Dundee - Encyclopedia

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DUNDEE, a royal, municipal and police burgh, county of a. city, and seaport of Forfarshire, Scotland. Pop. (1891) 153,587; (1901) 161,173. It lies on the north shore of the Firth of Tay, 591 m. N. by E. of Edinburgh by the North British railway via the Forth and Tay bridges. The Caledonian railway finds access to the city by way of Perth, which is distant about 22 m. W. by S. The general disposition of the town is from east to west,. with a frontage on the water of 4 m. The area northwards that. has already been built over varies in depth from half a mile to nearly 22 m. (from Esplanade Station to King's Cross). The city rises gradually from the river to Dundee Law and Balgay Hill. Since the estuary to the E. of Tay bridge is 12 m. wide, and the commodious docks - in immediate contact with the river at all stages of the tide - are within 12 m. of the sea, the position of the city eminently adapts it to be the emporium of a vast. trade by land and sea. But its prosperity is due in a far greater measure to its manufactures of jute and linen - of which it is the chief seat in the United Kingdom - than to its shipping.

Table of contents

Public Buildings

The town-hall, built in 1734 from the. designs of Robert Adam, stands in High Street. It is surmounted by a steeple ,40 ft. high, carrying a good peal of bells, and beneath it is a piazza. The old Town Cross, a shaft 15 ft. high, bearing a unicorn with the date of 1586, once stood in High Street also, but was re-erected within the enclosure on the S.W. of Town Churches (see below). Albert Square, with statues of Robert Burns, George Kinloch, the first member for Dundee in the Reform Parliament (both by Sir John Steell), and James Carmichael (1776-1853), inventor of the fan-blast (by John Hutchison, R.S.A.), contains several good buildings, among them the Royal Exchange in Flemish Pointed (erected in 1853-1856), the Eastern Club-house, and the Albert Institute, founded in. memory of the prince consort. The last, built mainly from designs by Sir Gilbert Scott, is one of the most important edifices. in the city, since it embraces the art gallery, free library, reference library, museum and several halls. On the north side of the building is the seated figure, in bronze, of Queen Victoria, on a polished red granite pedestal containing bas-reliefs of episodes in Her Majesty's life, the work of Harry Bates, A.R.A. The custom house, near the docks, is in Classical style and dates from 1843. The Sheriff Court buildings and Police Chambers, a structure of Grecian design, with a bold portico, was erected in 1864-1865.. The halls used for great public meetings are the Volunteer Drill Hall in Parker Square, and Kinnaird Hall in Bank Street. Of the newer streets, Commercial, Reform, Whitehall, Bank and Lindsay contain many buildings of good design and the principal shops. In Bank Street are the offices of the Dundee Advertiser, the leading newspaper in the north-east of Scotland; and in Lindsay. Street the headquarters of the Dundee Courier. In Dock Street stands the Royal Arch, an effective structure, erected to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria in 1844. Among places of amusement are the Theatre Royal, the People's Palace theatre, the Music Hall, the Circus and the Gymnasium. The cattle market and slaughter-houses, both on an extensive scale, are in the east end of the city, not far from Camperdown Dock. Dudhope Castle, once the seat of the Scrymgeours,. hereditary constables of the burgh - one of whom (Sir Alexander) was a companion-in-arms of Wallace, - was granted by James II. to John Graham of Claverhouse. On his death it reverted to the: crown, and at a later date was converted into barracks. When the new barracks at Dudhope Park were occupied, the Castle. was transformed into an industrial museum. Though Dundee was once a walled town, the only relic of its walls is the East Port, the preservation of which was due to the tradition that George Wishart preached from the top of it during the plague of 1544.


Of the many churches and chapels the most interesting is Town Churches - St Mary's, St Paul's and St Clement's, the three under one roof - surmounted by the noble square tower, 156 ft. high, called the Old Steeple, once the belfry of the church which was erected on this spot by David, earl of Huntingdon, as a thank-offering for his escape from shipwreck on the shoals at the mouth of the Tay (1193). The church perished, but the bell-tower remained and was restored in 1871-1873 by Sir Gilbert Scott. The fine Roman Catholic procathedral of St Andrew's is in Early English style, and St Paul's Episcopal church, in Decorated Gothic style, with a spire 211 ft. high, from designs by Sir Gilbert Scott, was due to the zeal of Bishop Forbes (1817-1875), who transferred the headquarters of the see of Brechin to Dundee. It occupies the site of the old castle. Memorial churches commemorate the work of Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843) and of George Gilfillan (1813-1878), long ministers in Dundee. John Glas (1695-1773), founder of the Glasites, ministered here from 1730 to 1733.


