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back then...

I came across

a file of negatives from the late 60's and early 70's; a time before I went to Art College. I had just bought my first camera (actually it was my second. I had been using an ancient box Brownie of my Grandmother's). The new camera was a Yaschica twin-lens. A pale imitation of a Rollei, but as much as I could afford.
When I was working at the University I would go out most evenings on my bike exploring the byeways around Dundee. On the return journey I might stop for a snack somewhere en route. The cafe in the picture is probably the one on Strathmartine Road that had old-fashioned marble tables and curving wooden seating punctured with holes in a decorative pattern. I'm wearing my green cardigan and over my shoulder is a canvas WW2 gas-mask bag to carry my camera. This was a throw-back to an even earlier period.
When I was at secondary school, everyone, almost without exception, had one of these for their books. An old leather school bag from primary days on your back might have marked you out for verbal scorn but toting a brief case at Stalag Stobie would have guaranteed you a good kicking. The name of the previous owner of the said gas-mask satchel was inscribed on the flap and mine had belonged to a Cpl. Skinner as I recall. I hope he survived the war!
This evening in the cafe I've placed the camera on the opposite table and as luck would have it the tables are reflected in the mirror. Pure chance!

By November 1971

I was at art college and hardly able to believe my luck! I had been working since leaving school in 1962 aged 16 and now here I was at last doing what I wanted. I'm on the left, not quite having made the dress transition from paid employee to student. Is that a tie I see and trousers with a crease?
I remember that jacket. It was pale sandy-brown and had a tear on the left sleeve where a Securicor alsation grabbed it. No legal action ensued on either part; it was pure accident.
In the middle is Rab Walker who is clearly quite at ease in his threads. On the right Jimmy Valentine looks casual but smart. The photographer you will meet shortly. We went to Edinburgh in my old Morris Traveller to visit the National Gallery and...

The Botanical Gardens

Here he is. Alan Scott.
Illustrator extraordinary. If you're stuck on a Scots word then look up his witty and informative website—stoory duster—for a laugh and brilliantly drawn images.

Hepworth and beyond

It's thanks to him that these pictures of my youth exist. Cheers alan!

Seabraes 1972

Seabraes was always a nice place to sit. In fact my grandmother used to take me there in my pram to look out at the trains coming and going and the River Tay beyond. On this sunny morning we are seated in the gardens and on the skyline two cranes are working on the new extension to the Art College.

showtime 1972

Here I am with Rab in front of my first-year show at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee. I can recall the work on the wall pretty well even after 40 years. We tried everything that year; I was in heaven. Oil painting, textile and graphic design, printmaking and ceramics to name a few. And of course drawing every day either from the model or still-life. I still have some of the little pocket drawing pads I used to make quick notes around the town.

What still shocks me is that I stuck so steadfastly to unstudent-like kit. Sports jacket and trousers? What is this? I ask you! Most guys had jeans and T-shirts and the girls wore floor-length diaphanous dresses sometimes with clogs or platforms.