Home-made Halloween 

Home-made Halloween

This is a page from a home-made comic, ‘La Selva Evening Star & Halloween Herald’ which was presented, ‘to Margot from Robin & Geoff’. Margot is Agnes Margot Cox (1905-1983) a member of the Cox family who owned the expansive Camperdown Works in Dundee.

Margot’s papers came to the University as part of the Cox business and family papers and form part of the collection relating to her time serving at the British Red Cross Convalescent Home, La Selva, Italy, during the Second World War. Robin and Geoff are unknown but could be colleagues from the Convalescent Home as the cover page states that ‘any relation to living characters is to be considered absolute nonsense’.

What’s interesting about this item, apart from the content, is that it has clearly been put together using material available at hand. If you look closely, you can see this scene has been sketched onto the back of a letter. The illustrated letterhead is visible at the top of the page. The sketch has been pasted onto a buff coloured file ‘23’ which has been previously used for a different purpose.

The other pages include pasted cuttings of printed Halloween cartoons from unknown sources. Unfortunately, there are signs of damage on each page including areas of discolouration where rusty paperclips and degraded rubber bands have been removed. Part of our preservation work is to remove items that can cause damage to papers before re-housing in archive-friendly enclosures and boxes.

You might be inspired to create your own home-made comic this Halloween and the way this was created proves that you don’t need special materials at hand. Re-use and recycle to create something new. Feel free to share with us by emailing archives@dundee.ac.uk and your spooky content could end up on the University’s Culture Blog!

 Ref no: MS 6/7/4/3/13

Holding the ropes

Holding the ropes

Would you fancy a trek over this bridge to visit the nearest Post Office? I’m not sure I would. It looks like a challenge from I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! It was likely a regular jaunt for those coming off the bridge who appear very relaxed although the gentleman at the back is very wisely playing it safe and holding the ropes.

The ‘Swingbridge near Post Office, River Shee’ dated 15 July 1922 is part of a collection of over 200 glass plate negatives depicting landscapes and the built environment around the North East of Scotland from 1900-1943.

The photographer is unknown although believed to have worked for the Co-Op in Blairgowrie where the collection was uncovered by a member of staff. With no other information available it was assumed that the photographer had been a previous employee and stored the collection on the premises for safe keeping.

The glass plate negatives came to the University in 1996 where they are housed in appropriate enclosures and stored in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment to ensure ongoing preservation.

Ref no: MS 116/7/150

The perfect pitch 

The perfect pitch

The popularity of the ‘staycation’ this year has undoubtedly seen many a canvas retrieved from the loft and aired in the back garden ready for a few nights away under the stars.

This photograph asks far more questions than it answers and is a good example of how archive collections can be used to spark the imagination and inspire creativity. Two tents so at least two people, maybe more? Family, friends, colleagues? A bowl of water in the foreground for cooking, washing, or for an animal to drink from? Vessels to collect items or cook with? Does the landscape tell us anything about the location and can we take a guess at a date? Why was this pitch the perfect spot?  Every image tells a story and photographs such as this provide a freedom to create your own.

A blossoming romance in the wilds of Scotland or a dark tale of intrigue and survival? The choice is yours. Let archives inspire.

Ref no: UR-SF 2/21/71

Family fun 

Family fun

With sunnier days comes the desire to pack a picnic and set off to the beach with family and friends just as some of the Cox family did over one hundred years ago. This wonderful photograph includes young David & Margot Cox on a day out at Lossiemouth beach in the summer of 1910. Agnes Margot Cox was born in 1905 to James Ernest Cox and Agnes Jane Tod. David was born three years later.

This image forms part of the Cox family papers. The Cox family had connections to the linen trade in Dundee from the early 18th century and the Cox brothers went on to establish the largest jute works in Europe at Lochee. Work began at Camperdown Works in 1849, embracing the advances in jute manufacturing from hand looms to power looms. The company flourished and employed over 5,000 workers. The family’s wealth ensured their children enjoyed the trappings of a comfortable upbringing.

In adulthood Margot became a member of the British Red Cross and served at the British Red Cross Convalescent Home, La Selva, Italy during the Second World War. The Margot Cox papers held in the Archive includes records of her time with the Red Cross as well as diaries; financial records; correspondence; maps and travels guides and a wonderful collection of family photographs.

Her younger brother, David Ernest Cox, entered Dartmouth Naval College as a cadet in 1922. As a Sub-Lieutenant he was present at the evacuation of Nankin in 1927. He was appointed Midshipman in 1928 and while returning from China, his ship, HMS Enterprise, was joined by the Prince of Wales at Dar-es-Salaam, who was rushing home from East Africa to see the King on his sick-bed. David served as a Commander in the Royal Navy until 1947. Thereafter, Cox, his wife and two children, Jane and Edward, lived in South Africa, Rhodesia and Malta, then settled in Guernsey in 1972. The David Cox papers include naval photographs, family albums, sketches, school reports and log books.

The family papers provide an interesting counterpoint to the business papers of the Cox family.

Ref: MS 6/7/7/1/2

Give it a shove

DIY Demo

With a bit of persuasion it is going, going, gone. Here we see members of The Grampian Club demolishing the porch at Inbhirfhaolain, the club hut, on 15 May 1971.

Purchased 10 years earlier, the hut was in need of some refurbishment and updating. When we say updating let’s not get too ahead ourselves; there was still no electricity or running water. Electricity would not be installed until the 1980s and even now those enjoying a stay at the hut must gather water from the river Fhaolain.

It all adds to the wonderful experience of being in the spectacular Scottish landscape with the hut ideally placed for those seeking to enjoy the beauty of Glencoe or the Etive Hills.

While this porch had to go, another was built to replace it. However, the second porch did not stand the test of time. Some 50 years on, Inbhirfhaolain now boasts it’s third porch!

