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February 22nd 2019
Published: February 26th 2019
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Scotland is a brave choice in February. The weather is not often the main reason to visit. I have just had another procedure on my face, so still sporting a fresh 2 1/2 inch scar the sun was not top of my priority list. I have yet to settle on my story .... 1980s football violence, glassed in a pub perhaps. The reality was more likely too much time watching cricket in Australia, so surely I would be safe from further damage watching a football match or two in the City of Discovery. The Other Half had noted that the new V&A Museum had opened since our last visit and pencilled it in as worthy of a trip, so I scoured other reasons for the revisit. Dundee FC v Hibs moved to a Friday night for TV will do nicely for starters, I thought to myself. Dens Park has under soil heating, should weather dictate it necessary. As it happened the day before our journey north, Scotland recorded the warmest February day since records began. In 1897, the Granite City hit a staggering 17.9 C. The record held by Aberdeen for so long, tumbled to Aboyne down the road as a new high of 18.3 C was measured. It was apparently going to be warmer in Dundee, than Athens! Totally bizarre.

I never tire or the East Coast mainline train travel from Newcastle northwards. The entry to Newcastle - the bridges all lined up down the river. There was no Fog on Tyne this morning. The route hugs the coast. Holy Island and Alnmouth come into vision, before the majestic approach across the River Tweed into Berwick. Are they still technically at war with the Russians? I must check. As ever, I am keeping my floodlight radar on. Shielfield - home of Berwick Rangers was the first spot. It has been a while since I took the road between the Grove and the Harrow. We approach Edinburgh. Easter Road, Arthur's Seat and the Scottish Parliament building hold my attention in equal measure. We are on the through train to Aberdeen, so no need to change. The Oil Express. We pause in the cavernous Waverley Station, where the guard cones on the tannoy to explain we are not going anywhere after reports of a bridge strike at Haymarket. A careless motorist has potentially ruined a lot of people's day. The potential travel plan disaster is averted and we are on our way in a few minutes. It is all quiet, as we pass Tynecastle on the left and Murrayfield. The egg chasing is in France this week. We are soon out over water. The bridges across Forth are a fine sight. The train hugs me Fife coast. It was only 2 weeks ago we were talking to a couple from the interestingly named Burntisland. The Raith boys were out training on Stair Park in Kircaldy, as we pass. The golf set alight at Leuchars for their final leg to St Andrews. A passenger queried of the guard as he passed, "how long to Dundee?" She was keen to retrieve her luggage. You will have 6 minutes, when you next hit water. The next water - the Firth of Tay - was the scene of one of Scotland's worst ever rail disasters. In 1879, a Dundee bound train crashed into the water as the first Tay Rail Bridge collapsed in a violent storm. The design was said not to have accounted for wind loading. The architect and designer was a Thomas Bouch. The term botch job is said in some circles to be derived from his surname. There were no dramas today. It is a majestic entrance to a city. The city nestled on the north shore. The buildings rise up steeply from the river front. We dutifully pulled into the very underwhelming Dundee Station 6 minutes later. It certainly isn't another Waverley. There were originally 3 stations - West, East and Tay Bridge. Tay Bridge was renamed Dundee, after the closures of the other two. We ventured up the escalator and into the new Dundee. As it says on the bus stops "One City. Many Discoveries". It was a short walk to the hotel. An Important poinot given the Other Half is on permanent stop watch. The Holiday Inn Express loyalty scheme paid dividends as usual. An early check in, a top floor corner room and a river view. We set out to explore. The first impressions were how quiet it was for a Friday lunchtime. There were few folk or cars around. We walked over to the City Quay. The current activity of the port is now further east from the city centre. Huge oil industry installations dot the horizon. The City Quay has been redeveloped as a leisure, residential and business space set around the water. We ate our sandwiches by the Submarine Memorial. Dundee was the home initially of the 2nd Royal Navy Flotilla at the outbreak of World War 2 and thereafter home to international Flotilla made up of Dutch, Poles, Norwegian, French crews, whose home bases were now under German occupation. The Memorial was erected in 2009 to commemorate the boats sailing from theTay, whose "crews are still on patrol". The oldest naval ship in Scotland is moored opposite. The Frigate HMS Unicorn dates from 1824. She served as a depot ship for the next 140 years and was never fully rigged. A super structure built over the deck has helped her preservation and she now functions as a museum. Unicorn's only voyage is likely to remain her original posting from the dockyard at Chatham to Dundee. There would appear to be plans for a marina full of small craft and yachts, but the only other vessel evident today was the now decommissioned North Carr Lightship. The only surviving lightship left in Scotland, it awaits renovation as an exhibition space and a tourist attraction. It used to serve as a warning vessel for ships to avoid the North Carr Rocks and was involved in a tragic incident in 1959, which we will return to in another blog.

