Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Scouringburn Memory

OK, this was called "Adventures In The Poley Triangle" - an intriguing title I grant you, however, not very inspiring, so I changed it.
So if you'll excuse me, I'll skip the guff and just plop you down on a map, oh, and there's a Mace bag with juice and oatcakes and an emergency flare or two just in case we get separated over there . . .

Poley Triangle

There, that's better isn't it!
(OK map and accurate angles fans, as you can see I have overshot the mark, and then corrected my mistakes with an oval; this is simply because it's not an accurate triangle, more of a metaphorical one, but it is sort of triangular isn't it . . .)

Before we start, the correct pronounciation (though if I'm wrong I'm damn sure Bruce [Dundee's own Viv Meier] will tell you) . . anyway Poley (as in Polepark Road, as in Poley Triangle) is pronounced round 'ere as "Pole-Ee"
Good - before you know it you'll be able to say:

"Meh wa's are a' baa dabs."
"Eh. Meh wa's are a' baa dabs an a'"

Which sort of means:

"Goodness me, the children have been kicking a muddy football against my wall."
"I know what you mean. The varmints have been kicking a muddy football against my wall as well."

And just to ease you in to the accent, here's an old Dundee joke . . .

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Fred who?
Fred Eggs.

Anyway, enough of this hilarity - the Dundee accent (which is slowly dying) is a peculiar mixture of Scots, Irish and a certain lilt that was apparently naturally cultivated so that people could be heard shouting above the thunderous noise of mill machinery.
You see, mills were this cities heart and soul and there were many many of them.
When the flax trade stopped (pretty much entirely because of the Crimean War, as flax had been imported from Baltic countries) some bright spark came up with a process whereby you could treat natural jute with whale oils (Dundee's other main trade at the time) and make it a workable product that was exported worldwide. 
To get an idea of how huge this industry was, in the 20 years from 1831 to 1851 the population of the city increased from just over 4000 souls to approximately 64500! That's an enormous increase in a short span of time and it just goes to show how much the industry meant to the city. 
There's now no mills operating at all; the last closing in the early 1990's.
So what happens to the places of work no longer needed? Well, they're either done up for flats or they slide.

I'll draw your attention to the map again:

Poley Triangle

By way of explanation, this is a bit of Dundee, that is slowly crumbling, and is largely un-modernised. ie, it has slid, quite massively post-WW II and is still in need of tlc and thought rather than laissez-fair. 
Twenty years and it'll be gone - mind you they were saying that twenty years ago.
There's empty words here
They've done a couple of installations in the old DC Thompsons building and of course there's the marvellous Verdant Works
But that's about it. 
Millions needed to get it looking like anything again . . anyway, you see that bit at the conjunction of Brewery Lane, Polepark Road and Brook Street? That's the Coffin Mill, so called for the apparently horrific death of a young millworker there and also because the courtyard bore a resemblance to a coffin.
(It was also the site of another death-knell - the scene of yer young Sheephouse's adventures into the world of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal with the band 'Warlord'.
Oh yes, it was an old garage in what was a largely falling apart mill, and it was f'ing freezing.
The band?
I didn't last long - they had ideas above their station and the music was, er, cough cough, shite.)

Anyway, here's what that bit of town looked like in 1947 (apparently).

Poley Triangle 1947

That squared-off U of a building, centre bottom is the Coffin Mill . . . and here it is with its famous mid-air hovering red circle . .

Poley Triangle 1947, with hovering red circle

This is the area we are concerned with. 
As you can see it was a hive of industry, but is now an area of dereliction, some done-up-ness, industrial units in old mill buildings and more dereliction.
Having lived not far from here for over 25 years, weirdly I've never explored it properly. There used to be a Comet electricals retailer in the area, and I knew an artist that worked in the WASPS studios, but that was about it. 
It had passed my radar by. 
My itch started itching again though when (governed by the price of a pint [average £3.50 in yer standard Dundee pubs, £2.05 in the Counting House]) I started my monthly-or-so walk into town (to meet old band mates Chic n' Currie) along a new route, which involved Guthrie Street - site of one the earliest mill buildings in Dundee (a flax mill built in 1793).
The buildings have always been bad to my memory, but I was really taken by how ruinous a lot of them are. 
I think most city councils would have flattened the area decades back, but I am glad Dundee hasn't - there's a ton of history here.
Anyway, wishing to take the M2 out for a walk a couple of Saturdays back, I loaded up some ancient TMX 100 and set to!

