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Dundee History!

The name Dundee is derived from the Gaelic words 'dun' meaning hill or fort and 'daig', who was thought to be an early local chieftain. Dundee has been settled since prehistoric times, and Pictish earthworks and chambers can still be seen at Tealing, Ardestie and Carlungie, just beyond the city's boundaries. The city was an important trading port as long ago as the 12th century, and it was here that Robert the Bruce was proclaimed King of Scots in 1309. Its importance, however, made it a prime target for a succession of English invaders. It was captured by Edward I, besieged by Henry VIII, destroyed by Royalists and Cromwell's army during the Civil War, and then again by Viscount Dundee prior to the Battle of Killiecrankie. The young William Wallace, the fiery Scottish patriot, was educated in Dundee, and during its occupation by Edward's forces Wallace stabbed the son of an English overlord for daring to insult him, and had to flee south. A plaque on the High Street marks the spot where the incident took place.

Dundee is famous within Scotland as the city of the three J's; Jute, Jam and Journalism. These three industries were part of the city's commercial success, and the jute mills in particular, from the early 19th century, were the foundation of the city's wealth. Along with Edinburgh, Dundee became a centre for investment trusts which sunk cash into ventures all over the world, particularly the USA. In 1873 Dundee jute man Robert Fleming set up the Scottish Investment Trust to channel money into US cattle ranches, mining companies and railways. The biggest cattle ranch in the USA was run from Dundee until 1951 and the Texas oil industry was largely financed by Dundee jute wealth. The jam-making came about almost by accident, when a ship carrying a cargo of oranges was forced to put into Dundee harbour during a storm. A local grocer bought the oranges, which his wife then made into marmalade, and an industry was born.

Journalism is the only 'J' still in operation in the city. DC Thomson are now the city's largest employers outside the health and leisure industries, and continue to produce many newspapers and magazines. Perhaps their most famous creations are the children's comics The Dandy and The Beano, begun in 1937 and 1938 respectively and still going strong. Generations of British children have been brought up on the antics of Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan, The Bash Street Kids et al, and the popularity of these cartoon characters is reflected in the choice of the comic-inspired lettering for Dundee's promotional logo. While the three 'J's' were undoubtedly important to Dundee, other industries also played a substantial role in the city's history. Dundee was a major centre for shipbuilding and ships were built for both the whaling industry and for the import and export of jute and other cargoes. Dundee has a proud maritime heritage and for many years was the capital of the British whaling industry. In these more enlightened times we may shudder at the decimation of the whale stocks that led to the demise of the industry, but whale oil was a very valuable commodity, and the men who sailed the freezing Arctic seas to catch whales suffered terrible privations and hardships.

On one famous occasion the whalers did not have to travel very far in search of their quarry. In December 1883 a humpback whale swam into the Tay estuary and foundered on the sandbanks. Large crowds gathered to watch the doomed animal's attempts to return to the sea, and it was harpooned on 7 December before finally being landed, completely exhausted, on 8 January the following year. It was put on public display before being sold, and the skeleton of the 'Tay whale' now resides in the city's McManus Galleries.