‘Scottish Characters — Jock Bouce, Sheriff Jameson’s Fule’ (5 January, 1889)

The following is one of a series of stories and anecdotes about local Scottish eccentrics. They remain an insight into the characters and exploits that had already passed into folk memory by the late 19th century.

John Younger, or rather jock Bouce, for that was the name he was most familiarly known by in and around Cupar Fife, was one of those half-witted, innocent characters so plentiful in Scotland in the earlier and middle part of this century. Bouce lived with his father at the Backbraebead, Cupar Fife, in a single-roomed house, and after his father’s death he still retained the house down to the time of his own decease, which was a very sad affair indeed, he being suffocated and burned to death in his own house. It was surmised that he had risen out of bed in the night time to replenish his fire with coal, and that in turning his back to the fire his shirt had caught fire. Helpless and aged, for he was close on 70 years of age when this occurred, he succumbed to his injuries. He was found quite dead lying on the floor of his house the next morning by his next door neighbour. This happened about eight years ago, and he was buried in the old churchyard in Cupar Fife.

The above sketch of Bouce represents him being shaved. It is from a photograph by Mr D, Gordon, Cupar Fife, and the picture on the contents bill is from a photograph by Mr R. Heggie, Cupar Fife. He was about 50 years of age at the time this was taken, and it will give my readers some idea of what like he was.

I shall endeavour to lay before you some of his quaint sayings and doing. Bouce was left at home by his father to look after the house one day, and to superintend the cooking of the dinner, which was Scotch kail and a well-stuffed haggis boiling amongst them. When his father came in from work they sat down to dinner. After they had had their kail Bouce’s father set about getting out the haggis. He stirred away n the pot, but nothing like a puddin’, as he called it, could be found.

“John! John! What hae ye dune wi’ the puddin’,” he asked.

“Ah tae do!” said Bouce, “D’ye think I ken, faither? It’s maybe up the lum for ocht that I ken. I believe the cat’s taen’d,” and diving below the bed he came out with the skin of the haggis, saying, “Eh, aye, faither, the cat’s taen’d, and here’s the skin o’t,” as though the cat would not have eaten the skin as well; but in reality it was Bouce who ate it himself.

It is as the Sheriff’s gardener, or rather “fule,” that Bouce can be seen best. The Sheriff was always very good to him, overlooking all his misdeeds and laughnig at his tricks. Many of Bouce’s jokes are forgotten by those who heard them at the time they were uttered; still I have succeeded in gathering a few of them from some of the old folks who remember him best.

Bouce was one day bedding a large pig belonging to the Sheriff, and it, resenting the intrusion of its domains, was buff, buffing at his heels, and he, thinking that the pig was crying “Bouce! Bouce!” stuck the graip with which he was spreading the bedding into the pig’s side, saying, “Ah tae do! I’ll Bouce ye if ye cry Bouce tae me, ye baste.” The pig had to be killed.

Bouce was carrying a young pig home to the Sheriff on another occasion, and meeting a man he told him where he had been for it. The man to annoy Bouce struck the sack on his back with the pig in it with his plumet stick, which, unknown to Bouce or him either, proved fatal to the pig. Arriving home Bouce put it in the cruive, when he discovered it was dead. Making tracks to get out of the Sheriff’s way, he met him full in the face. “Well, Bouce,” said the Sheriff, “did you get the pig?” “Yes, sir,” said Bouce. “It’s in the cruive.” “Come and let me see it.” “Ah tae do, sir!” said Bouce; “I’ve been owre lang already.” After some persuasion Bouce was induced to return with him.

“That pig’s dead, Bouce,” exclaimed his master. “Ah tae do! you’re richt, sir; it’s choked itsel’ wi’ the chinge o’ meat,” replied Bouce readily.

Bouce was tarring a paling one day, when the Sheriff, dressed in a fine light suit of clothes, leant against it, bouce dropped his tar brush and, clapping his hands, said, “Aff wi’ thae claes. They’re mine noo, sir, and folks should aye stick up for thair ain.”

Bouce get all the Sheriff’s soiled clothes.

