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50th anniversary
  • Celebrations begin to commemorate 50 years of the University of Dundee

    2017
  • The University of Dundee becomes a fully independent institution under the terms of the Royal Charter.

    1967
  • Ordinances issued in 1897 made University College form part of St Andrews. and establish a Faculty of Medicine.

    1897
  • The Deed formally creating University College Dundee was signed by founders Miss Mary Ann Baxter and her cousin Dr John Boyd Baxter.

    1881

The history of the Law

  • date

    Fri, 03 Mar 2017

  • Running Time

    00:04:22

As you cross the Tay Bridge into the city, your eye is immediately drawn to Dundee Law, the plug of an extinct volcano which provides Dundee with its distinctive skyline.

Episode Transcript

As you cross the Tay Bridge into the city, your eye is immediately drawn to Dundee Law, the plug of an extinct volcano which provides Dundee with its distinctive skyline.

Looming 174 metres over the city, the Law has witnessed history unfolding on and around it for at least 3,500 years, when there is evidence of the first human settlers.

In the Iron Age, it was home to an ancient hillfort, giving the city the first part of its name - ‘Dun’ actually means hillfort.

Recently, researchers from the University of Dundee have carried out the first dynamic 3D reconstruction and visualisation of this hillfort, showing it in its surrounding landscape and incorporating items from the city’s museum collections. The purpose of the hillfort is uncertain, but it may have been a tribal centre, a religious gathering place or an area to keep people and livestock safe in case of invasion.

Evidence of habitation in the form of pottery has also survived from the Roman era.

In 1689 the first Jacobite Rising began when, on 13 April, Viscount Dundee raised the Stuart Royal Standard on top of the Law in support of the cause of James VII of Scotland.

In the 19th century, the industrial revolution didn’t leave the Law untouched. A railway tunnel was dug through (with some difficulty and much expense, as the rock proved to be softer than anticipated), intended to carry goods from the busy manufacturing city of Dundee to the Strathmore valley. This was the north of Scotland’s first railway, and the tunnel was in operation from 1831 until it was closed in 1860 when a new line bypassed it.

The Law tunnel still exerts fascination on locals today.  Many Dundonians have memories of walking through it in the 1960s and 70s before it was blocked up. A former Dundee art student, Deirdre Robertson, based her Masters Show project around the tunnel, looking at its later use as a mushroom farm, the botanist and town planner Patrick Geddes’s plans for it to act as a fernery, and its role as a bomb shelter in the Second World War.

It was never a success as a shelter –being described as one of the wettest shelters in existence, and very cold to boot.

This isn’t the Law’s only connection with the greatest wars of the twentieth century. A war memorial to those who lost their lives in the first world war was erected at the summit in 1925. This is lit with a large flame at its top on a number of significant days each year, including Remembrance Sunday.

Finally, on a more cheerful note, if you climb up to the summit, you’ll be rewarded with stunning 360 degree views across the entire city, the Tay estuary and far beyond to the hills of Fife and the Sidlaws. It will become evident why this volcanic plug has drawn humans to it for several millennia and continues to do so.

Eddie Small

Eddie Small is a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Dundee. He was awarded the Student-led ‘Most Inspirational Teacher at the University’ prize in May 2016. His biography of Mary Lily Walker, Forgotten Visionary of Dundee, was launched in 2013, and he was asked to write a play, Dundee’s Four Marys, which has been performed 7 times. He wrote and performed in ‘Pantomime of Death’ at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe. A committed local historian, he regularly give walking tours of his city.

All podcasts

  • Celebrations begin to commemorate 50 years of the University of Dundee

    2017
  • The University of Dundee becomes a fully independent institution under the terms of the Royal Charter.

    1967
  • Ordinances issued in 1897 made University College form part of St Andrews. and establish a Faculty of Medicine.

    1897
  • The Deed formally creating University College Dundee was signed by founders Miss Mary Ann Baxter and her cousin Dr John Boyd Baxter.

    1881
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