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The History of Old Dundee

The energy and the success with which Dundee has in recent times followed industrial and trading pursuits, have placed it iii a good position among commercial communities, while the intelligent spirit which has usually marked its progress, and the liberal use to which much of its wealth has been put, have entitled it to some distinction. But the town possesses other and older claims to regard, for it has borne a characteristic and not unimportant part in events of great national concern, in especial at the time when genial civil order began to replace rude and arbitrary power, and when the individual obtained the right to reasonable liberty of action and broad freedom of conscience. In the contests which led to these results, and during the perils through which the issues were established, the municipal annals show that the burgesses held a notable and an honourable place; and although the intellectual growth and forwardness of modern times have encouraged us to undervalue the labours of the past, and to assume that this is alone the age of progress, yet we must own that these men in their (lay did good and faithful service in helping onward the great work. Besides matters of general import, the records present to us much that may help to illustrate the system of paternal rule within the burgh, and the process by which domestic institutions became established, and afford us an instructive glimpse into the manner of the inner life of the people and their social habits, which, although only the common circumstances of a ruder and simpler time, cannot fail to have a present and constant human interest.
Dundee has a very pleasant situation upon a declivity fronting the broad estuary of the Tay, at the southern margin of Forfarshire. In the sixteenth century its population did not probably exceed eleven thousand, and the houses only covered the slopes behind and around the harbour, and did not extend farther north than the little inner valley in front of the acclivity of the Law, where a burn flowed eastward by verdant and well-wooded haughs. The town then consisted mainly of four principal streets, built in irregular lines, and converging into the central oblong square called the Market Gait; besides a number of lanes joining these streets and others leading clown to the harbour. The houses were built of stone, those to the main streets having usually wooden fronts which stood forward from the walls, and formed on the ground floor open piazzas, used sometimes only for entrance porches, but ordinarily either as booths for traders or workshops for craftsmen. Although the buildings were mostly of a mean character, many of those belonging to well-to-do burgesses were massive and substantial, and had the diversified outlines, the turret stairs, the high-pitched roofs, and the crow-stepped gables which at an early period characterised domestic architecture in Scotland ; while internally they were decorated with panelled walls, arched doorways, and sculptured chimney-pieces, and possessed many comforts and conveniences. Several such residences have recently been cast down which must have stood for at least three centuries.

The ecclesiastical edifices within the burgh previous to the time of the Reformation were both numerous and important. The Monastery of the Gray Friars, or Friars Minors, stood upon the ground which is now the Howff; and that of the Black Friars was near it on the west side of the Friar Wynd. The house of the Trinity Friars occupied the Monk's Holm, at the river side, westward from Yeaman Shore; and the Convent of Gray Sisters stood upon ground between Bank Street and the Overgate. Of the lesser churches, St. Paul's was at the south side of the west end of the broad of the Murraygate, and St. Clement's was behind where the Townhouse is now; besides which a considerable number of small chapels stood in different localities throughout the town. The principal church was a magnificent building dedicated to St. Mary. According to a fairly verified tradition, an earlier edifice which occupied its place, was erected by David, Earl of Huntingdon, at the end of the twelfth century; but this had been of much less size and grandeur than the one roared two centuries later, of which there now remains only the stately western tower.

The district around Dundee is of a most pleasing and diversified character, and possesses features of much natural beauty and associations of some historical interest. From the summit of the insulated conical hill called the Law, the base of which forms the background of the town, the surrounding localities are presented as a series of varied pictures. Eastward, whore the sea beats upon the sandimills and the links of Barrio, the eye is carried north by a succession of ridges—one of them bearing the sculptured Cross of Camus, and another—the Laws —having around it a wonderful pro-historic stronghold, and is led along to where the stately house of 1anmure lies in broad and well-wooded domesnes, and rests on the interesting tower of Auchenleek, standing engirt with great trees, a high and weatherworn landmark. Then there is the whole stretch of the sylvan valley through which the Dighty flows amidst diverse fair scenes. Near the mouth of the stream lies the house of Grange, where Montrose is said to have well nigh got out of his captors' hands and escaped the gallows tree. Farther up is Linlathen, the home of Thomas Erskine, where, under the shadow of patriarchal trees, that goodly man loved to noditate upon high thoughts, and where his rugged friend, Thomas Carlyle, had some refreshing and peaceful days which he never forgot; Pitkerro, an old house in a pleasant place, "extraordinarily well planted;" Duntrune, the ancestral home of that witty and genial gentlewoman, Clementina Stirling Graham; Ballumby, the stronghold of the lawless Lovells, whose high-handed doings were a terror to the whole strath; Claverhouse, the castle now all wasted away, where flourished a brave race of the gallant Grahams, one of them—Lord Dundee—the evil genius of the Covenant, and the hero of Jacobite song; Mains Castle, its tower yet standing among some coeval trees, by the side of a little den where a burn wimples through nooks that are fragrant in the time of flowers. And then, where the Dighty runs clear under green banks which swell into the fertile uplands of Balmuir and Baldovan, lie the old burgh mills, and the lonely kirkyard of Strathmartin, and the well where the nine maidens were slain by the griosly dragon—a story attested to common belief by the name which the spring yet bears, and by the stone, sculptured with rude figures of wild beasts and armed men, which stands where the monster was vanquished. Farther west, in a corner among the hills, the head waters of the stream flow out of Pitlyal Loch, where Richard Franck had his fishing bewitched, and out of Lundie Loch, near to which stood the castle of William Duncan, a worthy burgess of Dundee, who founded the noble family from whom sprang the hero of Camperdown. Bounding the other side of the valley are the Sidlaw Hills, which stand in stalwart line with heath-clad Craig Owl at their head, and give salubrious shelter to some primitive villages at their feet, and screen the north from view, excepting at the Waaslech Glen and other glacks, where there are glimpses of the distant Grampian Hills beyond Strathmore.