The Sheriff meeting Bouce one day saw two bunches of his own grapes sticking out of Bouce’s pocket. “Where got you these grapes, Bouce?” he asked. “Ah tae do, sir!” said Bouce, “I never kent you had dishonest folk aboot ye. That maid o’ yours, Peg Milne, has put them intae my pouch, instead o’ Jock Tamson’s, the joiner. He’s her chap, ye ken, and he is working up at yer house. She made a mistake, the limmer, but I sanna mention’t.” Such was the case, as was afterwards learned, though Bouce kept the grapes.

A policeman was sent for to take Bouce to the Sheriff Court, where they dressed him in a red coat, and placed him at the bar. He was charged with stealing a quanitity of apples and pears belonging to the sheriff, his master, and now his Judge. Bouce blurted out, “Ah tae do! it wasna me, sir. It was Kate Wallis taen them awa’ in her milk pitcher ,and she telt me they were split yins.” Continue reading “‘Scottish Characters — Jock Bouce, Sheriff Jameson’s Fule’ (5 January, 1889)”

Sandy Grosset on ‘His First Cricket Match.’ (13 July, 1889)

In this Scots column the recurring character Sandy Grosset explores his first cricketing experience. Cricket is not, perhaps, a game associated with Scotland but in the 19th century there was a thriving club scene. The People’s Journal regularly featured cricket scores alongside Football and Bowls. Forfarshire Cricket Club, based at Forthill in Broughty Ferry is still one of the predominant cricket clubs in Scotland, and Forthill one of the best cricketing facilities. Their long history is demonstrated in the same 13 July edition of the paper:

Forfarshire v. Perthshire.

                These Clubs met at Forthill on Saturday, and the match, as usual, attracted a large number of spectators. The annual holidays in Perth commenced on Saturday, and crowds of people left the city by road, river, and rail. Thousands of the holiday-makers found their way to Forthill.

Dundee United v. Newport.

                The Newport had the Dundee United at Newport on Saturday.

St Andrew’s Cross v. Douglasfield (Dundee).

—An enjoyable and exciting match was played between the above team in the Baxter Park on Saturday before a large number of spectators.

Blackness Foundry (Dundee) Loom Shop v. Low Shop.—Played on Stobsmuir. The Loom Shop were victorious by 29 runs. For the winning side, J. Soutar played a splendid not out innings of 35. Ross batted well for the Low Shop. D. Smith had five wickets for 7 runs.

Maister Editur,—After I got back from my venturesome jaunt into Stirlingshire I gaed up to the brig where the men forgaither these fine nichts to hear the crack o’ the toon. Young Jack Tamson had been visiting his freen’s in the South, an’ he was having a’ the say till himsel’. Jack lays off a story real well, an’ I’ll just gie ye the account o’ his first cricket match in his own words.

“Weel, boys,” he said “if ye jist ha’d a wee i’ll tell ye a’ aboot it. Ye maun ken I wus stayin’ wi’ ma faither’s brither’s sister, an’ her son wus the captain o’ the Clubs, an’ a great player. Him an’ me yist to hae richt cracks at nicht aboot cricket, an’ I aften telt him I wus ane o’ the best players in the half o’ Scotland (I didna say what half), an’ captain o’ the Thingambob Club, forbye bein’ goal-keeper to the Camlachie Club; but he said I meant ‘wicket-keeper’ an’ no ‘goal-keeper,’ an’ I said, ‘Exactly; oh ay, oh ay; exactly,’ a’ the time lachin’ up ma sleeves to think that he wud never ken what thumpers I wus tellin’ him, for I kent nae mar aboot cricket than a sookin’ turk ey daes aboot fiddlin’.

“Ae micht he invited me to gang an’ see his Club playin’ a match the next day. I was tae get a drive in their machine an’ dinner alang wi’ them, so it wud cost me nocht. I said I wud be vera gled. Next mornin’ I fan’ mesel’ amang the best cricket players o’ the place, drivin’ awa’ through the country, an after three oors’ drivin’ we arrived at our destination. Ane o’ the men didna turn up, but them that did said they cud gae withoot him; sae the match was begud. The ither team gaed in first, bit they a’ cam’ back wi’ soor faces afore they wur vera lang awa’, an’ whan they wur a’ pit oot, a’ got their dinners, an’ me amang the rest.

