Winter usually throws us a few curveballs as she goes; black ice, flooding, burst pipes and even thunder-snow is to be expected in Scotland at this time of year. Danger lurks on every corner and on every (un-gritted) path as we slip and slide our way around. There’s always something you can rely on – the local buses.

Say what you will, but they do a great job of ferrying us around, despite the conditions and are very rarely cancelled. Terrible snow or treacherous, untreated ice is one thing to grind a bus to a halt…but what about a fog so thick that buses full of passengers became lost? That’s exactly what happened to some of the buses in Dundee on the evening of Friday 14th December 1951, as reported by The Courier and Advertiser at the time.

A thick fog had formed over the central belt of Scotland following a fairly cold spell; we’re talking a right pea-souper, here, said to be so thick it was actually impossible to see more than a metre ahead at all times. The river Clyde was closed to shipping and no aircraft flew from Renfrew. Closer to home, Forfar and Kirriemuir were grinding to a halt…but not Dundee! We had the Rail Bridge open and rail services running as normal – at least until it hit the tea-time rush hour.

In the darkness of the December night, the fog thickened, if that was even possible. Buses full of passengers heading from the city centre out towards areas such as Fintry, Mid-Craigie, Linlathen and Douglas didn’t get very far before they started running into problems. The roads were becoming icier and the fog was so thick that it became a wall of vapour, now making it impossible to see anything at all. By the time the first buses had reached Dura Street, the drivers made the decision to stop the vehicles for the safety of the passengers on board.

Drivers with decades of experience under their belts said they had never seen anything like this before in their lives. Soon enough, the police intervened to help direct traffic, but with visibility at zero, the only thing they could do was begin to close off some roads. By this time, some of the buses had been led on a merry dance by the fog, slipping and sliding their way into unknown streets, sometimes several streets away from where they were intending to be.

One brave soul made the decision to try and continue driving so that some folk could get home, and actually made the 15 minute trip in an hour and a half (safely, we hasten to add). For many passengers, however, this was the end of the road quite literally. After a hard day at work, they had to trek from Dura Street or Mains Loan all the way home.  Queues formed at bus stations for both local and regional buses, all of which were running hours late. When it comes to bad days, this one must have really put the icing on the cake for a lot of locals!

With some areas such as Stobswell and, a little further afield, the Carse of Gowrie declared as ‘no-go’ areas, it would seem that everyone was gripped in traffic chaos…but that wasn’t entirely the case. Coastal lines such as those running to Carnoustie, Arbroath and Monifieth were only a couple of minutes behind schedule. Passengers on board the Tay Ferries experienced no delays either, with one official going so far as to declare that they “never even broke an egg”.

Looks like radar beats headlights when it comes to freezing fog in winter. Thankfully nobody was injured in any incidents to do with public transport that evening, but there were certainly a lot of accidents on the roads involving private vehicles. Dr Graham was taken to Dundee Infirmary after skidding on ice with one of his patients in the car as they were on their way to the Chest Hospital at Ashludie. The pair, and the other driver were later released with no major injuries. Two taxi drivers were involved in a head-on collision at a junction where neither could see in front of them and were admitted to Dundee Infirmary with concussion and various cuts and scratches. With that in mind, please drive carefully and responsibly this winter. You should be driving carefully and responsibly at ALL times, but please take extra care on the ice.

On January 4th 1922, the scene in the Harrison household on 24 Brook Street was probably very similar to many others. William Harrison and his wife were both at home with their two young children, three year old George and eighteen month old Catherine. The fire was roaring and the kettle was boiling up some water, perhaps for warm drinks or bathing water. Whatever the intention was for the water, it seemed fate had a different use for it.

Standing on a stool by the fire, wee George grabbed at the kettle which was sitting on top of the fireguard and gave it a pull. Whether he lost his balance or was just playing around, we will never know. What we do know, is that the fireguard was supporting the boiling kettle and as George took a tumble, so did the kettle. In a split second, George was on the floor screaming in shock, alongside his sister Catherine.

Rushing to the aid of their children, William and his wife were horrified to see that, whilst the boiling water hadn’t touched George, it had instead scalded the back of baby Catherine. Wasting no time, William summoned a taxi to take himself, his wife and daughter to Dundee Royal Infirmary whilst he made arrangements for someone to look after a very upset, but largely unscathed George. With three of the Harrison clan now in the taxi, anxiety levels were at an all-time high.

Undoubtedly, poor Catherine would have been wailing in agony and terror as her horrified and panicked parents tried their best to soothe her. The taxi driver was more than aware that time was of the essence, but driving conditions were not at their best that evening. With mere minutes to go until their arrival at the Infirmary, they turned into Constitution Road from Ward Road and collided with a tramcar heading into the town centre in the opposite direction.

