Tour Locations | Made in Dundee

  • LOCATION 17 | Made in Dundee

    Slessor Gardens

    Stop here to look at the arch markers.

    Queen Victoria's first visit to Dundee was in 1844. It was the first visit of a British monarch to Dundee since the 1600s. She arrived by boat and a wooden triumphal arch was erected at the dockside for her to pass through into the city. A sandstone arch to commemorate this visit was completed in 1853.

    It is incredible to think that up until the 1960s there were docks where there now is grass. In 1964 the arch was dynamited to make way for the Tay Road Bridge development.

    Queen Victoria frequently passed through the city on her trips to Balmoral Castle in Deeside. It is unlikely that she saw any signs of the city's drinking problems on her visits to Dundee.

    Ok, now retrace your steps back to the pedestrian crossing.

    When you get there, turn right so that you are walking round the gardens.

    Drink affected whole families. One girl recalled how on Saturday evenings she and her mother would wait up to see whether her father had been drinking. If he came back drunk, the mother would try to prevent father and daughter from fighting. The girl was often locked out of their one-room home, forced to walk the streets of Dundee until her father had fallen into a drunken slumber.

    Perhaps this rough upbringing gave Mary Slessor the resilience that she displayed in later life. When she fought for the rights of women and children in Nigeria she drew on resources that sustained her during this time, particularly her strong faith in God.

    Mary Slessor arrived in the Calabar Estuary in Nigeria in 1876 at the age of 27. She stood out from the other female missionaries because she was not middle-class. Since the age of 11 she had been helping to support her family by working in the jute mills. Mary had had to improve her education to become a missionary. She had gotten permission to read while she worked – an impressive feat, given that she operated two of the large looms, a task only given to the most skilled workers.

    She might have left Dundee as a humble mill lassie but her missionary work made her famous and she became the first female magistrate in the British Empire.

    These gardens are named after her – Slessor Gardens. In 1997 she became the first woman on a Scottish banknote - the Clydesdale £10 note which was in circulation until recently.

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