Looking through back copies of local newspapers we have tried to find out a bit more about David Chalmers Buik.
My earliest recollection of "Granpa Buik" was on Hogmanay 1922. My grandfather was a bookbinder and had worked most of his life with Burns and Harris. He was a well-known personality in Dundee. Long past my bedtime and wrapped up in my winter outdoor clothes, I sat along with all my maternal relations in the kitchen of my grandparents' home in Dundee. We were awaiting a programme from 2LO, the radio broadcasting station in London.
Granpa – whose full name was David Chalmers Buik, Snr – had constructed his own colossal four-valve wireless set at a cost of £40. I've been led to believe it was only the second in Dundee. He had managed to complete it in time to tune in to London for a performance of "The Messiah".
We sat shivering by his kitchen window in Peddie Street, which for reasons of frequent urgent adjustments to the aerial had to be left open, while Granpa twiddled with knobs and coils. At last, through much oscillation, variations in pitch could be heard coming from the direction of a trumpet-shaped loudspeaker. We sat spellbound although I doubt very much if Handel could have recognised his "Hallelujah Chorus".
Radio was to become my grandfather's chief hobby for the next few years, and after completing his huge desk-like set, he began to accumulate several sets of earphones. He placed these throughout the house, providing the home with an internal communication system as well as the amenity of not having to go to the kitchen to hear the wireless programmes.
It was a thrill for me to be allowed to stay overnight with my grandparents, but I wonder if they realised that when I was supposed to be asleep I was all agog with the earphones on, listening to the conversation of the grown-ups in the kitchen.
Grandpa had many hobbies in his lifetime. On one occasion when he had to take a business trip to London in connection with an indexing machine which he had invented, he took his sons with him so that they could visit a great exhibition in London. There they were intrigued by a display of box kite. On returning home he at once set about constructing his own models, which he flew at the "Coup", the area upon which Riverside Drive is now situated.
His kites became the all-absorbing hobby, each one being larger and more intricate then its predecessor, until one day he was able to insert a light into his latest effort. Accompanied by an excited gathering of his family and friends, he set out once more to the riverside for the test, this time after dark. Unfortunately, the war clouds were gathering over Europe and people were becoming nervous and apprehensive.
It was, therefore, little wonder that the residents overlooking the Magdalen Green panicked at the sight of the moving light in the sky. I have been told that the headlines in the papers the following day ran: "Strange Craft Seen Over Dundee"!
One explanation of the surname Buik is that it is the old Scottish name for book, and it may be no coincidence that for generations there had been either printers or bookbinders in the family. It was due to his association with Burns and Harris that another of his hobbies – photography – was recognised in the city.
He made several of his own cameras, including a stereoscopic version, and always developed his own photographs. This camera produced two photographs which, when looked at through a special viewer, produced a 3-D effect. After he had succeeded in photographing a large silver prize cup by steaming it first, when the shine had baffled other photographers, requests for his services came from many quarters. He took a vast panoramic view of Dundee from Keiller's tower, and D.M. Brown set aside a room for his use as a studio when he photographed the models for the Christmas and "white" sales.
The Courier and Advertiser, Thursday October 22nd, 1970
During the winters of his widowhood Granpa Buik – full name – David Chalmers Buik, Sen., of Dundee – held "making sessions" with the whole family before bedtime come. He had purchased a knitting machine, and while he sat making the family jerseys, the girls got on with their allotted tasks, and the boys their studies. But there was always the break for stories and fun.
My grandfather's pride in his family forbade him to accept and social invitation which excluded any of his children, and I have often heard my elders tell of their walking to Lochee to visit friends, while passers-by stopped to count them. My grandfather, a well-known character in Dundee for more than 50 years until his death in 1936, always hoped his sons would follow his example of indulging in hobbies.
Our concerted effort by the male members of the family was the setting up of a "factory" for making model yachts. Needless to say, the factory was the kitchen, while the store-room was the parlour. When it was fully stocked, a regatta took place on Stobsmuir pond. To occupy his time, he bought a little newsagent's shop in the Hawkhill, and among the hundred and one goods which he stocked were classical gramophone records. Potential customers were allowed to hear a larger number before making any selection. Indeed, he did not care whether or not he sold them. His back shop became a recital room.
Before he acquired the shop Granpa possessed a motor bike and sidecar. Now he deemed it necessary to have a solo bike as well. His doctor tactfully suggested that it might be better to have a small car instead of the two vehicles, but my grandfather firmly declared that a car was only for old men. When he decided to overhaul it, the kitchen became the centre of activity. Every piece was thoroughly inspected, cleaned and oiled before the engine was re-assembled. Granpa, with all the impatience of a genius, forgot where he was, and started up the engine to test it out! Off it went with a roar, and down came Granma's dinner services from the shelves, ending up in smithereens on the floor. When the roar died away, knockings could be heart from the outside door at the end of the long lobby. On opening it, Granpa was confronted by the landlord, who lived immediately below and who was exceedingly hard to placate.
Among the many relics of his active life are a number of poems and a bundle of sermons. The latter date as far back when, at the age of 19, he belonged to a sect which disapproved of paid ministers. Selected members took turns in "exhorting the brethren" and young Mr Buik had been one of those who were chosen to undertake the task. Judging by his earliest sermons, all of which were methodically dated, he had accepted the responsibility with the greatest enthusiasm. As time went on, however, he began to ponder over the narrow outlook of his Church, and voiced his opinion about it. His brethren were scandalised at him and he was promptly escorted to the front door, where a ceremony of excommunication took place. With the following words: "David Buik" – pronounced Daavid Booeek – "we solemnly lock you out of the Kingdom of Heaven". The great key was turned and he was left outside. Years later, the locker-out and the locked-out were reunited to laugh over the incident, but my grandfather never sought readmittance there.
By Mary Esplin Olsen
The Courier and Advertiser, Friday October 23rd, 1970
Death of Mr David C. Buik.
Old friends in the bookbinding and printing trade in Dundee will learn with regret of the death of Mr David C. Buik, 26 Birthwood Place, Logie, which took place yesterday in Dundee Royal Infirmary.
Mr Buik was one of the original members of the staff of Burns and Harris Ltd., when the firm was founded 50 years ago. The firm celebrated its jubilee the day before his death.
A skilful bookbinder, Mr Buik was foreman of that department of the firm's activities for many years, ultimately leaving to start business on his own account. For a few years he occupied premises in the Old Town House Buildings, High Street. Later he was associated with his daughter, Miss Annie Buik, is a tobacconist's and newsagent's business at 207 Hawkhill.
In his younger days Mr Buik was well-known in musical circles as a tenor singer. He is survived by his daughter and two sons, one of whom is employed by Burns and Harris.
Saturday May 30th, 1936