The ancient burying-ground in the centre of the city is called the Howff. It has long been closed, but contains several interesting monuments and epitaphs. Not far from it the New Cemetery was laid out in West Bell Street; to the east of Baxter Park lies the Eastern Cemetery; and the Western Cemetery was constructed in Perth Road. The most beautifully situated of all the burying-grounds, however, is the Western Necropolis, which occupies the western portion of the hill of Balgay. A bridge over the ravine connects it with Balgay Park.

Public Parks and Open Spaces

On the N. of the city rises Dundee Law (571 ft.), the property of the Corporation, a prominent landmark, on the summit of which are traces of an old vitrified fort. The surrounding park covers 18 acres. Near the eastern boundary of the city lies Baxter Park, of 37 acres, presented to the town by Sir David Baxter (1793-1872), a leading manufacturer, and his sisters. It was laid out by Sir Joseph Paxton, and contains a statue of Sir David by Sir John Steell, erected by public subscription. In the west the finely wooded hill of Balgay was acquired in 1869 and 36 acres of the area were converted into a park. Immediately adjoining it on the north is Lochee Park, of 25 acres, given to the city in 1891 by Messrs Cox Brothers of Camperdown Works. In the extreme north lies the park of Fair Muir, of 12 acres, which was secured in 1890, and nearer to the heart of the town is Dudhope or Barrack Park, purchased in 1893. Near the north end of the Tay bridge is Magdalen Green, an old common of 17 acres, and along the shore, of the estuary there runs for a distance of 22 m. from Magdalen Point to beyond Craig Pier a promenade called the Esplanade.


University College in Nethergate, founded in 1880 by Miss Baxter of Balgavies (d. 1884) and Dr John Boyd Baxter, was opened in 1883, and united to the university of St Andrews in 1890. The affiliation was cancelled in 1895 owing to divergence of view in the governing body, but this was overcome and the college finally incorporated in 1897. The staff consists of a principal, professors and lecturers, and the curriculum, which may be taken by students of both sexes, is especially concerned with medicine and natural and applied science. The endowments exceed £ 250,000. Adjoining the buildings is the Technical Institute, built and endowed by Sir David Baxter and opened in 1888. In connexion with the high school, a building in the Doric style, dating from 1833, there is a museum which was endowed in 1880 by Mr William Harris. Morgan hospital, a structure in the Scots Baronial style, situated immediately to the north of Baxter Park, was founded in 1868 by John Morgan, a native of Dundee, for the board and education of a hundred boys, sons of indigent tradesmen, but was acquired by the school board and transformed into a secondary school. Besides a high school for girls and Roman Catholic and Episcopalian schools, there are numerous efficient and thoroughly equipped board schools.

Charitable Institutions

One of the most conspicuous buildings in the city, occupying a prominent position in the centre, is the Royal Infirmary, a fine structure in the Tudor style. On the southern face of Balgay Hill stands the Royal Victoria hospital for incurables, opened in 1889. In addition to the maternity hospital and nurses' home, there are several institutions devoted to special afflictions and diseases - among them the Blind and the Deaf and Dumb institutions, the Royal asylum, the fever hospital at King's Cross, and, in the parish of Mains - beyond the municipal boundary - the Baldovan asylum for imbeciles, founded in 1854 by Sir John Ogilvy and said to be the earliest of its kind in Scotland, besides the smallpox and cholera hospital. The large Dundee hospital adjoins the poorhouse, and an epidemic hospital has been built in the Fair Muir district. One of the convalescent homes is situated at Broughty Ferry. Among other institutions are the Royal Orphan and the Wellburn Charitable institutions, the rescue home for females, the sailors' home and Lady Jane Ogilvy's orphanage in Mains.