Ref no: MS 138-10-5-1-6

The Millwheel

The Millwheel

The Millwheel, captured here on 29 April 1911, is from a collection of over 200 glass plate negatives of views around the North East of Scotland dating from 1900-1943. This image is annotated ‘Millwheel, back of Longforgan’ but the specific location is unknown.

Interestingly, the photographer is also unknown, although believed to have worked for the Co-Op in Blairgowrie, Perthshire! The collection was uncovered by a member of staff and with no other information available it was assumed that the photographer had been a previous employee and was storing this fascinating collection on the premises for safe keeping. While the glass plates may have been stored there for decades the conditions were not ideal.

The glass plate negatives came to the University in 1996 where they are stored in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment and housed in appropriate enclosures to ensure ongoing preservation. These evocative images are also accessible to anyone interested in the built heritage and landscape of the North-East of Scotland.

Ref no: MS 116-7-168

Dramatic Dance

Dramatic Dance

This striking photograph taken by Michael Peto shows Nadia Nerina mid-air during a dramatic scene from Elektra in March 1963. Nerina, a South African ballerina, had a very successful career with The Royal Ballet particularly during the 1950s and 1960s. In this production of Elektra at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Nerina danced the lead role of Elektra, the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra.

The Michael Peto photographic collection held at the University Archives boasts in excess on 130, 000 prints and negatives including a wonderful array of dramatic performance shots of The Royal Ballet. Peto also captured the rehearsal process, allowing a behind the scenes insight into the working life of the professional dancers.

To view a selection of Peto’s images covering a range of subjects see https://www.dundee.ac.uk/archives/thecollections/peto/petogallery/

Ref no: P963-128

Flowering February 

Flowering February

With shoots starting to appear in the garden and Valentine’s Day just around the corner thoughts turn to the joy flowers can bring. This striking design forms part of a brochure advertising bulbs for sale at Small’s of Brechin in 1938.

David Small & Sons of Brechin was established in 1896 when David bought an existing seedsman business from James Young at 20 Swan Street, Brechin. The seedsman aspect was a constant in the business, as they further expanded into nurserymen and floristry. Continuing success led to a second shop opening at 147 High Street, Montrose. David Small & Sons thrived until the son of the founder retired in 1976.

The collection consists of colourful advertising catalogues and price lists some of which contain horticultural advice on how to best prepare the ground before plantation of seeds, how to cultivate a crop and even uses for the vegetables grown.  There are also photographs of the premises and the horses and carts used to transport the sacks of seeds. Documents relating to financial side of the business include cash books, day books and the valuation of stock when Small took over from Young.

The advice, tips and colourful illustrations will inspire the green fingered and the novice gardener alike.

Ref no: MS 41/4/5 (14)

Drama in Dundee

'Dry Rot' at Dundee Rep

This scene from Dry Rot performed at Dundee Repertory Theatre in 1959 has it all. Comedy, drama, props and the all-important set; the title refers to the dry rot found on the hotel stairs. This photograph is from the Frank McDermott collection (MS 405) which has been part of the University collections since 2017.

Frank McDermott attended school in Dundee. Ready to leave aged 15 years, he was prompted by a teacher to consider working at Dundee Rep as a dogsbody. He did just that, working at the Rep from early 1958-1961. This afforded Frank the opportunity to experience various roles within the theatre environment. He painted sets, sourced props and assisted with scene changes and lighting during performances. Frank could be found not only behind the scenes. He ventured onto the stage as an extra in many productions with speaking parts here and there.

His interest in theatre led Frank to spend time at the Scottish Academy of Music & Drama before changing direction to train as an Educational Psychologist. He retired in 1999 following a successful career in his chosen field.

The University Archives also hold the Dundee Repertory Theatre collection (MS 316). This extensive collection includes the programme for the 1959 production of Dry Rot but does not include any photographs of this play, highlighting the benefit of searching across distinct collections which may contain items relating to the same subject.

Ref no: MS 405

Santa's Workshop

Santa's Workshop

Even the big man himself gets his hands dirty when it comes to the most wonderful time of the year. Santa appears hard at work constructing a train set for a lucky little one who is, no doubt, on the ‘nice’ list.

Alex Coupar captured this special moment in Santa’s workshop in 1958. We’re sure Santa has crafted many train sets over the last 60 years and is busy getting ready for his 2020 deliveries.

We’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope Santa is good to you!

Ref: MS 258

Worth noting

Worth noting

This invitation to record ‘trails, tribulations, pleasures, wanderings, achievements and failures’ is pasted into the cover of a Visitor Log Book which forms part of The Grampian Club collection held at the University Archives. Just don’t mention the blisters, that time you got lost trying to find the hut and just ignore any spooky goings on, especially if you’ve just come from the pub!

The Log Book entries span 1972-1982, capturing a decade of comments from those visiting Inbhirfhaolain, Gen Etive, a climbing hut acquired by the Club in 1961. The Grampian Club is based in Dundee and organises hill walks and more strenuous mountaineering activities, including rock climbing, within the local area and abroad. The Club was formed in January 1927 at a meeting at Mathers Hotel, Dundee. Twelve members attended the first meet in Glen Clova, climbing a snow gully on Mayar. Membership has steadily increased and as of 2019 the Club had over 220 members. A programme of 'indoor meets' includes lectures and slide shows and the club publishes The Grampian Club Bulletin. Members of the club are also involved in Tayside Mountain Rescue and other local and national organisations, as well as taking an interest in issues relating to the environment and access to the Scottish countryside. Club members have also made significant contributions to the Dundee Mountain Film Festival.

The Grampian Club collection is extensive and continues to grow. The Log Books and photographs, in particular, really capture the allure of the Scottish hills and give an insight into the experiences of Club members.

 Ref no: MS 138/8/3/2

Fire burn and cauldron bubble

Pirie children, Margaret, Nell and Sandy, thought to be Dr George Alexander Pirie, c1885 sitting at a fire and cauldron.

