Made in Dundee

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    29 Nov 2018
    Clock 70min      Length2mi
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    City Square Fountains

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    Although the Square is dominated by the donation of one jute baron, his is not the only memorial here. Walk over to the fountains on the right hand side of the square.

    There are four carvings in the fountains. Each one represents an element – earth, fire, air, water – and has a quote from a local poet or author to illustrate it. Find the carving for water. It has an extract from 'Lunan Bay' by Mary Brooksbank. She is one of the best known of the Dundee jute workers. She worked in the mills during the first half of the twentieth century. She was also a strident communist and political protestor, being arrested and imprisoned on several occasions for breach of the peace or heckling.

    But it is for her songs and poetry that she is now most remembered. You already saw the quote from her Jute Mill Song, written around the Mill Lassies' Memorial Clock. Her writing remained private throughout her working life. In the 1950s folk singer and activist Ewan MacColl visited Dundee and remarked on the lack of Dundee songs. Mary approached MacColl with some of her songs and was soon performing in folk clubs and on TV. Because of her writing she is the first communist and the first woman to have her words inscribed on to the walls of the Scottish Parliament building.

    That's why I think that City Square is fantastic. In their lifetimes the jute barons were able to dominate, their actions literally shaping the appearance of Dundee, a legacy that lives on to this day. But with public art like this Dundee has made it clear that the lives of the wealthy are not the only ones that matter. It has given physical expression to the voices of those who were very often not heard in their own lifetimes. History does not always have to be written by the victors.

    Having said that, I want to keep talking about James Caird for a little while longer – for no other reason than the fact that he is an interesting character.

    When you're ready, walk straight towards the hall.