Winston Churchill and the revenge of the Dundee women.

It’s over ninety years now since the citizens of Dundee decided to boot their sitting MP, Winston Churchill, out of office. Scots have always had a sense of irreverence towards politicans of all parties with equal amounts of contempt shown to all regardless of status. Throw in the influence of traditionally strong women and it’s perhaps not surprising that the man destined to become one of the giants of the twentieth century was handed his marching orders by the inhabitants of the Tayside city.

A youngish looking Winston Churchill
A youngish looking Winston Churchill

In 1908, after being appointed to the cabinet as President of the Board of Trade he had been forced to stand for re-election in his Manchester North constituency, a by-election he managed to lose. However a few weeks later a vacancy in the Dundee constituency caused by the elevation to the peerage of Edmund Robertson saw Churchill selected as the Liberal candidate for the forthcoming by-election in the City of Dundee.

Dundee at the time was dominated by one major industry, Jute. As a supporter of free trade Churchill won the vocal and financial backing of the local Jute barons resulting in a comfortable by-election victory. The campaign wasn’t all plain sailing however with several woman’s suffrage groups demonstrating against him. It wasn’t the first time the politician had been targeted the suffragettes. Several of his meetings had been disrupted in the past by the votes for women movement when he was identified as being against their cause. In 1909 he had even been attacked by a whip wielding woman, Theresa Garnett, at Bristol Temple Meads station. As she attempted  to force him of the platform on to the tracks it took another woman to rescue him. As the men present kept clear his wife Clementine stepped in to pull him to safety. As the century progressed Churchill’s views on enfranchisement for women became ever more favourable to their cause but unfortunately the damage was done, he was seen as representing the status quo.

Churchill was to represent the City of Dundee until the general election of 1922. He stood for re-election four times. Given that he was returned to parliament more than once it has to be concluded that he wasn’t as universally unpopular in Dundee as lore would have it. His positions in Government whilst serving Dundee including President of the Board of Trade and Home secretary brought with them a certain status which appealed to some of the electorate. However Dundee was markedly different in one area than most other cities. The Jute mills were by far the major employer and due to being cheaper to hire women outnumbered men by 3 to 1 in the workplace. With women being the main breadwinners men stayed at home and looked after the children, also carrying out cooking duties etc. In these gentler more enlightened times we’d call them House Husbands or Homedads. In early twentieth century Dundee they were commonly referred to us ‘kettle bilers.’

The Representation of the People Act in 1918 introduced major changes in eligibility to vote in UK elections. All men over 21 were to be allowed to vote and also women over 30 meeting minimum property requirements were to be enfranchised. At a stroke the electorate had changed. Combine a reputation for being against women’s rights with a strong female population and it’s no surprise that Winston Churchill found himself fighting a losing battle in the 1922 election. When trying to explain afterwards what had gone wrong the man himself described how streams of poor women had made their way to the polling booths in the hours before they closed. There were multiple reasons why he lost his seat to Edwin Scrymgeour, a prohibitionist, but the women of Tayside had certainly made their votes count.

Whilst Churchill enjoys an immense reputation throughout much of the Western world for his war time leadership his legacy in Dundee is somewhat different. He may well have come to be seen as a giant of the twentieth century but the City on the Tay has it’s own unique memories of the man.

TeenCanteen, Pure pop delight with a Scottish accent.

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Say it all With a Kiss – Teen Canteen

Since their formation in 2012, Glasgow band TeenCanteen have been steadily growing their fan base with their addictive form of sweet infectious Indie pop. Their diminutive front woman, Carla Easton has said previously that they didn’t want to release an album too soon in their career. With this sparkling debut they have proved that the wait was worthwhile .

Right from the off we are introduced to the bands trademark blend of synths and harmony vocals. We are in familiar girl group territory here but Carla and co frequently take us off in new directions. The opening tracks, including Sisters, Kung Fu Heartbeat and Roses are pure pop gems. However it is the four song sequence that follows that will have the listener playing this album in its entirety for weeks on end. Friends, Honey, How We Met (Cherry Pie) and Dancing see the band deploy every weapon at their disposal in a charm offensive guaranteed to win over the most cynical amongst us,  all delivered in a distinctive Scottish accent.  Gorgeous harmonies, memorable tunes and inventive lyrics grab your attention and refuse to let go.

