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.

The Scottish Unicorn

Glasgow Mercat Cross

I once mentioned that Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn. As one or two people expressed surprise I planned to write a post about unicorns, and Becky’s current March Squares challenge has given me just the kick I need. It’s Spiky Squares, and what is it that a unicorn has on its forehead if not a great big spike? And, to coin a phrase, I can gore two challenges with one horn by linking to Cathy’s Photography Theme invitation too!

The unicorn was first used on the Scottish Royal Coat of Arms in the 12th century. That might seem odd given that it’s not real, but it was chosen for its role in Celtic mythology as a symbol of purity and innocence as well as masculinity and power. You can see an example of the Scottish Arms at the end of this post, but before that here are some more spiky unicorn squares I’ve spotted on my travels.

The header image is Glasgow’s Mercat (Market) Cross, which looks ancient but dates from 1929/30. Below are two examples from the University of Glasgow – one atop the Memorial Gates, and the other on the Lion and Unicorn Staircase (the unicorn is on the left). The staircase dates from 1690 and is one of two structures which were moved from the old university site on High Street to its current home in Gilmorehill in 1870.

The next two are both winter events which we’ve attended in Edinburgh in the last couple of years – Ice Adventure and the Chinese Lanterns at the zoo.

Still in Edinburgh, the golden unicorn on the left below adorns the doors of the Queen’s Gallery. The one on the right is from HMS Unicorn in Dundee.

There are two versions of this straw unicorn because I think it’s so beautiful. It’s in Crawick Multiverse, a landscape art site in Galloway.

And finally, this is not my picture, but here’s an example of the Arms of Scotland as used from the 12th century until 1603 when James VI of Scotland updated it after inheriting the English throne.

Sodacan [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
So that’s my quick gallop through Scottish unicorns! Don’t forget to head over to Becky’s blog to see her Spiky Squares, running daily till the end of March, and to Cathy’s blog ~wander.essence~ for lots more travel loveliness.