Nestled away in a copy of The Evening Telegraph and Post from late July 1905 is a dark tale of a violent ex-soldier.  There aren’t many words, as the railway disaster in Liverpool which claimed 20 lives takes up the vast majority of the page, but what it does say paints a vivid picture of an angry, domineering man who was not opposed to using violence on members of the fairer sex in his family.

The article tells the succinct story of Robert Logan, who, upon serving his time in the Army, returned to Dundee to stay at his mother’s home in Victoria Road.  A brief marriage to a local woman was described by the newspaper at the time as ‘unpleasant’ and lasted no more than 3 months before Robert Logan found himself back at his mother’s once again.  He was said to be a very overbearing presence in the house and somewhat of a bully.

Robert Logan ordered his mother and sister around as though they were his personal assistants, so it’s not really hard to see why his wife had thrown him out after only a few months of marriage.  On 29th July 1905, Robert returned from the pub to his mother’s house, where he proceeded to verbally abuse his mother.  As things between the two got more heated, Robert lashed out and slapped his mother on the face.  Dundee women are known for being feisty, so it’s highly unlikely she just stood there and took this assault.

With his mother fighting back, Robert pushed her back and held her over the coal bunker as he struck her face once more, undoubtedly shouting and screaming over the clatter and din. Alerted by the racket, Robert’s sister came rushing into the room to see what was going on and found her brother attacking her mother as she struggled to free herself from his drunken grip.

Still fuelled by rage, Robert turned his attack on his sister.  Grabbing her and threatening to cut her throat if she continued to intervene, Robert continued his assault.  Thankfully, the two women were able to overpower him and run to the Police station for help.  Police arrested Robert for assault and took him to be detained until his Court appearance the following morning where Baillie Quirk sentenced him to 40 days imprisonment.

Whether it was enough to quell his temper, we may never know.  He doesn’t appear to have been arrested since, so perhaps it did…or perhaps he just moved away and found someone else to take his anger out on.

Sometimes fires can be deadly, as we all know, but not always in the way we expect. As we’ve been browsing the newspaper archives we’ve noticed a bit of a trend, with deaths by shock following a fire, including one woman in her 80’s dying after the shock and excitement of being evacuated by a fire, and also the tragic story in the article below from December 1953.

The fire itself was tragic, Mr Joseph O’Neill’s charred body was found on the bed after his flat was destroyed by fire. After Mr O’Neill’s neighbours heard screaming and smelled smoke, they raised the alarm and while the neighbours were saved, it was too late for Mr O’Neill.

Police officers went to give the news to his sister, Mrs Ogilvie who collapsed upon hearing the news. Her husband and two daughters tried for half an hour to revive her, but after calling an ambulance she was pronounced dead on arrival at the infirmary. It was thought she had assumed the police had come with bad news about her son, who was serving as a Sergeant in Germany. After expecting news her son had been injured, or worse, died in the course of duty, the shock of hearing it was actually her brother who had died at home in a fire was too much for her.

This was not the end of the tragic story for this family as after the death of his wife, Mr Ogilvie said he should go and tell the police about her death and left the house without a coat. Not a great idea as he had been ill recently and off work for the past two weeks because of asthma. He was found wandering in the Hilltown, clutching a cat which he thought was the family cat, and then collapsed.

At the time of the article Mr Ogilvie was seriously ill in hospital, but his son was being sent home from duty so the family could be together. This story is just one insight into how often a terrible accident and the resulting grief is just the start of a string of tragedies and one we really hope the family managed to recover from.

If you have read our previous post on the Dundee Health Report of 1896 into zymotic diseases, you’ll already know that disease was prevalent in our city – just like in any other – with all sorts of nasties just waiting to bump you off without so much as a warning.  The Health Report also talks about general mortality and causes of death not covered by the heading of ‘disease’.  It also gives us a lot of good information as regards to the overall status of the town, from which we can draw our own conclusions.

Respiratory diseases and complications accounted for 663 of the 3103 deaths in 1896, amounting to just over 20% of the overall death rate for that year.  Bronchitis was the biggest killer, claiming 338 lives.  Inflammation of the airways causes sufferers to have problems with breathing as swelling narrows the air passages.  Excess mucus build up can also complicate the breathing process, and without treatment, lungs become unable to clear themselves, making them more prone to chronic infection.  Viral bronchitis also carries the risk of fever, which brings its own set of problems.  Death is usually due to the extra pressure put on the heart to produce more oxygen, although it has been noted that severe respiratory problems can result in death.

Pneumonia was the next largest killer of Dundonians, knocking off 285 of us in 1896.  Another respiratory infection, pneumonia is considered more serious than bronchitis (at least, nowadays).  Poor health or advanced age can make pneumonia even more of a killer.  Whereas bronchitis affects the air passages, pneumonia affects the tissue of the lungs themselves.  Symptoms include fever and/or chills, laboured/rapid breathing, pain upon breathing and excessive coughing.  Normally death from pneumonia is because of sepsis, which is the body’s toxic response to infections (sometimes known as blood poisoning).  Even today, early detection of sepsis is vital, as, worldwide, over 30% of people who develop sepsis, die.