William Harrison and his wife were catapulted from their seats with their daughter held between them. They flew into the windscreen of the taxi, smashing it as well as the side windows before falling onto the dashboard. Miraculously, by holding their daughter tightly between them, they shielded her from any of the impact of the smash – most definitely saving her life. Thankfully there were nearby motorists who stopped and took the Harrisons the rest of the short distance to the Infirmary.

The taxi driver escaped unscathed but probably traumatised from the entire event and, despite many of their cuts needing stitches, William Harrison and his wife lived to tell the tale. You’ll also hopefully be glad to know that after a spell in hospital where she was closely monitored, Catherine also lived to tell the tale. We bet the Harrisons kept the kids well away from the fireplace from then on, especially cheeky wee George!

The taxi itself was smashed up a bit, but it was still able to be driven to the garage for repairs. As for the tramcar; well it barely had a scratch on it – they don’t make things like they used to. Thankfully, everyone survived. This time.

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.

Back before Castle Huntly became a prison, it had a history all of its own – and a couple of its own ghosts, to boot. There are two ghosts alleged to still haunt Castle Huntly; the White Lady and that of a young boy. When researching the ghosts of Castle Huntly, it became apparent that there is some confusion between Castle Huntly and Huntly Castle (which is in Aberdeenshire), and, as such, the ghost stories of which White Lady belonged to which castle seems to get a little skewed.

We’re going to stick with the story of the young woman being a daughter of the Lyon family, the Earls of Kinghorne (which was later changed to Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne). The title Earl of Kinghorne was actually created in 1606 for Patrick Lyon, and when Castle Huntly was acquired by the Earl in 1614, he had the name changed to Castle Lyon. It was not until the castle was sold in 1777 that the name was reverted back to Castle Huntly.

Whether the woman in the story was the first Earl of Kinghorne’s daughter or granddaughter, we do not know, but, from what we have read, it appears as though she may have had an inappropriate relationship with one of the castle’s manservants. It wasn’t all too uncommon for sexual relationships to form between social classes, as privacy was hard to come by, and servants were often put in sexually vulnerable positions by their masters or mistresses, as well as by lodgers, guests and each other. Remember there wasn’t a lot to do back then!

When they were found out, the pair were separated. Whether the manservant was imprisoned, tortured, murdered, or all three, we cannot say for sure, but it’s pretty clear that, in those times, he wasn’t just going to be sent on his way with his wages and his P45 in hand. Whoever he was, he very likely met a grisly end. The nameless Lyon daughter was locked in a chamber on the upper levels of the castle, and it was from the window of this room that she is said to have met her doom. Her body was found, broken and bleeding on the grounds directly under her bedroom window, with nothing that could be done to save her.

To add a twist to an already murky story, whilst some may say that she killed herself as a result of a broken heart or at being imprisoned in her own family home, others have whispered that she may not have taken her own life and may, in fact, have been pushed. There are a lot of facets to this story that don’t quite add up (which we tend to find with a lot of the older ghost stories), hence their origins as legends and not actual fact. What did happen to the manservant? And why can’t we name the Lyon daughter on who the tale is supposedly based? And the big question – did she fall, or was she pushed? We’ll just never know.

Moving away from the mysterious White Lady, the second ghost alleged to haunt Castle Huntly is that of a young boy, named the Paterson Ghost. He is believed to be the descendant of George Paterson – the man who purchased the castle from the Lyons in 1777 for £40,000, and also the man who gave Castle Huntly back its original name. Fast-forward 150 years or so, to when Colonel Adrian Paterson and his family occupied Castle Huntly.

Their only son, Richard, tragically died in a boating accident aboard the river Tay in 1939, and it is his ghost that is said to haunt the castle. He is said to be seen in the same room as the White Lady wearing a double-breasted sailing jacket. Interestingly, no-one seems to know what colour it is, which, given the “sightings”, you would think that someone would be able tell us at least if it was light or dark. Whilst the White Lady is alleged to haunt the grounds of the castle as well as the room, young Richard is said to appear only in the room once occupied by the fated daughter of Lyon.

WW2 was the deadliest conflict in the history of the human race, with an estimated 50 to 85 million casualties. Whilst China and Japan had already been at war over Japan’s aggressive domination of Asia, things didn’t heat up to a global level until Germany invaded Poland on 1st September 1939. Tensions continued to heat up as more countries found themselves caught up Germany’s invasions. So many lives were lost to war and genocide on an unprecedented scale that it was impossible to keep count amidst all of the horror. Nuclear weaponry was used, with devastating consequences to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki in an attempt to end a seemingly unstoppable war.

