As we mentioned in our ‘Black Magic & The Occult’ section, rumours have been rife for decades about witchcraft and black magic rituals being undertaken in various locations around the city such as ruined castles, parklands and gloomy, wooded areas.  If we look at the rumours on a national scale, the stories of witchcraft, devilment and sorcery all seem to blend into one; the only notable exception being the location of the proposed rituals.  Whilst of course, some of these practices are indeed happening up and down the country (sometimes with deadly consequences), the majority of people who class themselves as “witches” are very far removed from what public opinion would have us believe as dark magic-wielding hags who consort with the devil and aid his workings on us mere mortals. The idea of a “black mass” or dark ritual is abhorrent to them, and is not a path on which they walk.  There is no “evil” deity, and there is certainly no worship of it.  The misconception of Satan as someone with who they communicate is founded in complete fallacy, and is reserved for those known as “Satanists”.  Association with the devil is exactly the stigma that witches do not want – it is unwarranted, unfounded, and grossly damaging.  Of course, as with any walk of life, there will be those for whom the lines are blurred, but, for the many who practise witchcraft today, the life of a witch has absolutely nothing to do with malevolent evil or devil worshipping.

This damaged perception over the centuries has claimed countless lives. Those seen as witches were hunted, tortured and murdered on a mass scale during the witch-hunting eras. Here, in our own town, we burned Grissell Jaffray as a witch, and put a burning effigy of Hurkle Jean on a boat out to sea. We have such a fear associated with the word “witch” that we resort to savagery, closed-mindedness and the perpetuating of myth thousands of years old. With this in mind, we set about trying to wade through the good, the bad and the ugly – separating the myth from the reality to see what was really behind the mask of “witchcraft”.  It was one of our toughest challenges yet, and without the help of a pair of witches who were more than happy to help, we would have had a difficult time separating fact from fiction.  Kymmy and Ffyona agreed to answer a few of our questions so that we could show witchcraft in our city in a more positive light, and hopefully dispel one or two myths associated with the words “witch” and “witchcraft”.  If you don’t know these women, you clearly haven’t read my blog post on my time with them.  You should read that now if you haven’t already.

Read my interview with them below – there’s lots of great information and links for anyone who wishes to investigate this a bit more for themselves.  Please also remember to be respectful of everyone’s belief system – the world outside is a lot more diverse than just you and I.

Could you explain what a real Witch is and also what it means to you as an individual?

K – To me a REAL witch is someone who believes firmly in their Craft and has an affinity with it. Personally my Craft is very important to me, as important as going to Church is to a Catholic person. It’s a way of life for me.

F – A real witch to me is someone who lives their beliefs and lives their life in the now. Someone who takes personal responsibility for all their actions in this world.  A person who follows the lunar cycle and the cycle of the seasons and feels the changes as the Wheel turns.

What type of witchcraft do you practise?

K -I practice an eclectic mix of witchcraft, involving Wicca, Druidry, Buddhism and many more. I like to call myself a Patchwork Pagan, whatever works for me, I will go with.

F – I practice in my own way.  I have a fairly eclectic base as my beliefs are Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian) combined with the cycle of the seasons here where I live. I also borrow stuff from books to use in ritual, if it works brilliant, if not then I don’t use it again.

How long have you been a witch, and what drew you to it?

K- Like I said at our meeting, I was attracted to The Craft after being involved with the local Spiritualist Church or “Spookies”, I briefly ventured into Christianity but it really wasn’t for me, I’ve always been drawn to the Craft since my early teens.

F – I went looking for something to believe in when I was 14. I was brought up a catholic and it just didn’t work for me.  I found a book on Wicca and the things I read made more sense to me than anything I had heard before. I liked the equality of it all as it wasn’t patriarchal and had a Goddess as a central figure. This made more sense than the women playing almost a supporting role as if it were not for women man wouldn’t even be born.  I started practicing my Craft when I was around 20. I have drifted off my path for short times and always got back on.  I also like the fact that if you asked 10 Witches what they believe you would get 10 different answers and none of them would even think of telling the others they were wrong.

Does it bother you that there are still stigmas attached to the words “Witch” and “Witchcraft”?

K – It does.  Witch can be such a negative word, when really we are quite positive folks. It’s absolutely awful that there is still witch-hunting going on in this day and age.

F – It irritates me slightly that companies like Disney are still portraying witches as the” bad guys” I have no problem with identifying myself as a Witch to my friends and family. I would not put it down on a job application nor would I introduce myself to a new person as one just because there is still a stigma.  In this day where more people are turning to the Nature religions, you would think people would be more accepting but we can hope it will happen in time.

Does Dundee have a particularly high magical population?

K – I believe it does have a fairly large population, although most witches, don’t go around bragging or broadcasting their beliefs, we don’t proselytise either.

F – Dundee is an extremely powerful place. The energy coursing through the land around here is so varied it is amazing. People wise I know a good few Witches/Shaman/Druids/Heathens and others, they know others that I do not. Am sure for every one I do know there are more that I don’t due to the perceived stigma.

What dates are important in your magical calendar?  Why?  How do you celebrate them?

K – I celebrate the Wheel of the Year, which has 8 Sabbats. Previously I stuck to the traditional dates on the calendar, but I now prefer to “FEEL” for the changes in my surroundings that tell me what’s happening, like the smell of spring, the full on pulse of high summer, the melancholy yet abundant autumn, and the nestling down of winter. I do still celebrate the traditional pagan dates of Samhain (31st October), Yule or Winter Solstice (21st December), Imbolc (Feb 1st or 2nd), Ostara or Spring Equinox (on or around March 21st), Beltane (May 1st), Litha or Summer Solstice (21st June), Lughnasadh or Lammas (Aug 1st), Mabon or Autumn Equinox (on or around 21st September), but these celebrations tend to be with likeminded friends or as part of our local moot, I do my own private celebrations. We celebrate the seasons and what’s we see happening around us and give thanks to The Goddess and God for the ever changing Wheel and for the abundance the Earth provides to sustain us all. I also celebrate the cycle of the Moon, I observe each of the phases from New to full and back to Dark again. I find great comfort from the Moon which isn’t surprising as humans are made primarily from water and the moon pulls on the tides, seems only right she should have the same effect on us.

F – The dates that are important in my magical calendar mark the changing of the seasons and the solar festivals of the Equinoxes.  We celebrate them to mark the turning of the Wheel and the changes that happen in nature. I also celebrate the lunar cycle and use this to work spells if I feel that one is required for something or have possibly been asked to perform one for someone.  The celebration itself usually involves some kind of ritual from a really complicated one that takes a lot of planning to one that might just involve sitting under the full moon and soaking up the power.

What is your personal view on death and the afterlife?

K – Hmm I would like to hope I don’t just STOP and that there is an afterlife, I think we become part of all life, that our conscious permeates everything. I also think our “SOUL” has to rest and reflect on the life we have lived and then be reincarnated into another “life” I have stated that I want to be buried in an eco-coffin when I die and that I want no embalming, I want to go back to the Earth as pure as I can be and that a fruit tree be planted on top of me, so that my family and friends can eat the fruit that my body has helped to nourish. None of us truly knows what happens when we die so here’s hoping it’s wonderful.

F – I believe that when you die you essence or soul travels to the Summerlands and there you reflect on your past life and learn any lessons you lived through, see any karmic debt you may have incurred and to whom.  When you have learned all you can from the life you just lived then you are reborn to the next life to continue your travels on the Wheel and continue to learn.

Where could an interested party get involved with the magical community?

K – There are loads of online sites to connect with other magical groups and most big cities have Moots and other Pagan friendly events. It’s really just about asking around and looking out for flyers etc. The Scottish Pagan Federation is a great source of information and help also The Children of Artemis.

