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A former resident of Dundee’s Ellengowan Drive, which is currently undergoing a £20.5m redevelopment, set foot again in the neighbourhood he grew up in 70 years ago to reminisce and see the site progress as it opens a new chapter in its illustrious history.
As well as seeing how Ellengowan Drive has changed with the new, energy-efficient housing springing up, Professor Gordon Anderson, who now spends his time between Dunkeld and Cyprus, also took the opportunity to recall fond memories growing up in an area where the estate seemed to be almost as much of a central character as the people who lived there.
Prof Anderson said: “I lived at 124 Ellengowan Drive, in the block of houses nearest to the Arbroath Road, and close to Dalkeith Road from November 1948 until April 1952.
“My father was a teacher at Dundee High School. He got his job there about a year before our family came to live in Ellengowan Drive, after demobilisation from his World War 2 service in the army.
“Coming to Dundee was a big change for us, although my grandmother lived at number 52 Ellengowan Drive, further down the hill. My father met us in Dundee and took us to our house. As young children, I remember we accepted everything very readily and soon settled into the house.”
“Although we left the house almost 70 years ago, I remember it very clearly. There was a living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a small kitchen, which my parents called the “kitchenette”. The living room had a coal fire which my parents lit every day.
“I remember soon after we moved in that my parents bought their first refrigerator. I recall being excited when we discovered that my mother could make ice-cream!”
Originally established as the estate of the wealthy Baxter family, who ran jute mills in the city, Mary Shelley was just one famous inhabitant as she stayed with the Baxters before going on to write her famous novel, Frankenstein.
It was the Baxter family of Ellengowan who also gifted Baxter Park to the city in 1863 as a place where Dundonians could relax and enjoy the green space.
Years later in 1925, 128 temporary homes were erected on the Baxter’s former estate, intended to provide Dundee with a boost in housing provision while the city developed more permanent housing. It was of course one of these that would become Prof Anderson’s childhood home.
These homes, which were only intended to have a 20-year lifespan, remained for almost 100 years as the iconic white terraced homes on the city’s Arbroath Road. Other famous inhabitant of Ellengowan Drive also included accordionist Jimmy Shand.
Discussing the sense of community that Ellengowan was famed for, Prof Anderson added: “No one in Ellengowan Drive in our time period of the late 40’s and early 50’s had a car. The narrow pathways around the houses were not suitable for cars. However, there was a lady called Miss Alexander who took her small horse and cart around the houses to sell vegetables to people like my mother.
“Ellengowan was totally safe for young children. We played frequently with other children in the communal area with the washing lines. I cannot remember any rowdiness or vandalism at all, just the neighbours being kind and friendly.
“Apart from the little shop on the corner of Dalkeith Road and the Arbroath Road (The Kiosk), there were no other shops nearby except for a small general store on Dalkeith Road at the lower part of Ellengowan Drive. Its name was Rhoda’s store.
“My cousin Alison, who also lived at Ellengowan Drive, remembered that on one occasion when her mother sent her as a young girl to Rhoda’s shop, her mother realised when she returned home that Rhoda had given her change of 1 pound instead of 10 shillings by accident. When she returned the change to the shop, Mr Smith – Rhoda’s father – gave her a quarter pound box of chocolates – a real treat!”
With the temporary 1920’s housing struggling to adhere to modern housing and energy-efficiency standards, the reluctant decision was made to decant the current tenants and replace the homes with new, good-quality energy-efficient ones.
The 130 new homes will provide a mixture of apartments, family terraced houses and cottage flats, with some of the homes specially adapted for elderly residents and those with mobility issues.
Construction of the first phase of homes was originally set to start the same week that the national lockdown began, which slightly delayed the project. However work has since progressed swiftly and the first 70 homes are anticipated to be completed around autumn 2022.
New shop space will also be delivered at the same location that The Kiosk previously occupied.
Although Prof Anderson’s time in Ellengowan was relatively short compared to some other residents, it nonetheless found itself fondly etched into his memories: “Our time living at Ellengowan Drive came to an end in April 1952. A few months previously, my father was appointed to the position of Principal Teacher of Classics at Madras College, St Andrews.
“Almost 70 years have passed since our departure date, but I still have clear memories of many aspects of life during our time in Dundee.”
Despite Ellengowan moving into a new phase of its story, its vibrant past full of tales and the memories of the people that helped make the area stand out in Dundee will always ensure it remains a special part of the city.