Feature

Looking Back at Annasach

Published on 31 July 2020

With Dundee being famous for its journalism, it is not really surprising to learn that the University has a long history of student publications, dating back to 1888 when University College, Dundee's College first appeared

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Image courtesy of University Archive Services

In 1967 ,when Dundee became a university in its own right, it was decided to start a completely new student newspaper and thus Annasach was born. Taking its name from a Gaelic word meaning strange or unusual, it was quickly a success. While its appearance and format would vary considerably over the years it remained a key part of student life at the University for more than 25 years. 

Annasach's content was always wide ranging. Obviously, news of what was going on at the University was a key feature throughout its run, as was its coverage of local and national issues facing students. Culture was covered with reports on student societies, as well as discussion of what was on at local theatres, cinemas and music venues. Plenty of serious articles were present, such as discussions about gender inequality and student poverty, but there was also room for lighter material. Appropriately for Dundee this even included the occasional comic strip, with the somewhat surreal ‘Trudy’ perhaps being the most memorable of these.

Plenty of those who contributed to Annasach would go on to make their mark on the wider world, including future politicians such as Brian Wilson, Alex Neil, Christopher Chope and Claude Moraes.  The most notable political contributor however was George Robertson, whose column ‘Shakeout’ was a key feature of early editions. The future cabinet minister used this platform to champion many causes and to promote the University. Notably, he encouraged students graduating in 1968 to take a Dundee degree, rather than opt for a St Andrews degree as they were entitled to do, arguing that this was important for our institution's future.  Other contributors who went on to have notable careers include Peter Anghelides, writer of acclaimed Doctor Who novels and audio dramas, future Chair of Court Eric Sanderson, and our current Rector Jim Spence. 

Annasach often had a strong campaigning attitude. It was always strongly critical of any moves by governments to make cuts to education or to enact legislation which it thought would harm students. Unsurprisingly, it generally supported student action against such policies and gave them a high profile. Similarly, it supported activism against apartheid and backed various charitable and good causes. Sometimes its stance was divisive.  From the 1970s to the 1990s there were several student votes on whether the Students’ Association should be a member of the NUS. Annasach was sometimes caught in the crossfire of the intense debates surrounding these. Notably in 1990 pro-NUS campaigners criticised Annasach’s strong stance against re-joining and accused it of spreading what today might be termed fake news.

Throughout its history Annasach often faced financial difficulties and other production challenges, and on more than one occasion an issue appeared which warned it could well be the final one. However, by the 1990s its future was looking increasingly shaky, not helped by the appearance of a well-produced, and arguably more edgy, rival called MacDougal in 1992. The end finally came in 1995 and Annasach was replaced by the Student Times.

Annasach may be gone, but it is not forgotten. Copies held in the archives are an essential part of the University Collections and are still widely consulted. They offer an invaluable insight into aspects of student life that would otherwise be forgotten. As a source for key events in our history led by students, such as the 1973 student rent strike, Annasach is unparalleled. While our collection of Annasachs is fairly complete there are some gaps, especially towards the end of its run, so if any alumni have copies they would like to share please let us know by emailing us at alumni@dundee.ac.uk

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