Pleurisy took 14 of us that same year, and usually pops up when you’re already being deluged by some kind of other nasty infection, whether they be bacterial, viral, or otherwise (usually infections of the lungs, air passages or ailments such as arthritis).  Poor health and bad lifestyles don’t help the matter much, so if the initial disease didn’t kill you, you could be assured that pleurisy would.  With extreme shortness of breath and intense, stabbing pains when breathing, sufferers have been known to pass out from pain or even run out of breath completely.  Add in our old favourite, fever, rapid weight loss and collapsed lungs, and you’ve got all the classic symptoms of pleurisy.  Thankfully only 14 of our 3103 dead had to suffer that excruciating fate that year.

Laryngitis accounted for 8 lives, with croup claiming 9.  Croup and laryngitis are very similar in that they are inflammations of the larynx and vocal chords.  Whilst not a huge killer, paralysis of the vocal chords can restrict breathing and swallowing, with no indication of when the paralysis occurs.  Diseases marked as ‘other’, but not elaborated on, made up for another 9 deaths.

370 deaths were attributed to ‘phthisis’, which is explained as a ‘chronic wasting away’ or tuberculosis – then known as ‘consumption’.  Another disease commonly associated with the lungs, tuberculosis can actually occur in any organ of the body.  Other names this infection goes by include, ‘the white death’, and ‘the robber of youth’, with sufferers seen to waste away in rapid fashion.  From the lungs, where it causes the usual myriad of health issues such as night sweats, chest pains and rapid weight loss, it then moves throughout the body, wreaking havoc as it goes.  Pustules can form and burst on the skin.  The spine can become infected, causing them to collapse and cause paralysis.  Infection can quickly spread through the kidneys, bowels and bladder.  For men, the prostrate can be affected, and in women, ovaries are at severe risk.  Arthritic pains in joints can accompany meningitis, heart failure and eventual wasting away (consumption).  With no real way to treat it at the time, patients were often kept isolated in a hospital or sanatorium.

The report goes on to state that 261 people died in 1896 from ‘diseases of the heart’, but does not elaborate.  Considering that many of the above diseases put undue stress on the heart as a matter of course, we must assume that subsequent examinations of otherwise healthy bodies brought medical officials to this conclusion. Further reading shows a list of sudden and accidental deaths, which we will paraphrase here, as it is fairly succinct:

“The sudden and accidental deaths during the year numbered 188, as follows:- Convulsions, 42; Overlaying, 28; Suffocation, 13; Apoplexy, 25; Severe burns, 14; Fracture of Skull, 19; Other Fractures (Accident), 13; Dislocation of Neck, 1; Acute Poisoning by Alcohol, 4; Poisoning by Opium, 2; Drowning, 11; Hanging, 1; Choking, 1; Cut throat, 3; Gunshot Wound of Heart, 1; Gunshot Wound of Abdomen, 1; Syncope, 3; Spasm of Glottis, 2; Angina Pectoris, 1; Sun-stroke, 1; Ulceration of Stomach, 1; Ruptured Blood-vessel (fall), 1 – total, 188.”

A lot of these you will have heard of, but some you may not have.  Overlaying is the accidental death of a child by smothering, usually when a larger person rolls onto them during sleep.  Mechanical asphyxia occurs as the child is unable to breath due to the force pressed against it.  Whilst overlaying was mainly said to be accidental, any family whom it happened to faced stigma – more so if they already had a large family, as overlaying was also seen as a way of getting rid of extra mouths to feed!

Apoplexy relates to a stroke, and the paralysis that so often accompanies it.  Syncope actually means fainting or swooning, so, as a primary cause of death, it’s not particularly descriptive, as it merely indicates that someone ‘dropped down dead’.  It is likely that ‘syncope’ refers to sudden, unknown death. Spasm of the Glottis can result in immediate death and usually occurred in young children.  The muscles which control the vocal chords contract suddenly, preventing air from entering the lungs.  In severe cases, the muscles do not relax, asphyxiating the sufferer.  It’s not all doom and gloom in the report – some people managed to live a fairly long (albeit hardly wonderful) life:

“Eighty-seven died at ages of 80 and upwards, 32 males and 55 females.  Of these 76 were between 80 and 90, and eleven between 90 and 100 years, three of the latter being females who died at the age of 96.”

It just goes to show you, that, even with all these diseases and afflictions running rife in not-so-olden Dundee, some hardy critters managed to hang on until the bitter end.  Women did better on the life-expectancy scale compared to men in the late 1800’s – something they still continue to do now.  Thankfully, we now have proper sanitation, preventative medicines and vaccines in our country to combat the worst effects of some of the most horrific diseases mankind has ever seen…but it’s not that way for everyone in the world.  It may seem alien to us now, as we’ve moved on more than a century from this, but for other places in the world, it’s still very much a harsh and fatal reality.

References:

‘City of Dundee Report of the Medical Officer of Health for the year ending 31st December 1896.’ (Dundee City Archives) pp 1 – 15.