“Whan dinner wus bye, Bob, that’s my cusine, sent in his team, bit they didna dae ony better than the ithers, an’ whan their last wicket fell they wur seven rins shin’. I heard some ane cryin’ for the next man, an’ Bob cam’ rinnin’ tae me an’ ast me tae gan an’ play. I said I kent nocht aboot it, as nether I did, bit he said I wus jist jokin’, an’ wud hae me in jist tae ha’d the bat till the ither man got an over as he said, sae I threw aff ma coat; an’ he sent me to get a pair o’ battin’-gloves in a bag, tellin’ me to get a guid pair, bit when I went I cud only see ae pair, an’ some pairs o’ skeleton gloves. ‘Losh bless us!’ says I to mysel whun I saw the skeletons, ‘they English folk bate the vera deevil, to think that they canna gang an’ play a cricket match withoot takin’ skeleton gloves wi’ them to rob folk; I wunner hoo they work them. Pit them on an’ slip them intae ither folk’s pockets; that’s the way an’ nae mistake. I’d better say nocht aboot them. Bob’s forgot they’re here, or he—

“Look sharp, sir!” I hears Bob cryin’, sae I put on the pair o’ glovesؙ—an’ gie clumsy they wur—an’ cam oot.

“Man,’ says Bob “those are wicket-keeping gloves; here, put on this leg-guard till I bring you a pair,” sae he gaed awa’ an’ I put on the leg-guard; sune he cam’ back, an’ put a pair o’ the skeletons on me.

“I lifted a bat, an’ had jist got out to the field whun he cried on me to come back. I did, wunnerin’ whut wus up noo. “Don’t you see you’ve put it on the wrong leg?” “Na, na,” says I, “I hae’t on the richt leg.” “But the right leg’s the wrong one;” sae he put ane on ma ither leg an’ I gaed awa’ to play.

“The man I wus in wi’ wus ca’d Gordon an’ the first twa baa’s pased him, bit he hit the third, an’ I wus lookin’ whar it wus gan when he cries, “Are you coming?” “O aye!” I answered, and threw doon ma bat an’ ran to meet him. I wus jist gan to ask him whut he wantit whun he stoppit and growled, “You’re a confounded ass, if ever there was one,” an’ then turned back. I didna ken jist whut to dae, for it took ma breath awa’, but mindin’ whut Bob had telt me, aye to rin whun Gordon ran, an’ to turn whun he turned, I jist said the same an’ turned an’ ran back. I wus jist steppin’ owre a whit line afore the wickets whun the man that had the baa threw it at me wi’ a’ his micht, bit luckily it hit the wickets an’ no me.

“How’s that?” he cried.

“O,” says I, “it didna hit me, an’ mebbe jist as weel for you, for if it had I wud a went roun’ yer face like the rim o’ a hat, an’ made it as flat as a scone in five minits less than nae time.” Continue reading “Sandy Grosset on ‘His First Cricket Match.’ (13 July, 1889)”

‘The Dens and Hovels of Dundee’; Victoria Road (23 February, 1889)

The following is the last of a series of articles on the poorest areas of Dundee which were published in ‘The Peoples Journal’ from the end of 1888. The area around Victoria Road is the focus of this article.

The purpose of the journalist was to reveal the terrible problems facing those living in the slums (“rookeries”) of Dundee and is spelled out in the introduction to the first article in the series:

It is my purpose to direct attention to both classes of insanitary buildings—the old and the new—and to describe from personal inspection the hovels and “rookeries” of this city. The evil has grown so rampant that the Police Commissioners, on the repeated suggestions of the Medical Officer of Health, have at length begun to move in this matter, and my object is to assist them as far as possible in their investigations. In the course of these inquiries, I shall be able to reveal a side of social life and its environments the existence of which is little suspected by a great many people resident in Dundee.

The opening up of Victoria Road, although costly at the time, was one of the best projects which has been carried through under the Dundee Improvement Act. Bucklemaker Wynd may have been a historical locality, but it was anything but salubrious. The Wynd was narrow, and built in on each side with comparatively high tenements, more or less in a tumble-down condition, but now Victoria Road is one of the principal thoroughfares of the town, and the spacious dwelling-houses which line the street on both sides are a credit to the owners. Between Victoria Road and King Street from King’s Road Eastwards to Dens Brae, however, there still remain a number of hovels which ought to be at once levelled with the ground. William Street, off King Street, is the entrance to the hovel I visited last. The street itself is not prepossessing. There are only three signs of civilisation about the place—viz. A certain semi-circular iron erection, a joiner’s sign, and “Bell Street U.P. Church Mission Hall.” A better site for a Mission Hall it would be difficult to find even in the wilds of Central Africa. The buildings are all ancient, but those on the East side are, besides being old, completely done.

