‘Old Stories Retold: The Cradle of Logie’ (26 November, 1887)

The following was part of a series of historical tales about Dundee which appeared in ‘The People’s Journal’. ‘The Cradle of Logie’ is a sombre piece of Dundee folklore surrounding the dreadful mistreatment of an Indian princess by Fletcher Reid of Logie House, and the brutal revenge carried out by her father. This episode (although many of the details are highly doubtful) demonstrates the significant connection between the east coast of Scotland and India. Many landowners (or rather the sons of landowners) from the region made their fortunes in the East India Company. When they returned flush with the rewards of their plunder of the subcontinent, these nouveau riche were dismissively called ‘nabobs’.

In the earlier years of this century Logie House, near Lochee was the residence of Fletcher Reid, a man who had risen to some distinction in the service of the Indian Government. At that time there stretched in front of the house a large field, and in the middle of the field stood a lofty pole with a gilded ball and spire on the top. Long ago the plough and harrow gave place to stone and brick and lime, and many people, dwellers in the locality and others, will be interested to learn that the street built on this field is called Polepark after the flagstaff. Our illustrations are taken from Crawford’s plan of Dundee published in 1777.

Some ninety years ago the people residing in the neighbourhood of Logie House were surprised one morning at finding a number of workmen commencing to lay the foundation of a cottage within the grounds. What, they asked, could Fletcher Reid of Logie want with a house like that? and why should he erect it within his entrance gates? Great were the curiosity and mystification even among the servants themselves, and thus it is that we find James, the gardener closeted with Mrs Saunders, the housekeeper, on the evening of the day above alluded to. Mrs Saunders, for reasons known to herself, and also to James, has provided that worthy with a hearty meal and something to drink, and the two now settle down for a gossip.

“’Deed, Mistress Saunders,” began Jeems, in his slow, deliberate way; “ think the maister maun be clean daft. That Indian cleemat’s been ower muckle for’m. They tell me noo—”

“Daft,” broke in the housekeeper. “’Od, there wid be some excuse for’m if he wis. Dae ye think sae?”

“I believe it’s that strayaigin’, ne’er-dae-weol Laird of Brechin that pits a’ the mischief intill his heed,” said Jeems. “Did ye hear aboot the twa idyits ridin’ at nicht to the kirkyaird on a hearse an’ blawin’ trumets. It’s eneugh to bring a judgment on the toon.”

“Guidsake, Jeems, dinna speak that way,” said Mrs Saunders, glancing round uneasily. “What wi’ the maister’s cantrips, and that young Indian heathen woman, his wife’s manoeuvres, I’m turnin’ clean nervous. “What dae ye think be married a cratur’ like that for?”

“Faix, Mrs Saunders, he married her for rizzens that shouldna animate the breest o’ ony man when he—ahem—when he gangs about sic business,” rejoined James, with a meaning glance at the buxom housekeeper, who would have blushed if she had been twenty years younger. “Ye ken hoo mony rupees and gowd and jewels he got wi’ her frae her faither, wha’ is the Rajaw o’ some ootlandish place oot there, and a verra big man amang thae heathen blackguards. They say the maister himsel’ was a big man there to; but, losh, Mrs Saunders, that’s no sayin’ muckle, for it stands to rizzen that amang thae puir black heathen cratur’s any man with a heid on his shoothers an’ a pair o’ breeks on—”

Here an imperative ring at the bell, calling for Mrs Saunders, cut the conversation short, and James had to leave, much against his will. James and the housekeeper “understood” one another.

By-and-by the cottage was finished. It was a little ugly stone building with a door and no window. At each corner projected an ornamental pinnacle, resembling the knobs of a cradle and the cottage was dubbed the “Cradle of Logie.” Surely the rich Anglo-Indian must be mad? Yes, he was mad—not mentally, else he might have been forgiven, but morally—mad with evil passions, mad with lust, mad with drink, mad with every conceivable kind of wickedness known to our depraved human nature. In this particular instance his diabolical purpose was soon unveiled. His gentle wife, the daughter of an Indian prince, whom he had married out in India, had grown distasteful to him. So this monster in human shape built this little, close, undrained, unlighted place as a prison for her, and here he shut her up and deprived her of proper food and every necessary, and even decency of life. Starved, beaten, shut up, without ever getting a breath of air or seeing a ray of sunlight, the poor creature soon pined away and died. Continue reading “‘Old Stories Retold: The Cradle of Logie’ (26 November, 1887)”

‘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)”