F – Well a first point of contact locally would be Dundee Pagan Moot. We have a Facebook page, website and a YouTube channel. We also have a monthly meeting on the last Sunday of every month.  There is also the Scottish Pagan Federation. They too have a facebook page, website and a youtube channel.  In most towns and cities in Scotland there will be some kind of a pagan moot or meeting on a regular basis. There may even be a shop that will advertise things like that. This shop will usually sell things like crystals, statues, candles, incense etc. All are things that can be used magically.

Any dark or creepy stories to tell us?

K – Gods where do I begin? Well, when I was wee, my Granny was a great teller of creepy stories (bless her) and one night we were sitting in front of her coal fire and she told us about the night my Dad was out drinking down the Perth Road with a bunch of friends, he was totally bladdered and decided to walk home through Balgay, en route to Dryburgh where my Gran lived, this was before I was born apparently. On walking through Balgay, he became aware of a strange footstep behind him, kind of a “THUMP” “SCRAPE” kind of noise, he looked around but no one was there, this continued all the way through the park and he was getting a bit worried by this time. He began to pick up his pace as best he could in his inebriated state but still the strange footsteps continued, all the way through Lochee and right up to my Granny’s front door when they disappeared suddenly. He got in and told my Gran what had happened and she told him that would have been your Dad making sure you got home ok as he had been carrying a flick knife in his pocket. My Grandad had passed years before, had a limp and scraped his boot when he walked apparently.  I was well creeped out.  Another Balgay story; I was about 3 years old and my Mum had taken me and my wee brother who was in a pram at the time for a walk up Lochee Park and into Balgay, I was holding mums hand as you do and she was pushing the pram with the other. She let go my hand to see to my wee brother and right about where the Jewish graveyard is I turned round to see a wee tiny man dressed on green clothes, he was beckoning me to come over to him, I stood staring at him and tugged on mums coat unable to speak, she was too busy with my brother to see what was going on he kept on beckoning and smiling at me. I began walking towards him and suddenly mum noticed me wandering off and shouted on me, he disappeared instantly and I told her about him, she says I imagined it, but to this day I KNOW I saw him. One more…We used to stay in Lochee High Street when we were really wee and we had an outside lavvy at the time, mum had safety pinned my wee brother and I to the couch so she could go to the loo (yes they actually did that) so we were babbling away to each other on the couch I reckon I was about 5 and my brother about 4 at the time, when from the room to our right a strange figure walked past us. It was human in form but completely see though. I could see the outline of the body kind of like the “Ready Brek” man used to look, but there was a lot of lights right up the centre of the body, it walked right past us into the next room. We told mum when she came up the stairs and she said we were being daftys, my Dad believed us though but never said what he thought it was, to this day my brother and I will swear we saw this and that to us it was totally real.  I also saw my Dead uncle a week after he died, again I must’ve been about 5. I came out of our closey on to the High Street in Lochee and he was standing there it a black suit, white shirt with a red carnation in his pocket, he smiled at me and kept walking. I ran upstairs to tell mum I had just saw Uncle Jim and that he might be on the way to the pub, she sat me down and told me that he had died the previous week and that I couldn’t have seen him. I told her what he was wearing and only when I was older did she tell me that those were the clothes he was buried in. Creepy eh?

F – Not really. I have had a few encounters with the Spirits of Place (Genus Locii) and a couple of encounters with spirits in old places but not anything that creeped me out.

For those of you who don’t know what Hellhounds are; be thankful.  Prominent and frequently-reported features include mangy fur, the colour of night, glowing red eyes, a pungent odour and possessing supernatural speed and strength.  Often used as guardians of the entrances to the underworld, legend has it that if you stare into their eyes three times, you are doomed to die.  The legend of the Hellhounds is told around the world, and is known by many names – some of which you may be familiar with; Black Shuck, Barghest, Cerberus, Gwyllgi or Cadejo to name but a few.

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According to a submission to the paranormal database (www.paranormaldatabase.com), a mystery “large hound” has been spotted on the A93 north of Blairgowrie.  With reports that the phantom dog patrolling the road is “huge” and “its presence makes normal dogs nervous and horses shy”, it seems to allude to the suggestion that this beast has been spotted more than once.  Checking through the website, there are a LOT of references to large hound sightings up and down the country.

Bungay, in the English county of Suffolk is one such place where the legend holds possibly the largest sway and centres on the events of a stormy Sunday in 1577.  The church service had begun, and it was between 9am and 10am when a violent and sudden storm broke out.  As the sky darkened, the church began to shake, and, before the eyes of the parishioners, a huge dog appeared as if from nowhere.  It ran about inside the church, lit by flame and is said to have killed two people just by passing them and causing a man to shrivel up and burn.  As if this wasn’t strange enough, similar phenomena was reported in a church seven miles away, the incidents having occurred simultaneously.  This time, three were left dead and scorch marks were left on the North church door – marks which are still there today!

One person submitted a photograph to www.britishwildboar.org.uk – it’s undated, so we don’t know the year – of a wild boar that was spotted in woods north of Blairgowrie on New Year’s Day.  The shot isn’t great, as the submitter acknowledges, but it’s quite clearly a boar.  Could it be possible that the Hellhound of Blairgowrie is, in fact, a big, fat, wild boar?  Sounds more likely to us, but then, we’ve never encountered it ourselves, so who are we to say?  Why not take a walk there one night and find out for yourself if there’s any credence to the stories?

Happy hunting.

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Top image credit ‘thegopfather.deviantart.com

In the latter part of 1882 and into the first few months of 1883, Dundee had a somewhat alarming visitor “…described as being rather tall, and is generally seen dressed in a long dark cloak, although occasionally he sometimes assumes a luminous appearance, supposed to be due to the inside of the cloak being lined with cloth dipped in phosphorus, and exposed to view.  Several yards of crape are also suspended from his hat…”  This dark, mysterious figure began appearing in and around the Blackness Quarry area around December 1882, and continued into February of the following year.  Reports of the way he walked, or was able to leap in huge bounds earned him the popular moniker, “Springheels”.  The situation became so phenomenal in the city, that stories of alleged sightings were ten a penny, with almost everyone knowing someone who had seen “Springheels”.

From children, to the elderly, butchers to policemen, nobody was safe from the man in black.  Although many reported seeing him, very few actually reported having any physical contact with him.  Stories range from far-off sightings, to alleged exchanges with the perpetrator, some of which are told in Geoff Holder’s ‘Haunted Dundee’.  How many of these accounts can be written off as fallacy or attempts for attention is unclear, but it is very plausible that someone was indeed going about the city with the intent of causing alarm.

The name “Springheels” is a common one, and refers to Springheeled Jack, a notorious supernatural entity of the Victorian Era. He was very popular in this time, due to the tales of his bizarre appearance and ability to make extraordinary leaps, to the point that he became written into works of fiction.  His eyes were alleged to burn with red fire, his hands clawed, and his features deformed and demonic.  With his origins believed to have been in London circa 1837, the legend of Springheeled Jack quickly circulated throughout the lands, with sightings becoming more and more frequent, and in some cases, more aggressive.

Whoever the Dundonian version of Springheels was, William Anderson was the man targeted for the crime, as he had been drunkenly frightening locals whilst “acting the part of a ‘ghost’”.  He was charged with a contravention of the General Police Act, and was given a warning.  Geoff writes that, after Anderson’s reprimand, Springheels was never seen again in the city.

Get Geoff’s book, “Haunted Dundee” here

Read more about the Legend of Spring Heeled Jack here

William Bury presented an alarming story concerning the death of his wife to local police in Dundee on 10th February 1889, whose body was subsequently discovered in a box in the bedroom of their home.  She had been choked with a rope and brutally stabbed both whilst alive as well as posthumously, and is believed to have been dead for around 5 days before she was found.  Bury was immediately arrested and was swiftly tried for her murder.  He was executed by public hanging on 24th April 1889.  In itself, the story of William Bury would have went down in local history due to the fact he was the last man in Dundee to be executed, but events took an unexpected turn that gained him further notoriety as he became linked to the infamous Jack the Ripper. As far as serial killers go, Jack the Ripper is by far one of the most legendary.  Also known as “The Whitechapel Murderer” and “Leather Apron”, Jack the Ripper was a highly active, vicious serial killer whose crimes elevated his public image to sensational heights in the late 1800’s.  As he laid waste to the (typically) female prostitutes of the Whitechapel area of London, his exploits incurred spates of copycat killings and a grisly cult following.