I have to be honest, I started off thinking pictures of dereliction rather, how shall we say, not immature, but certainly not the work of an experienced eye, simply because it is too damn easy to make them look great! After all, a bit of dereliction brings with it that certain je ne sais quoi of litter, vandalism and just general run-downness; a soup├žon of nature doing what nature does bestest - starting to remove all trace of ugly mankind. It is astonishing how buddleia can be so tenacious, but tenacious it is, adhering itself to the smallest of cracks and beginning its not-so-long work of cracking masonry if left unchecked.
Throw in vandals who get a sniff of potential fire-raising situations, no street cleaning, fly-tipping and general neglect and you end up with easy to make pictures which look great because of all the messness and fallingapartness.
Piece of cake!

Leica M2, 35mm f3.5 Summaron, Kodak TMX 100, Pyrocat-HD

It wasn't a day that commended itself to photos - it was overcast and cold and had been raining earlier on in the day, but sometimes you just have to force yourself to get going!
And you know what?
I had a hell of a whale of a time (a Tay whale no less) blazing through all 36 exposures in around an hour, which was astonishing to me - it normally takes me a while to finish a film! What was going on? Well, there was so much to photograph, that I got caught up in the moment.
This being said, there's a lot of camera shake too, and I'll blame that on my boyish enthusiasm.

This Dangerous Area was all fenced-off.
Did that discourage me?
Nah - not me - I might have stubbed my toe though, so I got off lightly.

Weird place for a beauty parlour.
The picture of the bride (?) is unashamedly '70's

Welcome to Douglas Street!

Other wot??

Incredibly, this is the entrance to a Convenience Store.
How welcoming and fresh!

Sorry - couldn't resist.

OK, they're not wonderful photographs, but certainly they helped with one thing - they helped me refine my eye and inspired me to go back with Victor The Hasselblad.

Hasselblad 500CM, 60mm CB Distagon, Kodak TMX 100, Pyrocat-HD

I've been using Victor hand-held a bit recently, but I decided for maximum recording of the fine details of urban detritus, a tripod had to be employed. Lens was as always (it's the only one I've got in the V-system) the 60mm Distagon. It's a great lens. equally at home with infinity as it is with closer distances. Film was 2 years past expiry date TMX 100, rated at EI 50 and developed in 1+1+100 Pyrocat-HD.

Anyone fancy a Solero?

Incredibly I fore-went (?) the tripod on the above one. I could barely see the scene above a wall that was at eye-height, so I threw caution to the wind, hyper-focused the Distagon, rested the camera on the wall, pointed it in the general direction, locked the mirror and let rip. Incredibly the verticals are vertical . . . must be a good wall!

Arnotts were (back in the day) one of the largest Department Stores in Dundee.
This is the gate to their old warehouse

The reason it just says "Arno" is because there's the wreck of a car to the right, and I didn't want to include it. Maybe I'll get the full scene one day.

Scouringburn Memory.

I thought there was something strangely tranquil about this.
The chimneys belong to the now derelict Queen Victoria Works.

For all the detritus photos, this last one is my favourite. I've no idea why the tree is on its side.
Brook Street, only became Brook Street in the 1930's, before that it was known as Scouringburn, a real burn or small river which became a natural source of power to the mills.
It is still thereapparently, under the modern Brook Street. 
I prefer the old name, it speaks of times gone and nature subjugated and old memories.

Anyway folks that's enough for now. I think the area will repay visits, so watch this space (as they say).

TTFN now and remember to clean your teeth and pack a fresh pair of underpants just in case.