“The Beef Can Close”

leads to a brick building which was erected I believe when the jute industry made the first great bound forward. Houses, especially of one room, were very scarce at the time, and the families drafted from the country to find employment in the factories were glad to get a lodging of any description. The first landlord may have been looked upon as a benefactor, but any unbiased person who visits the locality now must be forced to the conclusion that the gentleman or gentlemen who draw the rents for the brick land and the tenements adjoining look only to their own personal advantage. A glance at the above sketch will convince anyone that the “Beef Can Close”—so called I believe because the unfortunate tenants were said to have no cooking utensils or dishes except for empty beef cans, which they put to all manner of uses—is entered with difficulty. There are two short flights of steps at the entrance, and both are very much worn and dirty. The close itself, like the opening into it, is filthy in the extreme. When I saw it it was literally covered with filth, and the whole locality presented a most ruinous and miserable appearance.

The houses are reached by outside stairs of a most primitive description. The steps, railings, and supports are entirely of wood, very much the worse of wear. The flooring of the passages is broken in several places, and the joiner work generally is sadly in need of repair. The passages leading to the houses in the West corner of the building are dark, and one has to grope his way through the prevailing gloom to the wretched homes of the poor people. Opposite the stairs is an upright paling broken in several places, and beyond this is an enclosure known as the “green.” The patch had at one time perhaps, been a place for bleaching clothes, but now instead of grass it is covered with stones and heaps of rubbish which the tenants had at some time or other laid down rather than convey it to the ashpit, which is only a few yards distant from the paling.

Miserable as are the surroundings of the dwellings, I found that on inspection the interiors were even worse. The above sketch will show that the windows are large enough for the admission of light, but beyond this no provision has been made for the comfort of the inmates. Water has not been introduced into any of the houses, and so far as I could see there were no bunkers or sinks. It was pointed out to me that the walls were damp, and that the plaster work was sadly in need of repair. In one house on the Western landing the tenant warned us “to be cautious,” lest our advent into the house “might bring down that bit,” pointing as she spoke to a piece of plaster which seemed to be hanging by a hair. For these miserable rooms I was informed the rents ranged from 1s 6d to 2s 6d per week.

Behind this wretched tenement there is a building used as a stable by a butcher in the locality. It is built of stone, and is far superior as a place of human habitation than the building in front of it.

“The Tarry Twine Close,”

which is to the South of the “Beef Can Close,” and which was at one time a notorious place, leads nowadays to only a few houses, most of those facing William Street having been shut up. A more dreary square I have never seen, and if it were entirely shut up the public would benefit.

With the description of this property my labours come to a close. There are other localities in Dundee which I could say something about, but a description would be a mere repetition. It now rests with the Police Commissioners to act, and I shall be glad to chronicle the improvements which may be effected under their orders.

‘The Dens and Hovels of Dundee’; Dudhope Street (9 February, 1889)

The following is one of several articles on the poorest areas of Dundee which were published in ‘The Peoples Journal’ from the end of 1888. The area around Dudhope Street is the focus of this article.

The purpose of the journalist was to reveal the terrible problems facing those living in the slums (“rookeries”) of Dundee and is spelled out in the introduction to the first article in the series:

It is my purpose to direct attention to both classes of insanitary buildings—the old and the new—and to describe from personal inspection the hovels and “rookeries” of this city. The evil has grown so rampant that the Police Commissioners, on the repeated suggestions of the Medical Officer of Health, have at length begun to move in this matter, and my object is to assist them as far as possible in their investigations. In the course of these inquiries, I shall be able to reveal a side of social life and its environments the existence of which is little suspected by a great many people resident in Dundee.

There is a belt or zone of old Dundee lying between Constitution Road on the West and Dens Road in the East, in which there still remains standing some of the worst dens and hovels in the city. The houses are congested, factories and workshops have been erected far too close to the dwellings, and the sanitary accommodation is quite inadequate. Of course where work is to be found the people naturally look out for houses conveniently situated, and tenements are occupied which, if placed in remote localities, would not have an occupant.

