Dundee – why the hate?


“Everything the light touches is St Andrews.”

“Wow… But what about that shadowy land?”

“That’s Dundee. You must never go there, Simba.”


Such goes the popular meme that has marred the reputation of the city many prefer to call ‘Scumdee’. Any mention of this ‘forsaken’ place is usually accompanied by a tirade of aggrandized abuse hurled at our friendly neighbour, involving vague generalizations asserted about its unkempt estates, ‘dodgy’ streets and the little known yet infamous specimen – the ned. These tropes have indubitably filtered into the St Andrews subconscious, constantly shaping the perceptions of those who dwell in the safe, noble confines of the Bubble.

I am not here to convince you to like Dundee. While I am personally quite fond of the place, let’s not kid ourselves – Dundee is no cosmopolitan metropolis brimming with sleepless activity and cultural life. It’s a lacklustre port city that prides itself on the unremarkable production of jute – a vegetable fibre used in rope manufacturing – whose most noteworthy landmark is arguably its only shopping mall, Overgate (which incidentally is only two letters short of being ‘overrated’).

Nevertheless, I am here to come to Dundee’s defense. St Andrews may have it ‘better’ in a number of ways, but we need to stop acting so stuck up about it. Instead of an impassioned exhortation or disingenuous rant, however, I will simply offer one reason as to why you should reconsider your opinion about Dundee. This reason is Fat Stevie.

Fat Stevie is not a fangled derivative of ‘Fat Sams’, Dundee’s biggest nightclub that has been host to oodles of reckless debauchery since its inception in 1983.

No – Fat Stevie is a man. He came into my life like a daffodil in the wind, wonderfully and unobtrusively, one fateful day during an adventure in Dundee. He introduced himself to me and my friend as “Fat Stevie – nay, phat with a PH”. A quick search on Urban Dictionary informs me that “phat” in fact stands for “pretty-hot-and-tempting”. He reassured us that he wasn’t a paedophile just because he wanted to buy us a pony and chaser, and proceeded to give us an extended lecture on the history of Dundee in the full richness (or profanity, if you prefer) of the Dundonian language.

“Don’t worry lassies. Yoo’r my daughter’s age,” he said. “She’s fookin’ mental. Just like me, but with tits!”

Upon a particularly euphonious crescendo of the Gaelic song playing at The Pillars pub, Phat Stevie out of nowhere burst into song, belting along in falsetto at the top of his lungs, all the while spinning around on his bar stool, zipping and unzipping his fly with pronounced zeal. With aplomb hard to come by in anyone, the episode culminated in his bellowing “FOOK IT!! FOOOOK IT!!!!” repeatedly, to the bartender’s complete unconcern.

When Phat Stevie found out that I was from Hong Kong, he told me about his days in the navy, how much he thought the British should have “fought harder” during the handover, and that he only wished he got to see more of the city because he spent most of his time there inside a submarine. Despite the circumstances, his most distinct impression of my hometown seemed to be the fact that people there apparently put their “babies in fookin’ cages”. I was not entirely sure what this meant, so I just nodded along.

Despite his broad travel experience and knowledge of Dundonian history, Phat Stevie remains an humble man. With a startling sobriety, he pointed at a painting hanging above a row of seats inside The Pillars, confessing: “I’ve been drinkin’ at this pub since I was 14. I’m 43 now, and I still hannae a fookin’ clue what that painting means.” He then took us out on a pub crawl around Dundee, considerately sending us off in time to catch our bus back to St Andrews.

Phat Stevie is one of the most memorable people I have ever met. Without him, I would have never known that there is (allegedly) a pub in Dundee that has leather seats made out of whales’ foreskins. Thanks to him, I can now ably tell people to “please excuse themselves and lie in a pool of their own urine” if I wanted to, or more precisely “awaagh leh, inyar pish” – no doubt a skill of self-defence that will surely benefit me later on in life. Because of Phat Stevie, Dundee is a brighter place, one that I would have been proud to call home.

But the story does not end here, for Phat Stevie left us with one wish.

“Seriously ladies, I tell you, I am passionate about one thing – that’s Dundee. Go back to St Andrews and tell everyone to come find me, and I will take a selfie with them.”

So dear readers, I challenge you to join this revolution.

