Oor Wullie an auld childhood friend
We recently visited the Oor Wullie Bucket Trail in Dundee to meet a childhood favourite of mine – Oor Wullie, or Our William if you don’t speak with a native Scots tongue.
Scots have been enjoying the adventures of Oor Wullie in the Sunday Post newspaper since 1936. He’s 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 called Jeemy and a wee white dug called Harry.
One of the highlights of my childhood Christmases was reading my new Oor Wullie or The Broons annual. I used to hate getting to the last page, knowing I’d have a whole year to wait for the next annual. DC Thomson the Dundee publisher printed Oor Wullie annuals biennially. In between we got The Broons. A family of 11 who lived on the top floor of a traditional Scottish tenement flat in a city that looked much like Dundee. Like Oor Wullie The Broons are firm favourites in Scotland.
My 1970s childhood is now a distant memory, and the grandparents who gave me the annuals each Christmas are sadly long gone, but Mr G has carried on the tradition of making sure that instantly recognisable parcel is still waiting under the tree for me on Christmas morning.
The Oor Wullie Bucket Trail
Anyway, I digress. Last month The Oor Wullie Bucket Trail launched in Dundee. Spread throughout the city and surrounding areas you’ll find 55 uniquely decorated statues of Scotland’s favourite wee rascal. There are also a further 10 touring statues, travelling around Scotland for all to enjoy. The trail will run until 27th August, then the statues will be auctioned for charity. There’s a smart phone app to help you navigate the city or a downloadable and printable trail map if you prefer a paper version.
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 or Our Way of Speaking Wullie by artist Gabrielle Reith. He was beautifully decorated in Scots words. I’m fiercely passionate about preserving the Scots language. It’s so rich and descriptive with so many marvellous words.
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. He’s inspired by the city of Dundee and its people.
Next we headed into town to the famous concert hall, the Caird Hall. I remember my granddad telling me stories about playing the accordion here once. He was a keen musician. I always think of him fondly when I see the building.
Here we met Oor Ideas Wullie by artists Gilly Beach & Danny Wallace. He’s 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 met some other colourful Dundee characters from the Beano comic. It was no other than Desperate Dan and Mini the Minx, catapult poised in hand.
Next stop was the historic High School of Dundee, which can trace its origins way back to 1239.
Other than his mischievous grin and paint splattered dungarees this Wullie looked remarkably angelic. Anyone who knows the laddie knows he’s full of mischief. Meet High School Wullie designed by pupils from the school.
Opposite the High School is the beautiful McManus Gallery. A statue of Burns sits proudly on a plinth outside and behind him lurks our hero, pea shooter aimed squarely at Burns.
Oor Wullie aw ower the place!
We headed towards the docks next in the hunt for a cluster of 5 statues.
Oor Original by Peter Davidson was first up. Peter is the current illustrator of both Oor Wullie and The Broons. This was my favourite. A dead ringer for the wee lad who’s made me smile so many times over the years.
We found Oor Jolomo by the famous Scottish painter Jolomo outside The Apex City Quay Hotel, with their giant Apex rubber duck.
6 years ago during the terrible winter of 2010 we spent 10 hours on the road travelling the 22.6 miles between Dundee and Perth. When we finally reached Perth the roads south were closed and we were turned back towards Dundee. iPhone dying and in desperate need of a roof for the night I remembered they had an Apex. By the skin of my teeth I got through and booked their last available room before my phone died. We arrived to a huge queue and a packed hotel on a Sunday night in late November.
We ended up staying for 2 nights as the blizzard raged outside. It was bliss. Holed up in a cozy, 4 star spa hotel as Britain ground to a halt. Thankfully as we’d been travelling home from a stay at a hotel in Aberdeen with a pool were we had all we needed to enjoy our unexpected bonus break – swimwear. I’ll never forget lounging in the hot tub watching the snow fall outside.
Our room during that 2010 stay had a wonderful view of the HM Frigate Unicorn which sits berthed in the dock outside. At nearly 200 years old it’s Scotland’s only example of a wooden warship.
It was here 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 the depiction of the Tay Road and Rail Bridges painted up each side. I also loved the picturesque little red brick street it sat at the end of.
We headed back towards town passing the migraine inducing Glow Wullie.
Our next stop was The Howff Burial Ground, the final resting place of the great and the good of Dundee since 1564. It has some lovely old stones and is a tranquil leafy haven.
We met Whar Ji Cum Fi? Or Where do you come from? Wullie lurking in there. I’m sure the illustrious residents would approve.
A braw day oot
The sky was looking increasingly ominous at this stage and Mr G was starting to twitch about making it back to Edinburgh in time 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 beside the instantly recognisable Michelin Man.
We made it back to the car just as the rain came teeming down.
As we left Dundee, homeward bound we passed Oor Bowie, Your Bowie, A’body’s Wullie. A tribute to the late, great David Bowie. We bid him and Dundee and fond farewell.
I’m so glad a much-loved figure from my childhood lured me into Dundee today. In my never-ending travels around Scotland I rarely volunteer to enter a city, preferring remote spaces and scenery. Dundee isn’t a classically beautiful city like Edinburgh. It’s urban and gritty like Glasgow but like Glasgow it has some stunning architecture and bags of charm.
If you can go see for yourself, there’s more to Dundee than you think.
Until next time ………