This Halloweenesque family snap from c1885 shows Margaret and Nell tending a cauldron as Sandy blows on the embers to keep the fire going. It’s from a Pirie family photograph album held in the Catherine Kinnear Collection. Some of the photographs are labelled and there is a handwritten list of wedding guests to accompany a photograph of Robert Pirie’s and Mary Henderson’s wedding dated 1894.

Interestingly, this led us to look a bit closer at Uncle Sandy as he is captioned in this particular photograph. The list denotes that Margaret, Helen and George Alexander Pirie are siblings. There is an older George in the family and thus it is reasonable to suggest that the Uncle Sandy seen in this photograph is in fact known in the family by the shortened version of his middle name. The Uncle Sandy seen here having fun with his sisters is likely to be none other than Dr George Alexander Pirie. His dates of birth and death on the list also correspond with what we already know about Dr Pirie.

Dr Pirie was instrumental in the development of X-ray use in medicine. He set up an electrical department within Dundee Royal Infirmary in 1896 and continued to work there until his retirement in 1925. As a consequence of his pioneering work with radiation, Dr Pirie lost his eyesight and both hands had to be amputated. The Tayside Medical History Museum holds examples of Dr Piries’s X-ray equipment.

If you have any questions about this wonderful photograph or another archive related query please email archives@dundee.ac.uk

Ref no: MS 103/5/1 (8)

Perfect Poppies

Perfect Poppies

This glorious watercolour of common red poppies at Baldovan dated September 1912 is one of many beautiful watercolours to be found in Illustrations of Scottish Flora chiefly of Forfarshire and Fifeshire, a commonplace book produced by David Robert Robertson in 1912-13, with some later additions in 1914.

David Robert Robertson was a Dundee jute merchant, botanist, antiquarian and mountaineer with a talent for sketching and a keen interest in recording the natural beauty of the locale. Known in the Archive as the Tartan Book due to the distinctive cover, his book contains a variety of drawings, sketches, paintings, poetry and personal correspondence. Many of the drawings relate to the local area and teach us about the species of plants and animals to be found not only in the Dundee area but further afield to the Sidlaws and over the Tay into Fife over one hundred years ago. Robertson recorded fauna and well as flora; his subjects included bees, butterflies, mice, insects and birds. The descriptive note accompanying the painting allows the reader to clearly envisage where Robertson happened across the bird.

Writing to a number of naturalists, writers and poets for contributions to his book, Robertson would sometimes show his gratitude by exchanging a sketch or two for a poem or letter.

The book contains a handwritten botanical & general index for person, places, subjects and titles although it is worth noting neither is it comprehensive nor completely accurate. The bookplate is dedicated to Helen and Naismith, his daughter and son-in-law, dated 1936 and most probably given to them as a wedding gift.

Acquired by Miss Kinnear from the Robertson family in the period following his death in 1949, Illustrations of Scottish Flora chiefly of Forfarshire and Fifeshire came to the Archive as part of the Kinnear Collection.

Despite the age of the illustrations, they retain their intensity and appear as vibrant as though painted yesterday.

Ref: MS 103/3/3 p52

Back to School 

Back to School

Scotland’s children are preparing to return to school in August. We look forward to seeing smiling and chattering school children happily reunited with their classmates and making their way to and from school safely with the help of the local lollipop men and ladies.

This photograph, by Alex Coupar, was taken in Montrose around 1970 and captures the eagerness of the youngsters on their way to the classroom having been assisted by this lollipop man. The role of the lollipop person is as important today as it ever was with the increase in traffic and more children walking to school. While their focus is to assist with crossing roads, they play an important role within the community. A familiar face with a smile, a ‘good morning’ and if you are lucky, a pocket full of sweeties! They keep the community safe come rain or shine.

We wish those returning to school a very happy first day back!

 Ref no: MS 258  

Roll up roll up 

Roll up roll up

This fantastic photograph is part of the Cox family papers which forms part of the larger Cox Brothers Ltd. collection. The Cox family were involved with linen and jute manufacture from the early eighteenth century and constructed the expansive Camperdown Works, one of the largest jute manufacturing companies in Europe. Cox’s Stack, a legacy of the works, still dominates Dundee’s skyline.

The collection is substantial and provides not only a unique insight into the textile industry in Dundee but that of the family. This photograph is from an album, one of six that belonged to David Cox. The son of James Ernest and Agnes James Cox, David was born in Lochee in 1908. The albums which span 1922-1944 show David & his wider family at work, rest and play. Highlights include photographs of David’s travels throughout his career in the Navy and the family enjoying sports, parties and events.

Ref no: MS 6/8/2/5

Sail Away 

Sail Away

 This wonderfully serene view of fishing boats comes from a photograph album containing images of geological formations and bird colonies particularly in the Hebrides and Shetland; fishing boats from Banff and portraits of unknown fishermen.

The album is part of the Alexander Thoms collection of photographs and correspondence. Alexander Thoms, of the Thoms of Clepington family, was the son-in-law of Matthew Forster Heddle (1862-1884), Professor of Chemistry at the University of St Andrews.

As a young man Thoms travelled to Bengal, India, where he remained engaged in estate and plantation business for about thirty years. In 1884 he moved to St Andrews and remained there until his death.

He was active in local affairs and a keen supporter of St Andrews Cottage Hospital. In 1884 he was ordained an elder in St Leonard's Kirk and held office as kirk treasurer from 1889-1921. An amateur mineralogist, Thoms presented a valuable collection of stones and minerals to University College, Dundee. He died in 1925 aged 89 years.

Ref no: MS 180/1/39 





The games we played

The Games We Played

This joyful image of children playing together in the street was taken by Michael Peto. We think this could be a game of Oranges and Lemons.

