Brian CoxBack to Dundee Ambassadors

Brian Cox

Brian is an Emmy award-winning stage and film actor who's appeared in films such as The Bourne Supremacy, The Ring, Troy and X-Men 2. He was born in Dundee in 1947.

Dundee is a city that's had to rediscover itself time and time again in order to survive. In fact, it's constantly had to ‘reinvent' itself. Dundonians have had some tough times - the huge loss of life after the First World War and the death of the mills in the late 1950s, for example. The city did become bleak but the thing that's always been powerful about the city is the people. They have amazing resilience and have always bounced back.

Dundee has always yielded extraordinary things. Throughout the years some incredible achievements, discoveries and ideas have come out of the city: just consider what's happening with life sciences now. The city has a free- thinking element and a very interesting embracing of ideas which I think has spawned great things.
I'm really proud of what's been happening through the university. The work being done by people like Sir Phillip Cohen really is cutting-edge. It's exemplary. I've had the privilege of being able to find out about the research and I'm very supportive of it. It's incredibly exciting that the life sciences and biotech industries are so strong in Dundee - it's really key for the growth of the city.

Dundee is a matriarchal city.
The people who came to work in the mills were women. The men didn't work at first; they arrived here in the city, as my family did from Ireland, and were early version of ‘house husbands'. I think part of the city's strength has been its women - throughout history they've kept the city going.  

Dundee has a way of constantly surprising me. I celebrated my 60th birthday just outside Dundee and we had a fireworks display against backdrop of the city. My friends visiting from the US were amazed at this scene of beauty - I said I had no idea it was this fantastic! And I remember going to The Ferry in the summer of 1976 which was really hot. The beaches were incredible - it felt like it was St Tropez!

Dundee has always embraced other cultures. The Irish came to Dundee in the mid 1800s to escape the Potato Famine, as my family did, and they started to run the mills. Then there are the Italian families - people like the Suaves and the Paconis - who came and opened up fish and chip shops. There are the Poles who stayed on after the Second World War and started the leather trade.  Dundee has always embraced the people who come here - it's almost like ‘bring us your hungry, your not wanted and your wasted and we'll take care of them'. I think that makes the city really special. People live hand in hand and the old Burn's saying - ‘a man's a man for a' that' resonates in Dundee.

We do need to get back to the waterfront. Not in a phony way but in a real way so that it becomes part of the living community in Dundee. We need to reconnect with the water. You used to be able to get the ‘Fifey' - the ferry across to Tayport and you'd spend the afternoon on the braes. We've got such a strong heritage connected to the water - with the submarine base, the shipyard, the whaling fleet - we should really make more of it.

I love the fact Dundee's got a Frank Gehry building in it. Maggie's Centre is a brilliant piece of architecture and you can see the water from its situation, which makes it really special too. The city's full of surprises like that.
The Dundee Rep was really pioneering. It was where I started my theatrical career and developed my interest in acting when I was a teenager. The Rep itself really marked the card for the whole idea of what a ‘Rep' was. The old building actually burned down but the wreck is still there. In fact, I've been back and found the spot where I used to put up posters!

I've got real idyllic memories of growing up in the city.
One of those is from my first confession, confirmation and communion, which all took place over one weekend. I remember being dressed up in my wee blue suit, all the girls were in their white outfits, and we were sitting out eating bacon and eggs in the priest's garden. I've got lots of these fantastic childhood memories.