During WW2, as Nazi Germany desperately tried to take over Britain, our RAF took to the skies to valiantly defend our country with their lives. During the summer of 1940, a battle within the War had formed, with Winston Churchill declaring it The Battle of Britain:

“What General Weygand has called The Battle of France is over. The battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle, depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour”.”.

Hitler had a plan to besiege Britain by land and by water, in a fierce double-pronged attack dubbed Operation Sea Lion. On September 15th 1940, thanks to our RAF troops in the air, we took control of the skies, shooting down 56 of Hitler’s Luftwaffe, forcing him to abandon his plans for invasion. During a period aptly named The Blitz, Hitler’s air forces bombarded air bases, factories, manufacturing plants and anywhere else they felt was critical to Britain’s continued success in battle. On 25th October, 21 year old, Dundee-born Pilot Officer William Pattullo lost his life whilst defending us from Hitler’s army in the skies over Kent. Whilst the Battle of Britain officially ended on 31st October, having been fought and aerial superiority won by Britain, the Blitz continued to rage on until 21st May 1941.

London was the worst affected by the Blitz, being bombed by the German forces for 57 consecutive nights. Ports in places such as Plymouth, Southampton and Glasgow, to name only a few, came under heavy bombing. Despite perpetuating a myth that Hitler’s own granny came from the city (a story the people used to explain why we had escaped largely unscathed) it seemed that not even Dundee remained entirely without its war wounds.

On 5th November 1940, 8 bombs were dropped in Dundee – Farington Terrace; the gardens of Fernbrae Nursing Home; a home in Briarwood Terrace; a home at the junction of Marchfield Road and Middlebank Crescent; the back courtyard at 258 Blackness Road; the tenements at 19 Rosefield Street; near the power station on Forest Park Place and finally, one in Queen Victoria Works on Brook Street. There were three fatalities that evening as a result of the bombings; Elizabeth Cooper, a housekeeper, died in the bombing at Briarwood Terrace, and 2 others died during the collapse of the tenement building at 19 Rosefield Street.

Charles Toshney tells us that the bombings were perhaps part of an aborted air attack on the Tay Bridge, which could have been devastating to this part of the country. The civilian areas were not the intentended targets that night, but after the RAF chased off the German bombers, the pilots had to unload their bombs in an effort to facilitate a speedier escape. Unfortunately the citizens of Dundee were collateral damage for this aborted attempt to take out the bridge.

We found an online account from a lady called Lily R Fox, who kindly contributed her story to Dundee Central Library:

That night, my young sister, who was 10½ years old, myself (12), and my two cousins, Nancy (10½) and Bobby (7), went to the pictures at the Forest Park picture house with Mr and Mrs Gracie, who lived up my close and were friends with my Mum and Dad. In those days we didn’t say were going to see a film – it was “going to the pictures”. Well, in we went to the cheap seats, 4d for adults and 2d for children, because it was during the week and we only went to the dear seats (6d and 4d) on a Saturday night. We got settled down and sat engrossed watching the pictures. It must have been about 8 p.m. when we heard four loud bangs. That did not upset us, because there were two out-facing double doors on Forest Park Road and boys used to kick on the doors with their boots. That was what it sounded like, but the lights went out and the film stopped and then someone started to scream. Mr. Gracie stood up on a seat, shouted for order and told everyone to line up against the walls, because he said if the walls fell down, they would not hurt us if we were leaning against the walls. A silence then came over everyone, and the cinema manager came on stage and spoke to everyone. The emergency generator came on, and we had lights again. He asked everyone if they wanted to see the rest of the show. Of course, we said we wanted to stay and see the rest of the picture, so we sat down again and the picture came back on.

We must have been watching for about another 15 minutes, when the usherette came down shining her torch on all the people. My Mum was looking for her bairns, so we had to go out with her. Also we had Nancy and Bobby, whom we took up to Rosefield Street and handed over to my Auntie Nan. They lived in number 7 Rosefield Street and one bomb had gone through number 9. When we came out of the pictures, that was when shock set in. Of course everything was in darkness, but the streets were littered with debris. Slates, stones, bricks, wood, chimneys, walls and glass covered the roads and pavements. There was not a clear space to put your feet down. Everything was covered with muck and all the shop windows were blown in.

