Dear Old Home Town

The wee place where I started life
In bonnie Newport town in Fife
How often roamed, in boyhood days
Its pebbled beach and grassy braes,
Though now past three score years and ten
In dreams I linger there again.
And see once more that grocer’s shop
Where business kept me on the hop;
Those friendly customers of old
Bring memories worth more than gold.
The schoolday haunts are with me still
Old James’ Square and Gowrie Hill,
The granary that used to rear,
Above the ancient ruined pier,
The Knowie too and Charlie’s Wood,
Where ‘Tarzan’ romped with ‘Robin Hood’.
Some names that strangers spoke with awe –
Like Washer Willie’s, Pluck the Craw,
Eelscraig Rock and Twinkletree –
A croft forever dear to me —
The gaslit streets of long ago,
The shops with Christmas cheer aglow,
The Sunday School, so fresh and clean,
The broad Tay and its shining scene.
Cruel progress keeps bulldozing on,
And many landmarks sadly gone
Remind me of them in the past,
With memories held true and fast,
So dear old home town, prosper yet –
Your charm I never shall forget.


I make no apologies for using this old poem which is already on the site. It says so much about memories and childhood times in the old ‘village’. Although ‘Anon’, there may be possible clues about its author within it.

A note on locations for non-natives:

  • James’ Square is the block on the corners of King Street, Gowrie Street and Queen Street;
  • Gowrie Hill is the wood between Queen Street and Craighead;
  • The Knowies are south of the railway, behind Elizabeth Crescent (See comment. Thanks, Margaret);
  • Charlie’s Wood – I am not aware of;
  • Washer Willie’s is on the back road to Tayport;
  • Pluck the Craw is on the waterside at the foot of Castle Brae;
  • Eelscraig Rock is the rock on the beach at the bottom of William Street, not to be confused with the ‘Big Rock’ which was at the foot of Robert Street;
  • Twinkletree is in the fields east of the road to St. Andrews, between Forgan roundabout and Forgan Church (I was told that it had burned down after a lightning strike, but I’m not too sure of the truth of this) – the garden walls and trees are still there.

Early Telephones in Newport

As early as 1877, there were experiments using ‘telephonic sounders’ which were attached to the existing ordinary telegraph wires at Newport and Dundee Post Offices. Using these wires and the underwater telegraph cable, it was possible, in the right conditions, to transmit the voice of a singer perfectly clearly from Dundee to Newport.

The first telephones proper arrived in Newport in July 1882 when a cable was laid over the new Tay Bridge which was then still under construction. There were 4 subscribers in Newport who could only call each other via the operator in Dundee.

In October 1883 an underwater cable, which ran from near the Stannergate in Dundee across the river to a point west of the Tayport lighthouses, allowed much improved communications. The first call was to Mr John Jessiman, Hillbank, East Newport and the speaking at either end was said to be remarkably distinct. The newspaper believed it was the first submarine cable of any importance laid and used for telephonic service in the UK.

In August 1884 the National Telephone Co. opened a telephone exchange in Newport. By now there were 7 subscribers with another 4 about to be connected. This first telephone exchange was in Royal Buildings, in the close running off Union Street.

From 1885 to 1896, the valuation rolls show the Newport Lawn Tennis Club leasing a wooden house from the National Telephone Co., but this had been brought in from another site as a pavilion for the newly-formed tennis club and formed no part of the Newport telephone system.

In 1896, telephone numbers start appearing in the annual directories and by 1899 there are 59 subscribers including the Newport Curling Club, and an underwater line to the ‘Mars’. All entries in the 1899 telephone directory are listed here.

This is the 1902 invoice from the National Telephone Co Ltd to Thomas Roger for the telephone in his shop (line rental plus table instrument for 1 year, £8-15-0 [£8.75]).

Around 1906, Wormit got its own exchange in Ashbank (now 13 Riverside Road); around 1935 a purpose-built telephone exchange was built next door.

A new Newport exchange was built further along Union Street (now 2 Union Street) and opened on 8 July 1939. It required that all existing numbers in Newport be changed but allowed direct dialling from Newport to Wormit and Tayport without the need for an operator. Dundee subscribers could dial Newport directly, and one assumes that Newport subscribers could also dial Dundee. Communication with the outside world was again via the operator in Dundee. A downside was later to be found by the residents of the houses opposite who would find it difficult, if not impossible, to get a good television picture.

Dundee Evening Telegraph, 3 December 1877;
Dundee Evening Telegraph, 14 July 1882;
Dundee Courier & Argus, 17 October 1883;
Fife Herald, 13 August 1884;
Peoples Journal, 23 August 1884;
Fife Herald & Journal, 12 July 1939.
Newspapers can be found on the British Newspaper Archive or Find My Past sites.
Admiralty Chart 1481 River Tay, 1902 at National Library of Scotland maps.