Players would sing the traditional English folksong as they paraded under an archway of arms. At the end of the song a child would be caught in the falling archway of arms and would be ‘out’. There are variations of this game, some with children in pairs and some in single file. In Scotland the game could also involve a wee kiss!

This image is more poignant than ever as the children of today cannot gather and play together at the moment. It reminds us of a time when much pleasure was had playing street games which required no external input. When the time comes, the children of our plugged-in generation might return to such simple pleasures and embrace the opportunity to connect with their friends and neighbours in outdoor play.  

Did you play this game with your friends in the playground or in your neighbourhood? We would like to hear your memories.

Ref no: Peto 344_3

The family photo

The family photo

This wonderful photograph shows Mr Douglas Waldie, with his family outside Railway Cottage, King’s Cross, Dundee c.1890. Interestingly, it is not part of a photograph album which belonged to the Waldie family. It is from an album of photographs of staff connected to King’s Cross Hospital spanning 1889-1979 which had belonged to a doctor who worked at the hospital.

The album is part of the Dr William Maxwell Jamieson collection. Dr Jamieson joined the staff of King’s Cross as a Senior Registered Medical Officer in 1939 before serving with the R.A.F, 1944-1947. He returned to the hospital in 1948 to take up the post of Physician Superintendent and spent the remainder of his career at King’s Cross, retiring in 1979.  Dr Jamieson also led the University’s Department of Communicable Diseases.

Much of Dr Jamieson’s collection held at the University Archives relates to his work with the management and control of infectious diseases. It includes published and unpublished articles and a number of photographs of King’s Cross staff. The album containing this photograph is annotated and states that Mr Waldie’s role was that of fireman, the first appointed to King’s Cross Hospital, in 1889. Auxiliaries, nurses and physicians are included in the album with the annotations often including names, dates and positions held.

This album, while part of a personal collection, compliments the King’s Cross staff records that form part of the Tayside Health Board collection held at the University Archives.


 Ref no: MS 111/8/1 (14)

Hopes and slopes

Hopes and slopes

 Happy New Year!  January is a time when many of us reflect on the previous year and consider our hopes and dreams for the year ahead. The perfect time to set new goals, embrace opportunities and try new things. What better time of year to try out some winters sports.

These skiers at Glenshee are making the most of the Scottish weather. The photograph was taken by the University press office in 1980. Forty years on, Glenshee remains a very popular destination for skiers, snowboarders and sledgers during the winter months.

No plans for the weekend? A trip to the snowy slopes might be just the ticket!

Ref no: RU 472/27/18

Santa from Space

Santa from Space

 It looks like Santa ditched his reindeer and sleigh in favour of a quicker way to transport gifts from the North Pole to the children of Dundee in 1959.

This photograph is part of the G. L. Wilson collection held at the University Archives. The department store, opened in 1894, was situated on ‘The Corner’ of Commercial Street and Murraygate, and became commonly known as such. 

Each year the store would celebrate Christmas in style and became well known for creating wonderfully imaginative Christmas grottos, displays and shows popular with adults and children alike. Santa was also the guest of honour at an annual procession which saw the Murraygate and surrounding streets packed with families getting into the Christmas spirit and keen to catch a glimpse of Santa.

The collections includes business records, correspondence, store catalogues and photographs which give an insight into the role of G. L. Wilson as a retailer and within the wider community for almost eighty years.

Ref: MS 188/3/118



Useful gifts

Useful Gifts

If you’re wracking your brains for gift ideas for the men in your life then look no further. This page of gift ideas is from a G. L. Wilson catalogue produced in 1932. G. L. Wilson’s department store was situated on ‘The Corner’ of Commercial Street and Murraygate, and became commonly known as such.  Opened in 1894, the store remained in the Wilson family until the doors were closed in 1972.

The collections boasts over 100 catalogues spanning 1900-1960 which give a fascinating insight into how fashions and trends have changed through the decades. It also includes photographs, business records and correspondence giving an insight of the role this popular retailer played in the city. Additionally, members of the Wilson family have kindly contributed to our Oral History Project, capturing the memories and voices of those directly involved with this business.

Eight decades something things haven’t changed. We’re sure there will still be fathers, brothers and sons receiving the ever practical gift of socks!

Ref no: MS 188/3/1/2

Ruby Wasp

Ruby Wasp

This fabulous flyer is part of a wonderful collection of watercolours and sketches produced by David Waterson. In this notebook, Waterson captures the delight of this colourful creature, ‘twice a year, with varying incident, the sober workaday aspect of the bee world is broken by a streak of carnival’. In his notebook Waterson describes the mating ritual of the ruby wasp, a stingless creature, who then lays eggs along with a grub on which the young can feed. However, there is a sting in this tale, as the first born of the hatchlings then devours his ‘brethren’ before they are hatched.

Born in Brechin in 1870, Waterson studied at Edinburgh School of Art and went on to have a successful career as an artist, painter, etcher and mezzotint engraver. He was a keen entomologist and his collection of drawings, notebooks and ephemera held in the University Archives reflect his appreciation of the natural world.

Ref no: MS 78/2/1

Colourful Clova

Colourful Clova cropped‌‌

This eye catching page is part of a notebook in the Corstorphine/Taylor collection which includes manuscripts, notes and correspondence relating to a proposed Flora of Angus by Robert and Margaret Corstorphine.

Robert and Margaret Corstorphine were keen amateur botanists dedicated to studying the flora of the county of Angus. Over a forty-year period lasting into the early 1940s they amassed a comprehensive Herbarium and botanical library. Margaret gifted a large collection of pressed plants mainly collected in the Clova region to the University of Dundee Museum Services in 1944.  They were also engaged in the compilation of a manuscript survey of the Flora of Angus, which was intended for publication.

Following the death of Robert, Margaret welcomed the assistance of George Taylor to work on the Flora of Angus. Born in 1904, George Taylor was educated at Edinburgh University where he gained his degree in Botany.  Leaving his post-graduate employment at the Royal Botanical Garden, Taylor moved south to establish the botanical section within the British Museum.  In 1956 he was appointed the director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew and gained a knighthood in 1962.