Bizarrely, despite this (or perhaps because of it), Jack the Ripper was never caught or even formally identified. This didn’t stop accusations flying, however, which brings us to the story of William Bury and how Dundee managed to get itself caught up in the ‘Ripper’ saga.  The wealth of information on Jack the Ripper, as well as each of the men speculated to be ‘The Ripper’ is understandably vast, with each and every one of them having arguments as to why their specific candidate is more likely than the others http://www.casebook.org/suspects/ .  We’re not here to talk about the others; we’re only concerned with William Bury and what went on in Dundee in 1889, otherwise, we’d be here forever!

Bury was born on 25th May 1859, the youngest of four children.  He was an orphan by the age of 5 – his father of an accident; his mother dying of “melancholia” in a Lunatic Asylum in Worcestershire.  Skilled with a knife, Bury is alleged to have been a horse butcher prior to moving to London from Worcestershire in 1887, but switched careers in London, working in the sawmill industry instead.  His employer was James Martin, and Bury stayed with James and his wife (who was the madam of a brothel in the area). A heavy drinker who was quick to temper, Bury spent time with the prostitutes of London who he not only related to, but who could also satisfy his sexual perversions.

It was whilst mixing in these circles that he met his future wife, Ellen Elliot, and the clock began ticking for them both.  A violent drunk, Bury is reported to have attempted to cut his wife’s throat on more than one occasion prior to their moving to Dundee.  The death of Ellen’s aunt gave them a small financial boon, but Bury quickly began to work his way through it, squandering it on alcohol and prostitutes.  Both Bury and Ellen contracted syphilis (which was not uncommon), and, facing apparent financial issues, made plans to relocate out of London as soon as possible.

It’s worth noting that the hysteria over Jack the Ripper had reached its peak by this time, and, for all intents and purposes, it appeared as though the murderous rampage was over (despite the lack of a culprit).

Bury is alleged to have mentioned to his landlord that he and Ellen were sailing to Australia, and, as such, he would require 2 wooden boxes for storage during transportation.  His landlord made the wooden boxes for him, as per his specifications, but instead of moving to Australia, the pair sailed to Dundee on board the Paddle Steamer Cambria. A skilled liar as well as a known thief, Bury lied to Ellen in order to get her to leave London by telling her he had the promise of work in Dundee.  Reluctantly, she agreed to make the fateful journey with him.  They stayed above a bar at 43 Union Street in the city for little over a week before making the move to 113 Princes Street, basement property below a shop, where they squatted after William conned the letting agents into giving him the keys.  The owner of the shop, Mrs Smith is reported to have had this conversation with William and Ellen Bury soon after their relocation to this property in late January 1889:

Mrs Smith: “What sort of work have you Whitechapel folk been about, letting Jack the Ripper kill all those people?”

William falls silent.

Ellen: “Jack the Ripper is quiet now.”

Ellen is also alleged to have told neighbours “Jack the Ripper is taking a rest” during a conversation about the serial killer.  Is it possible that Ellen was hiding information?  In doing so, she not only sealed her own fate, but may also have taken a vital secret to the grave that could have perhaps answered one of the most elusive questions in criminal history.

On the same day that they moved to Princes Street, Bury paid a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral in Dundee, where he came face to face with a childhood enemy.  Edward Gough grew up in Stourbridge with Bury, but under extremely different circumstances.  Whilst Gough came from an upper class background, Bury did not.  As a young child of ten years old, Bury stabbed Gough with one of Bury’s father’s slaughterhouse knives, and stole his money.  The wound was non-fatal, but the bitterness towards the two was palpable.  Despite his initial shock, Bury made an attempt to reconcile with Gough, who was now the Reverend of St Paul’s Cathedral.  Initially, Gough was hesitant, but the two appeared to patch things up, with Gough even visiting the Burys in their basement squat.

Bury had more on his mind than healing an age-old rift, however, and a few days after the chance meeting with Gough, he purchased a rope from the grocer’s shop.  The rest of that day, 4th February 1889, Bury spent at the Dundee Sheriff Court, watching proceedings and taking notes.  His movements for the 5th and 6th of February are unknown, although, retrospectively, they do not take much to figure out.  He visited again on 7th and 8th February, watching from the gallery with pensive curiosity.  His whereabouts on the 9th are either unknown or unrecorded, but the events of 10th February 1889 set in motion a cascade of events which saw him forever immortalised as a potential ‘Ripper’ suspect.

On the evening of the day in question, William Bury walked into the police office a reported the matter of his wife’s apparent suicide.  Speaking with Lieutenant James Parr, Bury described the events that led to his discovery of Ellen’s body.  He told Lt. Parr that both he and Ellen had been drinking very heavily the night before, to the point whereby Bury could not recall going to sleep.  When he awoke, he found Ellen dead on the floor with a rope tied round her neck – the very same rope Bury had purchased from the grocer’s in the days before her death.  In stopping the story there, it may seem no more than a tragic case of suicide…but Bury had yet still to finish his tale.

Instead of obtaining medical help, Bury told Parr that, in a fit of rage upon finding her dead body, he grabbed a knife and struck her with it repeatedly in the abdomen.  Once his rage had settled down sometime later, he attempted to conceal his deceit by hiding her body in their home.  When asked why he had done this, he replied he was afraid he would be arrested and blamed for being Jack the Ripper.  The Courier report stated that Bury actually confessed to Parr that he was Jack the Ripper, but this was refuted by Parr at the trial.

Understandably alarmed at the magnitude of Bury’s claims, Parr took Bury to retell his story to another officer, Lieutenant Lamb.  Again, Bury gave his version of events, but this time he said he struck one posthumous blow to her abdomen and elected to omit his earlier reference to Jack the Ripper.  The property was searched, and Ellen’s body quickly discovered in one of the boxes Bury had commissioned to be made for his alleged voyage to Australia.  Contrary to his earlier claims, it was evident that Ellen had been stabbed more than once.  Her body had been mutilated and was crushed and crammed into the wooden crate.  Parephrenalia linking Bury to the crime scene was taken away, and Bury himself was arrested.  Further examination of the body showed that Ellen did not kill herself as Bury had suggested, but had been choked from behind with considerable force.  Multiple stab wounds were present, as well as evidence of serious mutilation.

As the search had begun at night, a more thorough investigation was carried out the following morning which produced not only a knife with blood and human tissue on it, but also the rope Bury had bought days before – with Ellen’s hair trapped between the fibres.  On a door, written in chalk was “Jack Ripper is at the back of this door” and in another part of the property was written “Jack Ripper is in this seller [sic]”.  Clothing soaked in blood was also found in the box with Ellen, as well as the charred remains of some of her clothes.  Were the chalk scrawls the confessions of a murderous madman, or merely a cheeky attempt at childish vandalism on the part of a stranger?  Were Ellen’s clothes being burned in an attempt to hide incriminating evidence?

Newspapers from all over the world started reporting the murder, with many fingering Bury as Jack the Ripper:

New York Times, February 12th, 1889 – “…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…The theory of the police is that Bury’s wife knew of facts connecting him with the East End atrocities and that she took him to Dundee hoping to prevent recurrence of the crimes.”