Hector Boece, in his History and Croniklis of Scotland, thus quaintly writes of the manufactures of Dundee in the opening of the 16th century - "Dunde, the toun quhair we wer born; quhair mony virtewus and lauborius pepill ar in, making of claith." Jute is, par excellence, the industry of the city. Enormous quantities of the raw material - estimated at 300,000 tons a year - are imported directly from India in a fleet solely devoted to this trade, and many of the factories in Bengal are owned by Dundee merchants. Fabrics in jute range from the roughest sacking to carpets of almost Oriental beauty. Another staple industry is the linen manufacture, which is also one of the oldest, although it was not till the introduction of steam power that headway was made. Bell Mill, erected in 1806, was the first work of any importance, and the first power-loom factory dates from 1836. Now factories and mills are to be counted by the score, and the jute, hemp and flax manufactures alone employ about 50,000 hands, while the value of the combined annual output exceeds £6,000,000. Some of the works are planned on a colossal scale, and many of the buildings in respect of design and equipment are among the finest and most complete in the world. In the thriving quarter of Lochee are situated the Camperdown Linen Works, covering an immense area and employing more than 5000 hands. The chimney-stalk (282 ft. high), in the style of an Italian campanile, built of parti-coloured bricks with stone cornices, is a conspicuous feature. The chief textile products are drills, ducks, canvas (for which the British navy is the largest customer), ropes, sheetings, sackings and carpets. Dundee is also celebrated for its confectionery and preserves, especially marmalade. Among other prominent industries are bleaching and dyeing, engineering, shipbuilding, tanning, the making of boots and shoes and other goods in leather, foundries, breweries, corn and flour mills, and the construction of motor-cars.


By reason of its excellent docking facilities Dundee can cope with a shipping trade of the largest proportions. On the front wharves and harbour works extend for 2 m., and the docks cover an area of 351 acres, made up thus - Earl Grey Dock, 54 acres; King William IV. Dock, 64 acres; Tidal Harbour, 44 acres; Victoria Dock, 104 acres; Camperdown Dock, 8 acres. There are, besides, graving docks, the Ferry harbour and timber ponds. The warehouses are capacious and the ample quays equipped with steam cranes and other modern appliances. In 1898 there entered and cleared 2914 vessels of 1,390,331 tons; in 1904 the numbers were 2428 vessels of 1,227,429 tons. At the close of 1904 the registered shipping of the port was 131 vessels of 109,885 tons. Dundee is the seat of the Arctic fishery, once an important and lucrative business, but now shrunk to the most meagre dimensions in consequence of the increasing scarcity of whales and seals. There is regular communication by steamer with London, Hull, Newcastle, Liverpool and Leith, besides Rotterdam, Hamburg and other continental ports. Of the local excursions the two hours' run to Perth is the favourite summer trip.

Local Government

Dundee returns two members to parliament. The city council consists of the lord provost, bailies and councillors. The corporation owns the gas and water supplies (the latter drawn from the loch of Lintrathen, 18 m. to the N.W.) and the electric tramcars.


There appears to be some doubt as to the origin of the name of Dundee. It is extravagant to trace it to the Latin Donum Dei, " the gift of God," as some have done, or the Celtic Dun Dhia, " the hill of God." More probably it is the Gaelic Dun Taw, " the fort of the Tay," of which the Latin Taodunum is a transliteration - the derivation pointing to the fact of a Pictish settlement on the site. The earliest authentic mention of the city is in a deed of gift by David, earl of Huntingdon, younger brother of William the Lion, dated about 1200, in which it is designated as "Dunde." Shortly afterwards it was erected into a royal burgh by William the Lion. When Edward I. visited it, however, as he did twice (in 1296 and 1303) with hostile intent, he is said to have removed its charter. Consequently Robert Bruce and successive kings confirmed its privileges and rights, and Charles I. finally granted it its great charter. Dundee played a prominent part in the War of Scottish Independence. Here Wallace finished his education, and here he slew young Selby, son of the English constable, in 1291, for which deed he was outlawed. In that year the town fell into the hands of the English, and it was whilst engaged in besieging the castle in 1297 that Wallace withdrew to fight the battle of Stirling Bridge. In their incursion into Scotland under John of Gaunt the English captured and partially destroyed the town in 1385, but retreated to meet a counter-invasion of their own country. The English seized it again for a brief space during one of the ist earl of Hertford's devastating raids in the reign of Edward VI. Dundee bore such a prominent part in propagating the Reformed doctrines that it was styled "the Scottish Geneva." It saw more trouble at the time of the Civil War, for the marquess of Montrose sacked it in 1645, and then gave a considerable portion of it to the flames. Charles II. spent a few days in the castle after his crowning at Scone (January ist, 1651). In the same year General Monk demanded the submission of the town to Cromwell, and on its refusal captured it after an obstinate resistance and visited it with condign punishment. More than one-sixth of the inhabitants and garrison, including its governor Lumsden, were put to the sword, and no fewer than 60 vessels were seized and filled with plunder; but the ships, says Gumble in his Life of Monk, " were cast away within sight of the town and that great wealth perished." In 1684 John Graham of Claverhouse - whose family derived its name from the lands of Claverhouse in the parish of Mains immediately to the north of the town - became constable, and in 1688 provost. In the same year James II. created him Viscount Dundee. Thenceforward the annals of the town cease to touch national history, save at very rare intervals. The greatest local disaster of modern times was the destruction of the first Tay bridge (see TAY).

