Dundee is a modern city with two excellent universities. It is located at the mouth of the Tay giving it one of the most picturesque situations in the UK. Its docks export lots of grain from Scottish farms and carry other goods in and out. The Broughty Ferry lifeboat is one of the busiest in the UK.
It has a reputation for “Jute, jam and journalism” referring to three of its once-significant industries. Nowadays, of these, only journalism is still important; the DC Thomson group publishes newspapers, comics and magazines from its Dundee headquarters together with its many digital enterprises.
Perhaps building on its comics heritage, Dundee has developed many best-selling computer games such as Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto.
Education and Science
With education now Dundee’s biggest employer, there are world-class centres of science and art. The Life Sciences Institute has been at the forefront of many vital discoveries. The Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art has a worldwide reputation for high-quality and innovative art extending from traditional fine arts to modern time-based art.
Perhaps surprisingly for a relatively small city, the University of Dundee frequently ranks highly both in Britain and in world rankings where it is placed around 200th.
Dundee still struggles to maintain sufficient employment for everyone partly because of the loss of several traditional and post-world-war two industries. The City Council continues to seek new opportunities and the re-development of the central waterfront area, along with the establishment of a medi-park and technology park to keep Dundee at the forefront of new possibilities.
History of Dundee
The oldest part of Dundee was an Iron Age fort on The Law (a hill – and a long-extinct volcano providing a pointed landmark close to the city centre). There are traces of a Roman settlement on The Law. It was from here in AD 834 that Kenneth MacAlpine set off to conquer the Picts, a success which made him King of the Scots.
The town started in the Seagate area and was first mentioned by name in 1050 AD. The Earl of Huntington (sometimes said to have been Robin Hood) had lands around here and it was in the 12th century (1191) that his brother, William the Lion, granted Dundee its royal charter. The Earl also founded the Church of Saint Mary.
The church was burned again by the English army in 1385 (Edward I having already burned the town and church in 1296). However, the people responded to this by rebuilding an even bigger church. Yet again it was destroyed, this time by an invading English fleet that sailed up the river Tay in 1547 to besiege the city. The church was re-built and burned once again and all that remains today is the Bell Tower, known as the Old Steeple.
Dundee was stormed by Montrose (by then a Royalist) in 1645 and sacked again by one of Cromwell’s generals, General Monck, in 1651. It recovered, and supported the 1715 Jacobite Rising, with the Old Pretender (James VIII) being proclaimed at the Mercat Cross in 1716. Although the Act of Union (1707) had all but destroyed Dundee’s traditional woollen trading it began to bring new prosperity in the form of flax and linen. Gradually it became clear that to support the Jacobite cause conflicted with this new and considerable prosperity. When the Duke of Cumberland won victory over the Jacobites at Culloden (1745) it was ordered that the town publicly rejoice.
Growth of industry
Dundee then enjoyed a long period of growing prosperity. In the early 19th century the East India Company sent to Dundee samples of a new fibre, jute. The whaling industry in nearby Broughty Ferry supplied ample oil which when added to the jute fibres made it more flexible and easier to weave. This, together with the fact that Dundee had a large workforce of women trained and experienced in the spinning and weaving of linen gave Dundee all the ingredients to become a boom town, which it did. By the 1870’s the population had soared to over 130,000.
Dundee’s ‘jute’ prosperity was to last for over 100 years until India came to develop her own capacity to process the raw material. Thereafter trade and employment declined drastically. Now Dundee is rising once again, with new high-tech industries.