We wandered under the Tay Road Bridge towards the new V and A. The Tay Road Bridge, unlike the railway crossing, is a fairly recent development. The 1.4 mile structure was only completed in 1966. The 42 span crossing was originally a toll bridge, but has been free since 2008. The crossing before that time was by ferry to Newport on Tay. The bridge necessitated the demolition of one of the most famous landmarks of Dundee. The Royal Arch was built at the entrance to the dock where Queen Victoria arrived in the city in 1844. She was a regular visitor on her way to Balmoral. The Arch had stood for over 100 years. It was destined to become the rubble in the foundations of the on ramp for the new bridge. The good folk of the city might have lost a Royal Arch, but they could take comfort in the new record release from Dennis Clancy. The souvenir 45 rpm release in picture sleeve, "The Road Bridge to Bonnie Dundee" is now a collectors dream. The new kid on the block on the city waterfront is the V & A. The iconic new building sits proud on the edge of silvery Tay across from the Railway Station. In view of the connection to Queen Victoria, it is a fitting addition to the city skyline. The Dundee V & A was 10 years in the planning and is now the hub of the waterfront development. The design chosen was that by a Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma. It is apparently inspired by sea cliffs of eastern Scotland. The £80 million building opened to the public amid great fanfare in September 2018. HRHs Wills and Kate performed the "official" opening in January 2019. Whilst I am a big fan of the exterior, I felt a little underwhelmed by what was on offer within. The key fixed exhibition is the Scottish Design Gallery. A homage to the contribution of Scotland to innovation. The centre piece is the Oak Room interior. The 1908 Charles Rennie Mackintosh interiors preserved from the old Ingram Street Tea Rooms in Glasgow. Glasgow City Council had apparently had the 700 parts in storage with nowhere to display the complete work. Whatever my own thoughts, the V & A had achieved the main objective of drawing visitors and money to Dundee. The grey pound were busy spending the inheritance of their offspring in the cafes and the shop. The place was rammed on a Friday afternoon. The opening has helped create the environment for a surge in hotel openings by the major chains. On our last visit to the city, choice was severely limited. We now had city centre representation from some of the big players, which in turn provided customers for some upmarket eating establishments in the city centre.

The older visitor attraction next door was also receiving healthy attention. The Discovery was the last 3 masted wooden ship to be built in the UK. She was launched in 1901 and her first mission was the British Antarctic Expedition carrying Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott. Discovery now sits in her dock adjacent to the V & A in the city of her construction. A plaque just beyond gives testament to an astonishing aeronautical adventure, of which I was previously unaware. In 1938, a composite design of 2 flying boats - Mayo and Mercury - set off from Dundee on an endurance mission. The intended non stop destination was Capetown, South Africa. The pilots nearly made it. They were already well past the previous endurance record, when they landed in Alexander Bay near the Orange River. The 42 1/2 hour journey had covered over 6,000 miles.

In view of our early start, we headed into the city in search of nourishment. I had already researched a possible - a pizza establishment that was advertising any pizza before 5 pm for a mere £5. I like a bargain, but wondered what the catch was. There was no catch. It was excellent and the stated price. I think the lesson is always not to believe every review on TripAdvisor. The Dundee rrestaurant reviews now seem to be punctuated by the influx of visitors to the V & A, who expect a Michelin star on every corner and generally have more money than sense. There were other reasons to eat early. I had an appointment at Dens Park at 7.45 pm. We nipped back to the hotel for a quick change.

Dundee FC were expecting a visit from Hibernian. The Leith team were expected to bring a good contingient up from Edinburgh and the Dee had turned a bit of a corner in their relegation battle in recent weeks. The stage was set. We set off to walk to the ground. The geography of the city soon becomes apparent. The district above the city centre is called Hilltown for reasons that become immediately obvious. It is a steep initial climb. The local student population trying to make a few extra pennies as a fast food Deliveroo cyclist are certainly going to earn their corn here. Dens Park is what you would still call a proper football ground, even with the addition in the name of the Kilmac Stadium to keep the sponsors amused. The Main Stand is a classic and remains pretty much untouched by the demands of modern football. It was designed by Engineering Archie - Archibald Leitch - the prominent stadium architect of his day and responsible for many football stands across Britain. The design audaciously uses the slight curve of Sandeman Street to effectively make Dens a 5 sided ground. The Other Half had decided to join me on the mission tonight, so I reluctantly handed over my two lots of £26 and hoped I was going to get value. The game itself turned out to be a belter. Hibs fans celebrated taking the lead with a few green smoke flares, before a cheeky equaliser quietened the travelling 1585. The home side failed to consolidate their position and having got back in the game, set about defending in a very schoolboy fashion. Hibs ripped them to pieces. The 4th goal was as finer shot as you are ever likely to see. Huge sections of the home support decided a 4-1 deficit was too much and promptly left their seats to make their way home. They missed a stirring comeback, that for the want of a different linesman might have seen the game finish 4-4. A very definite onside goal was chalked off and then a dubious call wiped out another. Alas, the result meant that the relegation fight was very much back on for the Dee!

Ladbrokes Scottish Premier League

Dundee FC 2 Hibernian FC 4

Date: Friday 22nd February 2019 @ 1945 Hours

Venue: Kilmac Stadium at Dens Park, Sandeman Street, Dundee, Angus. DD3 7JY. Scotland

Attendance : 6,450 (inc 1585 Hibernian)

Scorers : 0-1 Kamberi (Hibernian) 26 Mins, 1-1 McGowan (Dundee) 34 Mins, 1-2 McNulty (Hibernian) 38 Mins, 1-3 McNulty (Hibernian) 68 Mins, 1-4 Mallan (Hibernian) 65 Mins, 2-4 Woods (Dundee) 78 Mins

Dundee FC : Dieng, Horsfield, Ryan McGowan, Kusunga, Ralph, Jesse Curran, Paul McGowan (Robson 64), Woods (c), Dales (O’Sullivan 64), Wright, Craig Curran (Miller 55)

Hibernian FC : Marciano, Gray (c), McGregor, Hanlon, Stevenson, Horgan (Omeonga 61), Milligan, Slivka, Mallan, McNulty (Shaw 64), Kamberi

Additional photos below
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