aid of a Safety Net.

The late, great, Stuart Adamson was joined in store by the classic line-up of Bruce Watson, Tony Butler and Mark Brzezicki to perform some of the band’s greatest hits.

Runrig also performed there in November 1995.

Runrig appeared at John Menzies in 1995 to sign copies of their new album
Runrig appeared at John Menzies in Dundee in 1995 to sign copies of their new album. Image: DC Thomson.

TV naturalist Sir David Attenborough proved just as popular though when 200 people packed the store when he arrived to promote his new book, The Private Life of Plants.

John Menzies dropped a bombshell in October 1995 by confirming the store in Dundee was to close in the new year with the loss of 22 full-time and 40 part-time jobs.

The Edinburgh-based group said the city centre store was unprofitable because the “over-all costs of running it and staffing levels do not justify sales going through it”.

Tesco bought the site and opened a supermarket.

WH Smith eventually bought the chain of retail shops for £68 million in March 1998 and Menzies now focuses on its distribution and aviation branches.

The Murraygate would never be the same again.

Conversation