The Flora of Angus by R Ingram and H Noltie which was based on the work on the Corstorphines and Taylor was published by Dundee Museums and Art Galleries in 1981.

Ref no: MS 27/3/1

No more bricks in the wall

No more bricks in the wall

In recent times, there has been a focus on what has been ‘going up’ in Dundee but photographic collections help to remind us what has come down. In this case, Dickson Park photographed the rubble and remains of what was once Jamaica Works which stood on Jamaica Street in the Hilltown area of Dundee. This photograph is one of a series which shows the remains of the building during the demolition with the Alexander Street multi-storeys in the background.

A fire which caused extensive damaged to the building was the catalyst for demolition. The building originally housed Jamaica Works, a spinning mill. It was latterly used for recreation purposes by Dundee Labour Club and as a snooker club. The building also housed businesses Art for All and Trojan Metals. The fire of 1999 also threatening neighbouring Grade A listed St Salvador’s Church, which thankfully suffered no damage in the end despite concerns when the clergy could feel the heat of the fire through the vestry walls.

Dickson Park’s images include many buildings connected to the textile industry which have since been re-purposed or no longer exist. Other photographs in his collection depict the changing face of the city through Dundee’s built heritage and evolving landscapes.

Ref no: MS 147 (II-32)

Straight and narrow

Vernon, Mr Ormiston and Angel, 1926

Pristine lawns and freshly painted straight white lines are a must for the tennis season.

Vernon and Mr Ormiston, seen here in 1926, seem to be having some difficulty with this particular piece of machinery but is it a mower, a roller or a painter? Angel, in her tennis whites, waits patiently.

This photograph is from an album created by Margot Cox which includes many Cox family members and associates enjoying various leisure pursuits at Lossiemouth, Drumkilbo and Perth.

Anyone for tennis?

Ref: MS 6/7/10/1/10/6

Frizzetta, Nibestos and Arsenic Wafers

Frizetta, Nibestos and Arsenic Wafers

Would you consider using Frizzetta, Nibestos and Arsenic Wafers to enhance your beauty and wellbeing?  These products were available to discerning ladies of the late nineteenth century keen to look and feel their best. This page of advertisements is from The Gentlewoman, 1895.

The Gentlewoman: An Illustrated Journal for Gentlewomen was a highly popular weekly illustrated paper first published in 1890 in London. Following a brief change in name it later merged with Eve: The Lady’s Pictorial in 1926.

This edition, published on 17 August 1895, is part of the Tod family papers which form part of the larger collections of Cox family papers.

 Ref no:  MS 6/11/5/1

The Rite of Spring

Monica Mason, The Right of Spring, 1962

This striking image shows Monica Mason performing as the Chosen One in The Rite of Spring. In 1962, Kenneth McMillan was commissioned by the Royal Ballet to choreograph Stravinsky’s work of 1913. McMillian was the nineteenth person to do so, with great success.

The photograph was taken by Michael Peto, a Hungarian photo-journalist (1908-1970). The University is very proud to hold Peto’s impressive collection of over 130, 000 prints and negatives which includes many wonderful images of the London ballet scene.

Ref no: P1503-2

Women of University College Dundee

Women of University College Dundee

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March 2019 we’d like to share the achievements of three women with strong connections to the University.

Mary Ann Baxter was born in 1801 into the hugely wealthy and influential Baxter family whose fortunes were built on the textile industry in Dundee. Along with her siblings, Miss Baxter made considerable donations to numerous causes throughout her life, particularly to the church and to aid the advancement of educational opportunities. The prospect of establishing a university in Dundee had been under discussion since the 1860s. It was keenly felt that Dundee was capable of sustaining an independent establishment but this would be costly. Heavily involved in the discussion was John Boyd Baxter, the Procurator Fiscal for Dundee District of Forfarshire and a relative of Mary Ann. In 1880 it was declared that they would both financially support the cause. Mary Ann was the main benefactor to the tune of £130,000 to found UCD and later provided an additional £10,000 for the Carnelley Building which housed the Chemistry department. John Boyd Baxter contributed £10,000.

Miss Baxter had definite ideas about how she would like the College to run and took an active role in ensuring her wishes were fulfilled. University College Dundee opened in October 1883 in full compliance with its founder’s wishes. Mary Ann Baxter’s Deed of 1881 contained the central clause which demanded the ‘a college for promoting the education of persons of both sexes and the study of science, literature and the fine arts’. The endowment was to provide for the education of both men and women and the College regulations reinforced this, with ‘All departments are open to both sexes on the same terms’. It is argued and it is likely that University College was the first to do this; others admitted women but in separate colleges or barred them from certain courses.

Mary Lily Walker was the 14th person to matriculate at University College, Dundee. Described by D’Arcy Thompson as ‘an excellent student’ she studied Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Latin. Lily Walker went on to publish papers in Biology but her focus was to shift from academia as she became more aware of the plight of the poor within the local community.Ignited by the desire to better understand the causes and consequences of poverty, Lily Walker spent time in London working under Octavia Hill. Hill had published a book on the houses of the London poor in the 1880. She also spent time with The Grey Ladies, whose settlement inspired her to set up one in her home city. On her return to Dundee, Lily Walker purchased a home in Wellington Street, Dundee. This became the Grey Lodge Settlement, the first in Scotland, with Walker becoming its first Warden.