We got home to Miss Kerr’s house: she had a low door and when an air raid was on during the night, my Mum lifted the three of us and we slept, covered with blankets, on Miss Kerr’s floor underneath her big table, until the “all clear” went. Next day, when we went off to school (I was at Logie School), we had to stand in our lines all morning in the playground, because all the classrooms were littered with glass. All the windows had been blown in because of the blast, and there was a huge hole in the roof where a huge piece of wall had gone through the big hall roof. We were finally sent home at 12 o’clock and told not to come back until further notice. It took months and months for the repairs to be done, as it was such a big job. So we lost almost a full year of schooling, because all the men were away to the war and it was only the old men who could get on with the work. Also it was very difficult to get materials to complete the work needing done.

The havoc one string of bombs caused in Dundee that evening! Luckily, only one person was killed. We were very lucky that night, because a bomb fell on the electricity generator for Dundee, which was next door to the picture house. 20 yards nearer and it would have been on us, and there would have been a lot of deaths and injuries. God was looking over us that night.
Lily R. Fox. via Dundee Central Library

The evening telegraph also ran a story detailing another Dundee resident’s account of the bombings. George Wilmott’s interview can be read on the evening telegraph’s website by clicking this link.

WW2 eventually ended with the unconditional surrender of the Axis forces (detailed on the chart below). The Nazi concentration and extermination camps which claimed around 11 million innocent lives, were neutralised. The Italian dictator, Mussolini was captured on 27th April and executed the following day; his body being taken to the Piazzle Loreto of Milan and hung up for all to see. Two days following Mussolini’s execution, Adolf Hitler and his recently wedded wife, Ava Braun, committed suicide. Germany soon fell to the might of the opposition and had fully surrendered by 8th May 1945, hence why we celebrate VE Day (Victory in Europe Day) on 8th May.

Japan had other ideas, however, and was still having its Pacific War with China (which predated WW2). Fearing another huge escalation, allied forces prepared for an invasion of Japan’s mainland. By late July of 1945, Japan was told to surrender or expect “prompt and utter destruction”. With no sign of relenting from the Japanese side, President Truman of the United States of America ordered an atomic bomb known as Little Boy to be dropped on Hiroshima, killing tens of thousands of people instantly, with the effects of radiation continuing to slowly kill thousands more people as time went on. Truman again called for Japan’s surrender, telling them that their failure to do so would result in “rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth”. Three days after his threat, Truman stood by his threat and dropped a Fat Man bomb on Nagasaki. Within a second of impact, the North of Nagasaki had been completely destroyed, and approximately a fifth of the population wiped out. This was the last time in history, to date, that nuclear weapons have been used in war.

WW2 death statistics
WW2 Deaths statistic: “World War II Casualties” by TheShadowed at English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
Bomb damage image courtesy of evening telegraph.

The following is a collection of extracts of Dundee Crime Statistics from the Dundee criminal returns of 1898 to 1902 inclusive, read, in part, by us on one of our forays in the archives. A very informative and insightful glimpse into the lives and crimes of this era, it’s also hard sometimes to see where things have changed greatly in the last century. See for yourself what the criminal element of Dundee were up to back in the day.

“Chief constables office, Dundee 31st January 1899

My lord and gentlemen,

I have the honour to present for your information the annual police and statistical returns for the year ending 31st December 1898

There were 4751 persons apprehended and 849 persons cited for crimes and offences making a total of 5600 against 5170 during the previous year being an increase of 430. Of that number 5291 persons were brought before the magistrates and 309 were discharged on account of the evidence against them being insufficient to warrant their being brought to trial.

The state of crime thus shews a slight increase. The increase is principally in the number of persons dealt with for contraventions of police acts, bye laws etc. the increase under this heading being 332 males. This may be accounted for by the climatic conditions, which were such in 1898 as to cause out door workers to have very little broken time; to the fact that trade in Dundee was in a prosperous condition; and to the circumstance that on 3rd march 1898 numerous sections of “the burgh police (Scotland) act 1892” were adopted, which considerably extended the powers and duties of the police and resulted in numerous prosecutions for minor police offences which could not previously be dealt with.

Serious crime
During the year there were no serious acts of crime omitted within the city and no sitting of the High Court of Justiciary took place.

Insane and destitute persons
In addition to the number of apprehensions before referred to, there were 42 insane and destitute persons taken charge of by, and removed at the instance of the police to lunatic asylums or the poor houses by the inspector of poor, or given up to guardians or relatives to be cared for without being brought before court. 25 of these, consisting of 11 males and 14 females were insane. 13 of them were removed to lunatic asylums, which the remaining 12 were taken charge of by the Paris council authorities. The other 17, found destitute were removed to poorhouses, while 9 were handed over to parents or relatives. These persons are not included in the criminal returns. There were 382 persons remitted to the sheriff during the year from the police court charged with various crimes and offenses against 547 in the previous year, shewing a decrease of 165. 144 of those so remitted were committed by the sheriff, till liberated in due course of law. This number is an increase of 16 on the total so committee during 1897.