Amidst the growing hysteria, Bury was questioned in Dundee by detectives from London in connection with the ongoing ‘Ripper’ inquiry, but it is believed they did not think Bury a plausible enough candidate.  Whilst the ‘Ripper’ murders had indeed stopped, the nature of Ellen’s murder coupled with the difference in some of the characteristics of her subsequent mutilation led officers to believe that Bury was a copycat, at most.  Abandoning this line of their investigation, Bury was left in Dundee for the Court to decide his fate, where, on 18th March 1889, he entered a plea of not guilty.  In a hearing lasting 13 hours, a guilty verdict was passed.

Due to Dundee’s opposition to the death penalty at that time, the jury recommended mercy be shown in Bury’s case on the basis of contradicting medical evidence.  Two experts were initially at odds over whether Ellen had in fact killed herself but, as they examined the body days apart, each agreed to accept the other’s hypothesis.  It has been asserted more than once that the people of Dundee were merely trying to get around passing the death penalty, but the judge presiding, Lord Young, encouraged the jury to rethink and come back with a definitive answer, one way or the other.  The verdict was returned as unanimously guilty, with mandatory punishment for murder being death by hanging.

Appeals for lenience were sought from Lord Lothian, the Secretary of State for Scotland by those few faithful to Bury – namely his solicitor and his “auld enemy”, Reverend Gough.  Although the residents of Dundee held Bury to blame for Ellen’s murder, many of them felt the sentence of death was unnecessary and barbaric, despite his actions.  Lord Lothian’s refusal to overturn the sentence doomed Bury to his fate, and he was executed within the walls of the Prison of Dundee between the hours of 8am and 9am on 24th April 1889, aged 29.

Officials present at the execution were John Craig, Magistrate; William Stephenson, Magistrate; William Geddes, Governor; David Robertson, Chaplain, C. Templeman, Police Surgeon, D. Dewar, Chief Constable and John Croll, Assistant Town Clerk.  The prison surgeon, James William Miller, pronounced Bury dead upon examination. James Berry was the executioner and was convinced Bury was Jack the Ripper.  On 28th March, written notification was received by Lord Lothian stating that James Berry had told the author “explicitly that bury was known to have been Jack the Ripper”.  The following day, The Dundee Courier printed an article criticising and condemning the actions of those involved in the passing and carrying out of the sentence, crying that “Yesterday’s proceedings amounted to nothing less than cold-blooded murder.”

It is alleged that, in the days leading up to his death, Bury confessed to Gough that he had killed his wife, and, at Gough’s instruction, wrote a confession which was to be held by Gough until his execution.  Bizarrely, the confession contradicted information known to be true in the case of Ellen’s murder.  Could it have been possible that his “friend” Gough had written the letter himself, or had edited it in some way as to distort the truth?  Did he really forgive Bury for the stabbing a robbery all those years ago when they were children?  It is believed that Gough visited Bury’s house in Prince’s street, and it is further alleged that Gough’s extracurricular habits ran to the perverse insofar as he had a penchant for photographing dead bodies.  Were the two men in cahoots?  Was Gough present at the time of the murder?  Did he visit the property between the date of the murder and the date of Bury’s confession?  Was it simply revenge?  We’ll probably never know.

It has also been intimated to us that, despite what has been written about Gough seeking clemency for Bury, the reality of the matter could not have been further from the truth.  Whilst Gough may have been acting as a confidante to the beleaguered Bury, he may have been acting against him all along, conducting a relentless campaign behind Bury’s back to ensure the sentence would be death, irrespective of the local feelings towards the imposition of the punishment.  Gough is also said to have been present at the death of Bury, along with other death-seekers, where it is alleged he watched with a smile on his face.  In an unrelated event, Gough’s own son was hanged in Wolverhampton for the rape and murder of a woman, but, as far as Gough himself goes, there appears to be no trace of him after he left St Paul’s Cathedral in 1906.

Despite all of this information, the notion that Bury was Jack the Ripper is not a widely accepted one, as there are other suspects who have, upon further expert analysis, a higher chance of being the legendary killer.  Either way, Bury earned his infamy by not only being the last man to be hanged in Dundee, but also for bringing the Victorian nightmare that was Jack the Ripper to the fair streets of Dundee.

With special thanks to our friend, Marc, for his contribution to this article.

George Wishart was born in 1513 and became one of the earliest Scottish religious reformers.  Wishart is widely recognised as a martyr for his Protestant beliefs and was burned at the stake because of them in St Andrews on the orders of Cardinal David Beaton under accusations of heresy in 1546.  George Wishart is best known in Dundee as the Protestant Reformation preacher who refused to stop preaching during a time of plague, when the town had closed its gates to prevent more infected from breaching the walls.  Part of the original wall of the city still exists in the form of an arch named the Wishart Arch. Born to James Wishart and Elizabeth Learmont, he had a short but influential life, teaching as well as preaching in many different locations, including Europe and challenging the practices of the Christian Church at that time.  During one of his preaching sessions, an assassination attempt was made against him.  Cardinal Beaton was a powerful man, enraged by Wishart’s efforts to further the process of reform, and employed a priest to stab Wishart to death during one of his sermons.  Thankfully for Wishart, he managed to not only disarm the priest, but also stopped the angry crowds from exacting their revenge on the would-be murderer.

Cardinal Beaton, whilst powerful, was not a man without sin himself, having allegedly fathered up to 20 children in addition to a sexual relationship with Marian Ogilvie.  For Wishart and his sympathisers, Cardinal Beaton was the epitome of everything that was corrupt about the Church.  Another attempt was made on Wishart’s life, but was again thwarted, much to Beaton’s fury.  John Knox had become not only an avid supporter of Wishart, but also his bodyguard, confidante and tutor.  Knox is believed to have followed Wishart everywhere with a large sword by his side, ready to defend his mentor to the death.  The Cardinal was determined to wreak revenge on Wishart, eventually arresting him in 1546 with the help of Lord Bothwell.  He was taken immediately to Elphinstone Castle, before being transferred to Edinburgh Castle.  He finally arrived back at St Andrew’s Castle, under the orders of Cardinal Beaton, and was held in the dungeon prison pending trial.  Accused of being an English spy and a heretic, Wishart was prosecuted by the Public Accuser of Heretics, John Lauder, who just happened to be Cardinal Beaton’s secretary.  Regardless of Wishart’s responses to the accusations, he was found guilty and was sentenced to execution by burning at the stake.

On the morning of 1st March 1546, the day of his execution, it is reported that the keeper of St Andrews castle ate breakfast with Wishart and smuggled him gunpowder to put into his clothes so that he did not have to endure his fate by fire for too long.  Upon meeting his executioner, it is said that the man begged Wishart for forgiveness.  Wishart agreed to forgive the man for carrying out the sentence exacted upon him by the evil Cardinal, and the executioner fell to his knees with gratitude. George Wishart was hung by the neck and burned soon after, in what turned out to be a brutally gruesome display of torture.  Whilst the gunpowder given to him by the keeper of the castle did explode, it did not have the intended effect of killing him outright, but instead, endured him further agony.  Cardinal Beaton watched the horrific spectacle from a window of the castle, revelling in Wishart’s incredible suffering.  Wishart finally succumbed to the agonising torment and died as his hanging body continued to burn.tour-banner-ad

The response to Wishart’s trial and execution was as swift as it was brutal.  Less than three months after Wishart’s death, on the morning of 29th May 1546, a group of supporters entered St Andrews castle.  Under the guise of labourers, they made their way to the Cardinal’s bedroom, killing anyone they encountered on their way.  Cardinal Beaton was stabbed to death in his bedroom, mere minutes after Marion Ogilvie had left the castle.  Upon his death, the group further defiled his corpse by stripping and mutilating it. To serve as a further warning, the Cardinal’s naked, bloody body was hung from the castle window, where it was displayed in a macabre saltire position for all to see. St Andrews Castle became a popular gathering place for Protestants from all over Scotland, including Wishart’s protégé, Knox.  The Castle was defended from the forces of Mary of Guise for a year or so until its surrender in July 1547.  When the castle was recaptured, the remains of Cardinal Beaton were found pickled in a barrel in the dungeon.

