Sixty-three down: memories of birthdays past — and the long road to Dundee

Chris Creegan
5 min readMar 12, 2024


Tay Road Bridge. Photo by Thomas Mills on Unsplash

Today is my 63rd birthday. Age comes increasingly quickly it seems.

As far as I can recall, most of my previous sixty-two birthdays have been spent in one of four places: suburban Cheshire where I grew up, Lancaster where I studied as an undergraduate, London where I spent my formative adult years, and Edinburgh, the city I moved to 21 years ago.

I have a pretty good memory — a blessing and a curse. Yet there are loads of those sixty-two birthdays about which I can’t dredge up even the faintest whiff of recollection.

But there are a few that stand out — one way or another.

On my 21st I got a telegram from home. Remember them? Perhaps not! Mum and Dad made their only visit to see me in Lancaster during the three years I spent there, and we went for lunch at the Midland Hotel in Morecambe — before its refurbisment.

A sullen affair on grey day — with the echo of a previous telegram which had arrived in the wake of my coming out two years earlier.

Meanwhile I threw a party at the Greaves Hotel in Lancaster, now an unprepossessing apartment block. My first boyfriend had dumped me a week earlier and I didn’t get a late enough license. The result was a damp squib. Much like him in hindsight.

My 25th was in Dalston, London, for which my late partner, Lawrence, gave me a food blender — so grown up. We were in the throes of love, unsure of how much time we had in the face of the virus. It was to be the first of eight birthdays we spent together.

My 32nd was a particular treat. On route to stay with friends in Stroud, Lawrence took me to Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blanc’s restaurant in Oxfordshire. The car broke down heading out of London which almost kyboshed the whole thing.

We made it in the nick of time though — and I still have the receipt. Such extravagence. Even more grown up. And fortunate to boot.

Birthdays I like, but I’m no party person. Most of my friends will confirm — Myers Briggs too. My seventh birthday was the only one during my childhood which involved a party. But let’s just say it wasn’t a joyous occasion and leave it at that.

And yet despite my antipathy to them, my next two decade birthdays featured big parties. My 40th in Whitechapel, London was organised by my pal, Ron, with whom I shared a house at the time.

Courtesy of him, Angela Hartnett provided the catering which went down a storm. But I was in between bouts of depression, the second of which was to prove catastrophic. And in all the messiness, as I confided in her sister at a wedding last year, I never thanked Angela properly.

My 50th featured not one but two, the first in Pittenweem in the East Neuk of Fife, and the second in Edinburgh. My husband, Allan, loves a party and is by common consent quite the host. I wasn’t going to get away with a quiet meal for two.

I did get away with it for my 60th though. Covid made sure of that. But a socially distanced bottle of prosecco with two friends in their garden proved a fine substitute, if a chilly one, amid the long second lockdown.

Two other birthdays involving Lawrence deserve a mention for different reasons. The last but one while he was alive, we spent apart. Things were strained between us, and he had headed to stay with friends in sunnier climes. In the card he sent me he wrote the following message:

Eddie was Suzy Izzard, who I was off to see with my friend, Jo. Lawrence had precious little time left, but that didn’t stop him being ahead of the curve.

My 34th birthday, the following year, was to be the last we spent together. By then his memory was beginning to fail, thanks to HIV encephalitis. The irony is I have no recollection of it — not a jot. As his death approached, life was lived day by day. The world closed in.

In all those jumbled memories, one thing I can be sure of though is that I have never spent a birthday in Dundee — the place that surely would have been my childhood home had I not been given up for adoption in 1961.

Born far away from that place thanks to the ignominy of illegitimacy, it would be thirty-six years before I set foot there in the gloaming of a freezing day on January 2nd, 1997. I had come in search of my mother. But that is another story.

Never that is — until today. All things come to those who wait. Sure, my reason for being there — for just a few hours — is to chair a meeting, not to celebrate the occasion. But it was a long road to here.

And spending a few hours of my birthday in the city I have claimed as my own for the first time feels like a moment. Another in the long homecoming which began 27 years ago— even though the date of the meeting is nothing more than a coincidence.

Even though I won’t even travel into the city, still less to the Hilltown where my mother, who died in 2022, grew up. The meeting is a stone’s throw from the railway station. I’ll be back in Auld Reekie before tea.

Yet it is in the quiet corners of everyday life that momentous things happen. Often unnoticed, seemingly banal, but no less meaninful for that.

It is too late for what might have been. But I am a Dundonian. From the City of Discovery. And today is my birthday.

You can take the boy out of Dundee…but he will find a way back in the end.



Chris Creegan

Public policy consultant, Non-executive, Charity trustee, Runner. Views my own.