Let us break the red-robed shackles that bind us, the tartan misogyny of the Kate Kennedy, the filibuster of tutorials and committee meetings. Let us march towards the land of hopes and dreams. The land of neds, jutes and much besotted McDonalds. The land of Phat Stevie.

Join us in this social media storm. Today, you too can take your #selfieswithphatstevie.


  1. wow. This article just proves the stuck-up stereotypes of St Andrews students as true. As a student at St Andrews originally from Dundee, I am ashamed and embarrassed to call myself a student here with people who continue to mock our fair city. Why do you think it is appropriate to mock our history and culture which many Dundonians are so very proud of? Your article also contains inaccuracies, namely ” its only shopping mall, Overgate” when in fact there are two, you failed to mention the Wellgate. So next time you try to write a shoddy piece (which I know you’ll claim is a joke) just think for a second, should I be mocking a whole city? I for one am proud of Dundee, every city has its good and bad points and every time I mention where I am from I should not have to wait for the glaring judgmental response.

  2. Good grief what a generalising, offensive piece of drivel. And I’m not even from Dundee!
    The number of times I’ve read this type of thing on here only to see it be defended as satire or parody is getting very frustrating.
    Dundee is a fantastic place, I’ve always loved going. Yes it has the odd person you’ll find offensive, but I’ve met plenty of those in St Andrews too..
    St Andrews is the only place I’ve faced personal, prejudicial attacks on the street despite being a white male from a few hours drive north…

  3. Scumdee.

    I understand the Courier are to report on this story. Can you imagine the headline? Can you imagine the damage done to the University’s reputation and outreach programme?

    I hope Charmaine Che has an apology to hand.

  4. Why is everybody angry at Charmaine Che? She’s clearly a fictional parody columnist created to replicate satirically the ignorant type of mindset that does exist to a worryingly high-proportion among St Andrews students.
    If this isn’t the case, then I think its just a really immature, poorly-written excuse for a piece of student journalism….there are so many flaws to the article that it’s not even worth trying to write a rebuttal to it.
    I’m from Fife originally and I attend St Andrews. Sadly over my first three years of study at the university, I’ve just become hardened to this type of bigotry.. In my first-year, I would have passionately challenged stereotypes about local Fifers and Dundonians, but these days I easily find solace in the fact that the type of people who continue to hold these opinions actually never return to Fife/Dundee after they’ve finished their studies. They’re just a temporary nuisance that’s refreshed and continued with the cycle and flow of arriving and departing students.

  5. I’m a student originally from Dundee now studying in Glasgow and although I prefer where I am now, and openly admit that, this piece of writing is completely ridiculous. It’s full of judgmental comments and actually complete inaccuracies. There were times when I was younger that I’d visit St Andrews and also find numerous locals that would fit into the infamous ‘NED’ category. There’s much more to do in Dundee than St Andrews and there won’t be half as many people sticking their nose up at you while you do so! Also, as mentioned in a comment above, there IS another shopping mall. That already makes two more than St. Andrews without including the city centres wide variety of shops, it’s small indoor shopping centre the Forum/Keillor center, the numerous retail parks and lochee high street all brimming with a variety of shops. Never mind all the interesting galleries and museums that teach about some fantastic dundonian history. Charmaine Che may have realised all this had she walked further than 500 yards from the bus station and perhaps in a different direction from the ‘overrated’ overgate. Dundee has a lot to offer, a lot of potential and a lot of beautiful places and people. Much less can be said for St Andrew’s University. If I were to generalise St Andrew’s University the same way Charmaine has generalised Dundee I’d say it’s a very boring place, full of stuck up, snobs. Dundee doesn’t just pride itself on the Jute it produced. Had the writer of this article looked into Dundee’s history a bit more before passing comment, she would have also realised that Dundee is the city of discovery famous for the THREE J’s. Jute, jam and journalism. So we can tell a shoddy piece of writing a mile off. Congratulations on making yourself out to be a grade A twat Charmaine Che. A public apology wouldn’t go a miss.

    • well said! the article basically could be summed up in a few sentences – the writer obviously got of the bus and walked to the overgate, allegedly met some character called Steve and came home. I think we also have to blame whoever has edited and published this as well.

