From 1909 to the present day – the amazing history of the Stobsmuir swans

Most folk in Dundee have taken a wander up to the Stobsmuir Ponds – especially when the sun is shining.

Sitting on the banks, many would have noticed the wee family of swans that seems ever present.

The most famous breeding pair – Gertrude and Cyril – took up residence in 1991 and there’s every chance the current family are related in some way to them.

And now – thanks to some amazing work by the Dundee City Archives – the history of these majestic birds’ link to the city has finally been showcased.

Sarah Aitken, who works in the Dundee City Archives, has compiled a fascinating history of the ponds and the various swan families that lived there.

The swans are regular visitors to Dundee.

She explained that at the turn of the 20th Century the four original ponds were merged into one with an island in the middle, to be used for “aquatic plants and water fowl” while a smaller pond was retained for skaters and model boat enthusiasts.

Various pairs of swans nested at the new pond over the next few years including in 1938, when they made the local paper after venturing away from the water.

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One wandered up Pitkerro Road towards the Kingsway and managed to navigate across the circle – which would have been a lot quieter back then – and settled in front of a few shops.

Eventually it was shooed on by the police, where it proceeded on towards the building site that became Linlathen Housing Scheme and took great interest in the workmen’s huts.

Swans have been seen at the Stobsmuir Ponds since 1909.
Swans have been seen at the Stobsmuir Ponds since 1909.

At the outbreak of WW2, the ponds were drained for fear of being used by German bombers as an aiming mark.

They were filled in 1944, but it took a while for wildlife to return.

The ponds have a fascinating history.
The ponds have a fascinating history.

An article in a local paper in 1947 complained about the state of ponds and refers to swans being present to help with “the trimming of vegetation” but its not clear how long they stayed.

A few years later in 1953 some swans had returned to the pond but it is unclear if they made their home there or raised any cygnets.

Finally, in April 1991 a nesting pair settled in the larger pond and were given the names Gertrude and Cyril.

Gertie was a local lass – she was born at Trottick in 1988 – and the pair had 7 cygnets, although 2 were lost. The other 5 survived until the autumn, when the whole family left for a winter home.

It is not known whether the current birds are related in any way – but it would be nice to think so.

Read the full amazing history of the Stobsnuir Ponds and the swans at the Dundee City Archiveshere.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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