Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday 22 October 2011


Dundee doesn't exactly spring to mind as a tourist destination, but the lure of family history drew my sister-in-law to investigate life in the jute industry, so there we went: and the trip turned out to be well worth while.

First to the Verdant Works, whose name belies the noise and unhealthy working conditions of Victorian jute processing, but whose contents outlined both the industrial processes and their social context and consequences.

One such was a sort of female emancipation (despite the demanding disciplines of the work), since it was women workers who, commanding less pay than adult men, predominated in the factories, and often the men who stayed at home and became "kettle-biler" househusbands.

Another was the immense wealth of the "jute barons", fed back into examples of civic pride and improvement, amongst them the other surprise of this trip, the McManus Gallery. Here local history (back even to the prehistory of the Picts), improving tributes to the local great and good such as the missionary Mary Slessor, combine with art collections, not on a big scale, but with enough variety and welcome to draw in the visitor and stimulate the mind.

How many other such institutions start with a gallery asking the visitor to consider, with various examples of the things they work with, "What is a museum?".

Passing on, by a statue commemorating yet another product for which Dundee is famous, we came down to the waterfront, where Captain Scott's Discovery is open to visit (we didn't), guarded by these unusual-looking bollards.

From here one can see the long expanse of the railway bridge, not perhaps as beautiful as the first such bridge here, but more longlasting as it straddles the Tay (which is still silvery):

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