Lily Walker joined the Dundee Social Union which was founded in 1888 and sought to highlight and address the city’s dreadful living conditions for its poorest inhabitants. Members of the Social Union bought four properties that were offered at a cheap rent to those most in need. By carefully managing the rent, it was possible to pay for the general upkeep and purchase of more properties. Mary Lily Walker was one of the first members of the Union and became the manager of the scheme. She was popular with the tenants, many of whom she befriended. This gave her a true insight into the daily struggles of the poor. In 1904-5, Lily Walker and Miss Mona Wilson researched and produced the Dundee Social Union Report on Housing and Industrial Conditions and the Medical Inspection of School Children, which detailed the living and working conditions of Dundee’s poor. Mary Lily Walker had a particular interest in helping the women who worked in the factories and mills of Dundee. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was common that wives were the sole earner in the family, with their husbands staying at home. It was also commonplace for mothers to return to work just weeks after giving birth which often left babies undernourished. Lily Walker was keen to help these babies have the best start in life, recognising that good nutrition was needed from an early age. She established a restaurant for nursing mothers, a first for Scotland; milk was to be provided for infants via the ‘Milkie School’ and the foundations for a health visiting service was set up. Many of the improvements she implemented in housing and child welfare remain in place and are still as pertinent to the wellbeing of the community today as they were a century ago. Her legacy lives on in the Lily Walker Centre, concerned with emergency housing, and the Grey Lodge Settlement which remains active as a community centre serving families across Dundee.

Margaret Fairlie was born in 1891 at a farm on the outskirts of Arbroath. Her studies started in 1910 when she enrolled to at the Conjoint Medical School at University College, Dundee. Following her graduation in 1915, Dr Fairlie held various junior posts in Dundee, Perth, Manchester and Edinburgh. She returned to Dundee in 1919 to run a consultant practice for gynaecology, started teaching at the Medical School in the following year and joined the staff at Dundee Royal Infirmary. She also served as a visiting Gynaecologist throughout Angus and Perthshire.

Dr Fairlie pioneered the use of radium to treat gynaecological conditions, particularly malignant disease, following a visit to the Marie Curie Foundation in Paris. Such was her belief in the benefit of this treatment she used her personal savings to supplement the hospital supply of radium. She was also responsible for the development of vaginal smear cytology for cancer diagnosis which is still a highly effective method used today. Her work as a doctor helped reduce Dundee’s notoriously high infant mortality rate and she was instrumental in the establishment of Dundee’s first ante-natal clinic. By 1936, Dr Fairlie was the very much respected Head of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at Dundee Royal Infirmary and had applied for the Chair of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. However, the Joint Committee and the University Court members argued over the appointment of a female and it took no less than 4 years for a decision to be reached with Fairlie becoming the first woman to hold a professorial chair in a Scottish University. She remained the only female to hold such a post until she retired in 1956.

Ref: CMS 2/1(14a) Mary Ann Baxter; Mary Lily Walker; CMS 2/1 (104) Margaret Fairlie

Spring Awakening

Front cover of David Small & Sons, 1955

The first buds of spring are starting to appear, welcoming in the new season. This colourful image is the front cover of a catalogue listing bulbs for sale at Small’s of Brechin in 1955.

David Small & Sons of Brechin was established in 1896 when David bought an existing seedsman business from James Young at 20 Swan Street, Brechin. The seedsman aspect was a constant in the business, as they further expanded into nurserymen and floristry. Continuing success led to a second shop opening at 147 High Street, Montrose. David Small & Sons thrived until the son of the founder retired in 1976.

The collection consists of colourful advertising catalogues and price lists some of which contain horticultural advice on how to best prepare the ground before plantation of seeds, how to cultivate a crop and even uses for the vegetables grown.  There are also photographs of the premises and the horses and carts used to transport the sacks of seeds. Documents relating to financial side of the business include cash books, day books and the valuation of stock when Small took over from Young.

The advice, tips and colourful illustrations will inspire the green fingered and the novice gardener alike.

Ref: MS 41/4/5 (21)

Midwinter Magdalen

Midwinter Magdalen

This wintery view of Magdalen Green with the Tay Rail Bridge in the background was likely taken early in the morning as it is unusual to see the green so quiet despite the weather. However, the sledge marks in the foreground hint at the fun to be had at the park even on the coldest of days.

Magdalen Green at the west end of the City is usually a hive of activity. Dundee’s oldest park, it has been a place to gather and socialize for over 400 years. The large open space with wonderful views is used regularly by families, students who live locally with the University campus nearby and by those out for a stroll with their dogs.  The park plays host to events all year round including the long running and very popular WestFest,in the summer which attracts thousands of revellers to Magdalen Green to enjoy live music, fresh food, carnival rides and much more.

The park retains its appeal in the winter months too. Locals do not need to go far to enjoy sledging and even skiing with the gentle slopes of the park perfect for some family fun time. Midwinter need not be so bleak after all.

This image was taken by Professor R. P. Cook who lived near the park. A biochemist at the University of Dundee, he became an international authority on cholesterol. Professor Cook's work ultimately paved the way for Dundee to become a major centre for life sciences teaching and research.

Ref: UR-SF 34/24/15/4a

Winter Weather

Wintery weather

Does the thought of shopping in the snow chill you to the bone? The snow covered paths have not deterred these shoppers and passers-by. This wintery image of the Nethergate in Dundee was taken c1975.  It is from a series of black & white photographs taken by the University of Dundee Press Office in the 1970s and 1980s.

The image of thick snow in the heart of the city seems to be less familiar these days, with the exception of 2010! However, this view of the Nethergate some forty years ago at first appears very similar to what currently stands. On closer inspection the public telephone boxes are gone and while the shops next to the Playhouse remain, most of the retailers have changed. The Angus Hotel, as seen on the right in this photograph, no longer stands as it was demolished to make way for the new Overgate development. The demolition of the old Overgate and construction of the new covered shopping precinct was the biggest change in the city centre built environment in recent history prior to the waterfront development.

With Christmas just around the corner shoppers may yet have to don a pair of wellies and crunch up the snowy pathways of the Nethergate in pursuit of the perfect gift.

Ref: RU 4721/27/16

Joseph Johnston Lee was a journalist, poet and artist, best known for his war poetry. 