261 persons were charged with wife-beating, being a decrease of 2 when compared with the previous year; of that number 245 were convicted, 3 were acquitted against 1 the charge was withdrawn, against 10 the charges were departed from, which the charges against the other 2 were undisposed of at the end of the year. Of the number convicted, 221 were tried in the police court and 28 in the sheriff court, 139 were sentenced to imprisonment, 85 were given the option of a fine, 6 were ordered to find caution for their good behaviour, while the remaining 15 were admonished.

There were 419 persons under 16 years of age brought before the magistrates, being an increase of 164 when compared with the previous year; 18 were found destitute, 160 were accused of theft and 241 of other crimes and offences. 102 of the total number were admonished, 128 were sentenced to pay small fines or to suffer short periods of imprisonment, 6 were dismissed, the charges having been found not proven, 8 were sent to the reformatories, 53 were remitted to the sheriff or reported to the procurator fiscal, 11 were remitted to other jurisdictions; 69 were dismissed, the charges against them having been departed from, and 42 were sent to industrial schools, the charges against them having been withdrawn. The increase in juvenile offenders may be accounted for by the large numbers of boys brought before the court charged with playing at football and other games to the annoyance of the lieges on the streets and other public places. The class of offence was not dealt with before the adoption of the burgh police act.

The number of prisoners who were apprehended and taken to each of the five police stations were as follows:

Central – 2679
Eastern – 413
Lochee – 424
Northern – 427
Western – 808

715 individuals have been more than once before the police court during the year. The frequent appearance of these persons before the police court largely increases the number of apprehensions chronicled in the returns, as on each re-apprehension during the year they are recorded. If the 715 persons who have been more than once before the court during the year and who are included in the above table had only been credited with one appearance each the number of persons apprehended or cited during 1898 would have been stated at 4361, instead of 5600 being 1239 less.

These offenders are for the most part habitual drunkards, and 283 of the 715 have been convicted of crimes of offences in Dundee from 20 to 170 times, as shown by the following table:

No of Convictions M     F
20 to 30                   84     58
30 to 40                   42     24
40 to 50                   17     11
50 to 60                    6      13
60 to 70                    2        3
70 to 80                    1      10
80 to 90                    1        1
100 – 110                           3
110 – 120                  1       3
120 – 130
130 – 140                           1
140 – 150
150 – 160                           1
160 – 170                            1

85 intimations of theft by housebreaking were lodged with the police during the year, shewing a decrease of 24 when compared with the previous year. With few exceptions the acts were of a trifling description.

The detective staff both by day and night as well as the district officers and constables give unoccupied furnished houses their special attention, and particularly those whose occupants have notified their absence to the police.

There were 804 intimations lodged of theft (simple) shewing a decrease of 179. 454 persons were apprehended in connection with these cases. In more than one half of the intimations, the properly stolen was considerably under 5/- value. By a portion of the burgh police act, which has been adopted, shopkeepers are prohibited from exposing goods outside their premises. This provision has been the means of causing shop door thefts to almost disappear, hence the great reduction in the number of simple thefts reported this year compared with the previous year.

The estimated value of property stolen, embezzled, or obtained by fraud during 1898 was £575. 8s, 1d, and the amount recovered was £320 16s 4d, thus leaving the estimated value of the unrecovered at £254 11s 9d.

There were 8 persons licenced as hotel keepers, 215 as publicans and 207 as grocers. 3 persons licenced to retail table beer. During the year 4 publicans were tried for breach of certificate in each case the charge being that of supplying liquor to persons in a state of intoxication, 3 of whom were convicted, and 1 acquitted.

Shebeens, there were 24 persons brought before the police court for selling excisable liquors without a certificate throughout the year, of that number 17 were convicted, 2 were acquitted. The fines and expenses imposed upon those convicted amounted to £213 9s 6d, of which only £24 1s 0d was recorded.

There were 994 strayed children brought to the several police stations during the year, and temporarily cared for by the female warders, being a decrease of 15 from the previous year

There were 99 fires during the year, to which members of the fire brigade turned out against 72 the previous year

There were 186 members of the police force of all ranks, this number includes two members of the sanitary staff, for whom the government grant is got, but excludes all other members of the sanitary staff, as also 1 inspector who do duty at the harbour. This strength of §86 gives a population of 884 to each constable, the population of the city according to the registrar general last estimate being 164,575

Unfortunately during the year 9 persons of 8 men and 1 women lost their lives drowning in the docs and river. 4 dead bodies were found in the river and 5 in the docks. During the same period 34 persons who fell into the docks or river were rescued from drowning.