Irvine Square.

There are many objectionable localities in the zone I have spoken of, but this week I mean to confine my attention to the district bounded by Bell Street and Baltic Street on the South, Ireland’s Lane and Paradise Lane on the West, Dudhope Street on the North, and Wellgate on the East. Irvine Square is a most unsavoury spot, especially towards Bell Street, where, in one corner a public convenience has been placed. The houses entered from Bell Street are in good order, but those on the East of the Square have only to be seen to convince one that the sooner the space is cleared the better it will be for the general health of the town. On the West there is a large factory. About the middle of the Square, on the East side.

Soapwork Lane

breaks off. The houses up to the boundary of the buildings erected on the improvement sites present a very ruinous appearance, and it is only after one has burrowed into a dark close about 5 feet 6 inches in height that he finds out that human beings still occupy part of the ruin. At the end of the close referred to there starts a series of wooden traps leading to the hovels above. After starting the ascent a subdued light becomes visible descending from a skylight through an iron grating in the landing on the second flat. This glimmer, of course, only serves to make darkness visible, and does not prevent one from falling over children on the stairs. The houses are mostly of one room, and have only a single qualification to recommend them as human habitations—there is more light than is usually found in dwellings of the class. The walls are all broken and black with dirt, and the ceilings show some signs of decay—they bulge ominously, and look as if they would be the better of “tapping” in several places. One cleanly old woman, who occupies a dark “but” and a “lighter” but poorly-furnished “ben,” informed me that she “juist washed down the wa’s because the factor would dae naething in the way o’ mendin’.” She lifted several folds of linoleum near the fender and showed me that there was no hearth-stone. “You should feel the cauld wind that comes out there,” pointing to the hearth, “and yet the factor has promised for years to put in a stone.” I learned that this woman pays 2s a week for this hovel. If she had fairplay I feel confident that her house would do no discredit to a much more pretentious property than the one she now occupies. The reason she stops in the midst of squalor and dirt is that her husband, an elderly man, is employed in the neighbourhood. The other houses on the stair are all dirty, and are inhabited by poor people. Here is a view of one of them. Continue reading “‘The Dens and Hovels of Dundee’; Dudhope Street (9 February, 1889)”

‘The Dens and Hovels of Dundee’: Polepark Road (2 February, 1889)

The following is one of several articles on the poorest areas of Dundee which were published in ‘The Peoples Journal’ from the end of 1888. The area around Polepark Road is the focus of this article.

The purpose of the journalist was to reveal the terrible problems facing those living in the slums (“rookeries”) of Dundee and is spelled out in the introduction to the first article in the series:

It is my purpose to direct attention to both classes of insanitary buildings—the old and the new—and to describe from personal inspection the hovels and “rookeries” of this city. The evil has grown so rampant that the Police Commissioners, on the repeated suggestions of the Medical Officer of Health, have at length begun to move in this matter, and my object is to assist them as far as possible in their investigations. In the course of these inquiries, I shall be able to reveal a side of social life and its environments the existence of which is little suspected by a great many people resident in Dundee.

A Modern Den.

Not quite twenty years ago I used to play cricket in a field at Polepark. It was then one of the few open spaces in Dundee, and though not a public resort the young lads in the neighbourhood enjoyed themselves on it much as they pleased at certain periods of the year. The locality is now, however, completely changed in aspect. Two large ranges of dwelling-houses cover the park. Of some of these dwelling-houses there is nothing to complain. The original owners did their duty so far as providing the necessary sanitary accommodation, washing-houses, &c., for their tenants. Others, however, failed, and completely spoiled at least one of the squares by their

Anxiety to Make Money.

