Made in Dundee

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    29 Nov 2018
    Clock 60min      Length2mi
    3 ratings

    End - View of the Tay

    Pay wave

    Do you remember when I was talking about William McGonagall, the world's worst poet, I told you to look up Union Street? At the end of the street is Henderson's the Jeweller. It used to be the Royal Hotel. In 1907 Jessie Haddow met Fritz Jordan at the Royal Hotel where he was working as a waiter. They married in 1912 and moved to Fritz's native Hamburg. They had one daughter but Fritz died in the First World War. Jessie returned to Scotland in 1937, claiming she had left because people in Germany had thought her a British spy. She opened her own hairdressers in Kinloch Street.

    So far, so ordinary. But a drawing of the bridge you see in front of you was to reveal that Jessie was not what she seemed. She was regularly absent from the business and her cleaner, Mary Curran, became suspicious. One day Mary came across a diagram of the Tay Bridge with 'Zeppelin' written on it. This may have been Jessie's code name; she had been recruited by German Secret Service to take photos and make drawings of Britain's coastal defences.

    Mary informed the police and MI5 trailed Jessie on a trip to Germany. On her return she was arrested and charged with offences under the Official Secrets Act. At the High Court in Edinburgh she admitted photographing Southampton Docks and acting as a forwarding address. Spies in the US would send letters to Jessie which she would then forward to Germany.

    The US and UK intelligence agencies worked together for the first time when they passed information they had obtained by opening her mail. Through this they discovered a plot to decoy a senior American staff officer to a New York hotel where he would be overpowered and forced to reveal secrets of American Atlantic coastal defence operations. They broke up a Nazi spy ring in the US made up of 18 people.

    We do not know why this Glasgow girl betrayed her country and spied for the Nazis. Certainly there was no money in it and Jessie was given only the barest amount of training. Could she have been a Nazi herself? At her trial her defence lawyer suggested something quite different. He said that she felt alienated from her own country, arguing that she was 'an unwanted child' of both Britain and Germany. On being sentenced she said: ''I have no passion for any country. The sentence is my medicine and I can take it.''

    Another possible explanation is that Jessie's daughter was being persecuted and prevented from working as an actress. Jordan was often a Jewish surname. Perhaps Jessie struck a deal with the Nazis to allow her daughter to work. The Dundee Courier reported: "It does not appear that Mrs Jordan took to spying because of love of Germany or hatred of Britain, or even from a desire to make money from it. She has apparently been chosen as an instrument by agents aware of her personal history, and in a position to put her under some sort of pressure to do what was required of her."

    Whatever her reasons, she certainly did not profit from it. Jordan was found guilty and sentenced to four years imprisonment. Due to good behaviour she was released early in 1941 – only to immediately be re-arrested as an enemy alien. She spent the rest of the war in captivity and was repatriated to Germany in 1945. She died 9 years later.

    Her actions had consequences far beyond Dundee. They forced the British and American secret services to work together for the first time ever. Up until this point they had both regarded each other as little better than hostile agents. Her story was also the inspiration for a Hollywood film, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, which was the first Hollywood film to be openly anti Nazi.

    And this is typical for Dundee. This small city of 148,000 people has had an impact that extends far beyond the banks of the River Tay - and can boast stories that are far from provincial.

    Dundee can claim responsibility for James Bond, Dennis the Menace and Grand Theft Auto. It casually owns the world's largest emerald. It was home to both a medal winning pigeon and a world class code-breaking physicist who forced people to draw pig silhouettes while blindfolded.

    But it is far more than just a few interesting stories – Dundee is an outward looking city, both its men and –crucially – its women going on to make an impact on the rest of the world - from discovering white dwarfs to fighting against slavery. Dundee has done as much for its adopted sons and daughters. Those living here have been fostered by it – it is hard to imagine William McGonagall earning his laurels as the "world's worst poet" had he not been promoted and denigrated in equal measure by Dundee. Even those who only seem to pass through, like Winston Churchill or Mary Shelley, are left with a lasting impression of Dundee – whether good or bad.

    I hope that will be the same for you. Don't dismiss Dundee. There is always so much more to discover in the city of Discovery.

    You are now in the heart of the university area. There are lots of nice pubs and cafes around here if you would like something to drink. If you want to head back to tour start point or go back to the city centre to visit the V&A Museum or McManus Museum, it is very easy to do so. All you have to do is walk out of the garden to the main road. Turn right and head down the street. It will take you no more than 10 minutes to walk back into the centre of town. Alternatively lots of buses go along this street into town at regular intervals.

    Please if you have enjoyed this tour, tell others about it. I would appreciate it if you take a moment to rate the tour or leave a comment when you're done. If you have any questions about anything I said during the tour or think of anything that would improve it, you can also leave a comment there on our Facebook page, Scot Free Tours Dundee.