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I have read that Blackness Library is celebrating its centenary this year and that members and former members are being invited to offer special memories associated with the library. I have one incident with which I was directly linked and which caused something of a surprise at the library in the 1940s. Whether anyone else still linked to the area remembers it I am not sure, but I believe it was the talk of the Sinderins at the time.I am the grandson of the former owner of Fort House, 434 Perth Road, when it was Fort House Nursing Home. It was owned and run by my father’s mother, Mrs Jane McDougall, and later by my aunt the late Miss Louise McDougall (my grandfather used the spelling McDougall but I use MacDougall purely from personal choice). I was born at Fernbrae (why not at Fort House I do not know and cannot ask my parents because they are both deceased) and lived with my parents and elder and younger sister at 7, Blackness Avenue and then in Tait’s Lane (where my father had a physiotherapy practice; my father named the house Cruachan, but I cannot recall the number, but the house was still there several years ago, one of a pair of houses together with walled gardens).
Fort House was owned by the McDougall’s for two weeks short of fifty years until my aunt retired in the late 1960s or early 1970s. The garden facing the riverside is huge and my grandmother employed a gardener. The foot of the long garden ended in quite a steep slope and during the Second World War my grandmother had the bottom end turned into a fenced chicken run with small sheds and large spare ground and she also had a sty and pen built for housing two pigs. This was over 200 yards away from the house and out of sight, such was the size of the garden, which was gorgeously laid out with soft fruit and vegetable areas near the large greenhouse, then lawns and a stream and small pond nearer the house, then two rose gardens and a raised terrace with pear trees and another lawn. Being able to have a few hens (and turkeys) and pigs naturally enabled my grandmother to have some of her own meat during the war to help feed the patients.
My elder sister and myself (my younger sister was a baby in the late 1940s) were allowed to play in the garden at Fort House quite regularly when with our parents as long as we kept reasonable quiet and did not shout and scream when playing lest it upset any patients who needed peace and quiet.
I have no memory of the actual “library incident with the pigs” which I an about to relate, because I was too young to remember, but it is a story which has lived in the family over the years (usually recalled at Christmas etc). Naturally, the pigs had to be taken to the slaughterhouse and I do have a visual memory of a small truck coming down the wide path at the side of the garden and along to the sty to load pigs. I will have been aged about four (1945) or a year or two older when, according to what my late parents and aunt used to recount (and my elder sister, who was not present as she was at school and has only a vague memory of the day) and emergency call was made to my grandmother from Blackness Library saying that her pigs were in the library and trying to eat the books!
The story in the family was told a few ways, but the most general one was that a lady at the library telephoned Fort House (everyone in the area must have known the only place nearby with pigs was Fort House) to ask my grandmother if she had lost any pigs because there were two in the library causing havoc and could she please have them taken away immediately! Apparently, yours truly reckoned that the van was due to come for the pigs and because I did not want the animals to go I had opened the sty gate and let them out. I have no memory of being given a good hiding or anything. But I imagine I must have been kept on a ‘tight rein’ and not allowed to roam about the garden unescorted for a while. Whether my grandmother sent any cured bacon to the librarian as a peace offering I can’t say!
I do have very fond memories of Blackness Library. It was really my introduction to books, the great interest in my life today. I remember going to the library many times for story readings and loved them all. They always had me engrossed. I now have a library of over 3000 volumes at home with wall to wall shelving. My Dundee collection fills one bookcase with everything from Lamb’s magnificent Dundee to dozens of other much valued and cherished old and new Dundee volumes. I have always loved libraries (I use York Central, York University, York King’s Manor and York Minster libraries regularly as a wonderful public privilege. Public Libraries are one of the great British Institutions and I have to thank Blackness Library for being an important springboard to enthusiasm for books and literature. You can’t get anymore enthusiastic than even wanting pigs to learn to read!
I hope my anecdote about the pigs at Blackness Library will be of interest and I wish Blackness Library and all Dundee libraries a long, flourishing, happy existence.