Legend would have it that the ghost of Wishart haunts the archway, and that sounds can be heard, as though a sermon is being taught.  It is believed that George Wishart stood atop the Wishart Arch to preach to the infected on the outside of the town gates, but historians have shown that this particular wall was not erected during the time of Wishart, so it could not have been this wall he preached from and must have been another structure, since lost to time.

 

Dundee is no stranger to a brawl – a reputation that has preceded the city for generations.  Petty crime in Dundee, Scotland in the 1920’s was unsurprisingly, not much different to as it is now. The men, and, perhaps more importantly, the women, have proven to be a fearsome populace, and continue to fight and support their city and their ideals to this day.  Some of the older generation may say “they never did anything like that in my day”, when they hear about some drunken escapade involving a fight or a lone space-hopper…but don’t let them fool you, because we’ve dug up some of the records from the 1920’s, and it makes for very interesting reading indeed. Trust us when we say this is a mere snippet of the wealth of information in the city archives, available to anyone who wishes to know more.  For now, however, let this whet your appetite.

Buckle your seatbelts, wrinklies – your secrets are out!

One of our favourites, which is still a pastime of some of our drunks today, was the crime of public pissing.  Yes, that’s how it’s recorded.  “Pissing.”  Apparently, we loved a good outdoor pee back in the day, especially when drunk.  Various records allude to the following:

“…drunkenness…committing a nuisance, mainly by pissing.”

“…worse for liquor, pissing in close at foot of tenement stairs.”

“…pissing on footway in full view of pedestrians in Brown Street.”

“…pissing in pend in view of people passing from Seagate to Murraygate.”

“…worse of liquor, pissing on footway in view of passersby in Meadow Entry.”

“…pissing in close at 27 Westport.”

“…saw pissing on footway in full view of passersby while drunk.”

“…committing a nuisance at 174 Overgate…being drunk and urinating in front of passers-by”

“…worse for liquor, pissing on footway at door of Gas Treasurer’s Office.”

We could go on, but we think you get the idea. Unsurprisingly, alcohol related assaults were many, but there were many instances of wife-beating too, which contradicts what we know about the strong, independent Dundee woman.  Never to be outdone, however, women still managed to rack up a few assault charges of their own.

Robert Bremner (64), Machine fitter – assault of wife by striking with several blows on the body with his fists, and seizing hold of 2nd witness by the neck and dragging her about in the house occupied by the accused.

Josephine Lamb or Ross (56) – assaulting Elizabeth Wood by striking her one blow on the left cheek with her fist at the door of the house at…Overgate at 11:15am.

James Doyle (40) – remanded in custody and bail set at 20/ for assaulting his wife and five children, aged from 12 to 7…seizing her by the neck and bumping her head twice against the wall, seizxing her by the left arm, dragging her out of bed on to the floor, kicking her several times on the right side with his booted foot, seizing her by the shoulder and pushing her down a flight of steps in the house at…Lochee, at 8:45am.

Hugh Boyle (42) and William Simpson (32) – breach of peace in Lochee at 10pm while at the centre of a large crowd engaging in a stand up fight, both equally willing – 7 shillings or 5 days in jail each – both paid.

Charles Fitchett (26), Labourer – assaulting wife by throwing a piece of bread at her head which would have struck her if she had not ducked, he then seized her legs pulling her to the floor and dragging her around the floor for some time – 5 days in jail.

Henry Ferrie (45), Labourer – assaulted wife by striking her several times on the face with his fists and drawing blood – assaulted his daughter by striking on her back with his fists – 3 witnesses – 38th appearance in court – trial continues to 24th December 1928 – admonished.

Peter Robertson (43) – assaulted wife by grabbing her coat and pushing her down on the bed then striking her several blows to the body with his fists at…Church Street – 4 witnesses – probation granted.

Robert Robertson (51) – assaulted son by blow of an axe which would have taken affect if witness had not prevented by seizing his arm and holding it on the stairs leading to the house at…Hunter Street at 10.50pm – 4 witnesses – 20 days in jail.

Isiah Mitchell (24), Labourer – striking his wife on the face with his hand…assaulting a witness by striking with his fist at the same address and at the same time – assaulting witness by knocking down and seizing throat, restricting breathing and striking on face with fists at the same time and address – 5th appearance in court – 30 shillings or 15 days in jail – paid 1 shilling and spent 8 days in jail.

James Guthrie (20), Labourer – indecently assaulting Isabella Thomson (16) by seizing her by the right shoulder and placing his hand under her clothes and struggling with her causing her to fall to the ground, placing his hand over her mouth to prevent her shouting for help and attempting to pull down her knickers and forcing her legs apart causing the elastic on her stockings to break on footpath between Clepington Road and Harefield Road known as King’s Cross Road at 12.05am – 5 witnesses – 20 shillings or 10 days in jail – 1 shilling paid and 8 days in jail.

Jessie Cassells, a 54 year old spinner from Polepark was given a 10/ fine or 7 days in jail for striking 62 year old Michael Gallacher, a local peddler, on the left ear with an “earthenware jar, to the effusion of blood at her home in Polepark Road”.

Even in the poorhouse, there was no reprieve.  George Burke (25), a labourer of no fixed abode was charged with assaulting 21 year old William Buchanan (21) by “striking him two blows on the face with his fist, knocking him down, seizing him by the lapel of his jacket and striking him a blow on the nose with his fist, causing his nose to bleed in the Day Hall in connection with the Dundee Combination, Eastern Poorhouse, Mains Loan, of which Charles Gow is Governor, about 1:30pm, Wednesday 21st December…”

Not only were we partial to a wee fight after a few too many, we liked a good old-fashioned breach of the peace, too.  49 year old Margaret Gould was charged with shouting and swearing at two women on the footway in Hunter Street.  Cautioned by the attending office, Margaret refused to stop, and said she “did not give a c**t for the jail”.  She was fined 21/ or was given the option to spend 14 days in jail.

Arthur Nicoll (39), a builder from Letham was charged with breach of the peace and resisting arrest after a large crowd had gathered round him in the town centre as he shouted, swore and challenged people around him to fight.  A caution did not deter him, and when he was eventually arrested, he refused to walk.  The attending officers “had great difficulty in taking him to the Police Office.”

64 year old John Clark was charged with a breach of the peace in Dundee’s Westport.  His charge reads “…in centre of large crowd, cursing and screaming and challenging others to fight…Cautioned by continued…much the worse for liquor.”

Some other charges include:

Georgina Gibson or Jones (48), no job or abode – drunk in Howff at 2.50pm on 18th December 1928 – 1 witness – 48th appearance in court – fine imposed but not paid – jailed for 5 days.

John Robbins (43), no job or abode – drunk in Lower Pleasance at 11am on 18th December 1928 – 1 witness – 64th appearance in court – 20 days in jail.

Jessie Melville or Forbes (48) and Jane Gerrie (43) – theft of three pairs of stockings at…Princes Street – admonished.

Betsy Dewar or MacDonald, (30), charged with “…contravention of the Howff Burying Ground Byelaws, dated 5th September 1912, by lounging or lying upon a monument in Howff Burying Ground, Meadowside, about 2:25pm on Friday 15th July.  Her co-accused included James Coventry, John Ellis, and Peter Shields.  In this instance, a verbal warning was enough.

Lucy McLean or Tanner, (34) pled guilty to a contravention of Article 1 of The Dog (Wearing of Collars) Order, 1911.  The dog was found in the Hilltown by Police, who described the dog as “suffering to be at large, an unmuzzled, ferocious dog.”  She was fined 10/6.

Alexandria Campbell (26) of Aberdeen was accused of deserting her child in Dundee and was let off with a warning.  No more information was available as to the exact specifics of this case.