The band are described on their own website as providing sticky cherry cola-kissed three part harmonies. In the wrong hands that could prove to be a sickly recipe. When a band are as sure footed as this over indulgence was never going to be an issue.

Two Minute Trivia – Jimmy Finlayson, the Scot that inspired Homer Simpson’s famous catchphrase.

In Scotland we like to claim (with some justification) that we have invented just about everything. Tarmac, the pneumatic tyre, the telephone and television were famously all invented by a Scot. To that illustrious list I would like to add the creation of a simple word. It’s a word so powerful that when used that it can express all the frustrations felt when faced with the most difficult of situations without causing offence to others. A one syllable word that more eloquently releases emotion than any known swear word. A word invented by a Scot. Of course.

Jimmy Finlayson was born in Larbert in 1887. In 1911 he left Scotland for Hollywood. A successful stage career ensued and in 1916 he ended up in Hollywood to try his luck in moving pictures. Jimmy was one of the original Keystone Kops but it was his work with legendary comedy double act Laurel and Hardy that was to cement his fame. Short and bald, it was his false walrus style moustache that made him instantly recognisable. Master of the double take, he needed a word that he could use instead of Damn which would have been deemed outrageous if uttered in a film of that time. So he came up with an elongated single syllable, D’ooooooooh.

Fast forward a few decades and Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson, has to find a way of letting Homer’s frustration out, a difficult task give that having an animated character curse on prime time TV would not go down well. Inspiration strikes as memories of Jimmy Finlayson provide Dan with the solution. He shortened the Scots actor’s cry of despair to the snappier D’oh and one of the most recognisable catch phrases of the 21st Century was born.

Given the Scots famously inventive use of swear words it seems only apt that it was a Scot that came up with the most inoffensive curse of all time.

Rocking the Boat…Great Scottish Albums – Bandwagonesque by Teenage Fanclub

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There were more than a few decent albums released in 1991. Out of Time by REM, Trompe le Monde from the Pixies, Achtung Baby from a re-invented U2 and the behemoth that was Nirvana’s Nevermind all made their first appearance in that year. It was going to take something special for any album to hold their own amongst such strong competition. With the entry in to the fray in November 1991 of Bandwagonesque, Teenage Fanclub more than made their mark.

Every great album has a great opening track, The Concept sets us up perfectly for what is to come. From its opening couplet about a denim clad girl planning to buy some Status Quo records until the end of its fabulous extended guitar coda we are treated to over six minutes of pure power pop bliss. Second track, Satan, is a tease. Eighty two seconds of shambolic guitar thrashing seems to say, this is what we could do, now listen to what we are going to deliver. What follows is track after track of utter aural delight. The combination of great melody, delicious vocals, and snappy lyrics is irresistible. Even twenty five years on it still has the listener smiling frequently. Sometimes it’s knowingly as a familiar emotion is exposed. More often though it’s just a joyous reaction to the sheer audacious dumb fun of it all.

Tracks like ‘What you do to me’ perfectly brings to life the sheer wonder of falling in love. It’s done simply with a great tune, superb vocals and a lyric that barely lasts four lines. On Metal Baby the love-struck singer tells us ‘’I’m not the sort of person she’ll admit she knows, She’s not the sort of person as driven white as snow.’’ In two lines he hasn’t just introduced the characters, he has evoked memories of every high school movie you have ever seen. There is no happy ending for this mismatched pair though as our indie geek hero sees his metal head girl leave town with the band.

There may be some imperfections here. Sidewinder doesn’t quite meet the standards of classic tracks like Alcoholiday but it only serves to highlight just how high the band were setting the bar. It’s certainly not a groundbreaking album. Its influences are all too obvious here with The Beach Boys and The Byrds humming away in the background as Big Star dominates the foreground. However If the major requirement of a great album is to be packed with great songs, Bandwagonesque is up there with the best that a Scottish band has given us. Its reaches its 25th anniversary in November, the perfect excuse to give it another listen. Do it soon, you won’t be disappointed.