Dundee: unicorns and robots

North Carr Lightship with HMS Unicorn behind to the left

Our second day in Dundee was as wet and cold as the first. Fortunately, we weren’t planning to go far. Our hotel, the Apex, was right on the old Victoria Dock where our first target for the day, HMS Unicorn, is moored.

Making our way past North Carr, the last remaining Scottish lightship, and Chandlers Lane with the Tay Road Bridge visible at the end, we boarded the Unicorn to be met by the rather buxom lady in the gallery below.

HMS Unicorn was built for the Royal Navy in the Royal Dockyard at Chatham and launched in 1824.  She is a rare survivor from the days of sail, the sixth oldest ship in the world, and Scotland’s only representative of the sailing navy. On board there are unicorns everywhere, including a list of other Royal Navy ships which have borne the name since the 16th century, and many cannons.

It was interesting to see how the ordinary sailors slept and ate (guess who tried out the hammock) and to contrast the officers’ quarters. I was also intrigued by the information about musketry phrases. A flash in the pan and going off half-cocked I knew about, but not sideburns.

After exploring the Unicorn we made our way along the waterfront to the V&A where we had tickets for the exhibition Hello Robot. We found an intriguing geometric street sculpture about which I can’t find anything online, though the rope running along the wall is part of Stitch in time by Jeremy Cunningham.

We climbed this viewing platform and noticed that the concrete monument next to it was part of the Dundee Women’s Trail – too high to read the plaque from below and too far away to read from the platform! However, with the help of the zoom lens we established it was to commemorate Bella Keyzer, one of the women who took over the jobs of men who were away fighting in World War 2. She became a shipyard welder.

We passed under the Tay Road Bridge, and detoured onto it for a view of the V&A before arriving at the museum itself. This gallery shows how dreich the weather really was! With the exception of some painted pillars and a glimpse into a bright office it was totally grey.

Finally, a few shots from Hello Robot itself. In the entrance was this amazing wooden sculpture, Up Sticks. I would find it difficult to paraphrase, so have included the explanation in full.

I also liked this colourful wall of sayings, though I can’t say I agree with all of them.

My favourite item was probably the print Mobile Relationship by Manu Cornet, with which I could definitely identify, and just to prove there were some exhibits that actually looked like robots I’ve included one of those. Overall, the technical stuff interested me much less than the sociological stuff, and I was looking forward much more to the V&A’s next exhibition on Mary Quant which, like so much else, is currently postponed.

Having explored the Unicorn and the V&A, and had lunch, we still had quite a bit of wet afternoon left. We went back to the hotel to pick up the car and headed for Broughty Ferry, but I’ll leave that for my next post.