‘The White Death: A History of Tuberculosis’, T. Dormandy.  Hambledon Press, 1999, pp 34-36, 125-137, 392.

‘The Home Hand-Book of Domestic Hygiene and Rational Medicine, Volume 2’, John Harvey  Kellogg, Pacific Press 1881, Nabu Press, 2010 pp 7-12, 218-220, 425-431.

‘Vaccines’ (Sixth Edition), S. Plotkin, W. Orenstein & P. Offit, Elsevier Health Sciences, 2012, pp 747.

www.humanillnesses.com

http://patient.info/health

http://medhealthwriter.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.sepsis.org/

http://www.healthline.com/

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/

http://www.pleuritis.net/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

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 Dead Centre Walking Tour – tickets now available 

Disease, death and execution are on the menu in our Dead Centre walking tour – with a side order of Vikings and body-snatching!

This tour starts at the Howff graveyard, and ends at the City Square –  the site of the Town-House, and public hangings and executions.

In March of 1897, the Public Health Department, which at that time was situated in West Bell Street, issued the ‘Vital Statistics’ report for Dundee for the previous year to the town Council’s sanitary committee.  In 1896, the population was estimated at 161,620 (in 2014, the estimate was 141,870), with the number of registered deaths noted as 3103 (in 2014, the number of deaths in the city was 1604).  The report refers to the number of deaths from ‘Zymotic’ diseases, which is the 19th century medical terminology for acute infectious and contagious diseases.

Diseases are mainly spread by infected water droplets and air transfer such as coughing and sneezing, blood and faeces, as well as via contact with infected skin, clothing or objects.  Nothing was particularly clean, which made almost everything a perfect breeding ground for a multitude of bacterial nasties.  Children were particularly vulnerable to disease, with 151 of the reported 3103 deaths being of children under the age of 5.  This made up around 5% of the overall deaths in Dundee in that year.

We have listed them according to their death rate, from highest to lowest.

Whooping Cough – 60

The report mentions the prevalence of Whooping Cough at the start of 1896, and also goes on to state that the record is most likely inaccurate due to the fact that, at the time, Whooping Cough was not an infectious disease that had to be notified to authorities.  Because of this, many cases of infection and subsequent death simply would not have been registered.  As the name suggests, Whooping Cough is associated with a persistent cough and a very distinct sound. It is a highly contagious disease, which claimed 61,000 lives worldwide in 2013.  Symptoms begin much like those of a cold, but gradually becomes worse as you struggle for breath.  In small children, breathing can stop altogether for periods of time, resulting in death.  Even now, an estimated 16 million people around the world are diagnosed with Whooping Cough every year. In 1896, 25 children under the age of 1 year died from Whooping Cough, with a further 33 deaths attributed to children between 2 and 5 years old.  Only 2 deaths were not in this age range from a total of 60.  37 of those deaths happened in the first two months of the New Year.

Measles – 41

The second-highest cause of deaths in the infectious diseases category was due to measles.  It is reported that from May to July of 1896, there was an epidemic (albeit mild) of measles in the East of the city.  Of the 655 cases of measles reported during that year, the epidemic counted for 438 of them.  Considering that only 41 deaths were registered due to measles, we could assume that the medical professionals had this well under control.  However, the report did say that it was a ‘mild’ epidemic, so perhaps, on this occasion, we just got lucky.  Measles is an airborne disease and can bring a variety of major health complications such as blindness, inflammation of the brain and, in severe cases, death.  It’s not the ‘spotty’ disease we seem to know it as, but is in fact a highly effective killer with children as its main target.  Currently, around 85% of children globally are immunised.  Unlike many other diseases, you can only catch measles once.  In the report, all deaths in Dundee in 1896 were of children under the age of 5.

Typhoid Fever – 23

Typhoid Fever (Typhoid) also increased that year by around 24 cases, with the autumn season playing a key part in the spread of the disease.  A scandal over contaminated milk that had been supplied (unknowingly, we assume) by a local farm, directly causing 3 deaths was also noted, but, in spite of, and despite this, the death rate was fairly low overall.  Typhoid means “resembling Typhus”, and the symptoms are pretty dire, including (but not limited to, or exclusive) intestinal haemorrhaging, respiratory disease, delirium and inflammation of the heart.

Diarrhoea – 23

Diarrhoea was the 4th biggest recorded killer in Dundee in 1896, and was added to the report due to the ‘action of micro-organisms’.  As strange as it may sound, death from diarrhoea was actually a thing.  Acute diarrhoea leads to dehydration and a loss of valuable minerals, ultimately resulting in malnutrition.  Death is usually due to dehydration, which is a symptom of diarrhoea.  With lack of sanitation, nutrition or clean water, sufferers were likely to be in extreme discomfort in their final days.  The report goes on to state that, of the 23 reported deaths, 14 of them happened during the autumn months.  Bizarrely, there seems to be no correlation between this event and the scandal of the milk farm incident which happened at the same time. The increase in deaths was put down to seasonal changes with no mention of the possibility that the infected milk could have also caused some of these deaths. 17 of the 23 recorded deaths were of children, 14 of which were under the age of one.

