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.


  1. I see that another Scottish Sage is using 6x6 too. It seems to suit him very well. Is this connected? Is some mysterious Caledonian spirit pervading the souls of photographers on the Far Side of Hadrian's Wall? Or even "the other side" as you say, just above the box I'm writing in?
    What is this spirit? Look at the expression "6x6" and consider: X stands for an unknown quantity. What if X=6? What then? Sleep well tonight.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Edited the above comment from me due to bad writing . .

    Hi David - thanks for writing!

    I don't know what it is about the square, but it seems to work up here . . Maybe it's the light, maybe it's the weather, but I'll put it down to Lorne Sausage, or Square Sausage as it is called in Glasgow (though in reality it is more of a 6x7 or 5x4 [and sometimes even trapezoidal] sausage shape rather than an actual square.)
    Anyway, I don't know - me and Bruce both like the square, we have both got TLR Rolleis, and different square SLRs, but I'm not sure if Bruce eats Lorne Sausage; anyway I like it every now and then, so I'll put it the squares down to that and the 'nearly' square Rediffusion B&W telly I spent my early life watching ';0)

  4. Bad as in illiterate or bad as in wicked?
    Keep up the good work anyway.
    In both your cases, the square seems to have been a stimulus. I have not encountered square sausages down here inside the M25. Square eggs? Bacon? Our chips are square of course. Fried bread is mostly square, too. Mars Bars have corners...

  5. As in illiterate and too quick typing . . .

    There's bound to be a Scots Deli serving Lorne Sausage (breakfast) rolls and Deep Fried Mars Bars near you somewhere . . . surely in the great heaving metropolitan area . . .

  6. It shall be my ceaseless quest. Not a bite shall pass my lips, excepting only food and drink, until I spy the Rectilinear Beast through my visor.

  7. Sounds like a modern crusade to me . . .

  8. I certainly fancy a Solero. And a brief sojourn through urban decay, into past glories faded, tattered and peeling. What we see is a timely reminder that like the once resplendent, formerly guilded mansions of the great and good, everything is transitory. Permanence is an illusion. Pyramids of Egypt notwithstanding.

    It is an amusing thought that the vandals here are acting as agents of nature. By their assaults on the crumbling remains, they're hastening the demise of the visible remnants of the hubris of our industrial and merchant forefathers. That's until the diggers arrive and the process starts over again.

    I also like Scouringburn Memory.

    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Hi Julian - thanks for commenting - that's some interesting philosophical stuff you've added there - never thought of it in that way at all.

    So, m'lad, it's not just a Solero for you, oh no, it's a couple of Mivvies and whole 'lost' cabinet of Funny Faces too!

    I actually believe myself and my friends came up with Funny Faces one day outside Northolt Swimming Baths. There was a guy in a Walls van giving out free ice-creams and sort of kids questionnaires asking what you would like to see on a lolly. Apart from the usual dog-shit ice creams and rats on sticks, I am certain we also came up with Funny Faces and I believe I even drew what I meant . . but who knows, that could all be the crap memory of a failed ice cream tycoon . . .

  10. I once had a freezer in a shed, half forgotten. At some non-specified time in the previous 6 months, the power had gone off. The gloop that developed was truly horrific... so I'm hoping that the Solero cabinet was emptied before it was abandoned.

    They say success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, or similar proportions thereof. I don't believe that the sub zero temperatures in an ice cream factory would be conducive to even a minor amount of sweat? I think that could be the problem right there, in your failed frozen food tycoonery attempt.

    If it's any consolation, I too have had many original ideas only to find that others have either already had them or are about to.

  11. When I was young, my brother's friend Barry, ran a garage. One day their freezer packed up, so it was eat as much ice cream as could be stored in the lowly flip down freezer bit of our Electrolux fridge - it was like manna from heaven!
    Remember in Crocodile Dundee where he goes "Now this is a knife" . . . well we had a moment like that in Florence on our honeymoon. We asked for a double scoop in cod-Italian and got something more akin to the Olympic Torch. It was one of the most incredible ice creams we've ever tasted - stunning. I do like an ice cream every now and again.

    The thing with originality, is that, really when you look at it, there's very little that is an un-conceived human concept. Most everything has been done, but it's how you mix it up that makes for what is regarded as originality .. at least that's my take on it. If you'd not disposed of the gloop from the freezer, but had instead, frozen it on sticks and flogged it down the local farmers market . . well, that would have been interesting and original (and probably an arrestable offence too)!
    My friend Donald was recounting to me the other night a place where midges (sic) were welcomed - they were netted, crushed and formed into patties which were quickly fried in hot fat . . mmmm . . yummy!
    Albatross on a stick anyone?

  12. Ah, dear Mr Tupshed, you are not the only one to think of putting faces on eggs.
    Out of curiosity, I googled (should there be a cap, when it's used as a verb?)the word Creativity. 14,800,000 replies and it wasn't even Google, it was Bing!
    Clearly creativity is an important matter.
    At one end of the spectrum of creativity must lie mere incremental improvement and at the other trivial novelty. Is the wheel a creative thing, or is it simply an obvious development of rollers? Is using fire a creative thing? The invention (to return from those Good Old Neolithic times) of photography seems to have changed the world we live in. Perhaps the truly creative step was to imagine that objects could be "made to impress themselves".
    Perhaps a different creative step was to imagine an egg made of chocolate. As it's nominally for Easter, why not a chocolate crucifix or at least chocolate nails? It seems rather tricky to define the moment of the actual creative act.
    Who could ever have imagined deep-fried Mars Bars? I once decided to serve them as part of a Burns Night supper. I can't believe anybody eats a second one. We had something with raspberries, honey, whisky and cream instead. There might have been thin shortbreads somewhere.
    Has anyone done a curried Mars Bar?

  13. Ah -Crannachan! A wonderful dessert.

    Must admit chocolate nails are really a rather superb concept - and yes, why has no one thought of that before?
    Asfor the Mars Bars - well you really need to come up here and have a Pizza Supper - it's a super-weird variation on lovely calzone, whereby a cheap pizza is folded in half (often, but not always) dipped in frying batter and then deep fried and served with chips. They never mention that Down South when describing Scotland because it crosses the line between the grossly fascinating and a much-needed super-carb espresso - only some weirdo Scots/Italian fryer could have come up with that.
    Curious? You should give it a go!

  14. Now here's a thought. Deep-frying balls of frozen dripping might work. Battered dripping, eh? All royalties to me, please. Perhaps with a splash of curry sauce as well as salt and vinegar. Can you make vinegar out of whisky? Another challenge for the Caledonian gastronomic industry.

  15. Actually that sounds sort of delicious . . . as for curry sauce, not sure whether it has appeared down South in the 40 years since I wasn't there, but up here, a popular post-drinkie dish from the Chinese is Chips and Curry Sauce. Standard chips, Chinese-style hot curry. And it tastes wonderful.

    We've also got a Dundee Institution not that far away, called Clarkes (have a hunt online - it really is quite famous) - it's an all-night (every night) bakers that will sell you anything your pissoired heart desires. In fact here you go:

    It's like the crack dealer for calories (what a tag line)


Feel Free To Chat,
But Remember,
"Anonymous" Comments WILL NOT Be Published