Westward, upon a knoll by the river side, is Invergowrie Church, its hoary arches draped with ivy. Above it are the great woods where lies the house of the Lords of Gray—men who were notable in the eventful Reformation times; and up on the higher ground is Fowlis Castle, and the quaint old church with the oaken altar screen upon which the scene of the crucifixion is curiously painted; and near by, the den, half hidden in foliage, where a burn brawls under steep banks which in springtime are redolent with the rath primrose and the wild violet. Farther west, the Braes of Gowrie swell outward ridge over ridge to IDunsinnan, where Macbeth's bones are fabled to lie; beyond which other hills—giants, Schiehallion and some of its compeers, peep up through the distant haze.

The inner roach of the Tay is set amid fair surroundings, which, by their sinuous and varied outlines, give it the characteristics of an inland lake, within a background of wooded slopes, of rocky scaurs, of fruitful valleys, and of green hills. On the north, the eye is led along by the rich corn lands of the Carse, dotted with goodly houses—here Castle Huntly standing on a rocky knoll, and there Rossie Priory embosomed in noble woods—and it rests upon the amphitheatre of braes beyond, where Kinnaird Castle and other ruined keeps frown on the peaceful scene with reminiscences of their own rude uses; and where, nestling in remote nooks, some primitive hamlets may yet be found, in which lusty youth grows into cheerful age with a full and simple enjoyment of life,

"And blameless pleasures dimple quiet's cheek,
As water lilies ripple a slow stream."

On the other side of the river, the bold outlines of the northern coast of Fife present a succession of diversified scenes. In the distance, Macdulls Cross and Abernethy Tower stand as sentinels in the valley, which is dominated by the shapely front of Clatchart Craig. Nearer lies T4indores Abbey, its arches broken and its walls crumbling away, but the wasted stones, and the trailing ivy, and the springy turf of the lonely place, are yet instinct with associations of ancient sanctity; then Ballanbreich Castle ruins, standing by the water in a corner of the old Earnside woods; and Normans Law, fronting forward in bold and heavy outlines, with the twin peaks of the green Lomonds shimmering far off in the sunshine; and sweet Birkhill, set amid hanging woods, which border the rugged coast with a. noble fringe; and the silent cloisters of Balmcrino Abbey, standing near to the great chesnut trees that shaded the fishpond in the monks' old garden; and the green braes of Naughten, rising up from the water's edge, the little dells in a tangle of wild rose and bramble and hawthorn bush; and the rounded Gauldry Hill overhead, in winter so bare, but now all aglow with the golden tassels of the broom. In its side is Gowle's Den, where the witches used to hold their revels, and where Thomas Chalmers went to gather flowers—a, deep cleft in the rock, with the trees lacing overhead, and a clear brooklet dancing through and down to meet the Mottray burn at dear Kilmany. Then St. Ford's Hill, rising up by graceful rounds, the ridges fringed with foliage which screens the fair and peaceful valley beyond, where summer lingers long; and the great gray cliffs; "and the haven under the hill;" and Newport, sunny and bright, with the sylvan den of Tayfield in its midst; and the rocky scaurs of Scots Craig, having devious glades around their feet, and their summits crowned with woods; and then over the braes, from beyond where the sunshine sparkles on the now smooth waters of the bay, St. Andrews, presenting its venerable towers and broken walls—silent but eloquent annalists of old memories.

The situation which Dundee occupies upon the sheltered northern slopes of the river bank, possesses much amenity and considerable beauty, and gives a free access to the great highways of commerce which has promoted and developed the important industries of the busy town. The estuary of the Tay is a broad and noble expanse of water. From the outer bar, where "these yellow sands" on a calm day break into tiny ripples the swell of the open sea, it enters its lower reach between the headlands of Ferryport on the south and Broughty Castle on the north, and sweeps past the harbour in a placid sheet which reflects back the shingly beach, and the rocky ledges, and the wooded banks along its course; and when the slowly moving clouds have cast upon the scene a life of sunshine and of shadow, it forms a beautiful picture whereon the eye rests with much pleasure. The river in its course from the head springs down to where "the stately ships go on," seems to present a parallel to the history of the old town with whose enterprise it has become associated. Rising out of remote sources amid stoney wastes and barren moors, and flowing by hillside burns, brawling over rocks, and sluggish streams, oozing through morasses, the waters mingle in the broad bosom of the lake, where they are purified, and which they replenish, then roll forward through fertile straths and fruitful carses in a career of usefulness and beauty—and so, broadening and deepening, reach the great ocean.

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