We recently visited the Oor Wullie Bucket Trail in Dundee to meet a childhood favourite of mine – Oor Wullie, or Our William for non-Scots.
Scottish children (and grown ups too) have been following the adventures of Oor Wullie in the Sunday Post newspaper since 1936. Wullie is a wee lad, around 8-years-old with a shock of blonde spiky hair. He’s rarely seen without his trademark black dungarees and tackety boots. He has a wee pet moose (mouse) called Jeemy and a wee white dug called Harry.
One of my childhood Christmas highlights was reading my new Oor Wullie or The Broons annual. I used to hate getting to the last page, knowing I’d have a year to wait before the next book came out. The Dundee publisher DC Thomson printed Oor Wullie and The Broons annuals on alternate years. The Broons are a family of eleven who live on the top floor of a Scottish tenement, in a city that looks much like Dundee.
My childhood is a distant memory and the grandparents who bought me the annuals each year are sadly no longer with us, but Mr G has carried on their tradition of making sure my favourite cartoon characters are waiting under the tree for me on Christmas morning.
The Oor Wullie Bucket Trail
The Oor Wullie Bucket Trail launched in Dundee last month. Spread throughout the city and surrounding area are fifty-five uniquely decorated statues of Scotland’s favourite wee rascal. There are ten touring statues too, which will travel around Scotland. The trail runs until 27th August 2016, then the statues will be auctioned off for charity.
We arrived in Dundee early and parked by RRS Discovery, an Arctic research vessel and the last three mast ship to be built in Britain.
This is where we met ‘Oor Wai ‘o’ Spikin’ Wullie (Our Way of Speaking) by artist Gabrielle Reith. He was decorated in Scots words. I’m fiercely passionate about preserving the Scots language – it’s so rich and descriptive. I grew up speaking a broad Lowland Scots dialect.
Not far from Discovery Point we met twa mair o the wee laddies.
The angelic ‘Amor Lucis’ by artist Tony Morrow. The statue is a tribute to the tireless efforts of medical staff who work beyond the daylight hours to care for sick children.
And ‘The Adventure of Discovery Never Ends’ Wullie by artist Suzanne Scott. Dundee and its people inspired this version of Wullie.
Next, we headed into town to the Caird Hall. I remember my grandad telling me he’d played the accordion at the famous, music hall. He was a keen musician and talented too.
Here we met ‘Oor Ideas’ Wullie by artists Gilly Beach & Danny Wallace. He was decorated in adhesive stamps (invented in Dundee by a Dundonian). The stamps depict other Dundee inventions or things influenced by Dundee.
We met Desperate Dan too
After ‘Oor Ideas’ we bumped into some other well-known comic book characters who hail from Dundee – Desperate Dan striding with purpose and Mini the Minx, catapult poised mischievously.
Next stop was Dundee’s historic High School which can trace its origins back to 1239.
Other than his mischievous grin and paint splattered dungarees ‘High School’ Wullie (who was designed by pupils from Dundee High), looked remarkably angelic. Anyone who knows the laddie knows he’s full of devilment.
The McManus Gallery stands opposite Dundee High. Outside the gallery a statue of Robert Burns sits proudly on a plinth. Behind him our hero was lurking, with pea-shooter aimed at Scotland’s national bard.
Read for yourself below.
Oor Wullie aw ower the place!
We headed towards the docks next in the hunt for a cluster of five statues.
We discovered ‘Oor Original’ by Peter Davidson first. Peter is the current illustrator of Oor Wullie and The Broons. This was my favourite, as it was a dead ringer for the wee lad who’s made me smile for so many years.
We found ‘Oor Jolomo’ by the famous Scottish painter Jolomo outside The Apex City Quay Hotel.
Six years ago during the winter of 2010 we spent ten hours in a blizzard trying to drive the 22.6 miles between Dundee and Perth. When we finally reached Perth the road south was closed and the police turned us back towards Dundee. iPhone dying and in desperate need of a roof for the night I remembered Dundee had an Apex. I dialled, got through and snapped up the last available room before my phone died. We arrived to a huge queue at reception and a full hotel – unheard of for a Sunday night in late November.
We ended up staying for two nights while the blizzard raged outside. It was blissful being holed up in a cozy 4-star spa hotel as the country ground to a halt. We’d been travelling home from a stay at a hotel in Aberdeen so we had swimwear with us – result. It was lovely, relaxing in a hot-tub watching the snow falling outside.
Our room during that stay had a great view of the HM Frigate Unicorn which was berthed in a dock outside. The 200-year-old ship is Scotland’s only example of a wooden warship.
It was by the HM Frigate Unicorn that we met ‘Oor Rabbie – The Bard and the Bucket’ Wullie by artist Susan McGill.
Nearby, on the banks of the River Tay we found ‘Discovery Bridge’ Wullie by Paul Walker. I loved this one with its depiction of the Tay Road and Rail Bridges painted on each side. I also loved the little red brick street it was sitting in.
Heading back towards the town centre we passed the migraine inducing ‘Glow’ Wullie.
Our next stop was The Howff Burial Ground – the final resting place of Dundee’s great and good since 1564. It’s a tranquil, leafy haven with some lovely old stones.
We found ‘Whar Ji Cum Fi?’ (where do you come from) Wullie lurking in there.
A braw day oot
The sky was looking increasingly ominous at this stage and Mr G was beginning to get twitchy about making it back to Edinburgh to watch Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final. He won – yay Andy.
On our way back to the car we passed ‘Oor Mechanic’ Wullie posing with the Michelin Man.
We reached the car just as the heavens opened – perfect timing.
As we were leaving Dundee we spotted ‘Oor Bowie, Your Bowie, A’body’s Wullie’ – a tribute to the late, great David Bowie. We bid him and Dundee a fond farewell.
I’m glad I was lured into Dundee by a much-loved figure from my childhood. My travels around Scotland rarely take me to Scotland’s cities. Dundee may not be a classically beautiful city like Edinburgh, but it has bags of charm.
If you ever get the chance to visit, go – there’s way more to Dundee than you might think.
Until next time ………