Many Dundee folk were caught fiddling their gas meters, or allowing their chimneys to become blocked to the point they caught fire (in contempt of the General Police and Improvement (Scotland) Act 1928).  Some shopkeepers were charged with possession of unstamped, incorrect or unjust weights, and a bunch of schoolboys were admonished for “maliciously uprooting and destroying ten growing turnips in a field on the farm at Lawton, situated on the South side of Byron Street, Lochee…”

So, as you can see, we’re just as feisty and rowdy back then as we are now…the only difference is that you have to go digging for dirt like this from the past.  These days, social media and technological advances mean that there’s no safe places left to hide…so your skeletons don’t stay buried for long.

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“. (www.wholesomewords.org).

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.

 

For sixty years, the Mars Training Ship lay anchored on the River Tay at Dundee and it became a famous local landmark, embedded in Dundee history. In that time, more that 6,500 homeless and destitute boys joined the ranks of the Mars to learn new skills and to keep out of trouble. Launched in 1848, the Mars was not always a Training Ship.  She was a handsome three-masted sailing ship with two decks and eighty guns. But by the time she was completed, the era of sail was giving way to new technology and her conversion was never entirely successful. After a brief spell on coastal defence duty, the Mars was earmarked for scrap. At that time in 19th century Dundee, poverty and disease were rife and many children had no option other than to steal to survive and a good number ended up in prison, living in squalid, life threatening conditions.

Putting the young boys in jail was the only option until it was agreed that this was no life for young boys, and that an attempt should be made to rehabilitate them rather than confine them to jail. The Mars was berthed in Dundee with the sole purpose of providing this alternative way of life for the young delinquents. On board the vessel, the Mars boys were educated, trained in all aspects of life, learning new skills to help them adjust to life away from the ship without the temptations of crime, but it was not a free ride; nor was it easy. Many boys tried to escape the ship, with some losing their lives in the process.  In March of 1871, 3 young lads lost their lives whilst attempting to escape in an open boat in stormy waters, and a gravestone is erected in their memory at Forgan churchyard.  Those caught trying to escape, or breaking any other rules, such as smoking or theft received physical punishment for their disobedience.  Boys were strapped over a gym-horse and beaten with the tawse (a short, thick leather whip for those of you too young to know what it is).

Life wasn’t all about escaping and beatings for the boys; they enjoyed a Summer holiday each year, and on Sundays were allowed off the boat to walk around the grounds of St Fort’s in total silence.  The Summer holidays consisted of a twenty mile walk to a camp site in Elie which had no lighting, heating, water or toilet facilities.  Daily activities included diving and swimming – irrespective of whether or not the boys could swim!

“We’ll Send Ye Tae the Mars” by Gordon Douglas details for the first time the life and times of the Mars and the people who ran it and the boys from Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh who were trained there. It tells a fascinating history of how it all happened and how the Mars helped thousands of boys find a new life away from the poverty and crime of nineteenth-century Dundee.

Order the book here now. Click the following link to visit the official “Sons of the Mars” website for detailed information and remember to sign up for a rare glimpse into their records of the boys who trained aboard, and the reasons they were sent to the Mars.

special thanks to our friend Shehanne Moore for her contributions

 

In the midst of a terrible storm, a train travelling over the Tay bridge to Dundee plummeted into the murky waters of the River Tay, taking with it every life on board. The evening of 28th December 1879 and the preceding events will always be remembered in Dundee’s dark history. Men, women and children all perished during the disaster – one of the worst in the city’s extensive history. Fierce winds tore through the infrastructure of the bridge, collapsing it under the weight of the travelling train, and sending both it and it’s passengers to a watery grave. Rescue attempts were made, but the weather was too troublesome for the rescuers, and they were forced to abandon their task until the weather subsided.

rail1

By early 1878, the bridge was certified as usable, initially subject to a maximum speed limit of 25mph, after a Board of Trade inspection spent three days inspecting both its structure and its capacity to transport goods and passenger locomotives. On 1st June, 1878, the bridge was officially opened for passenger transport across the River Tay to the delight of all involved in its production. However, this joy was not to last. Only 6 months after Queen Victoria had travelled over the bridge, the most horrific of incidents occurred. At 7:13pm, a train approached the bridge amidst winds that were afterwards described as bad as a typhoon or a hurricane. Passing the Southern signal cabin, the train gathered speed for its journey across the river. There are no confirmed or official measurements for the wind on the night of the disaster, but it is estimated to have been blowing at roughly 80mph that evening.

After going no more than 200 yards, the infrastructure of the bridge collapsed under the buckling pressure of the wind and the added weight of the train, sending everything tumbling into the dark, freezing waters below. The whole event would have taken seconds to unfold, but the terror of the passengers and crew on board is unimaginable. Records indicate that it is unknown exactly how many were travelling on the train, but estimate that, based on ticket ledgers and confirmed crew, around 75 people could have potentially been on the train that evening. Of this potential 75, there were only 60 known victims, and only 46 bodies were ever reclaimed from the Tay. Although the families of those who were reclaimed must have been devastated, the families of those who were never recovered must have felt a terrible emptiness at never being able to lay their loved ones to rest.

The design and construction of the bridge came under intense scrutiny and disrepute as a result of the ongoing Inquiry into what factors caused the accident that claimed the lives of so many people. The reputation of Sir Thomas Bouch was in tatters as a result of the faulty design of the bridge, whose high and lengthy girders collapsed under the strain of the severe weather and the speed of the travelling train. Complaints had been made to the stationmasters concerning the speed of the trains travelling into Dundee across the bridge, especially where the high girders connected to the bridge proper. These girders were part of the redesign of the bridge, designed by Sir Thomas upon the realisation that the original structure would not be berthed soundly in the bedrock at the bottom of the river. As you can see in the images to the right, there is limited support between the “level” railway and the redesigned upper girders.

As the girders separated from the main bridge, some witnesses reported extreme but brief flashes of light; others comparing the accident to a falling fireball. Conversely, others claimed to have seen no fire or flashes at all, which only added to the overall confusion of what actually happened in the few seconds after the bridge had come apart.

Previous concerns were raised over the stability of the bridge, not only by passengers, but by workmen carrying out their tasks on the structure, who had all experienced shaking and tremors linked to the redesigned high girders; even more so when a train was crossing. Unfortunately, many reports of the fault were unfounded and flecked with incontinuities, so little was done by way of a thorough investigation into the issues until it was far too late. Sir Thomas was blamed for inadequacies in not only the design and construction of the bridge, but also for the way in which inspections and maintenance were carried out. Poor management of the contractors was also placed on Sir Thomas, who could provide little to no evidence or witnesses to disprove the accusations. Shortcuts had been taken throughout the project due to a variety of factors, including time and financing, which all contributed to a flawed design and, ultimately, a bridge that was destined for disaster.

Further findings showed that the pillars supporting the weight of the bridge were not adequately secured, with poor metalwork, uneven masonry and poor choice of materials contributing to the overall ineffectiveness of the bridge over a sustained period of time. If it had not been for the combination of these factors, coupled with the unusually adverse weather, the Tay rail bridge may have lasted for some time, but not indefinitely. Below is a list of the missing and the dead, detailing the order the bodies were recovered and a little detail about each of them.

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image courtesy of Paddy McArtney at Dilkusha photography

The first body recovered from the disaster was that of 54 year old Ann (Annie) Cruickshanks, a single domestic servant living in Edinburgh.  Originally from Kingsbarns, Fife, she was recovered on 29th December 1879 in waters near Newport.  She is believed to have been travelling with 53 year old widow, Mary Easton, whose body was never recovered.

It was not until 5th January 1880 that the second body was recovered.  24 year old David Johnston, a railway guard now living in Edinburgh was found near the Tay (rail) bridge; his death leaving behind a young wife and child.

