A Dundee Dozen: Fact and Fiction from Dundee

Desperate Dan, image by Ninian Reid
Category: Reading

Scotland’s fourth-largest city has much more to offer than just ‘jute, jam and journalism.’ Here are twelve books that celebrate the city:


1. Dead Wood
Chris Longmuir

Set in Dundee during the bad old days of 20th century decay, this dark, thought-provoking novel features a young mother trapped in a world of gangs and serial killings. In the words of the author, ‘even the police have their own demons to deal with.’ Revenge would be fatally easy, but what about justice? Winner of the Dundee International Book Prize 2009 and (deservedly) a best-seller.


2. William McGonagall Collected Poems
Chris Hunt (editor)

So bad he’s good! Did the world’s worst poet know what he was doing – satirising popular taste– or was he blissfully unaware? Either way, McGonagall was proud to call Dundee his home, and to celebrate the city and its surroundings in many of his verses. Enjoy!


3. Lost Dundee: Dundee’s Lost Architectural Heritage
Charles McKean, Patricia Whatley and Kenneth Baxter

While Glasgow was still a village, Dundee was the most important town in Scotland after Edinburgh and Aberdeen. This well-illustrated study draws on art and archive collections to document the transformation of medieval and early-modern Dundee from a thriving port to crowded industrial city, though centuries of destruction and rebuilding.


4. Dundee Women’s Trail
I. Mary Henderson

Is Dundee the only place in Britain to have a Women’s’ Trail? If so, that’s a pity. Because, by following the Trail from one commemorative blue plaque to another, you get to learn about 25 remarkable women. They range from Dundee factory workers to mill-owners’ daughters, from pioneer nurses and doctors to artists, foreign correspondents, striking household servants and stroppy suffragettes. This book describes the Trail and tells their stories.


5 . The Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay: Reinvestigating the Tay Bridge Disaster
Peter Lewis

A specialist in forensic engineering, Lewis explains how the design and construction of the first Tay Rail Bridge led to its downfall, and sweeps away the old theories that blamed wind and weather. Lewis also sets the Tay Bridge Disaster in the context of 1870s political-economic crises and public opinion. Fascinating, especially if read together with an earlier account, The High Girders: Tay Bridge Disaster, 1879.Written by John Prebble in a typically trenchant style, it’s a gripping thriller – and a tragedy.


6. Whales for the Wizard
Malcolm Archibald

Tense, atmospheric adventure that begins in the mean streets surrounding the dockyards of Victorian Dundee, then heads out to the North Atlantic on board a bloodstained Dundee whaler. Is the ship haunted? Will the crew survive? Winner of the Dundee International Book Prize, 2005.


7. Time Tram Dundee
Matthew Fitt and Keith Robson

All aboard! A quick trip through Dundee’s history in the style of Dundee’s very own children’s comics, Beano and Dandy. Great fun, and informative. As the cover proudly announces, ‘A Treat for Bairns’.


8. The Compt Buik of David Wedderburne, Merchant of Dundee 1580-1610
Scottish Historical Society

For generations, the Wedderburns were the most powerful family in Dundee, and reading David Wedderburn’s account-book is like peering over the shoulder of a powerful, confident businessman at work around 400 years ago. For lovers of old documents, nothing brings the past more vividly to life.


9. Dundee 123 – A Counting Book for Cool Kids
Anna Day and Lauren Gentry

A learn-to-count board book for the very young, featuring well-known Dundee landmarks in simple shapes and bright colours. A clever idea, attractively produced.


10. Victorian Dundee, Image and Realities
Louise Miskell, Christopher Whatley, Bob Harris

The second in a series of three volumes called ‘Transforming Dundee’, this book explores the city at the height of its manufacturing prosperity, stressing the importance of the long-established linen industry compared with the short-lived jute works. The authors also consider the wealth that manufactures created: Dundee spinners and weavers earned good money; Dundee merchants and factory-owners were millionaires. Together, their spending-power and civic pride created the city that we still see today.


11. Dundee Worthies
George Martin

Originally published in 1934 and recently re-issued, this little classic commemorates some weel-kent old Dundee characters and describes traditional Dundee games and amusements. The writing is gently humorous; the 1930s design, typography and advertisements are full of period charm.


12. The Lost Photographs of Captain Scott
Dr David M Wilson

Dundee-built RRS Discovery carried Captain  Robert Falcon Scott on his first voyage to the Antarctic. Now back home on Dundee Waterfront, the ship has played a leading part in Dundee’s bid to rediscover its past and reinvent its future. Scott’s adventures are well known, but this book reproduces his photographs, recently made public for the first time. Beautiful and moving.


Competition: Win a copy of Dundee: A Very Peculiar History by Fiona Macdonald

Thanks to Book House, we've got a copy of Dundee: A Very Peculiar History by Fiona Macdonald to giveaway. 

All you have to do to win it is answer this simple question in the comments below or email your answer to hello@scottishbooktrust.com marked 'Dundee Competition':

- What is the name of the famous river which flows past Dundee?

Closing date: 17:00, Monday 27 April 2015. Open to UK entrants only. Full terms and conditions.


Fiona Macdonald

Fiona Macdonald is the author of more than 300 books for children and adults. She writes mainly about history; her book, Dundee: A Very Peculiar History, was released by Book House in April 2015.

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