Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day 5 Dundee and Oyne

Saturday 25 April

To go from Edinburgh to Dundee, you cross the new Forth Bridge. The old Forth Railroad bridge, a cantilever bridge, is considered to be the 8th wonder of the world. Completed in 1890, it was the world's first major steel bridge and still carries many trains a day. The bridge has only been closed down 5 days in its history for repairs.
Dundee lies on the River Tay and is known for 'jute, jam, and journalism.' It was once known as “Jutopolis.” Over 50,000 workers worked in the jute mills. Verdant Works Jute Mill, built in 1833 , was the 16th largest of 61 milles. The last of the jute mills closed in 1997. Verdant Works is now a museum depicting the days when jute was king in this

Jute fiber was brought by ship from India. Large bales were brought to the factories where it was processed, spun into yarn and woven into cloth. Boys only worked in the mills until they were 18, when they were made redundant. Women comprised the majority of the workers in the mills and had a lot of power. We had an excellent guide, Earl Scott, who led us through the interpretive displays.

Each time I come to the museum there is something new and this year it was an excellent film showing the history and the current jute industry in India where most of the world’s burlap is woven today. Now there are no jute mills left in Dundee. Some of them have been torn down, others turned into housing and others refitted for other industry. But no industry since has matched the success of the jute mills in the 19th and early 20th century. A number of songs tell the stories of working in a jute mill. My group, Straw into Gold has recorded 2 of them, Sheena Wellington’s “The Weavers o Dundee” and Mary Brooksbank’s “The Jute Mill.” You can listen to this second song at, by clicking on the revolving musical symbol on the home page.

A beautiful three-masted, 30’ x 128” ship, the Discovery, sits in the Dundee Harbor. Built in 1901 as a research vessel, it was designed for the artic with a 27” thick hull comprised of 3 layers of pine, oak and fir. You can see the saltboxes in the hull that were filled with salt and pushed into the hull, like drawers, to absorb any excess moisture between the hulls. The ship was powered by a double expansion engine, made in Dundee, which was powered by two boilers. These boilers were fed coal. For the first Antarctic voyage, 400 tons of coal was stored in the hold and 40 tons on the deck.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott led an expedition of 47 men to the Antarctic to attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole. The crew included 37 sailors, 5 officers and 5 scientists. The scientific study focused on the five areas of geology, meteorology, magnetism, zoology and biology. With space for only 18 sleeping hammocks in the crew quarters, the men worked and slept in 12 hour shifts. The main meal was as noon. Each crew member was given 1 glass of rum with lunch. In New Zealand the ship took on 40 sheep that were slaughtered and hung frozen on deck. The diet was supplemented by penguin, sea birds and seals. 100 pounds of dry mustard was in the ship’s pantry to disguise the bad taste of the penguin and other birds. Every person was given a dose of lime juice each day to prevent scurvy.

Officers had a finer sleeping and galley area, but it was also the coldest place on the ship. The officers would wake up with their blankets frozen to their beds. When the ship reached the Antarctic, they became frozen in sea ice and remained there for 2 winters. While scientists conducted research, Scott and 2 others attempted to reach the pole via foot. The 19 dogs brought on the journey to pull the supply sled all died. The mission was unsuccessful. In Feb 1903, the pack ice broke up freeing the Discovery to sail back to Scotland. Scott died on his second attempt to reach the pole which was finally achieved by Roald Amundsen.

We dined tonight at Gadies, the new restaurant attached to Touched by Scotland gallery in Oyne. Robin and Jan offer food that looks beautiful and tastes delicious.

After dinner, G&T entertained us with songs of the sea and songs of Scotland. A local duo, they are known for their harmonies and light-hearted presentation style. Trish Norman and Gaye Anthony travel around the UK and Europe performing at festivals. Their voices blend in sweet harmonies while trading off the lead. Trish’s high, clear, lilting soprano is grounded by Gaye’s rich, round alto voice. They accompany themselves with guitar. They sing songs about the sea, fishing, and even taught us the chorus to their famous haggis song! Their stories and banter interspersed between songs kept us all smiling and laughing and singing along. Gaye and Trish have made 3 recordings. You can hear their joyous sounds at

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