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

That Nice Miss Smith

The whole of Victorian Scotland was spellbound by the High Court trial of the alleged poisoner Madeleine Smith who was accused of murdering her lover Emile L’Angelier in 1857.

The inhabitants of Newport took an extra interest in the newspaper reports as one of the protagonists in the case had been a frequent visitor to the village only a few years previously.

Tay Brae Cottage

Taybrae Cottage, just up the hill from the ferry pier on the site of 16 Boat Brae but now demolished, was a second home for Andrew Smith, an upholsterer in the Nethergate, and his family.

In the 1850s Taybrae Cottage allowed them to escape from the delights that their city home off the Nethergate afforded them. It was here in 1852 that someone who was later to figure in that court case was a repeat visitor.

It wasn’t (as the name might suggest) Madeleine Smith, but the victim – Emile L’Angelier – who came here so often.

Andrew Watson Smith, the eldest son in the upholsterer’s business, was very friendly with Emile who was working in Laird’s nurseryman’s shop in Nethergate, just along from the upholstery business. Andrew was staying in the Newport house at the time and Emile frequently came across to visit him. He often stayed over from Saturday till Monday.

Unfortunately neither Dundee’s nor Newport’s attractions were enough for Emile because in July 1852 he had moved to Glasgow, a move which was to be his last.

Five years later he was dead, Madeleine’s trial ended with a ‘Not Proven’ verdict, and numerous books, articles and films were to follow.

Sources:

  • The original connection was given in That Nice Miss Smith, Nigel Morland, 1988, Souvenir Press Classic Crime Series
  • Trial of Miss Madeline Smith, in the High Court of Justiciary, on the charge of poisoning, June 30-July 9, 1857, published by The Scotsman Office, Edinburgh, 1857. Internet Archive
  • Census Scotland, 1851. Nethergate, Dundee. 282/82/14. ScotlandsPeople
  • Dundee Directory 1853. Internet Archive