If there is anyone who can tell you a thing or two about Dundee’s Waterfront, it’s former shipyard worker Malcolm Gracie.
Malcolm, 75, was a youngster serving an apprenticeship in the 1950s when he was asked to undertake work on the HMS Unicorn, then berthed at Earl Grey Dock.
The dock has long since given way to the gradual creation of the city’s new Central Waterfront – and Malcolm is set to return there tomorrow.
He is among the lucky few getting a sneak peek of V&A Dundee before its opening to the public – and he can’t wait to see inside.
Malcolm, from the Blackscroft area of the city, said: “What has been happening at the Waterfront is a big improvement.
“There’s a bit of history around here because you can still see the waylines on the slips coming up on to the shore but I know things have to change.
“A lot of people from my generation say that ‘things weren’t like this when I was young’ but I really hope this is a change for the better.”
Malcolm undertook a five-year apprenticeship in his mid-teens after leaving school, working on ships at the Caledon yards.
He worked on HMS Unicorn before its demarcation, when the ship sailed up the Tay to Victoria Dock where it is still moored today.
He later took a job in construction at Bett Brothers before training as a teacher, a profession he stayed in for 30 years.
Malcolm said: “I started my apprenticeship nine months after I left school.
“It gave me a really good grounding in the way that the docks worked.
“In the early days I started off lifting timber out of lorries – the apprentices did all the heavy lifting.
“Things are very different in Dundee now than they were back then. I can remember taking the Fifie ferry across the Tay – I was never off that as a kid.
“But there are tourists coming into Dundee now instead.
“The dock was a hive of activity. It was the DPNL dock, where all the coasties – coastal vessels – left Dundee for London.
“Dundee after the war was a bit like a melting pot – you had Dutch, French, Norwegian, Polish and Russian people all here.
“There are all kinds of influences in Dundee now.
“I really hope this is the city finding its place in the world because the V&A has put it on the map.
“Dundee is in a much better place than it was 20 years ago.”
Malcolm has been given the opportunity to have an early look round Scotland’s new design museum, having been selected to go by the team running HMS Unicorn.
He has provided them with first-hand experience of his time working at the Caledon shipyards and on board the Unicorn for the last two years.
Finlay Raffle, learning and engagement officer at HMS Unicorn, said it was “really fitting” for Malcolm to be one of the first at the V&A.
He said: “He has experienced the changing Waterfront in Dundee over his working life in the city’s docks and remembers how different the site of the V&A used to be more than half a century ago.
“People like Malcolm who worked at the shipyards are the people who made Dundee what it is today.”