Friday morning we left our BnB which was a converted 1905 hospital. We were told the Flat we were staying in was part of the old maternity ward, not the morgue...;)
Since an ancestor once lived in Dundee before emigrating to Canada, we were off to find out more about Dundee's history and what it may have been like for him. The place to go was Verdant Works, a http://www.verdantworks.com which is a Scottish Heritage Site that gave us a peak into life as a Dundee Jute Factory worker in the early 1900's.
Flax is an annual cellulose plant used in the manufacturing of linen. During the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), the cost of Flax tripled and Jute was introduced as a replacement. A natural replacement, Jute was grown in India, 85% in the Ganges Delta.
Ship owners looking for something to fill their ships holds after taking immigrants to Australia would pick up huge bails, of Jute fibers, some weighing as much as 400 pounds.
These sailing ships,home-ported in Dundee would bring there cargo of Jute back to be off loaded at Dundee's docks. So did Dundee's whaling fleet, that consisted of 27 ships.
Early production required whale oil to help soften the fibers. In the beginning, both Flax & Jute production was done by hand but as the industrial revolution mechanized factories Dundee soon exploded into Scotlands 4th largest city.
By 1900, in the height of its boom, Dundee became known as Juteopolis. There were 125 mills that employed 50,000 people. This was 41% of Dundee's population and consisted of mostly women & children. Because they were paid a lower hourly wage then their male counterparts, factory managers relied on this source of cheap labor.
Working conditions were harsh in this hot, noisy, and potentially dangerous environment. Occasionally while working a 16 hour shift workers would fall asleep with their hands near steam powered rotating machinery, with tragic results.
These machines are factory training aids. They still work, even at nearly 100 years old, however they are only half the size of actual factory models.
Imagine the conditions with several machines running at once.
At home, a role reversal was taking place. Unemployed husbands would cook, clean, and tend to infants while their wives & children, would bring home the bacon.
Nothing lasts forever. Factory owners began setting up in India, close to the source of the Jute fiber. Able to pay extremely low wages to Indian workers and cutting transportation costs to almost nothing meant Dundee factories closed & workers were let go. Life, as people in Dundee knew it, was ending.
It's taken almost 100 years but an aggressive revitalization effort is taking place here. We hope to return, at some point, to see the results, in Dundee!
Fair Winds & Quiet Anchorages,
Jeff & Wendy