  6. Clearly you went on a day trip to Dundee and that’s about it, you can expect to write a fair article about my city on the basis of that. So many inaccuracies and generalisations, what reaction do you expect to gain from an article like this? Dundee is a city many people are proud to call their home, how dare you mock out city. I’m embarrassed to go to St Andrews University with people like you, cringe.

  7. Utter rubbish. No wonder more Dundonians or youngsters from disadvantaged areas don’t apply or aspire to come here, I wouldn’t either if I read this crap.

  8. Ooft, academic and geographical snobbery thinly veiled as satire. The author should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Dundee as a city has achieved a sensational amount when you put it in proportion with its size.

    Horribly distasteful piece.

  9. Are you all thick? This is not written against Dundee, but against the negative stereotypes perpetuated against it. It even satirises the typical St Andrews attitude about Dundee.

    The fact that no-one understands that amazes me.

    • Well this article genuinely upsets me so we’re sorry for taking it offensively but how would you feel if it wad your hometown which you were so very fond of that was getting attacked? So disgusted with the writer and the Saint.

      • That’s the thing, she actually was saying she liked Dundee, and not to write it off! It’s just a simple misunderstanding to say she was degrading it.

  10. Absolutely inaccurate representation of Dundee. As a proud Dundonian I am shocked and appalled at this small-minded take on a city full of culture, history and diversity. With so many things to offer, Dundee is in no way a ned-ridden lacklustre port city. Yes, Dundee is proud of its jute production, in addition to its, journalism, history, culture, scientific research and medical discoveries alongside many other attributes which make me proud to call it home. As a Student of St Andrews I am quite frankly embarrassed of this article. Well done for making yourself an ignorant, small minded human being.

  11. Lacklustre with no cultural life? This girl evidently didn’t visit the DCA, currently hosting the biggest UK exhibition to date by Navid Nuur, and a venue which tends to feature a selection of indie and foreign-language films, unavailable at the cinema in St Andrews. Or the McManus galleries, which last year hosted a touring exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings and sketches and has fantastic exhibits on throughout the year. Or the Rep theatre. She also is perhaps unaware of the fact that the Victoria and Albert museum is opening a design museum in the city – there is already a project being run by the V&A in Dundee called “Living Room for the City”, which is fascinating. There are also gigs on most nights of the week – unlike in St Andrews. The fact that there’s a well-known school of Art and two large universities in the town means that there tends to be a lot more of a buzz and in fact a lot more for students to do than in St Andrews. I do attend St Andrews but I spend a lot of time in Dundee – as an art history student with an interest in music and culture, I find it to be far more cosmopolitan than our beautiful, but insular seaside town.

  12. Deeter is absolutely right – seriously, no need to take offense. This is a satirical article on St Andrews’ snobbery…it is not an affront against Dundee.
    Charmaine Che aptly expressed the parochial perspective of many a St Andrews student, in a lighthearted if cutting way.
    It’s satire.

    • Well the attempt at satire clearly failed then…anyone with an ounce of sense would have read this before publishing it and thought wait, this might be offensive to all the people who call Dundee home. Since when was it nice to comment on other people’s towns anyway? Just because you had a day trip there once doesn’t really qualify you to write an article about it.

  13. Satire? Absolutely not, a narcissistic gush of bile aimed at her like minded peers.
    Ridiculous, humourless waste of ink.
    Is this the standard accepted by St Andrew’s Uni?

  14. From an outsider’s perspective (having neither studied at St Andrews nor having visited Dundee) I don’t find this article to be particularly offensive. I think the satirical nature of the article allowed for generalisations (given the context) which most readers can discern are not representative of Dundee as a whole.

    Disapprove of the article if you like, but I don’t think any personal attacks on the writer are warranted given that I see no reason to believe she intended harm.

    • It’s easy to say that when you are not from Dundee. Imagine someone saying your hometown is “no cosmopolitan metropolis brimming with sleepless activity and cultural life”. Basically it feels like a random student who knows nothing of our city has just came along and shat on everything Dundonians are living for? It’s like a stab in the heart every time I read this and if this is what Charmaine and her peers think of Dundee, the sooner they leave Scotland the better. We let you into our country to study so why not show us some respect? So embarrassed to call myself a student here. When you write an article like this you have to expect negative feedback, I think Charmaine forgets that it’s not only St Andrews students with like minds who can read this trash.