5 fatal accidents occurred to workmen while engaged at the harbour and 96 accidents involving injury to the person, 43 of these being serious. In 56 of the cases the police on harbour duty, who have been trained in ambulance work dressed the wounds. 9 fires occurred at the harbour during the year, in neither of which was serious damage done.

D. Dewar
Chief Constable and Procurator-Fiscal

Dundee Crime Statistics

Crimes and offences

Number of crimes made known to the police

Class I, crimes against the person
Culpable homicide – 2
Assaults – 21
Assaults on etc officers of law – 70
Assaults by husbands on wives – 260
Culpable neglect of duty – 1
Cruel and unnatural treatment of children – 66
Incest – 1
Rape – 5
Assault with intent to ravish – 2
Indecent assault – 1
Lewd and libidinous practices – 3
Bigamy – 3
Culpable and reckless driving – 1

Class II – crimes against property with violence
Theft by housebreaking – 85
Theft by opening lockfast places – 4
Housebreaking with intend to steal – 5
Robbery and assaults with intent – 10
Sending menacing letters – 1

Class 3 – crimes against property without violence
Theft – 804
Reset – 9
Breach of trust and embezzlement – 5
Falsehood, fraud and willful imposition – 21

Class IV – malicious injuries to property
Willful fire raising – 2
Malicious mischief – 159

Class V – forgery and crimes against currency
Forgery and uttering – 1

Class VI – other crimes not included above
Perjury and subornation – 3
Indecent exposure – 11

Class VII – miscellaneous offences
Betting, gaming and lotteries – 1
Breach of the peace – 1545
Brokers (licenced) offences by – 5
Brothel keeping – 5
Cruelty to animals – 13
Drunkenness and drunk and incapable not under intoxicating liquor laws – 1511
Elementary education acts, offences against – 28
Explosives, offences in relation to – 4
Furious and reckless driving – 14
Industrial schools acts, offences against – 10
Drunk or drinking in a shebeen – 5
Disorderly conduct in licenced houses – 1
Refusing to leave a licenced house – 1
Breaches of certificate – 4
Trafficking without a licence – 19
Other contraventions – 4
Factory acts – 11
Offences against army, deserters – 53
Other offences – 1
Nave deserters – 2
Peddlers act, offences against – 1
Penal servitude and prevention of crimes act – 1
Police acts, bye-laws and regulations, offences against – 366
Poor laws, neglecting to maintain family – 1
Prostitution – 124
Reformatory school act, offences against – 1
Stage and hackney carriage regulations, offences against – 23
Vaccination act, offences against – 5
Vagrancy and trespass act
Begging – 36
Sleeping out – 4

Sentences and fines

1 day and under – 2
3 days and over 1 day – 2
7 days and over 3 days – 59
14 days and over 7 days – 100
1 month and over 14 days – 252
60 days and over one month – 160
Above 60 days – 7

5/- and under – 579
5 tp 10/- – 472
10 – 20 – 1292
20 – 40 – 399
40 – £5 – 21
Over £5 – 18

Number paid before imprisonment – 1033
Paid during – 318
Sentence undergone in default – 1427
Neither paid nor sent to prison – 3

Results of proceedings

Proceedings dropped – 309
Pledges forfeited – 621
Otherwise discharged – 75
Charge withdrawn – 101
Acquitted – 87
Sent to industrial school – 43
Sentenced to imprisonment – 582
Fine – 2781
Reformatory school – 8
Caution with or without sureties – 23
Placed under probation of first offenders act – 6
Admonished – 802

Sex and age of persons convicted
Under 12
m – 22
f – 0

12 – 16
m – 212
f – 10

16 – 21
M 506
F 161

21 – 30
M 774
F 462

30 – 40
M 654
F 412

40 – 50
M 356
F 244

50 – 60
M 145
F 120

Over 60
M 81
F 43

Sent to Dundee industrial schools
Sent to Glasgow R.C. Do.
Sent to reformatories
Sent to Perth industrial schools
Sent to Aberdeen industrial school for RC girls
Sent to Stirling industrial school
Sent to Tranent industrial school for boys
Sent to Leith industrial school

Return of strayed children (number, not actually returned to anyone)
Central – 303
Eastern – 183
Lochee – 48
Northern – 246
Western – 214
Total – 994

Fatal casualties –
Children found dead in bed
M 35
F 37

Deaths by burning m4 f5
Being crushed by turning lath – m1
Mill machinery – m2
Waggon m2
Cart falling on – m1
Crane striking – m1
Drowning m8, f1
Falling down stairs – m2 f 5
Falling from house m1 f1
Falling from ladder m1
Falling from steamer in course of construction m3
Tier of jute m4
Heap of wood m1
Being run over by railway train m4
Run over by vehicle m4

Sudden deaths m45 f39
Suicide by hanging m4 f 1
Jumping over bridge m1
Poisoning f1
Shooting m2

1900, there were 4987 persons apprehended and 734 persons cited for crimes and offences during 1899 making a total of 5721 against 5600 the previous year. Of that number, 5445 were brought before the magistrates and 276 were discharged on account of the evidence against them being insufficient to warrant their being brought to trial.