Diphtheria – 21

An antitoxin treatment for Diphtheria was hailed as the reason for the low number of infections registered, with 92, but as we can see, there were 21 deaths still recorded, taking the mortality rate of the disease to over 20%. A vaccine was not introduced for this moisture-borne killer until 1942, and, until then, Diphtheria claimed an annual death-rate average of around 4000 people in the UK.  Even today, with full medical treatment, there is still a 5 – 10% risk of death.  Symptoms include fever, sore throat, increased heart rate and nausea, but the real kicker is in the powerful toxin produced by the Diphtheria bacteria.  The toxin attacks and destroys the cells in all of the airways, and, as they die, they form a membrane which can attach to the throat and cause death by choking.  If the infection reaches the heart, it will cause heart failure and death (if the choking hadn’t already got you by then).  In 1896, 19 of the 21 recorded deaths were of children aged 5 and under. As you can probably tell, the report makes for pretty grim reading.

Scarlet Fever – 19

In December of 1896, there were 73 cases of Scarlet Fever reported – the highest month of the year.  For the year in total, the number was 422.  Despite there only being 304 cases being reported the previous year, the low death rate showed that it was not a major killer, and indicated that the strain may have been milder that year.  Again, a high proportion of deaths were of children under the age of 5, with 13 of the 19 reported fatalities being within this age range. Scarlet Fever is a ‘flesh-eating’ infection, and amongst the most dreaded of all ailments, capable of wiping out an entire family of children in a matter of days.  Symptoms included the obvious red rash and bright red tongue, but also included paranoia, hallucinations, pneumonia and meningitis.  Imagining an adult going through something like this is harrowing enough, but to think of those young children suffering in such a horrendous way is something altogether more distressing.

Typhus Fever – 2

The 2 deaths attributed to Typhus Fever were in Hilltown and Lochee, in March and May respectively.  In the first case, the patient had been ill for a week before seeking medical help.  Unfortunately, they died on what was believed to be their 12th day after contracting the disease.  Typhus is transferred to humans via animal parasites such as ticks, lice and fleas.  Flu-like symptoms are followed by a rapidly-spreading rash, which can then lead to light sensitivity, an altered mental state, and in some cases, coma.  Untreated, the skin can become blistered and gangrenous, causing necrosis and a build-up of lethal toxins in the bloodstream. Definitely not a nice way to go!

In more recent times, statistics show that, between the years 2012 and 2014, there were 38 deaths recorded in Dundee City involving children under the age of 14, with a city-wide death-rate of 4842. In adults, most of the causes of death have remained the same, with cancer topping the list, followed by circulatory disease, respiratory diseases, digestive diseases, external causes and ‘other’.  Maybe we haven’t learned as much about healthier living as we thought we had!

References:

‘City of Dundee Report of the Medical Officer of Health for the year ending 31st December 1896.’ (Dundee City Archives)

www.healthline.com

www.wikipedia.com

www.nhs.uk

Oxford Vaccine Group www.ovg.ox.ac.uk

www.nrscotland.gov.uk

 

A pandemic outbreak of Asiatic cholera swept over most of the world between 1829 and 1851, reaching from India, across Asia and into Europe.  By 1832, Dundee had been hit – the pandemic itself still in its infancy.  From there the pandemic swept across to the Americas, devastating lives wherever it fell.  In Dundee, large numbers of citizens were rapidly falling ill as the disease took hold.

Cholera caused more deaths, more quickly, than any other epidemic disease in the 19th century.  Classic cholera symptoms include watery diarrhoea, which leads to dehydration and mineral imbalances.  It is spread by contaminated water and food that has been contaminated with human faeces, and humans are the only species of animal susceptible to the disease.  Back in Dundee, with no clean water and no real means of sanitation, the situation worsened as people fell gravely ill and died.  With such a staggering number of cholera deaths, our gravediggers couldn’t work fast enough to dig burial holes as the bodies began to literally pile up!

It became clear very quickly that there was just not enough time in the day (or night) to keep digging individual holes for people, so work got underway to build a trench along the southern wall of the Howff.  This was to be a mass grave for the victims of cholera – people of all sorts, many of them unknown to each other in life, but now destined to lie together in death.  Thankfully, they were still allowed to be buried in coffins, so it wasn’t as though the bodies were just flung in the trench unceremoniously! These coffins were all piled up in rows on top of each other until they came close to the surface, and then the trench was filled in.

It was probably a horrible decision for a family to make – burying your loved one in a mass grave – but with no other options available due to limited land and manpower, it was the only way to deal with such a deluge of bodies.  The only remaining gravestone which indicates the location of the trench, is that of William Forrest Esquire, a Lieutenant Colonel with the Hon EIC Bengal Army, and inspector of their Militaty Stones in London.  Died of Cholera Morbus on 20th July 1832 on the passage from London to Dundee, deeply lamented by his family and friends.

Gravestone of William Forrest Esquire in Dundee Howff graveyard, who died of Cholera in 1832. This gravestone marks the site of a cholera mass grave.
Gravestone of William Forrest Esquire in Dundee Howff graveyard, who died of Cholera in 1832.

