Comics Dundee: Beyond The Bucket Trail

The public art and charity event Oor Wullie’s Bucket Trail is currently on in the City Of Dundee. However there is much more comics-wise in Dundee for British comics enthusiasts to visit than just the Bucket Trail.

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Perhaps the best known comics related item in Dundee is the statue of Desperate Dan, Dawg and Minnie The Minx on High Street opposite the Caird Hall.

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With Dan striding manfully along the street with his copy of The Dandy (of course), Dawg sits down to highlight that Dan is about to be hit with a tomato by a certain young minx.

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Sculpted by Tony Morrow and unveiled in 2001, it even featured in the Desperate Dan strip on the front cover of The Dandy issue 3113 dated 21 July 2001.

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Considerably newer is the statue of Oor Wullie in Albert Square outside the McManus Galleries. This was sculpted by Malcolm Robertson and unveiled earlier this year.

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Sitting on the wall of the McManus Galleries rather than his bucket, which is beside him and available for tourists to sit on, it shows young William pointing through his pea-shooter.

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Indeed he is well armed with a catapult and a large bag of peas behind him along with his school satchel.

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The ‘graffiti’ written on the wall beside the statue shows the reason for the pea-shooter and the reason that it is pointed at another of the square’s resident statues, that of Robbie Burns.

Like Dan, Wullie’s statue also includes his pet, and in the case Jeemy the mouse is peeking out of his satchel.

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Inside the McManus Galleries is a cabinet devoted to Desperate Dan and Oor Wullie publisher DC Thomson and Co Ltd which includes a World War Two copy of The Beano as well as copies of Bunty, Broons and Oor Wullie books. The cabinet is on the ground floor at the Oor Wullie statue end of the Galleries.

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The artistic creator of both Desperate Dan and Oor Wullie as well as many others was Dudley D Watkins and the cabinet includes two pages of his original artwork for Oor Wullie and The Broons. Indeed The Broons artwork is signed and dated showing it was for the Hogmanay 1950 issue of The Sunday Post.

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Dudley D Watkins lived in Broughty Ferry to the east of Dundee and his home was on Reres Road where he sadly died at his drawing board on 20 August 1969. The house, which is now surrounded by high walls and large trees, has an Historic Environment Scotland commemorative plaque on its wall celebrating Watkins’ life.

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Watkins was buried a short walk away from his home in Barnhill Cemetery, coincidentally four graves away from Robbie McIntosh of The Average White Band. Whilst the lettering has weathered badly on the gravestone over the years, it says –






DIED 20th AUGUST 1969



Dexter, by the way, was his mother’s maiden name.

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Of course Watkins worked on the staff of DC Thomson and Co Ltd and all the above characters were created for that company which was then based at the Courier Building across from the McManus Galleries in Dundee. The building, named after the company’s daily Dundee newspaper, is currently in the process of being refurbished and so is covered in scaffolding. However the brass name plaque is still at the staff entrance at Meadowside and shows the various names associated with the company.

William Thomson bought the then 85 year old Dundee Courier and Daily Argus newspaper in 1886 and in 1905 the publishing company of the Courier was changed to DC Thomson and Co Ltd under the management of William’s son David Couper Thomson, while his younger son Frederick also worked for the company. The DC Thomson company would soon take over Dundee’s other publisher John Leng, which explains why some older DCT annuals also have John Leng in their publishing details.

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Both brothers are buried in Dundee’s Western Cemetery and whilst looking at the above picture you may expect that David being the older, and more well known of the two, would have the more elaborate grave, this is not the case. Frederick Thomson died in 1917 at the young age of 53 whilst David Couper Thomson would outlast him considerably, dying in 1954 at the age of 93.

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Whilst it could be said that showing these gravestones here is somewhat ghoulish, it is worth pointing out that some of the information that they display is not that widely known, such as Dudley D Watkins being a father (to a son or sons as his niece says here that he didn’t have a daughter) and David Couper Thomson having a son who, at the time of writing, is not mentioned in his Wikipedia entry. 

This all goes to show that even when the Oor Wullie Bucket Trail is removed from Dundee, and its various Wullies are sold off for charity, there are still a lot of comics related reasons to visit the city of Dundee.

All photos copyright Jeremy Briggs

News, reviews, interviews and features for print and on-line: Spaceship Away (since October 2005), Bear Alley (since February 2007), downthetubes (since June 2007), and Eagle Times (since October 2008). Plus DC Thomson's The Art Of Ian Kennedy, Titan’s Dan Dare and Johnny Red reprints, Ilex’s War Comics: A Graphic History and 500 Essential Graphic Novels, and Print Media’s The Iron Moon and Strip magazine.

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