Down to the Village

When we came to Newport in the 1950s my mother would always talk about ‘just going down to the village’, while my father would go ‘over to town’. I couldn’t work out why Prospect Terrace wasn’t part of the village, why Dundee was a city but called a town, and why Newport had a town council but wasn’t a town.

Our neighbours had all lived here for many years(1) so it was only natural that we should adopt the local terminology – it moved you one step up from ‘incomer’, on the way to becoming a seasoned resident.

‘The village’ had been in existence for a long time. In 1887 Newport had became a burgh and the following year Dundee was granted city status. A comment piece in the Fifeshire Journal(2) even suggested that conservative Newport residents may have applied pressure on the powers-that-be to give Dundee its elevation to a city, so that Newport could, at long last, stop calling itself the village and instead use its grown-up designation of town.

It wasn’t that we had to go down (and in Newport it was always down) to the village every day – there were frequent deliveries and vans calling. Papers from Frank Smith or Loutit’s; milk from Dave Hamilton’s TT Dairies; the fish van called weekly (I don’t know whether from Arbroath or Pittenweem); Mike called with his van from Gibb’s the bakers; and much later Sam Carroll reversed all the way along the street with his big Co-op van. Bulky items were delivered from Dundee by Bob Bayne the carrier, who brought things over on the ferry. Grocers would keep an eye out for new arrivals and would call almost as soon as the furniture van had departed – Alex Young’s selling point was that he was the only licensed grocer, however Mum chose to go to Beatt & Tait – orders would be collected weekly, made up, and delivered by van. Even a French onion seller came back for several years. I helped Dave Hamilton with his milk deliveries – and that gave me a Saturday trip to the farm, out through Guardbridge (seeing the diesel shunter at the paper mill) and Strathkinness, and back via Dura Den; he also took me to the Royal Highland Show when it came to Dundee Riverside.

The village still remains – only a few years ago when a change in bus operators brought new drivers onto the 77B route, a (not too old) Newport resident who had moved up-market and gone to live in Wormit, asked the driver for ‘Down to the village, please’. When he failed to recognise the destination she told him ‘Don’t worry, you’ll soon get the hang of it’.

Anyway, enough of this gossip – I must go down to the village to get my iced soya cappuccino and pain au chocolat.

Notes:

  1. Jean Fraser, our next door neighbour, had lived in Newport since 1899, the Misses Wilson from 1907, and Mrs Pae from 1910. So we learned from the best.
  2. Fifeshire Journal, 6 December 1888, page 5

A Tayside Tearoom


The day trippers from Dundee in the 1950s would turn left on leaving the ferry pier and make their way to the Braes. They passed by the Tayside Tearooms and considered whether to pop in for a cuppa or wait until they returned on their way home. After all, they could call in at Café Newport on the High Street or buy ice creams from Tommy Bain with his cart on the Braes.

But a hundred years earlier, those Dundonians who wanted to avoid the crowds on the Braes were encouraged to make their way to the right, up Boat Brae and along the main road towards Woodhaven. A five-minute walk would take them to the ideal spot.

The following advert appeared in the People’s Journal on 15 May 1858, in other local newspapers through the summer, and even in the 1858 Dundee Directory:



Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

It sounds perfect, and no doubt it was. Overlooking the river, in the calm surroundings of West Newport, it offered just the place to spend a relaxing afternoon, with a mouth-watering range of refreshments available.

The proprietor, James Chapman, was a well-known Dundee confectioner who had a business at 121 Murraygate. He had moved into his Newport house a few years earlier and was to stay there for over 60 years. Its location provided the perfect opportunity to expand his business venture by catering for the more discerning Dundee escapee. His home was Yewbank (like all houses on West Road it was named after a plant) but it is now simply 68 West Road.

So where were the ‘Public Gardens and Refreshment Rooms’?

My first thought was that they were in his own garden with teas available in his parlour or a summer house overlooking the river. But the grounds are small, access is only through the house, his wife had a young and expanding family and the house had only 3 rooms at that time.
My second was that one or more nearby gardens on West Road were opened to the public – an early ‘Newport’s Gardens Scheme’. They certainly would be a very attractive and tranquil location, a world away from the grime, smoke and smells of industrial Dundee.

We shall probably never know which it was, but my money is on his own property. Either way, Newport’s summer facilities with houses rented out ‘for the season’ now had an added attraction.

Sources:
Peoples Journal, 15 May 1858, British Newspaper Archive
Obituary, James Chapman, Courier, Dundee 23 Mar 1915 p4
The Post Office Dundee Directory … for 1858-59
1861 Census, Registration District 431, Forgan, Fife, Enumeration District 3, Page 25,26