2023 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of Dundee Civic Trust. The Trust was formed in February 1973, when the post-war reshaping of the city was nearing its conclusion and the resultant sacrifices made in terms of lost architectural heritage were becoming clear. This was also the year in which the penultimate edition of the Dundee Directory was published. In its review of 1972, the Directory states that:
“The city’s most familiar sound became the roar of bulldozers. Vast areas of property in the older parts of the city were razed including almost the whole area between King Street and Victoria Road, and large tracts in Lochee and the Watson Street area. The city at the end of the year was beginning to resemble a vast builder’s yard.”
Our picture shows the Dundee into which the Civic Trust was born: a view of the cleared Wellgate, looking down from the steps towards the Cowgate. Now the Wellgate Centre, which stamped its heavy footprint upon this scene, has an uncertain future.
The world of 1973 was so different from 2023 that one is reminded of the quote from “The Go-Between”, by L P Hartley: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Some things, however, are not that different. Elected representatives and local government officials don’t always get it right. The local media have been inclined to occasionally portray the Civic Trust as a “watchdog” and we would like to think that an appropriate description. In the third decade of the 21st century, the work of community organisations like ours is as important as ever.