There have been a fair number of fires in Dundee recently, but one that occurred 28 years ago was in a particularly prominent location at a particularly prominent time.
On December 14 1988, the Tele reported: ‘The foot of Dundee’s Hilltown was blocked off today as firemen tackled a spectacular blaze in a derelict third-storey flat in busy Victoria Road, opposite the Wellgate Centre.
‘Two water tenders initially attended the scene but called for assistance shortly afterwards and were quickly reinforced with a turntable ladder.
‘When firemen reached the scene at 44 Victoria Road flames had already broken through the roof, and the top floor and attic space were well alight. The flames were visible over a wide area of the city centre.’
With the Christmas countdown well and truly on, the fire inevitably attracted attention from shoppers.
The article added: ‘Christmas shoppers watched the drama as firemen high above the burning property on the extended turntable ladder erected a powerful jet into the flames.
‘Motorists were able to make their way slowly up one-way Victoria Road despite the emergency and no serious delays furred although the inside lane nearest the fire was blocked.’
At best, the fire may have been a curiosity for shoppers. At worst, it may have been an inconvenience.
But for Steven Colligan (22), resident of one of the two flats badly damaged by the blaze, it was more serious.
He had popped out for an hour and returned to see the home he shared with girlfriend Gwen Paton (20) and two young children, Wayne and Sean, up in flames.
“They are all okay,” Steven told the Tele, but all their furniture, clothing and the children’s Christmas presents had been ruined.
Eggs are fine
Anyone remember the salmonella scare?
Twenty-eight years ago the egg industry was battered by claims from the then health minister Edwina Currie that “most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella”.
This provoked widespread outrage, with the Ministry of Agriculture stating that there were 30 million eggs consumed every day the previous year, yet just 26 outbreaks of salmonella reported. A spokesman said the odds of being infected were 200 million to one.
Yet the damage had been done. The Tele reported on December 14 1988: ‘A row broke out today as tens of thousands of free eggs were loaded aboard a plane to help feed desperate quake victims in Armenia.
‘The first planeload, including 10,000 given by Mr Dennis Warren, chairman of the UK Egg Producers Association, from his farm on the outskirts of Bath, Avon, was due to leave Heathrow today.
‘Mr George Foulkes, Shadow Foreign Minister, said: “This is the poison chalice. It is a pretty sick joke to offload eggs on to people who have suffered enough.”‘
Given the public concerns, action was taken.
That same day the Tele reported: ‘The Government was today expected to announce a nationwide advertising campaign to try to restore public confidence in eggs.
“N-E Fife MP Menzies Campbell has written to the Prime Minister over the egg problem. Mr Campbell has called on Mrs Thatcher to insist that junior minister Edwina Currie “acknowledges her mistake” and apologises for the considerable damage she has caused.”
Eggs are now eaten with enough safety and regularity to render such stories a bad dream. It shows that damaged reputations can recover, given time.