A Look Around Dundee in the Late 1980s (1985-1989)

We're back in Dundee to see the sights we looked at every day

Time to to see if Dundee has changed much since Neale Elder showed us the city in the early 1980s. In his photographs from 1985-89, we see more of life in Dundee, Scotland, in the 1980s.

As Neale noted before: “Don’t look here for technical brilliance in photography. Since the 1970s I have taken photographs simply to record scenes. Occasionally the results are reasonably good; and with the passage of time even the most mundane images can become quite interesting.”

Neale was there. And thanks to his interest in photography, we can go back in time. He shows us the everyday, the scenes we saw but only a few of us, like Peter MarshallTim Brown and Trevor Ermel, recorded in street photography.


Dundee 1980s

Hilltown Clock and Mains Road, 1985

A quintessential Dundee scene – the Hilltown Clock, tenements and washing hanging from a greenie-pole.


Butterburn Court, 1985
The removal of the already weathered and stained outer cladding in the early eighties improved the appearance of the Derby Street blocks. Butterburn Court then became the ‘red multi’, while its northern neighbour Bucklemaker Court became the ‘blue multi’.



Hilltown Dundee – 1985

Murraygate from High Street, 1985
The space since pedestrianised and colonised by trees, street furniture, the dragon sculpture and the Auld Tram.



Fisher Street, Broughty Ferry, 1985

Nethergate from Burton’s doorway, 1985
A late afternoon view of the Nethergate from the old Burton’s corner.


Gray Street, Broughty Ferry, 1985
Gray Street is strung with Gala Week bunting on a July Sunday in 1985.


Dundee 1980s

Open-top Volvo Ailsa leaving Broughty Beach, 1985
Tayside open-topper number 300 (WTS272T) is seen in Mill Street, Broughty Ferry, on its way back to Dundee city centre on 25 July 1985.


Volvo Ailsa in Reform Street, Dundee, 1985
Tayside Volvo Ailsa number 240 (SSN 240S) uplifts passengers in Reform Street on service 33 to Fintry (Longhaugh Road) on 25 July 1985.


Ann Street from Hilltown, 1985

The Hilltown on a hot summer’s day in 1985; the Huns have signed the wall of the Windmill Bar.


Windmill Bar, 1985

Windmill Bar, 1985
The Windmill Bar at the corner of Hilltown and Ann Street is remembered for attracting the Duke of Edinburgh’s attention during the 1977 royal visit (no gaffe, however, was recorded). This jumble of buildings – now all gone – used to lie in the shadow of the old Plaza cinema.


Hilltown at Rosebank Street, 1985
Rosebank Street runs off to the left in this view of the central part of the Hilltown from July 1985.


Lochee High Street, 1985
In the mid eighties, despite having been ruined by bad planning decisions, Lochee High Street was still hanging in there as a suburban shopping centre.


Overgate Upper Level, 1985
Almost unbelievably, this dreary scene was recorded on Christmas Eve 1985.


Leeds-Aberdeen HST leaving Dundee
The 07:30 HST from Leeds to Aberdeen passes alongside East Dock Street as it heads north from Dundee on Christmas Eve 1985.


Dunbar Crescent, 1986
The fortunes of Whitfield had probably reached ‘rock bottom’ by the start of 1986.

There are still curtains in some of the windows amid the dereliction of Dunbar Crescent in this scene – what a grim existence.

Unlike most of the Skarne housing these blocks were spared, however. Today this is Dunbar Park.


Top of Murraygate, 1986
A damp February Saturday in the Murraygate in 1986.


Alexandra Fountain, Riverside Drive, 1986
The stately Alexandra fountain is rudely engulfed by parked cars in April 1986; but time passes – some of those vehicles would now be classics.

On the right are the former Tay ferry terminal buildings, now the site of Discovery Point.


Albert Street, 1986
The lower end of Albert Street was still one-way in 1986. The tenements on the right – with their flaking, muddy brown stonework – are a reminder of what much of the city used to look like. The buildings survive today, cleaned up and renovated but – I admit it – far less interesting!


Baxter Street, 1986
A view up Baxter Street from City Road. By the late eighties most examples of this type of very basic tenement property in Dundee had been demolished; and scenes like this were already rare.


North Ellen Street, 1986
This view of North Ellen Street from April 1986 shows the ‘Faces Land’ with the austere bulk of Jamaica Tower in the background.


Hilltown Clock and Mains Road, 1986
Looking down Mains Road towards the floodlights of Dens Park in April 1986.


Old Hawkhill, 1986
I recorded this slightly uninspiring image by way of comparison with a well known DC Thomson picture of the Hawkhill, from the 1950s, that can be found elsewhere. In the centre is Dundee University’s Belmont hall of residence and on the right are the now-demolished Mountpleasant tenements. Little did I realise this view would change even more in the next few years.


Dundee High Street, 1986
Today the High Street is a pedestrian precinct, but in 1986 it was still a thoroughfare for traffic; and even at this late date the traffic lights still had black and white striped poles.


