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Past Times

Old Dundee shops exhibition showcases ‘enduring spirit of Dundonians’

The Evening Telegraph's exhibition featuring nostalgic images from the golden age of Dundee shopping has proved a hit with misty-eyed locals. reports.
Graeme Strachan
A busy scene at Dens Road Market in 1977. Image: DC Thomson.
A busy scene at Dens Road Market in 1977. Image: DC Thomson.

The Evening Telegraph’s exhibition featuring nostalgic images from the golden age of Dundee shopping has proved a hit with misty-eyed locals.

Some trekked through snow and ice to relive days gone by with old friends.

The Dundonian event at the Keiller Centre is the first-ever curated exhibition of the Evening Telegraph’s weekly photographic archive supplement.

The black and white images from the DC Thomson archives provide retail therapy from the Wellgate, the Overgate, Murraygate, the Keiller Centre and Dens Road Market.

Some have not been seen in decades.

A picture of Dundee High Street in 1930 showing the G&A Stobie and Lipton stores.
A view of the High Street in November 1930 showing the G&A Stobie and Lipton stores. Image: DC Thomson.

Ross Logan, the Tele’s associate editor, said: “I was struck by the number of people who said they wanted to be there to show their support for the city and the exhibition.

“There were older people who’ve never met sitting talking about the memories these photos had brought back.

Photograph showing a general view of some of the shops and shoppers on High Street in 1949. Image: DC Thomson.
Photograph showing a general view of some of the shops and shoppers on High Street in 1949. Image: DC Thomson.

“The idea behind the exhibition originally was to do something for the community, by giving them free access to some of our amazing pictures from the past.

“We also wanted to bring people back to the Keiller, where many will have spent their weekends in their younger years.

Visitors at the Keiller Centre exhibition looking at a display
People have been flocking to see the images on display. Image: Kathryn Rattray,

“The exhibition is already a place where Dundonians can connect, make friends and meet old acquaintances and share their favourites stories of Dundee.

“It has already surpassed my expectations and I’m so grateful for the love the city has shown us so far.”

The outside of D.M. Brown in 1955. Image: DC Thomson.
D.M. Brown in 1955. Image: DC Thomson.

The exhibition features images from G. L. Wilson, Draffens, D.M. Brown and Smith Brothers, which were Dundee’s ‘big four’ department stores in the glory days.

These were the jewels in the crown of Dundee’s retailing trade for decades, at a time before the High Street chains which now dominate had arrived in the city.

But while they lasted, the big independent shops provided many happy experiences and memories for Dundee folk.

Val d'Or restaurant is seen among others from City Square in 1961. Image: DC Thomson.
Val d’Or restaurant is seen among others from City Square in 1961. Image: DC Thomson.

Mass production and disposable culture took off when Britain became affluent again in the 1960s and the Overgate Centre rose from the rubble of the “street of streets”.

The popularity of shopping centres boomed following the success of the Overgate.

The demolition of the Wellgate area began in 1972 and well-known shops in the lower half of the Dundee street were knocked down in the name of further progress.

The Dundonian exhibition is proving a hit with visitors. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson.

The Wellgate Centre was also a hit when it finally opened in April 1978 – at a cost of £7 million – with 41 shop units across 418,000-square feet and 600 parking spaces.

Tesco started things off with the opening of their largest store at 9am, which included 24 multi-lane checkouts, six “express” checkouts and 148-seater restaurant.

Henry Cooper — with his knockout scent of Brut — took off the gloves to sign autographs and photographs for 500 Dundonians when BHS opened.

Henry Cooper signing autographs at Dundee BHS.
Henry Cooper was blown away by the reception he received at BHS in Dundee. Image: DC Thomson.

Situated between Albert Square, Commercial Street and the High Street, the Keiller Centre opened in November 1979 and became Dundee’s go-to shopping mall.

The Evening Telegraph exhibition also features images from Dens Road Market, which opened in 1969 and was Dundee’s own Petticoat Lane with over 100 stalls.

It was filled to the brim with traders.

Mr JR Ritchie photographed at his RVR Floral stall at the Dens Road Market in 1972. Image: DC Thomson.
Mr JR Ritchie photographed at his RVR Floral stall at the Dens Road Market in 1972. Image: DC Thomson.

The once-bustling indoor market was part of the city’s folklore before a spiral of decline resulted in a falling number of stalls and the final trader left in October 2013.

Keiller Centre manager Kathryn Rattray described the Dundonian exhibition as
“a heart-warming tonic for the community” and “a nostalgic journey that brings people together”.

She said the outpouring of love for the images has been unmistakable since opening, as “visitors shared their personal stories and reminisced about cherished moments”.

Whether you grew up shopping in the aisles of these establishments or just heard about them in stories from parents and grandparents, you can’t help but get a nostalgic feeling when you see photos of these shops and market stalls.

Some of the visitors who have been enjoying the Dundee shops exhibition smile for the photographer. Image: Kathryn Rattray.
Some of the visitors who have been enjoying the exhibition. Image: Kathryn Rattray.

Kathryn said: “The Dundonian exhibition is a poignant reminder to the enduring spirit of Dundonians.

“The nostalgia in each image transcends time, reminding us of the people, places and moments that shaped our city.

“We are privileged to partner with the Evening Telegraph in presenting this incredible exhibition, a nod to the spirit of Dundee.

A shopper passing Draffens in 1981. Image: DC Thomson.
A shopper passing Draffens in 1981. Image: DC Thomson.

“We believe honouring our past is a vital step in shaping a brighter future for our city.

“The Dundonian exhibition serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of memory, safeguarding precious moments that might otherwise fade into obscurity.”

Kathryn Rattray beside the display.
Kathryn Rattray has spoken of her pride at hosting the Tele exhibition. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson.

Kathryn said she was a “very proud Dundonian”.

“This exceptional exhibition holds a special place in my heart,” she said.

“This exhibition will make you smile!”


  • The opening times are: Wednesday from 12pm to 4pm, Thursday and Friday from 10am to 4pm and Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

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