The following day, to the east of the bridge, local tradesman John Lawson, 25, was recovered.  Described as having reddish, curly hair, and wearing a dark tweed jacket, John joined the train at Ladybank, presumably returning home to see his wife and two children.

At the same time as John Lawson was recovered, searchers also found the body of 22 year old James Leslie, a clerk residing in Baffin Street with his parents.  Records show that he “assisted his parents” and was also listed as “single”, which could lead us to assume that his parents required a level of care and financial assistance that may not have allowed John much personal time to save money in order to settle down himself.

Slightly further West of the point where John and James were located, another body was found.  William Jack was 23 and a grocer in Dundee, who had joined the train in Dairsie, returning home to Dundee.  He had been visiting his mother, to comfort her in the wake of losing her daughter (his sister) only 2 weeks prior to the disaster.

Later that same afternoon, searchers located James Crighton, 22.  It is not recorded where he boarded the train, but it is known that he had attended his father’s funeral in Stair (Ayrshire).  Notes further indicate that he was considering approaching his employers to ask if he could take his father’s employment in order that he could provide for his mother and his eight siblings.

The final recovery of 6th January 1880 was that of 34 year old Robert Watson, a moulder from Dundee, travelling back home from Cupar.  In the late afternoon, as daylight was in it’s final stages, his body was found “abreast” of the Mars training ship.  Robert was travelling with his two young sons, Robert and David, who were recovered during the course of the search.  Robert’s wife, Mary was left widowed and had lost two of her sons, and still had a 3 year old and a 16 month old to take care of at home.

January 7th 1880 saw another large recovery, thanks to the valiant attempts of brave and determined searchers, who trawled the Tay for hours in desperate attempts to find all the casualties of the horrific disaster.  The first recovery of the day was made early in the morning.

John Marshall, 24, was found in waters to the East of the first broken pillar (closest to what is now Riverside Drive).  He was part of the train crew on board that day, joining the train at Edinburgh and leaving behind a young wife.

Less than 2 hours later, searchers recovered David Watson.  At 18 years old and single, David had already lost his father.  Records do not show a great deal of information relating to him, other than he was registered as a commission agent and was the son of a tobacconist.

41 year old William McDonald was the next recovery.  Of stout build, with fair hair, William was a sawmiller who lived in the city.  He was found not long before noon, with records showing that he was married with 2 children – one of whom, 11 year old David, boarded the train with him at Newburgh.

At the same time as William was located, the body of teacher and registrar David Neish was found.  Having visited relatives in Kirkcaldy, David was travelling home with his 4 year old daughter Isabella.  With distinct “salt and pepper” hair, wearing a tweed suit, tweed overcoat and a dress hat, David died with some of his possessions still on him, such as a chained, silver watch and a brown silk umbrella.  His widow was left to raise their remaining four children.

James Millar, 26, from Dundee, but working in Dysart (near Kirkcaldy) was the 4th body found that day, taking the total recovered after thirteen days, to ten.  A flax dresser, James left behind a wife and child.  It is understood that James worked away from home to support his young family, and visited them at weekends.

Volunteers continued to trawl the area of water in and around the broken pillars and quickly located the body of 18 year old William Threlfell, from Dundee.  Described in the records as having “fair hair, thin face, fair complexion, rather slender make”, Wiliam was a confectioner in the city who had boarded the train at Edinburgh, along with a great deal of the passengers on that fated journey.

It was a few hours after this find that they came across the form of John Sharp, a 35 year old joiner, employed at the time by James Keiller & Sons, was found, again “abreast” the Mars.  He was the sole provider for his mother and father who lived in St Andrews.  He is described as being 5’10”, with a fair complexion and hair, grey eyes and having a small moustache.

Walter Ness was found an hour or so later some distance East of where the Mars was berthed under the bridge.  At 24, he was member of the Dundee Artillery Volunteers, and was buried with full military honours.  Dark featured and well dressed, Walter, originally of Kirkcaldy, joined the train at Ladybank, presumably to visit his mother in the Wellgate area of Dundee.

On 8th January 1880, around 11am, Thomas Davidson was found to the East of one of the destroyed pillars.  At 28 and single, he is described as a farm servant, orginally from Kilconquhar in Fife.  Amongst his possessions, he was found to have a silver watch, as well as silver rings in his ears.

Within an hour or so, the second body of the day was recovered close to another of the broken support pillars.  Archibald Bain, 26, had been visiting his uncle in Cupar with his younger sister, Jessie.  It is mentioned in the record of bodies that his father identified his body, as his mother had already passed away.

The eighteenth passenger to be recovered was 23 year old Alexander (Alec) Robertson, who lived with his brother in Dundee, but had been visiting his father in Abernethy prior to the disaster.  Wearing a Rob Roy tartan scarf, a grey tweed suit and possessing a silver watch, Alexander is described as being a single labourer of “ordinary make”, about 5’1″ tall, and having large whiskers and a round face.  His brother, William, was also travelling with him.

Fair-haired George Johnston, a 25 year old mechanic joined the train at St. Fort (South-East of Wormit) with his fiance Eliza Smart.  He was also found in the proximity of the previous two bodies.  The body of his fiance was never recovered.  George was the final body to be extracted from the river that day.

The last body extracted from the river that day was James Foster Henderson, 22.  A labourer who joined the train at Ladybank, with fair skin and hair, and of “stout build”, it was noted that one of his fingers was deformed (but records do not seem to indicate which one).  He was survived by his father, mother and 7 siblings.

William Peebles was the first discovery of the morning of 9th January 1880.  Leaving behind a wife and 8 children, William had boarded the train after an attendance at a funeral.  Originally from Dundee, William lived and worked in Inverness as a land steward.

11 year old David McDonald was found a few hours after the discovery of William Peebles, close by to where his body had been found.  Both the bodies of William and David are listed as being found “Abreast of Training Ship Mars, in line with 3rd Broken Pier”.  David was the son of William McDonald and was found almost 24 hours after his father.  He is described as small for his age, with dark features and was wearing, amongst other items, a dark tweed suit, a black velvet scarf and a mourning cap.  It is unclear if there had been a recent death in the family that he could have been in mourning over.

The river relinquished the body of Robert Watson (Jnr), 6, on the afternoon of 9th January 1880, not far from the bridge.  The first of Robert Watson’s sons to be discovered after his own body was recovered, is described as being stout, wearing a dark tweed suit, pink wristbands, a tartan scarf, a blue and white shirt and a velvet bonnet.

Divers returned the body of David Cunningham to the shore on 10th January 1880, having found him 500 yards below the third pier.  David also joined the train at St. Fort, and was travelling with his friend and co-lodger Robert Fowlis at the time of the disaster.  Simply depicted as “Stout, 5’9″, No Whiskers”, 21 year old David is listed as being a mason.  Amongst his possessions was a silver watch with a leather chain.

The 25th body to be recovered was that of Elizabeth McFarlane.  The records do not show which date she was recovered from the water, but it can be assumed that she was recovered on either 10th January 1880 or 11th January 1880, as she was the 25th passenger to be found.

Robert Frederick Syme was located mid-morning of the 11th January 1880.  He was a 22 year old clerk, joining the train in Edinburgh.  Found amongst his belongings were 5 £1 notes, sovereigns, a travelling bag and a silver watch.

Robert Fowlis was a 21 year old, clean-shaven mason.  He co-lodged with the aforementioned David Cunningham, and was located around noon on 12th January 1880.  With no father listed, Robert was listed as the primary supporter of his elderly and incapable mother, Ann.

On 13th January 1880, William Veitch was found to the east of one of the piers.  18 year old William had already lost his mother, and was survived by his father and his two younger sisters, who were not travelling with him from Cupar to Dundee.  Records indicate that William was wearing a lot of new clothes, but we do not know any more than this at this time.

That afternoon, David McBeth, 44, a railway guard from Dundee was found in his guard’s uniform, and was part of the fated crew of the doomed train.  Tall, with dark features, David was unmarried and died leaving his already-widowed mother to grieve alone.