  15. “The city many prefer to call ‘Scumdee’.” Who?? You and your prissy friends?? Who are you to berate our city like this? This article is now trending among our friends and I am facing a barrage of questions because I study here. I am not willing to defend St Andrews when it comes to snobbery, examples like this show it still exists, no matter how much the University tries to hide it. I’m just waiting for our local media’s response, shame on you St Andrews.

  16. Whether you are appalled by the article or want to jump to its defence articles are written to provoke a reaction and this one has certainly succeeded in doing so. Getting people talking about the stereotypes and prejudices that still exist in today’s society (all be it on the sly) is the only way to see a change. I would however have gone a different way about it. For example a far more positive response would be given by all involved if the article had highlighted the progress made by the city, it’s history,culture and many other attributes. Even referring to the positive aspects of the dundee-st Andrews relationship- (some dundonians do choose to study at St. Andrews) I for one initially thought the article would be challenging the backward old fashioned opinions of the city however I soon realised the article depicted the same old negative perception of Dundee which in reality does no one any favours least of all the st Andrews students too often are labelled themselves.

  17. Nobody from Dundee truly believes it is the best place in the universe. It’s hard because we are constantly defending ourselves every time that we tell someone not from Dundee that we are from there. But this article is not trying to attack Dundee. It is saying yes Dundee may not have everything but it has charm and the people are some of the friendliest.

    • Unfortunately this article was so badly written that this message does not come across at all, and maybe if it was written by a Dundonian I would agree but the fact that a day tripper to the Overgate decided to write this crap is wrong on so many levels and whoever published this seriously needs to consider their position.

      • Im a student at Dundee and I experiance the opposite to everything listed in the comments here. As an outsider in Dundee i am discriminated against, I am treated badly and the city and its good features are rammed down my throat. Its as though I cant offer criticism to the endless tirade of roadworks, the poorly maintained local and residential areas and the fact that unlike many other larger cities, Dundee simply doesn’t offer the kind of culture and opportunities that I want. Yes there’s the DCA, but other than that and drinking, the current situation is that its a ghost town.

        St Andrews may be stuck up pompous twats but no one belittles you for being different it saying that you want more than what’s currently offered.

        This piece may be satirical but I recognize many of its points. Its just a shame in my case that its mostly the people who ruin it for me.

        • You clearly have a chip on your shoulder because of a bad experience with some people in Dundee, but those few clearly don’t represent Dundee as a whole, just as St Andrews students aren’t all “stuck up pompous twats” as you said. You cannot generalise an entire town or city in both cases based on your negative opinions.

          • Im generalising due to 3 years of bad experiances and very few good ones. I was saying I recognise many of the points raised in this piece as I have directly experianced them. This isn’t a passing trip, I live here everyday. I am immersed in it.

            My comment about St Andrews should have been in air quotes as I was paraphrasing an earlier comment, its not what I believe.

            I dont think all dundonians are bad, im just saying as a city, its hasn’t blown me over and isn’t where I would choose to live.

            I am entitled to my opinion of Dundee just the same as anyone else.

  18. I study in Dundee, have never to my knowledge sat on a whale’s foreskin or met Phat Stevie but still feel obliged to comment. You write with such quaint ignorance and this obscene tone of entitled, patronising affection that I struggled to take it seriously. It feels like someone mistook their ability to say something as thinking they had something worth saying.
    I’m glad you met a stranger who was excellent craic and spoke with funny profanities and took you for a spin around some of the pubs in Dundee’s fairly small city centre, if you hadn’t met him may you’d still be lost in Dundee only (?) shopping centre. There are so many beautiful things in Dundee that exist outside what you’re talking about – get out of the submarine next time.

  19. Haha, choke on your words Charmaine Che. Dundee regularly makes ‘Top Ten Coolest City’ lists in various publications. St Andrews will never make it on such a list. (Top Ten destination for a cream tea, or sedate day trip from Edinburgh perhaps? Face it, there is nothing cool about St Andrews.) But, given this article was written in 2014, you’ll be well gone won’t you, Charmaine?


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