When we were in Dundee University Archives recently, we came across a trio of photographs relating to a vault that had been discovered during the excavation work to build Bell Street car park over the site of the Constitution Burial Ground in December 1972.  With it is a memo from the then-Director of Parks to Dr Scott of the University of Dundee, relating specifically to the potential problem of cholera and its continued infectivity.  Whilst there was no further correspondence on the matter in the archives, the memo did go on to say that the vault had been filled with dry sand after the photographs were taken to allow the building work to continue.

The images show three adult sized coffins, all lying side by side, barely a foot apart from each other in an open, dark vaulted space with brick walls on the sides that are visible in the photograph.  They are covered in mould, bits of earth and some debris, and are severely decaying.  The first coffin (in the immediate right of the picture) and the second central coffin both appear to be marginally larger than the third, which is on the left of the overall image.  Between the second and third coffins, there appears to be lying a much smaller coffin.  It looks like this coffin had initially been laid between the two coffins, perhaps on some kind of elevation, but it has since fallen over, losing its lid slightly in the process.  The small coffin, perhaps one eighth the size of the others, sits at a strange angle to the floor, its lid askew (but not enough to reveal its contents).

The first coffin has a series of what appears to be metal riveted edging along the base and on the lid of the coffin – presumably some kind of grave-robbing deterrent, but, due to the decay of the other two coffins, it is hard to tell if they too had some kind of metalwork on them.  The same riveted work can be seen on the small coffin.  Whilst the vault may have been infilled, we know they are still under the car park, biding their time in their dirt and mould-ridden coffins.  Perhaps future building and excavation will uncover them once again, or else we will rebuild over the car park in time, pushing them further into the recesses of forgotten history.

Sources FDCA website www.fdca.org.uk

Dundee University Archives

Wikipedia (cholera symptoms)

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When the Scottish Reform Act was finally passed into law in 1832, none were more jubilant than the folk of Dundee.  Known as a ‘radical toon’, Dundee is said to have been of significant help to the cause of Reform.  Once the news had hit the town, it quickly spread to the Radicals, who prepared to celebrate with an ‘illumination’.  An illumination was the preferred way to celebrate events, and involved lighting up pubs and homes until they were as bright as they could be.  Usually, gunpowder would be ignited in the streets to add further illumination and excitement.

The Reform Act sought to change the way the landscape of politics and voting was to be decided, so, as you could imagine, many of the self-appointed burgh officials weren’t particularly keen on the new legislative changes.  This being said, there was no “official” celebration of the Act – the illumination celebration was very much a public affair.  The weekend proceeding the news of the Act’s passing was one of excitement, happiness and a great deal of fun.  It was the end of June, and a perfect time for an outdoor celebration.  Pubs and Inns took part, helping to light up areas of the centre as people partied into the early hours.

Despite all the revelry, some believed that this party was not quite up to the standard of such a prominent event, and preparations were soon under way for a party on Monday night, much bigger and brighter than the first.  Arguments against allowing this new party to go ahead were heard by the Town Council, but it was decided to allow the celebrations to continue without interruption unless things got out of control.  Perhaps, already sensing their loosening grip on the city, the Town Council agreed purely to avoid a rebellious riot.  Whatever they were thinking, nobody could have foretold the events that soon unfolded.

Monday certainly lived up to its hype.  The hills of Fife burned with celebratory fire as Dundee’s harbour was festooned with sailing vessels covered in flags, illuminated by a multitude of buildings and fires all the way into the centre of town.  Still in need of more illumination, a tar barrel was placed inside and old boat and the barrel set alight.  From there, the burning boat was hauled up Union Street to the corner of Nethergate as people whooped and cheered, shooting pistols into the air.  Whilst it all seems a bit crazy to us, this was just how our ancestors partied!

The atmosphere was said to have been one of happiness and relative peace as the fire was topped up and the boat pulled in a circle through the Nethergate, Tay Street, Overgate and then High Street, nearby where the Town House stood at this time.  As the party roared into the latter part of the evening, people began to disperse – it was Monday night, after all, and many would have had work in the morning.  As late evening turned to night, things took an unexpected turn that had disastrous consequences.

The Police Force, alongside Special Constables, commandeered the fire, pouring water on it to extinguish not only the flames, but the party, too.  By this point, it is estimated that there were still around 200 people enjoying the party, which had, by all accounts, been fairly incident-free.  As people tried to prevent their fun from being stopped, it is alleged officers handled the revellers somewhat roughly.

This did not go down well with the people of Dundee, and they turned from party animals into an angry mob, pelting the Police with sticks and stones, forcing them away from the fire.  The sudden disruption saw approximately 40 people arrested and put into the cells overnight; the party now well and truly over.  In the morning, almost everyone was let away by the Justices, with the exception of three men whom the Justices were confident had assaulted Police Officers the night before.