I refer particularly to that square bounded by Polepark Road, Pole Street, Lawrence Street, and truncated triangle, is to be seen one of the modern “dens” of Dundee. The atmosphere which permeated the place twenty years ago has been replaced by one no longer bracing, but quite otherwise. On part of the space which should have been devoted for washing-houses and blaching-green [sic—bleaching?] for tenants in the adjoining houses there has been erected a land consisting of two storeys and attics. This property does not come within 30 yards or so of the lands facing Polepark Road, but it is only 20 feet 5 inches distant from the buildings facing Lawrence Street, and between it and washing-houses attached to the property in Pole Street there is not much more than the breadth of the staircase leading to the upper flats of the built-in property. The houses are of two rooms, and they have been fairly well finished. Several of them are rather dirty-looking from the exterior, but otherwise they seem good houses had they been set down in an open thoroughfare. There is a sad want of sanitary accommodation for the built-in tenement and the same proprietors’ building facing Lawrence Street, which include 18 one-roomed, 22 two-roomed, and 1 three-roomed houses. A few weeks ago there were living in these dwellings 147 persons, yet there is only one privy and ashpit for their use, and perhaps as the result of the building of the property at the back there has not been a single washing-house provided for the convenience of the tenants. It is scarcely to be expected that the housewives could be clean and tidy who live in houses evidently well constructed, but with no outdoor, conveniences worthy the name. The building, which may have been a gain to the original proprietor, is a decided public loss. Continue reading “‘The Dens and Hovels of Dundee’: Polepark Road (2 February, 1889)”

‘The Dens and Hovels of Dundee’: Ash Lane (26 January, 1889)

The following is one of several articles on the poorest areas of Dundee which were published in ‘The Peoples Journal’ from the end of 1888. The area around Ash Lane on Lochee Road (near the Verdant Works) is the focus of this article.

The purpose of the journalist was to reveal the terrible problems facing those living in the slums (“rookeries”) of Dundee and is spelled out in the introduction to the first article in the series:

It is my purpose to direct attention to both classes of insanitary buildings—the old and the new—and to describe from personal inspection the hovels and “rookeries” of this city. The evil has grown so rampant that the Police Commissioners, on the repeated suggestions of the Medical Officer of Health, have at length begun to move in this matter, and my object is to assist them as far as possible in their investigations. In the course of these inquiries, I shall be able to reveal a side of social life and its environments the existence of which is little suspected by a great many people resident in Dundee.

Ash Lane is well named. It is essentially the place of ashes, dirt, and rubbish of every description. The houses, too, seem crumbling to decay, and some of the people look as if they would not be long in returning to “dust and ashes.” Ash Lane and Ash Street are partially lined with hovels which would do credit to the mountain sides of Donegal. Indeed the “brogue” is freely spoken by the denizens, and were there a hillside near, instead of the high walls of a mill and the slanting roofs of the houses, one would imagine he was in that wild region. I was told I would see in Ash Lane some of the most primitive houses in Dundee, but I was disappointed. The proprietor of these has evidently been reading the Advertiser, and has judiciously closed them up before opportunity was afforded of describing them. Judging from an outside view, the “houses” internally must have been of novel construction.

The hovels on the West side of the Lane are not far behind those on the East, the only difference being that an attempt has been made by the builder to give them the outward semblance of houses. The buildings have been made into one-roomed houses, and are tenanted by very poor persons who work in the mills. The attic rooms are the worst. These are small, badly lighted, and have no means of ventilation. Where there are children the stench is overpowering. One of the garrets I visited was half the size it should have been, measuring about 9 feet by 15 feet. The slanting roof left very little room for a full-grown person to stand upright; yet in this den a man and his wife and two daughters live. The house, which is kept by the youngest daughter, a girl of twelve, was comparatively clean; but I must explain there was little furniture in the place on which the child could practise cleanliness. A ricketty stair with a worse than ricketty railing led to two similar houses.

I remarked to the proprietrix that the stair seemed dangerous, especially if any of her tenants tried the ascent when under the influence of liquor.

“An’ sorry a bit I wid care,” she replied, “for then they moight [sic] perhaps have in their stomachs what should hev paid me rint.”

Close to the foot of the stair was a most unsavoury ashpit. I said to the proprietrix that it appeared to me a very dirty hole to be so close to the houses.

“A dirty hole, did ye say? Faith and it cost me £7. It is what I call a bonnie, muckle midden if the ‘scaflies’ wid only keep it clean.” Continue reading “‘The Dens and Hovels of Dundee’: Ash Lane (26 January, 1889)”

‘The Dens and Hovels of Dundee’: Lochee (19 January, 1889)

The following is one of several articles on the poorest areas of Dundee which were published in ‘The Peoples Journal’ from the end of 1888. ‘The Bog’ in Lochee is the focus of this article.

