At around 174m tall and incorrectly named by many as ‘The Law Hill’, the word ‘Law’ refers to the Anglo-Saxon ‘hlāw’, which means ‘mound’. Actually, it means ‘grave-mound’, so read into that what you will about what lies beneath the surface. Used as a settlement over 3500 years ago, the Law has stood guard over the surrounding land, offering uninterrupted views – a unique vantage point which attracted Picts, Romans and Jacobites, to name but a few, over the millennia. Bronze age graves have been found on its slopes, and evidence of Roman pottery has also been unearthed from the quiet giant. Remnants of an Iron age fort atop the hill still exist, as well as parts of the bastion of a medieval fort.
On 13th April 1689, Viscount Dundee raised the Stuart Royal Standard on the Law, marking the beginning of the first Jacobite Rising. In May of 1925, a memorial was erected atop the Law, this time marking in honour the names of those Dundonians who had fallen in both world wars. The memorial is lit to commemorate the Battle of Loos, United Nations Day, Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.
The Law also played host to a railway line, long since covered up, that ran from Dundee to Newtyle. Whilst it may have been concealed, many people still have memories of sneaking down into the tunnels, and playing in the darkness. More recently, a campaign got underway to generate more awareness of the tunnel and to campaign for it to be reopened and utilised as a public facility. Deirdre Robertson spearheaded the ‘Dundee LAW Tunnel’ Facebook page, which has gained a fairly reputable following and has led to many positive developments, which you can keep up to date with by checking out their social media.
Some great memories offered by our fellow citizens were found when we visited Retro Dundee.
Derek shared: ‘Now this brings back tons o’ memories…getting the bus fae across the road fae the auld folks home at the bottom o’ Douglasfield park…loaded to the hilt wi’ candles in jars, torches, bluebell matches…I remember that we had to climb over a wall fae the road, and there were tennis courts for sure. The entrance to the tunnel was boarded up wi’ a few sheet o’ corregated iron which was no problem for 11 year old fae Balmedie, ha ha. I only remember one painted ghost, at the start (of the tunnel)…the tunnel was straight and had divider walls every 25ft or so…that’s what got you scared stiff – what was on the other side o’ the wall? At the end, it was filled with rocks, bricks, planks o’ wood, etc. 1971, great childhood memories’.
Fat Boab (seriously, we didn’t make that up) says that he ‘did have a few trips inside the tunnel; ghosts painted on the walls, bats over your head – a proper fleggy night oot, luved it. Then doon ti “aipil alley” for some “plundereeze”, tar and broken gless on tap o’ the waz never stopped wi tho; wha needed an X-box???’
Many people have fond memories of the Law, whether it be time spent with family, a place for personal reflection, exercise or solace or in the quest for the perfect photograph, but the Law is not without its darker side. Terrible and brutal assaults have been carried out in the shadows of its base, from physical attacks to cold, calculated murder. Men and woman have fallen foul to the evil that can lurk in the most unexpected of places – a reputation that surrounds the Law even to this day. Whilst it wouldn’t be fair to say the Law is a dangerous place (it’s no dangerous than any other wooded, dark place, we imagine), it’s fair to say it’s seen its fair share of murder, drama and mystery.
With that said and done, and looking into the future of the Law, there’s probably only one thing we can say for sure – it’ll be around a lot longer than any of us, silently watching as Dundee progresses into each new century with its typical gusto. If the Law could speak, we wonder, what would it tell us?
Do you have any stories of the Law you’d like to share with us? Comment below, or get in touch – we’d love to hear from you or anyone you know who can share memories with us.
– DD Tours operates walking tours in Dundee city, covering dark local history such as wars, battles, murders, diseases, riots, disasters and executions. Walk with us for an unforgettable storytelling experience.