The state of crime this shews a slight increase which may be accounted for by the prosperity of trade. During the year there were three serious cases, two involving charges of murder and one of culpable homicide in which four persons were accused one of the cases of murder was that of a man accused of striking her on the head with a meat cleaver, he was tried before the High Court of Justiciary at Edinburgh and the case was found not proven. The other case of murder were a man was charged with causing his wife’s death remained undisposed of at the end of the year. In the case of culpable homicide two men were accused of assaulting a butcher, in consequence o which he died. They were tried before the sheriff and a jury and found not guilty.

People were also sentenced to penal servitude occasionally, one man for five years in 1898 – Donald Ross for assault and robbery, trial was 16th Sep 1898

For 1900

There were 6048 persons apprehended and 903 persons cited for crimes and offences during 1900, making a total of 6951 against 5721 during the previous year, being an increase of 1230. Of that number 5514 persons were brought before court, and 437 were discharged

It is difficult to account for such a large increase but as contributing to the same it may be mentioned that trade in general has been prosperous while the climatic conditions throughout the year have been favourable for outdoor work. There has been a large in as in the number of labourers attracted to the city during the year on account of converting the existing tramway lines to make them suitable for electric traction and the opening up of new tramway routes. The military camp at Barry has been more fully taken advantage of by large bodies of troops being quartered there for a considerable portion of the year, and the militia regiments have been called up for lengthened periods because of the south African war. This has resulted in a large increase of the number of deserters and absentees dealt with by the police and recorded in the returns. Another factor in connection with the increase is, in my opinion owing to the greater leniency which has of late been shewn by the magistrates to persons convicted of being drunk and incapable and to those convicted of having committed breaches of the peace and acts of disorderly conduct while in a state of intoxication. This leniency has, in my opinion, led to a considerable in case in the number of individuals who have made more than one appearance before the police court during the year, the number for 1899 being 686 and for 1900, 848.

In 1902, one serious case occurred in the city during the year. A man attempted to murder his paramour by stabbing her repeatedly all over the body which a pocket knife, and seriously assaulted another woman by stabbing her. He was tried before the high court of Justiciary, found guilty of the charges and sentenced to penal servitude for life. Daniel Hughes, trial 17th Nov 1902.”

Now, you might be thinking, what has Mary Slessor got to do with Dark Dundee?  Sure, she’s from Dundee, but as a missionary, she is hailed as somewhat of a heroine.  Of course she is, and we’re not denying that…but what’s truly dark about Mary Slessor are the things she witnessed during her lifetime.

Her father, Robert Slessor was a reported alcoholic, and, whilst a shoemaker to trade, became unable to continue his craft.  Relocating the family from Aberdeen to Dundee was an effort to leave behind their problems and start afresh somewhere new. Robert became a mill worker, labouring for pittance, but continued to spend the vast majority of it in the local public house. Her mother, also called Mary, had to take up work in the mills as a weaver – a trade in which she was highly skilled. By 11 years old, young Mary was working for the Baxter Brothers, spending half of her day in the mill-provided school, and the other half working in the mill itself.  Her mother would often come home from the United Presbyterian Church and would gather the children around her as she regaled them with stories of missionaries in far-off lands.  Mary felt sorry for the poor children, and the bizarre rituals which saw them murdered or abandoned and this inspired her thinking and began the first steps of what was to become an incredible life – but not one without it’s significant hardships.

Life wasn’t easy for the family, and, after years of living in the slums, Robert died of pneumonia.  The second of seven children, Mary witnessed the deaths of her brothers proceeding the demise of her beleaguered father.  Mary, began to develop an interest in religion and, when a mission was set up in Quarry Pend, close to the Wishart Church, she wanted to teach. Mary was 27 when she heard that David Livingstone, the famous missionary and explorer had died, and decided she wanted to follow in his footsteps. By the age of 28, Mary was assigned to the Calabar region in the land of Efik people. She was warned that the Efik people there believed in traditional West African religion and had a myriad superstitions.