The purpose of the journalist was to reveal the terrible problems facing those living in the slums (“rookeries”) of Dundee and is spelled out in the introduction to the first article in the series:

It is my purpose to direct attention to both classes of insanitary buildings—the old and the new—and to describe from personal inspection the hovels and “rookeries” of this city. The evil has grown so rampant that the Police Commissioners, on the repeated suggestions of the Medical Officer of Health, have at length begun to move in this matter, and my object is to assist them as far as possible in their investigations. In the course of these inquiries, I shall be able to reveal a side of social life and its environments the existence of which is little suspected by a great many people resident in Dundee.

A Visit to Lochee—“The Bog.”

A friend said to me the other day that I should visit Lochee and see for myself some of the dens and hovels in the Third Ward. He remarked that great improvements had taken place in Lochee during the reign of the present representatives, such as the widening and improvement of Loons Road, but still there were several insanitary localities which ought to be shown up. Accordingly I visited Lochee this week, and on inquiry I found that those I consulted were unanimous in directing me to what is known as “The Bog,” which I was told was one of the worst places in Lochee. A bog has been described as wet ground too soft to bear a man. The Bog, Lochee, scarcely answers that description, but certainly if one were to remain any lengthened period in the wilds of that dirty locality it would not long require to bear him. He would have to be borne hence in a very short time either to the Fever Hospital or the cemetery.

The Lower Bog

is a dirty, dreary, desolate-looking place. The buildings in the neighbourhood are mostly of modern construction, and are a striking contrast to the hovels within the square. On the West side is a row of dens, the cubical contents of which average about 1300 feet. The builder seems to have started by erecting a high dyke right along the Bog; but he had afterwards evidently changed his mind, built a lower dyke at each side of the higher one, roofed in the intervening spaces, put on chimneys, made apertures for doors and windows, and then flattered himself that he had two rows of “dwelling-houses.” Such novelties in architecture have, of course, running through below the floors, carried away the sewage from this and surrounding properties, but later, when the smell arising from other drain struck down some of the people with fever and compelled others to quit the houses, the landlord was considerate enough to lay pipes in the drain, and so restored “sweetness,” and the tenants to the houses.

A Saddening Sight.

Of course the houses in the Lower Bog are inhabited by the poorest of the poor. An interior can best be described by what I saw in one of the houses. The walls, which had been at one time coloured in the old-fashioned style with a wash of yellow ochre, were black with dirt and smoke, and the plaster was fractured in several places. There was absolutely no furniture in the hovel, and two large stones from the nearest dyke or quarry, one at each side of the fireplace, were the only “seats” the poor inmates had. There were holes in the floor, in a corner of which was a heap of matted rags which the inmates—a mother and son, the latter about 19 years of age—told me was the only bed in the house. The lad was suffering from neuralgia, and was out of work; and the mother appeared to be anything but well. There was neither coal nor food in the house, but the Rev. Mr Lennie, who is deservedly esteemed as the friend of the poor in Lochee, ordered coals to be brought into the hovel, and with other assistance a small quantity of groceries were obtained, which I hope relieved the wants of the wretched people for a time.

In front of the houses on the East side of the “dyke” I have mentioned—which, by the way, have no pavement in front of the doors; nothing but hillocks o danders—the quagmire is littered with filth, decaying carcases of vermin, broken dishes, and stones—an unsavoury collection. I did not enter the wretched-locking tenements on the North side of the square, but, rounding the corner, I came upon an open ashpit not more than four yards from the nearest dwellings. This ashpit, which is partially enclosed by a decrepit upright paling, was surrounded with stagnant water, and filled with cindera and excreta. Had it been June instead of January the stench must have been overpowering and enough to spread a pestilence. Yet the children were playing about in the near vicinity of this malodorous heap as happy as crickets. I happened to remark to my companion that it was painful to observe the utter disobedience to the laws of health as was displayed by both landlord and tenant.

“Oh,” remarked a lamplighter, who was close by, “the place would be all right if it were kept clean.”

Kept clean! It would require at least three scavengers in constant attendance to keep the Lower Bog clean, and they would fail at times. Continue reading “‘The Dens and Hovels of Dundee’: Lochee (19 January, 1889)”