Scots Roots

Verdant Works, Dundee
January 13, 2017, 10:59 am
Filed under: Photographs, Scottish History | Tags: , ,

Verdant Works 1In the 19th century, Dundee was the world’s largest producer of jute products. Over 50,000 people were employed in more than 100 mills by the end of the century and the population of Dundee had virtually quadrupled from 45,000 to 161,000.

Verdant Works 2Ideally placed on the Tay estuary, Dundee already had a thriving textile industry, a large whaling fleet and its own shipbuilding industry. They built the big ships needed to bring the raw jute across from India, the whaling industry provided the whale oil necessary for softening the jute fibres ready for processing and the existing textile workers were retrained to process the jute.

Verdant Works 3Jute is quite a rough fibre and is used to make sacking, burlap, twine, canvas, rope etc. The sails on the ships carrying Scots settlers to new lives in the U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand and the tents and covers on the wagons that carried them across these lands were made from jute.

Wars were very popular with the jute barons in Dundee and the 19th century had no shortage of conflicts. These fuelled a great demand for tents, horse blankets, covers for wagons and guns, sandbags and sacks for carrying all sorts of produce.

Verdant Works 4Although jute production made the mill owners very rich, the mill workers were poorly paid and working conditions were dreadful. Most of the workers were women and children because they could be paid less.

Verdant Works 5The industry in Dundee began to decline in the 20th century when the mill owners realised that they could set up jute mills in India and employ cheap local labour.

Today there are no working mills in Dundee. Many have been demolished, others turned into housing, offices or social clubs.

Verdant Works is a former working mill which has been converted into a museum by Dundee Heritage Trust. Originally built in 1833 and extended in 1870, it opened as a museum in 1996. Most of the machinery in Verdant Works came from Dundee College of Technology when its textile course closed in the 1980s. Other items were donated by the public. It’s a really interesting place to visit.

Verdant Works 6

Verdant Works 7


RRS Discovery

RRS Discovery 1The job of building the Royal Research Ship Discovery was given to Dundee’s shipyards because of their long experience of building whaling ships that were strong enough to sail through the Arctic pack ice. It was commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society for the 1901 British National Antarctic Expedition to be led by Lieutenant Robert Falcon Scott of the Royal Navy.

Setting sail from the Isle of Wight on 6th August 1901, the Discovery made her way to the Antarctic by way of New Zealand carrying enough provisions for three years – including a flock of 45 sheep. Life on board can’t have been easy considering that they also had 23 sled dogs to look after.

Antarctica was finally sighted on 8th January 1902. A base was established at McMurdo Sound and this would be home to the members of the expedition for the next couple of years. The expeditions main purpose was scientific so magnetic surveys and geological, biological, meteorological and oceanographic research were all carried out. Many new species were discovered and hundreds of miles of coastline and mountain ranges were mapped.

RRS Discovery 2

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Scott’s Cabin.

On February 16th 1904, having been blasted free from its icy prison with help from two relief ships, Morning and Terra Nova, Discovery began the long voyage home arriving at Spithead on 10th September 1904.

RRS Discovery 4In 1905, Discovery was sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company and she began working as a cargo vessel.

Scott returned to the Antarctic in 1910 on board the Terra Nova in a bid to become the first man to reach the South Pole. His group made it to the Pole only to discover that Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it by five weeks. Scott and his party all died in blizzard conditions while returning from the Pole to the ship. Scott is presumed to have died around 29th March 1912, his body and those of his companions being found by a search party several months later.

RRS Discovery 3Following a period running munitions to Russia during the First World War, the Discovery was refitted in 1923 and in 1925 again set sail for Antarctica as part of the Discovery Oceanographic Expedition to research whale stocks. From 1929 to 1931 she served in a research role as part of the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition.

After a period as a training ship for the Sea Scouts in London, Discovery passed into the care of the Maritime Trust in 1979 until ownership transferred to the Dundee Heritage Trust in 1985. In 1986, Discovery returned to Dundee to form the centrepiece of the Discovery Point Visitor Centre.

RRS Discovery 6RRS Discovery 7

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