Slightly later that same afternoon, near to the 2nd broken pier, 21 year old railway stoker, George Ness was brought to shore.  Records indicate that he, like so many others, was survived by a young wife and child.

It was not until 16th January 1880 that the body of 9 year old David Livie Watson was found washed up on the beach near Broughty Ferry Castle.  The brother of Robert Watson (Jnr) and the son of Robert Watson, both of whom had been recovered earlier, David was the last member of the family to be returned to land.

From 16th January 1880, recoveries were sporadic.  Sometimes days, if not weeks would pass without any further findings.  It was not until 23rd January 1880 that the next body was found.  John Scott was making a surprise visit to Dundee to visit relatives after he had lost his job with Halcyon as a seaman.  A diver recovered the 30 year old’s body early that afternoon, and reports show that he was missing a number of teeth.  Whether or not this was a result of the disaster is unclear.

Isabella Neish, daughter of David Neish, was recovered on 27th January 1880 at Wormit Bay, 20 days after her father’s body was found.  She was 4.

Over a week later, on 6th February 1880, London resident James Murdoch, 21, was located by a diver south of the 1st pier.  It is believed he was making the journey to visit his family, who lived in Dundee.

The following day, 7th February 1880, the first of two bodies to be found that day was recovered close to shore at Newport Pier.  39 year old William Henry Beynon was born in Wales, but his reasons for travelling to Dundee are unclear.  His father and mother were both recorded as deceased, and he was noted as married and living in Gloucester, where he worked as a photographer.

The next person to be found later that day was Peter Salmond.  Having been brought to shore by the tide near Monifieth, Peter, 43, was married and worked as a blacksmith.  He lived in Dundee with his wife, but there is no record of them having any children.

9 days later, on 16th February 1880, the body of 43 year old George McIntosh was found on the shores of the beach at Eathiehaven (now known as Lunan Bay).  A Dundee resident, George was survived by his wife, who was not travelling with him.  Records show that he was fair-haired, and was wearing (amongst other things), a tweed checked suit, a tweed shirt and stockings of “Grey and Scarlet”.

Oil and colour merchant, David Jobson, 39, was next to be discovered by searchers, approximately 400 yards from the Fife shoreline, near Newport on 17th February 1880.  Records show that his parents were also deceased and he was survived by a wife, Mary, but no reported children.

A diver located the body of Jessie Bain in the afternoon of 18th February 1880, over one month after her brother’s body had been recovered.  As with her brother Archibald, it was her father who had to come once again to identify her body, as her mother was already deceased.  She is described as being of “stout make” and had “brown or fair hair”.

On the morning of 1st March 1880, almost 2 weeks after the last discovery, the on-duty engine driver of the ill-fated locomotive, David Mitchell, 37, was spotted on a sandbank between Tayport and Broughty Ferry.  WIth his passing, his wife was left to raise their 5 young children aged between 8 years and 13 months.

Far East of Tayport, George Taylor’s body was pulled from the river on 11th March 1880.  25 year old George was a stonemason and lived in Dundee, helping to support his widowed mother.  He was travelling with Elizabeth Nicoll, a married woman, but it is not clear what their relationship was.  Her body was never recovered.

Near to the Buddon Ness lighthouse, by Carnoustie, Robert Culross was the next person to be located on 13th March 1880.  Records are not clear whether he had been brought to shore by the tide, or whether he was found in the waters by the lighthouse, but he is believed to be a carpenter, residing in Tayport.  He was identified by Captain Edwards, who is presumed to be a friend of his deceased father, Robert, who was a seaman.

15 year old James Peebles was travelling from his parent’s home in St Fort (South-East of Wormit).  The reason for his journey over the rail bridge is unknown, as he is noted as living in Newport, where he worked as an apprentice grocer.  His body was discovered at Tayport Harbour in the early hours of 11th April 1880, almost one month after Robert Culross was found.

Later that morning, an unsettling discovery was made by local fisherman hauling in salmon nets.  Thomas Ross Annan, 20, orginally from Newburgh, was an iron-turner employed at Wallace Works.  He was found caught in the netting and was pulled to shore, before being identified by his Uncle.

On 14th April 1880, the Captain of Abertay Lightship spotted the floating body of Margaret Kinnear, 17, close to his vessel.  Described as having blue eyes and sharpened features, Margaret was also disclosed as wearing a striped petticoat, dark green dress and other black overgarments, trimmed with feathers and furs.  She worked as a domestic servant for Robert Lee, who later confirmed her identity.

Joseph Low Anderson was recovered close to Caithness Coast on 23rd April 1880.  Being this far from the site of the disaster, it is likely that his body was found by a passer-by or perhaps a member of a ship’s crew, but there is no record of who notified the authorities.  Joseph is described as being 21, of fair features, with a pimpled neck, and was employed as a compositor (he set up text frames for printers).

The final body to be recovered from the River was that of 21 year old William Robertson.  Strangely, he was found close to the Mars Training Ship on the evening of 27th April 1880, almost 4 months to the day since the disaster.  A labourer from Abernethy, he lived with Mr and Mrs Bain in Dundee, whilst helping to support his father.  Mrs Bain identified his body in the absence of a family member.

The following people were passengers on the train on the night of the disaster whose bodies were unfortunately never recovered from the waters:

Eliza Smart, 22, was travelling with her fiance, George Johnston (recovered on 8th January 1880).  She worked as a table maid in Dundee, but was herself born in Kingsbarn, Fife.  It is noted that one of her legs were smaller than the other, and was bandaged at the time.

David Scott, 26, was a goodsguard from Dundee, and joined the train at St Fort, presumably returning home from work or visiting relatives.  No spouse or dependants were listed.

Elizabeth Hendry Brown, 14, was a tobacco spinner in Dundee and was travelling on the train with her grandmother from Leuchars.

Elizabeth Mann, 62, is the grandmother of Elizabeth Hendry Brown, and was a widow, dressed in black clothes and wearing a crepe bonnet.

Euphemia Cheape was a 51 year old domestic servant from Dundee, travelling from St Fort.  Her passing left behind six adult children, and her husband,James.

21 year old Annie Spence worked as a weaver in the city, and resided in Dundee with Mrs Whitelaw (relationship unknown), who reported her missing soon after the disaster.

Aberdonian Mary Marion Montgomerie Easton, 53, was the travelling companion of Ann (Annie) Cruickshanks, the first person to be recovered after the disaster.  Listed as the widow of Reverend James Cruickshanks Easton, it can be assumed that she was a relative, by marriage, of Ann Cruickshanks.  She was described as having a large forehead, a small mouth and a turned up nose.

David Graham was a teacher in Stirling.  David, 37, boarded the train at Edinburgh, and has no clear links to Dundee, but was indentified by Dundonian James Ferguson.  Records do not indicate what the relationship between the two was.

Elizabeth Nicoll, 24, was travelling with George Taylor at the time of the tragedy, whose body was recovered on 11th March 1880.  Elizabeth is listed as married to David Nicoll, but it is not clear why she was travelling from Newburgh with Mr Taylor.

Wiliam Nelson, a 31 year old from Gateshead, Tyne and Wear was also amongst the list of missing.  He worked a machine fitter and was married to an ill woman, and had no children.  William was reported missing by his relative, George Nelson.

John Hamilton, 32, was a grocer from Dundee.  He left behind a wife and 3 children.  He joined the train at Leuchars and is presumed to have been returning home after visiting his sister in Guardbridge, Fife.

Donald Murray, 49, was a mail guard, working on-duty on the night the bridge fell.  He was wearing his standard uniform and left behind his second wife, Eliza, and two young children, as well as two adult children, from his first marriage to Mary Bell.

Elizabeth Milne was a 21 year old dressmaker from Newburgh, Fife.  It is not known where she boarded the train, or why.