Bangladesh, Bengal, British Industry, Dundee, India, Industrial Heritage, Industrial Revolution, jute, leaflet, Museums, Scotland's Jute Museum, Social history, Souvenirs, sticker, Ted, textiles, Verdant Works, Victorian., Victoriana
Have you ever thought about jute? I had only considered the properties of jute once before my visit to Dundee. I was in Cambridge, walking around the open air market behind Great St. Mary’s Church and a short walk from King’s College Chapel, when my attention was caught by a stall on which everything was made of jute, which was haled as a renewable wonder material! Anyway – I didn’t think about jute again until I arrived in Dundee and asked a very helpful lady at Discovery Point, “Do you recommend any other visitor attraction in Dundee?” [or words to that effect]. She gave me a map and pointed me in the direction of the Verdant Works. To quote from the leaflet I still have, “Scotland’s Jute Museum @ Verdant Works is just one of the many mills that flourished when the jute industry was at its height. Verdant Works takes you on a tour of the trade, from its beginnings in the Indian subcontinent to the end product in all its myriad forms“.
In brief: The story of jute starts on the Indian Subcontinent, Bangladesh to be exact; formally Bengal. A number of enterprising, Victorian, individuals, had the bright idea of using their assets in the ship building, whaling, textile industries to bring the jute over to Dundee, soften it using whale oil and then turn it into sailcloth, sacking, ropes, tarpaulins and countless other things you would find in your very own home.
The Verdant Works is a very interesting place to visit. The museum covers all aspects of the subject, from the jutes cultivation to the finished product. Parts of the Works don’t look as if they’ve changed much [or have been restored] since 1900, so you get that feeling of walking back in time. The “From Fibre to Fabric” section has an extensive collection of working textile industry related machinery [it was all a bit over my head, but if you’re of a mechanic inclination I am sure you’ll love it]. The museum also covers the effect of the jute industry on the social history of Dundee, which is a very interesting topic; with special reference to the unique role of women in Dundee.
From this photograph (above) you should be able to get an idea of how bemused I was when I first laid eyes on it. A horse drawn tram, stranded in the middle of Commercial Street with a coffee machine on board? This was more than just a nostalgic nod to times past or a clever piece of street art; it was somewhere you might be able to get a cup of tea! I hate stereotypes, but I am the sort of Englishmen who is always on the lookout for the next cup of tea. I crossed the road to look at the other side of “The Auld Tram“.
The result was this pie (right) and a chat with the proprietor. I have never been very good at eating out, what ever the venue, so no doubt my eyes darted wildly across the blackboards whilst I agonised over what to have. Then my eyes settled on the word “Pie”.
This wasn’t my first pie in Dundee (two days previously I’d been tempted into the “Star and Garter” on Union Street by a sign reading “Pie and Pint”), but after making polite enquiries about the contents of the pie I decided to have one. I’ve heard it said that “If you haven’t got anything nice to say you shouldn’t say anything at all“, but it would be a lie if I said my breakfast at the hotel that morning (a hotel that wasn’t in Dundee, I might add) was hardly filling and left me ill prepared for exploring a city the size of Dundee. I became so focused on the pie that I completely forgot about the cup of tea I’d initially gone in search of and strode off to find somewhere to sit down, out of the hustle and bustle. I ate my pie in Albert Square and enjoyed every bite. I can almost taste as I write.
Souvenir: Flyer for “The Auld Tram”.
A fellow wearing a flat cap, who I assumed was the proprietor, gave me this flyer after I enquired about the history of the tram. “It looks like it has been here for years”, I said and was shocked to hear it had been restored to its present condition and returned to the spot quite recently; I thought it had been there for more than a century! The history of the tram is on the other side of the flyer, but I think this side is far more interesting, so much so I didn’t even think of photograph the other side, which would have been quite easy to do now I’ve thought about it. Oh well.
If you would like more information about the Auld Tram it is on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/auldtram?fref=ts ) and there is a Flickr stream dedicated to it ( https://www.flickr.com/photos/greigstott/sets/72157635973000063/ ).