Page from Ballads of Battle

Born in Dundee in 1876, Joseph Lee left school at 14 and spent several years travelling across Europe to the Black Sea and the Crimea, as well as to Canada, making a number of sketches during his voyages. He worked and attended art classes in London, returning to Dundee where he produced, edited, and wrote for several local periodicals including The City Echo and The Piper O' Dundee.  In 1909 he became a member of staff at the firm of John Leng & Co. and was soon regularly contributing poetry to their People's Journal, a publication which he eventually edited.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 Lee joined the 4th Battalion of the Black Watch, one of the ‘Fighter Writers’ – journalists of Dundee who would supply the reports, stories, and in Lee’s case, poems and sketches, that filled Dundee’s papers for the next few years.  Lee fought in many of the key battles of the war including Neuve Chapelle, Loos and the Somme and expressed his experiences in the trenches through sketches and poetry.

Two books of Lee’s war poems and sketches, Ballads of Battle and Work-a-Day Warriors were published while he was at the Front, receiving wide and critical acclaim. His direct language and simple artworks spoke directly to readers not just in Britain, but also in the U.S.A.

In 1917 Lee became a second lieutenant in the 10th Battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps, but later that year he was captured near Cambrai and spent the rest of the war as a P.O.W. After the war Lee resumed his career as a journalist, working in London, but in retirement returned to Dundee where he died in 1949.


Ref: KLoc 828.994.191.l478 p41


All the leaves are brown...

Fall of the Leaf

This beautifully descriptive poem forms part of a commonplace book which also contains newscuttings, ink and watercolour sketches, pages of signatures, letters and poetry.  The book is small, roughly 4  x 6 inches, but packed full of interesting features. With no two pages the same, it is exciting for a reader as turning each page brings with it new delight.

The book is part of a large box of items that came to the University Archives recently relating to the Lee and Scrymgeour families. The think the book belonged to Nora Scrymgeour but she did not compose the poem nor write it in the book. The initials M.B.D belong to the person who has beautifully written around the pressed leaves. Judging from the writing the composer of the poem is Tifrida Wolfe. There is no date on the page but the other entries span 1924-1934 so it is highly likely this poem was added to the book during this same period.

It is quite typical to have to do some detective work when processing new accessions. With this specific collection, however, we have been provided with some contextual information which is very useful and a deeper delve through all the pages of the commonplace book may reveal who M.B.D and Tifrida is although in some cases it may never become clear who people are or how they relate to each other.

Ref no: Acc 2017/902

The Time Is Now

Dundee waterfront development


This photograph is from a series that charts the changing waterfront from January 2012 right up to the present day. Shot in July 2015 from the University Tower by a member of the archives team, this image shows the site cleared of the previous structures; Tayside House, the Hilton Hotel and the Olympia Leisure Centre now gone. The demolition of these buildings made way for the build of Kengo Kuma’s iconic design for the V & A Museum’s first flagship building outside of London and the creation of work and recreational spaces at the waterfront.

With the opening of the Museum on the 15th September 2018, it is incredible to see how much has changed in just three years. The series of images taken every few weeks provides a snapshot into the development of the build, charting its rise from the Tay to sit alongside the Discovery. Now dominating the waterfront site, the excitement surrounding the opening of the Museum is palpable in the City and beyond, drawing interest from those keen to see both the building and the collections it will house.

The waterfront regeneration will continue following the opening of the Museum with office space still under construction and other aspects of the development plan still to come to fruition. As such, the series of photographs will be added to with the aim of recording the changing face of the City’s waterfront during this ongoing period of redevelopment.

The Archive has photographs and records across a range of collections which demonstrate how the city has changed over the decades.


Ref no: Tayside House & Waterfront DSC 7209

Summer Sailing

 Sailing boat, Swannie Ponds, c1960

This delightful image of a little boy watching the sailing boats at the Swannie Ponds, Dundee, on a sunny day was taken almost sixty years ago. Despite the passage of time, this photograph could have been taken yesterday.

Very little has changed at Stobmuir Ponds. Affectionately known as the Swannie Ponds due to the resident swans, the area has been a focal point for recreation for generations of Dundonians. A little oasis next to arterial roads in and out of the city, the top pond has a central island which is home to swans, ducks and herons. Popular in the summer months for boating, it also attracts ice skaters in the winter.

These sailing boats are on the bottom pond, home to the oldest model boat club in Scotland and one of the oldest in the UK. Established in 1885, Dundee Model Boat Club continues to thrive with members meeting twice a week to sail their boats. Passers-by, young and old, can enjoy watching the boats on the pond and can take along their own boats to sail and race when the pond is not in use.

Long summer evenings are perfect for some free, outdoor fun at the Swannie Ponds. The park includes a play area for young children and a beautiful rose garden to admire. This photograph by Alex Coupar is a reminder that sometimes the most pleasure comes from the simplest of things.

Now to create a flotilla of paper boats for some family fun………

Ref: MS 258 Alex Coupar collection

Skirling and a' Whirling

The Grampian Club members celebrating with pipes and dancing

This fantastic photograph shows members of The Grampian Club celebrating the occasion of club member Bob Leitch having bagged his final munro, Geal Charn. The photograph, taken on 6th August 1977, includes Andrew Leitch playing the bagpipes, Christine Leitch, Jack Tibbs and Jean Green.

The Club was formed in 1927. The first meet of 12 members was held in Glen Clova. The club has continued to thrive over the last nine decades and now boasts over 200 members who enjoy a range of outdoor activities including walking, climbing, mountaineering and skiing. As well as outdoor pursuits, other activities include regular indoor meetings to host lectures & slide shows and the publication of The Grampian Club Bulletin.

Over the years, various members of the Club have used their expertise to assist the Tayside Mountain Rescue and other local and national organisations.