Many people took objection to this, and, as news spread of the three men’s detainments, crowds began to gather outside the Town House.  It did not take long for things to get as rowdy as they had the previous evening; crowds threw rocks, stones and threats at the doors of the Town House, but the Justices refused to budge on their position.  In scenes that echoed those of less than 24 hours before, a flaming boat was heaved from the harbour once again and placed against the doors of the Town House.  Here, the story seems to take an unlikely turn which was instrumental in what was to become total chaos.  It is said that when one of the Justices went to the Police Offices to release the men and quell any more tension, the key to the cells could not be found.

The already-mad crowd became as inflamed as the fires they had set and tore along to the Police Offices filled with rage.  Grabbing a thick plank of wood, they relentlessly battered at the locked doors of the Police Office until they finally yielded.  As the doors flew open, anyone who wasn’t a prisoner fled through the back doors, fearing for their lives.  The mob, by now completely uncontrollable, released the prisoners and began tearing the place apart.  The office itself was completely destroyed, with everything that could possibly be removed taken into the street and set alight.

Meanwhile, some of the men had broken into the Superintendent’s house, smashing all his windows, destroying his belongings and throwing things out into the street before attempting to set the house on fire.  Thankfully they didn’t succeed, but destroyed a grocery owned by another Police Officer on their way back into the centre.  In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Dundee was still at the hands of the rioters.  With not enough officers to suppress the mobbing men, Police presence was non-existent and reinforcements had been called in from Perth in the form of the 78th Highland Regiment.

The Lord-Lieutenant of the County at the time, the Earl of Airlie arrived on Wednesday morning, a few hours before the arrival of the 78th Highland Regiment, in an attempt to try and bring about some peace and order.  Amidst the burnt rubble and wreckage of what used to be the Police Office, he stood talking to the angry mob as they continued to shout at him and throw things at him from the charred, cooling remains of the fire.

Surprisingly, things took an unexpected turn, and the mob seemed to eventually warm to the Earl and began to settle down.  The 78th Highland Regiment made their presence very well known that day and night, just in case it all got a bit rowdy again, but it seemed that a 2 day riot was enough for any one person, and the streets fell quiet.  Although many people, including Police Officers were hurt, there appears to be no mention of any deaths as a result of the riot, which is unusual considering how out of hand it got.

7 men were eventually singled out and tried for the outbreak; the three original prisoners who had been detained for the first attack on Police Officers, and 4 others who had been identified as being involved in the jail-break and destruction of the Police Office.  The first 3 were lucky; Thomas Kettle, James Barnet and John Jolly were sentenced to 6 months in Dundee Jail after pleading guilty to rioting, but the other 4 pleaded not guilty, but were found guilty anyway.  James Findlay and John Tomlinson were sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay for 14 years.  17-year old George Haggart was sentenced to transportation for 7 years.

In returning their guilty verdict, the jury had recommended mercy for the 4th accused, watchmaker James Findlay.  It was unclear his level of involvement, and his alibi was more credible than the others, but they were still certain he had something to do with it, however minor.  He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in Bridewell Prison.

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City Centre, February 2010

Failing to return home from a night out in the city centre of Dundee in February 2010, the relatives of Mary McLaren began to worry.  With no clues whatsoever as to the whereabouts of Mary, the rumour-mills were abound with gossip.  Had Mary secretly left Dundee, without saying goodbye, or was something altogether more sinister afoot?  As the search for her intensified, events took a dark turn when police officers located her body covered by ivy close to the city’s Ladywell roundabout.  Sgt Scott Findlayson, the officer who first made the grim discovery said “I found a pair of feet and I knew right away there was a body there.”  By the time of her discovery, Mary had been missing for 2 weeks.

Further examinations revealed that Mary had been brutally raped and murdered.  This was no accident.  Panic gripped the city, with many women fearful to go out as the news spread like wildfire throughout the city.  Police enquiries and CCTV footage built up the hours prior to Mary’s disappearance, and police became very anxious to speak with a man who they believed was the last person to see her alive.

41-year old Patrick Rae had been out drinking with an acquaintance before deciding to continue alone throughout the evening.  After leaving Fat Sam’s nightclub in the city centre, Mary was seen walking with Rae, through the centre and along Rattray’s Close before arriving at the area close to Ladywell roundabout.  Footage of Rae walking to a garage about 2 hours later to this, along with eyewitness evidence provided by the garage clerk, made Rae the prime suspect in Mary’s horrific murder.  Despite previous convictions including rape, attempted rape, sexual assault and assault (which were not made available until after the trial), Rae protested his innocence.

His futile attempts to pervert the course of justice, however, fell flat, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment for his disgusting crimes after a four week trial.  The jury heard how, after an evening of partying with her sister, an inebriated Mary randomly met Rae, who had also been drinking, and the two had walked together through the centre of Dundee.  At the crime scene, Rae stabbed his helpless and trusting victim, before strangling her, forcing her clothes off, beating her and raping her.  They learned that Mary died under the barrage or evil Rae’s vicious assault.