Many interesting old documents have been preserved in the Town House, such as certain characteristic despatches from Edward I. and Edward II., the original charter of Robert Bruce, dated 1327, a papal order from Leo X., and a letter from Queen Mary, dated 1564, providing for extra-mural interments. It may be mentioned that to describe Claverhouse himself as "bonnie Dundee" is a modern invention, the old song from which Sir Walter Scott borrowed a hint for his refrain referring solely to the town.

Since the middle and particularly during the last quarter of the 19th century many of the more unsightly districts have been demolished. In the process several picturesque but insanitary buildings, narrow winding streets and unsavoury closes disappeared, along with a few structures of more or less historic interest, like the castle, the mint and numerous convents. The wholesale clearances, however, improved both the public health and the appearance of the city, some of the new thoroughfares vieing with the finest business streets of the largest commercial centres in the United Kingdom. Queen Victoria granted a charter to Dundee, dated the 25th of January 1889, erecting it to the status of a city, and since 1892 its chief magistrate has been styled lord provost.

Among men more or less eminent who were born in Dundee may be named Hector Boece (1465-1536), the historian; George Dempster of Dunnichen (1732-1818), the agriculturist, a former owner of Skibo; Thomas Dick (1774-1857), the author of The Christian Philosopher; Admiral Lord Duncan (1731-1804); Viscount Dundee (1643-1689); James Halyburton (1518-1589), the Scottish Reformer, who was provost of the town for thirty-three years; Sir James Ivory (1765-1842), the mathematician, who bequeathed his science library to the town, and his nephew Lord Ivory (1792-1866), the judge; Sir George Mackenzie (1636-1691), the celebrated lawyer; Sir Alexander Scrymgeour (d. 1310), Wallace's standard-bearer, and many of the Scrymgeours, his successors, who were constables of the town; James (1495-1553), John (1500-1556) and Robert Wedderburn (1510-1557), the poets, who were all concerned in the authorship or collection of the book of Gude and Godlie Ballatis published in 1578; Sir John Wedderburn (1599-1679), the physician; and Sir Peter Wedderburn(1616 - r 679), the judge. Many well-known persons lived for longer or shorter periods in the town. James Chalmers (1782-1853), the inventor of the adhesive postage stamp (1834), was a bookseller in Castle Street. George Constable of Wallace Craigie, the prototype of Jonathan Oldbuck in Sir Walter Scott's Antiquary, had a residence in the east end of Seagate, the house standing until about 1820. Thomas Hood's father was a native and the poet spent part of his youth in the town, his first literary effort appearing in the Dundee Advertiser about 1816. James Bowman Lindsay (1799-1862), electrician and philologist, carried on his experiments for many years in Dundee, where he died. Robert Nicoll (1814-1837), the poet, kept a circulating library in Castle Street; and William Thom (1798-1848), the writer of The Rhymes of a Handloom Weaver, was buried in the Western Cemetery.


Close to the municipal boundaries on the N.W. lies Benvie, where John Playfair (1748-1819), the mathematician, was born, and which has a mineral well that once enjoyed considerable repute. Camperdown House, the seat of the earl of Camperdown, a fine building of Greek design, standing in beautiful grounds, is situated in the parish. Fowlis, 5 m. N.W., is remarkable for its church, which dates from the 15th century, but has even been assigned to the 12th. It contains a carved ambry and rood-screen (with a curious representation of the Crucifixion), decorated font, crocketed door canopy and several pictures. The ruined castle adjoining the church ultimately became a dwelling for labourers. The Dell of Balruddery is rich in geological and botanical specimens. Lundie, 3 m. farther out in the same direction, contains several lakelets, and its kirkyard is the burial-place of the earls of Camperdown. Tealing, 4 m. N. of Dundee, was the scene of the ministry of John Glas before he was deposed for heresy.


David Barrie, The City of Dundee Illustrated (Dundee, 1890); Alexander Maxwell, Old Dundee (Dundee, 1891); A. C. Lamb, Dundee: its Quaint and Historic Buildings (Dundee, 1895); A. H. Millar, Roll of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee (Dundee, 1887).

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