The Archive holds The Grampian Club collection which includes administrative records, hut records, maps and photographs.

Ref no: MS 138/18/1/5/1

Creative Design: the old inspiring the new

Creative Design: the old inspiring the new

This wonderful object was designed and created for Chaos and Order, a collaborative project between Archive Services and Level 3 Illustration students at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design which ran in 2017.  Each student was assigned an archive box, the contents of which would inspire a creative response.

The box which led to the design of this object contained a notebook belonging to John Grant who worked in the spinning department of Angus Jute Works in West Bengal. It describes the work of the spinning department and details the spindles and some of the machinery on the factory floor.  The student used this information to re-create upright wooden spindles with etched details on discs of acrylic visualised from the written descriptions in the notebook.

The archive box also contained Colloquial Hindustani for Jute Mills & Workshops written and published by Mohiuddin Ahmad in Calcutta, 1947. Excerpts from this phrasebook have been printed and wound around the spindles, creating a connection between the jute industry and the change in lifestyle and language that impacted on jute workers who left Dundee to work in the mills in Calcutta.

Interestingly, both Grant’s notebook and the Hindustani phrasebook were originally handed in to a charity in Fife, who subsequently deposited the items with Archive Services to form part of the extensive textile collections held at the University. The items add a great deal to understanding the work and wider societal changes for those who chose to relocate to India in the 1940s.  

Chaos and Order culminated in an exhibition which showcased the new works of art alongside some of the archive collections which inspired them. We are delighted that Claire, the student who produced this object, has kindly donated her art work to the archive collections. It can be viewed in the searchroom as can the items that inspired her design.

April image: Wool samples, Spring 1938

'V' Samples of wool fabric produced by Wilson Bros (Alva) Ltd, Spring 1938

These samples of wool were produced by Wilson Bros (Alva) Ltd for the Spring season. They're a timely reminder that Scottish springs can be more like winter than summer.

Originally, the Wilson family were soap, candle and wax manufacturers in Glasgow. Two of the brothers, William Primrose and James Wilson decided to turn their attention instead to textile manufacture, choosing to set up their looms in the Hillfoots, Clackmannanshire. It was an area that, because of its ideal topography, contained many spinning and weaving mills.  William already had experience in textiles; under the partnership of Wilson and Anderson, he had manufactured shawls in the Boll Mill in Clackmannanshire from 1866 until 1872. 
Wilson Bros (initially W & J Wilson) was founded in Alva in 1874 at Dalmore works.  Instead of producing shawls, the company manufactured tweeds for men's wear.  Wilsons also took a leading part in founding the trade of ladies tailor-made clothing and specialised in Ladies' Woollen Novelty fabrics. By the 1900s, Wilson Bros were also manufacturing rugs in mohair and wool and Wil-Bro-Cel blankets.  In 1907 they took over the patterns and yarns of Bannockburn Tweeds. Wilson Bros became a limited company in 1930, and in 1955 its assets were transferred to Wilson Bros (Alva) Ltd.
Dalmore, the original mill, was added to in 1888 and partly rebuilt in 1895 after a hurricane had blown over the main building.  There were further additions in 1912 and 1916, and a partial rebuilding after fire destroyed almost ninety percent of the factory in 1941.  Extensions were also added in 1950 and 1955. But a venture with a Glasgow based scarf making firm resulted in the loss of Dalmore Works in 1964. Wilsons had to manufacture out of various rented mills; a huge financial drain. 
In 1967 Wilson Bros (Alva) Ltd stopped trading when they were taken over by Pringles of Inverness.
The Archive holds the company's miscellaneous partnership, company, property and insurance records, minutes of director meetings and shareholding records. The collection also includes various financial records, orders, stock and pattern books as well as photographs.
Ref: MS 82WB

March image: Spring has sprung

David Small & Sons catalogue, 1910

As the snow melts away the first buds of spring are starting to appear, welcoming in the new season. This colourful and cheerful image is the front cover of a catalogue listing bulbs and seeds for sale at Small’s of Brechin in 1910.

David Small & Sons of Brechin was established in 1896 when David bought an existing seedsman business from James Young at 20 Swan Street, Brechin. The seedsman aspect was a constant in the business, as they further expanded into nurserymen and floristry. Continuing success led to a second shop opening at 147 High Street, Montrose. David Small & Sons thrived until the son of the founder retired in 1976.

The collection consists of colourful advertising catalogues and price lists some of which contain horticultural advice on how to best prepare the ground before plantation of seeds, how to cultivate a crop and even uses for the vegetables grown.  There are also photographs of the premises and the horses and carts used to transport the sacks of seeds. Documents relating to financial side of the business include cash books, day books and the valuation of stock when Small took over from Young.

The advice, tips and colourful illustrations will inspire the green fingered and the novice gardener alike.

Ref: MS 41/4/5 (11)

February image: Polynesian portrait

Portrait of two Polynesian women

These two women have no names and we don’t know when their photograph was taken, or exactly where. But it doesn’t really matter as their serenity and dignity shines down through the years.

The photograph is in an album featuring 19th century Polynesian scenes and people which forms part of the Alexander Thoms collection. As well as knowing nothing about the women, we know very little about Thoms.

Alexander was a member of the Thoms of Clepington family and as a young man went to Bengal, India, where he remained engaged in estate and plantation business for about thirty years. In 1884 he returned to Scotland, living in St Andrews until his death in 1925 aged 89 years.

The collection also contains another photograph album featuring pictures of geological formations and bird colonies, nests and eggs from the Hebrides and Shetland. Thoms was an amateur mineralogist, and he presented a valuable collection of stones and minerals to University College, Dundee.

Thoms’s Polynesian album was possibly a souvenir of a trip from Bengal to the Islands. It contains photographs of ancient and modern buildings, of scenery and people and of them all, these two women were likely to have been remembered by Thoms.


Ref: MS 180

Images from the collections featuring WW1 material