Mary’s family, whilst deeply upset and heartbroken by this devastating tragedy, attended court during the trial and sentencing.  Showing commendable strength of character, a very diplomatic statement was released after sentencing had been passed, stating “She loved us.  We love her still and cannot believe that she is no longer with us…Patrick Rae has robbed us of a much-loved and loving daughter, wife and mother…He also denied Mary the chance of holding a grandchild that she was so looking forward to welcoming into the world.”

In the following weeks, a major inquiry was launched into the circumstances that allowed Rae, a registered Sex Offender in Ireland, licence to travel to Scotland.  Although blame was not the purpose of the inquiry, concerns were raised as to how Rae had managed to move to Scotland whilst having an outstanding warrant for his arrest, and without alerting the proper authorities regarding not only his change of address, but also the re-spelling of his birth-surname of “Rea” to “Rae”.

Unsurprisingly, the monster’s submission of appeal against his sentence was refused, and he remains incarcerated for his hatefully wicked crimes against a loving and caring woman.

Fintry, August 2012

A great night out in Dundee turned into a tragedy for 50 year old John McMurchie when his life was taken in a senseless attack in the early hours of August 12th 2012. Described as the life and soul of the party, John had been out with his wife, Donna, and some others for a few drinks before returning to a house in Dundee. He had been having such a great time that, when it was time for Donna to go home, John decided to carry on the party a little bit longer.

However, events started to go wrong in a big way once Donna left, and a “significant physical altercation” took place inside the house, resulting in John leaving the property. Within half an hour, he was found seriously injured in Fintry Terrace. The vibrant, fun-loving father of five and grandfather of two was rushed to Ninewells Hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival. His untimely death was not due to any underlying illness or medical condition, but as a fatal stab wound to the heart.

Word spread through the city very quickly as police swarmed the area. The property alleged to have been the scene of the initial altercation was seized by officers and swiftly became the key focus of the investigation for five months before being returned. A man was initially arrested, but later released without charge.

Detective Inspector Bobby Dow of Tayside Police was quoted as saying: “Someone knows who is responsible and can give John’s family the answers they deserve…I would urge anyone who has knowledge of what took place in the house, or who might be involved, to get in touch with us…Establishing exactly what happened in that house is a significant part of our investigation and may be key to finding out who is responsible for John’s murder”.

Mrs McMurchie was told at a meeting with officers in February 2013 that no detectives were working on the case at that time. Disheartened, but remaining resolute, she said: “They said they have investigated all the avenues that they could and there was no more they could do without finding the murder weapon. The only way now is for the person to come forward and say they did it — but they’re not going to do that are they? Let’s face it.”

Despite appeals for information leading to the arrest of a suspect, the murder goes unsolved and John’s murderer still walks among us to this day.

Like a textbook “whodunit” mystery, nobody seems close to catching the killer, but the McMurchie family still live in the hope that they can have the closure that would finally end their nightmare and allow John to rest in peace. The charity Crimestoppers is offering a reward of up to £5,000 to anyone providing information to them anonymously via 0800 555 111 that leads to the arrest and conviction of any person in connection with Mr McMurchie’s murder. Tayside Police can be contacted on 0300 1112222.

Princes Street, Dundee, February 1889

When a man came to the police station on the night of 10th February 1889 to report the suicide of his wife, Ellen Bury, alarm bells began to ring for the Lieutenant who took his story.  Amid claims that she had killed herself, Bury made another startling claim.  Upon “finding” her prostrate body, Bury stabbed her in the abdomen.  Fearing he would be likened to Jack the Ripper, he had hidden her body.  In his empty, dank basement squat below a shop in Princes Street, officers found the dead body of his wife, and Bury was arrested.

Ellen’s lifeless corpse had been crudely stuffed into a wooden box, exactly where Bury said she would be.  The force required to push her into the box in such a manner was enough to break her bones, as her right leg had been broken in two places.  Whether this was done prior to putting her corpse into the box, or during the process is unclear.  Ellen had been strangled with a rope Bury had bought days before, and stabbed with a penknife later found in their squat.  Her abdomen had been sliced and mutilated to the point that her intestines were protruding.

The ligature marks around her throat and the bruising on her hands and body were consistent with a violent struggle, and injuries which she could not have applied herself.  It was theorised that Ellen would have been sufficiently stunned by the violence of the blows rained upon her to allow her attacker to strangle her without much of a struggle.  Whether or not Ellen was alive when Bury stabbed her still remains to be seen, and will probably never be known for certain.

Ellen and Bury were not long married, and had recently moved to Dundee from London, in a perceived attempt to rid themselves of their demons.  Bury was a violent drunk with a shady past, but Ellen had baggage all of her own.  A London bargirl and prostitute, Ellen met Bury whilst he was indulging in two of his favourite pastimes; alcohol and licentious women.  They married, despite his drinking, womanising and ceaseless violence – he attempted to cut her throat on more than one occasion – and, on the basis of a lie told by Bury, made their way to Dundee.

Euan Macpherson writes that Bury “stole from his wife, assaulted her, frightened her by sleeping with a knife under his pillow, gave her a venereal disease, reduced her to a life of utter misery…yet showed absolutely no guilt or remorse” in his book The Trial of Jack the Ripper: The Case of William Bury (1859-1889).