Murraygate, 1986
On the right, on the Murraygate on a June day in 1986.


Buses and taxis in the Nethergate, Dundee, 1986
Further to the recent story in the local press about conflict between bus and taxi drivers in Dundee, perhaps this image from 1986 proves there is nothing new under the sun!


Tayside Volvo Ailsa in Dundee High Street, 1986
Tayside Ailsa 262 (WTS262T) is at the westbound High Street stance on 2 June 1986. The Mexico World Cup is underway, as indicated by the news bill.


City Square, 1986
Parked cars still crowded Dundee City Square in August 1986, but not for much longer.


Littlewoods bus stop, 1986
This was the Tayway stop at Littlewoods in Dundee in August 1986. It’s interesting to note that the three-hour-long 101 Aberdeen service was still running at this time.

In the run-up to deregulation, the newly-formed Strathtay Scottish screamed ‘Best Bus Around’ from its lower body panels. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now. Public transport should be cooperative, not competitive.

Meanwhile, the Solid Fuel Advisory Service advertisement up above featured the slogan ‘Home is where the hearth is’.


Dundee Reflections (2) – Crichton Street, 1987

Murraygate and Wellgate Centre, 1987
The top end of the Murraygate is seen in February 1987, with John Menzies having moved from its popular corner site on Commercial Street to the former Woolworth’s premises. Menzies, in turn, later gave way to Tesco Metro; and, in fact, only ‘Markies’ on the right remains today out of the retail businesses appearing here.


Reform Street, 1987
A view down Reform Street from Albert Square in the summer of 1987.


Union Street, 1987
Here is Union Street in Dundee, on 17 August 1987, with its cassies and cart-tracks still intact. The macabre news bill refers to the loss of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 at Detroit the previous day.


Back of Gardner’s Lane and Lochee Road, 1988
A couple of old air raid shelters appears in this view of the Gardner’s Lane/Lochee Road ‘backies’ from 1988. Remarkably the Gardner’s Lane tenements survived and were renovated, while the Lochee Road block on the right was demolished for road widening that never took place.


Peddie Street, 1988
Peddie Street is one of my favourite Dundee thoroughfares. Annfield Street is on the right of this 1988 view, with the former Logie School in the distance.

The tenements on the left, renovated in the early eighties, were at the centre of a well known bohemian community in the previous decade.


Blackness Road, 1988
‘The Blackie’ in 1988, at the top of Annfield Road: with a shop named ‘Booze’ on the left and an advertisement for fags on the right!


Victoria Road tenement, 1988
Wall presses, fireplaces and retro wallpaper hang in mid-air as these Victoria Road tenements are demolished to make way for the inner ring road in 1988.


Waterfront clearance, 1988
This rubble-strewn landscape in 1988 was the cleared site of the old Dundee Tay Bridge goods station. Little did Tayside House realise its turn would come, in due course.


High Street at City Square, 1988
I have always thought this picture of Dundee High Street makes it look strangely like a film set: something is about to happen, but I don’t know what.

Anyway, there’s one of the Strathtay Scottish Routemasters in the distance.


Top of Caird Avenue, 1989
This scene, showing the back of the ‘Proavie Road’ tenements, has not changed greatly since 1989. Matthew the butcher, of the delicious steak pies, is still there; but Wallace Land o’ Cakes has long gone.


Dundee Ice Rink, 1989
A view across Kingsway West to the old Dundee-Angus ice rink, not long before it closed down to be replaced by a William Low superstore (now itself history). I have many happy memories of queuing outside these doors on a Saturday evening.

When built in 1938, Dundee-Angus Ice Rink dominated the new boulevard of Kingsway West. Exactly contemporary with the rink at Kirkcaldy (today one of the few survivors from the time), the building was erected in just seven months.

It opened on Friday 30 September, the same day prime minister Neville Chamberlain flew home with Hitler’s signature to the Munich treaty. During the opening ceremony, the Earl of Airlie expressed his relief that another war with Germany had been averted. So much for that.

The celebrations included a figure skating exhibition by the 1937 ladies’ world champion, 17 year old Cecilia Colledge, as well as an inaugural ice hockey match between two newly formed teams, Dundee Tigers and Fife Flyers. A return fixture took place the following day at Kirkcaldy as part of the opening celebrations there.

In the early eighties the building was extended at the rear to accommodate additional ice for curling (known as the ‘back rink’), but by the end of that decade the complex faced demolition to make way for a William Low superstore. The main stadium (seen here) was abandoned soon after I took this picture and was demolished in 1990, leaving only the ‘back rink’ in operation.

Torvill and Dean, on a private training visit, used the ‘back rink’ in March 1990. This eventually closed in May 1992.

Eight years would pass before ice sports facilities returned to Dundee.


Broughty Castle and departing ship, 1989
An unidentified tanker heads down the Tay past Broughty Castle in July 1989.

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