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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

Dundee in 1820

page 4

Dundee in 1820.

Dundee was then only a small seaport town, with a tidal harbour, one or two flax spinning mills, a shipbuilding and timber yard where the music hall at the foot of Castle Street now stands, and from which brigs and other vessels of moderate size were launched straight into the river, and the Greenland whale ships, as well as trading vessels and colliers, rested on the mud at low water. In winter most of the vessels, excepting colliers, belonging to the port were laid up, but in summer the river and the harbour formed a lively scene. Every tide brought brigs and brigantines, London smacks, and Newcastle colliers into the Tay, their white sails reflecting the sunshine as they sailed up or beat to windward from the river lights to the pierheads; and a daily stream of sloops and small craft bound for Newburgh and Perth passed up along the Fife shore. This was long before steamboats and railways carried goods and passengers on Scotland's lakes and rivers; but there was one little steamer, the Caledonia, which in fine weather plied between Dundee and Perth; and the river was further enlivened by the crossings of boats with picturesque latine sails belonging to the Tay Ferries, and barges carrying stones from the Invergowrie quarries to the works of the new Harbour and Docks in progress of construction. Woodhaven was then the principal pier and landing-place on the Fife side, whence mail and stage coaches page 5 started for Edinburgh; and Newport was quite a small village until steam ferryboats were introduced and the present landing-pier constructed. People from Dundee and Perth mostly took summer lodgings in cottages at Broughty Ferry; up to 1830 there were only a very few families who preferred the delightful change from the town to the pleasant fields, trees, gardens, and braes of Fife—the East and West Water, as Newport and Woodhaven were then called by the boatmen and farming people, who on Sundays went all the way to Forgan Old Church, which was then the only place of worship in the district, with the exception of a small upstairs Independent Chapel, where a very worthy and devout minister, Mr Thomas Just, sen., preached, and children were taught by his brother, Mr George Just, at Sunday School. In those days Dundee, surrounded by green fields, meadows, and gardens, and but little clouded by smoke as the city usually is now, formed indeed a very pleasing picture when viewed from the river or the Fife side, well entitling it to its ancient renown as "Bonnie Dundee."