As Dundee bids farewell to another web offset institution, we thought we’d pay homage to the city synonymous with jam, jute and journalism – even if one of them is in decline.
This sprawling city has evolved to become a metropolis of modern technology – the likes of ultrasound being founded on its very soil. But, it’s never forgotten its roots, or its culture, and still has those three J’s to thank for many things. In fact, Scotland’s City of Discovery wouldn’t be the exciting hub it is today without the trilogy of institutions – jam, and journalism – which once paved the way for its prosperity.
Dundee’s business boom was kick-started by James Keiller & Son who set up a jam factory after the Civil War, which had claimed at least 2,000 residents, most buildings and a 60-strong fleet of ships. The business is said to have happened purely by chance and it wasn’t until nearly a century after the first marmalade was made that a factory was borne by a later generation of the same family. The firm held a presence in Dundee until the 80s and the brand is still going strong today.
It’s hard to fathom that the economic backbone of Scotland’s fourth largest city was once held together by a little-known eastern plant – yet that’s exactly the effect jute had on Dundee. When home-grown flax became too much of a burden on the purse strings of the city’s mill owners, they looked to the orient for an alternative and soon came up with jute, which was both cost effective and readily available. Before long, Dundee became the largest jute manufacturer in the world and India’s most influential customer. By the 1900s, Calcutta had cottoned onto cutting out the middle man and had superseded Scotland as the main jute producer but, even then, the two cities maintained their cross-cultural links and Dundee began shipping machinery out to India.
After Queen Victoria’s reign, DC Thomson publishers set up in the city – its popularity soaring with the creation of lovable cartoon rogues like Dennis the Menace and Desperate Dan, whose statue now takes pride of place in the main shopping precinct on the Overgate. DC Thomson is the creator of the Sunday Post, People’s Friend, The Courier, My Weekly, the Beano and the Dandy which, it was announced yesterday, will cease to be printed in the coming weeks as it paves the way for a new, digital version.
But as one door closes, another one opens. With six designs originally unveiled as possible blueprints for the new V&A Museum planned for Dundee’s waterfront, it looks like the city will add another iconic string to its bow by 2015. The project, which will start construction in 2013, has instilled a fresh sense of excitement in this cosmopolitan city and students, school children, marketers, art critics and tourists all wait with baited breath to see the winning design, destined to be a work of art in itself. Once built, it will house thousands of collections and transform the waterfront looking out across the River Tay.