The reasons surrounding the motive for Ellen’s murder are unclear to this day, but Bury’s links to Jack the Ripper thrust the duo into the global spotlight for all the wrong reasons.  Whether Ellen Bury was keeping a dark secret for William, we will never know.  One thing we do know for certain is that she met her death at the hands of a violent, abusive, drunken man with no care for the torment he caused her in life or in death.

Atlanta Constitution Georgia, U.S.A.14 February 1889
THE WHITECHAPEL FIEND
Dundee Policemen Think They Have Caught Jack the Ripper

London, February 13.

The body of a woman concealed in a wooden chest, was discovered Monday by the police of Dundee. The body was mutilated. The chest was so small that the murderer had been compelled to squeeze the body into it. The husband of the woman has been arrested on suspicion of being her murderer. It was positively ascertained that Wm. H. Bury, the victim, murdered her. Bury was a resident of Whitechapel, London, and his antecedents suggest that he is probably Jack the Ripper, and that he is subject to fits of unconscious murder mania. The post mortem examination held on the body proved that the woman had first been strangled, and that her body had then been mutilated, the abdomen being ripped open and the legs and arms twisted and broken.

Bury says that he left Whitechapel three weeks ago. He refuses to say why he left there, and acknowledges that he had no business requiring his attention at Dundee. He says that he and his wife drank heavily last night before retiring, and that he does not know how he got to bed. Upon awakening, he says he found his wife lying upon the floor with a rope round her neck.

Actuated by a sudden mad impulse, for which he cannot account, he seized a knife and slashed the body. Upon reason returning he became alarmed and hastily crushed the body into the chest in which it was found, thinking to make his escape. He found, however, that he could not leave his wife’s remains, and he finally resolved to inform the police.

The theory of the police officials is that Bury’s wife knew of facts connecting him with the East end atrocities, and that she took him to Dundee in the hope of preventing a recurrence of the crimes.

Times (London)
29 March 1889

SENTENCES OF DEATH.-At a Circuit Court, held yesterday in Dundee, Lord Young presiding, William Henry Bury, 29, was charged with murdering his wife by strangling and stabbing, in Dundee, on the 5th of February. Prisoner pleaded “Not Guilty.” Mrs. Corney, Stanley-road, Stratford-le-Bow, London, said deceased was her sister, and before her marriage was in service. Seven years since an aunt left her £300. Prisoner and her sister married in April last. He was often drunk; and was always demanding money from deceased. He ill-treated her. Cross-examined, she admitted her sister was servant in a brothel in London, that it was there she first met prisoner, and that she married him after a month’s acquaintance. Other witnesses from London deposed to the drunken habits of the prisoner and his cruelty to his wife. In the first week of February prisoner went to the police and said his wife had strangled herself, and that, seized by an impulse, he had stabbed the body, which was found dreadfully mutilated in a box. Medical evidence was to the effect that deceased did not strangle herself, but was choked by a cord drawn round her throat. Lord Young summed up, and after a consultation the jury returned a verdict of Guilty, but was recommended prisoner to mercy. Sentence of death was pronounced.

‘Eight little whores, with no hope of heaven
Gladstone may save one, then there’ll be seven
Seven little whores beggin’ for a shilling
One stays in Henage Court, then there’s a killing
Six little whores, glad to be alive
One sidles up to Jack, then there are five
Four and whore rhyme aright
So do three and me
I’ll set the town alight
Ere there are two
Two little whores, shivering with fright
Seek a cosy doorway in the middle of the night
Jack’s knife flashes, then there’s but one
And the last one’s the ripest for Jack’s idea of fun’

Dundee, December 1825

On what we can safely assume was a cold, wintry day on 22nd December 1825, David Balfour murdered his wife using a butcher’s knife he had obtained from the Fleshmarket in Dundee. David was a sailor, and, as such, was prone to being away at sea for long bouts of time. Margaret, for all intents and purposes, appears to have been a lively, interactive type of woman, and it was reported that she had taken many lovers during her husband’s absence. In an attempt to bring in more money, Margaret would take in lodgers, some of whom she would then embark on sexual affairs with. As you could imagine, this caused many arguments in their household, and the events proceeding Margaret’s murder started off, once again, in this fashion. During this furious exchange, David Balfour stabbed his wife with the butcher’s knife.

In a bizarre turn of events, Balfour immediately made his way to the Town House where he ardently confessed to his crime, only to be advised that he would need to wait outside until someone could deal with him! Defying the odds, Balfour patiently waited, and eventually re-confessed to his crime and was jailed. The website at www.capitalpunishmentuk.org shows that Balfour was put on Trial in Perth on 20th April 1826 for the crime of murder in Dundee, and sentence was passed that he was to be executed on Friday 2nd June 1826. The Courier reported that a cast was made of Balfour’s head after his body had been sent for dissection, in an effort to find a link to identifying and understanding a typical “criminal” head. The cast of his head is still in existence, but sadly unseen and largely forgotten by the general public at the site of the old Barrack Street Museum, which is now a storage shelter for McManus.