The problems Mary confronted as a young missionary included the lack of Western education as well as widespread human sacrifice – adults as well as children! It is believed that one of the first things Mary bore witness to was voluntary human sacrifice during the burial celebrations of a prominent tribal chief.  It was widely thought that chiefs would require his wives in the afterlife, so, during the proceedings, his wives were sacrificed, much to Mary’s shock.  Not only were wives sacrificed, but, in some cases, villagers would be sacrificed to act as servants in the next life for their chief.  Such was their belief system, that they went willingly to their deaths, ready to serve their masters in the next life.

Once, during an epidemic of smallpox, people fled a village in terror, but Mary stayed to nurse and feed the stricken victims and, without assistance, buried the many of the dead. In a letter describing her experiences she wrote: “It is not easy. But Christ is here and I am always satisfied and happy in His love.”

Further to this, superstitions of violent deaths being solely attributed to witchcraft were rife.  When one of the sons of a village chief was crushed by a tree and subsequently died, blame was attributed to a nearby village.  Armed warriors besieged the village, capturing a dozen villagers to bring back to their village in chains.  Another superstition concerning the use of poison to determine guilt, caused Mary considerable alarm. The chief who had lost his son believed that if the accused were not guilty, they would not die from the poison, despite Mary’s protestations that this was not the case. After days of arduous discussions, most of which were heated and threatened extreme violence, all of the prisoners were released, and a cow was sacrificed, its blood used to soak the grave of the chief’s son in the place of  the blood of the villagers.  It was noted this this was “the first time in the entire district that a chief’s grave had not been saturated with human blood“. (

The birth of twins was considered a particularly evil curse. Natives feared that the father of one of the infants was an evil spirit, and that the mother had been guilty of a great sin. Unable to determine which twin was fathered by the evil spirit, the natives often abandoned both babies in the bush. It wasn’t uncommon for the mother to be banished to the bush also until the village elders deemed her “safe”, usually to the detriment of her own life. The beginnings of the gin trade created even more problems, as violence inevitably ensued between traders as well as drunks, leading Mary and her missionaries to live their lives in a constant state of alert.  All of these things – a mere snapshot of what life must have been like for her – coupled with the illnesses that dogged her throughout her life, must have been an incredible strain on her both physically and mentally.  Whilst Mary returned home on a few occasions to convalesce, her heart and soul remained with her African family. She eventually succumbed to a severe fever on 13th January 1915, having become so weak she could no longer walk, and was given the colonial equivalent of a state funeral. This amazing, remarkable woman achieved everything she did by refusing to succumb to the darkness that surrounded her every day, threatening to engulf her.  By reflecting on the horrors that she must have encountered during her time as a missionary, it makes her story all the more remarkable.


In the early hours of 8th December 1959, the Mona Lifeboat was launched to assist the North Carr Lightship, adrift in St Andrews Bay. Much like this week, the weather conditions were exceptionally severe with strong winds and the Mona was the only boat in the area able to launch. The last radio message from the Mona was at 4.48am and she was found on Buddon Sands after disaster had struck and a helicopter had searched for her. All eight of the crew were drowned.

As The Mona was struggling to reach the North Carr, the Lightship’s crew of six were able to drop their spare anchor. They were all rescued alive and well by a helicopter the next morning, 24 hours after the first call for help had gone out. The Mona disaster was the subject of an official investigation, in which the boat was described as having been 100% seaworthy at the time of the accident.

The Friends of Dundee City Archive have extensive information including details of the brave crew who lost their lives, visit to read more.

Interestingly, we found this little tid bit on the Mona wikipedia page:

“According to a letter to the Dundee Evening Telegraph, in January 2006, “Among some seamen, it was believed the vessel was tainted with evil, and they resolved to exorcise the boat in a ‘viking ritual'”. The Mona was taken to Cockenzie harbour on the river Forth in the dead of night, stripped of anything of value, chained to the sea wall, and burnt. The burning was done with the knowledge and permission of Lord Saltoun, the chairman of the Scottish Lifeboat Council. Questions were raised in the House of Commons about the destruction of a lifeboat built with public subscription.”

The incident (the disaster and life of the Mona, not the burning) was recorded in song by Peggy Seeger in The Lifeboat Mona, by The Dubliners:

It is the party season, and while family gatherings can be joyous occasions, sometimes we don’t get on with our family. Things can quickly take a turn for the worse when alcohol is involved, and on this day in 1974 Daniel Flanagan was sentenced for the culpable homicide of his brother, and assault for stabbing his nephew following a family party.

The article below is from the Glasgow Herald, 7th December 1974:

1974 homicide brother