St Mary Magdalene's, Dundee


Visitors to our website from other parts of the UK or from abroad may be interested to get a sense of place, of the city of which our Church is part. Dundee is situated on the northern bank of the River Tay, where it widens into a large estuary before flowing into the North Sea. The city surrounds an extinct volcano, Dundee Law, and enjoys one of the most spectacular settings of any British city. It has a population of about 140,000.


Dundee has had a long and, at times, turbulent history. It grew in prosperity and importance from the 12th century onwards, but suffered large-scale destruction at the hands of English forces in both the 16th and 17th centuries (respectively when Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell ruled England). Dundee expanded greatly during the 19th century, and the city became heavily industrialised, especially for jute processing. The jute industry, together with other industrial activity, declined as the 20th century progressed.

Dundee's economic activity is now much likely to be knowledge-based. Its two universities, Dundee and Abertay, are associated with business activity focused on medical science and digital media respectively. A large proportion of Dundee's population (about one in seven) are students.

Wishart Arch There are many personalities of general interest in Dundee's history (for example Winston Churchill, who was one of the city's MPs between 1908 and 1922). However, the two we highlight here — George Wishart and Mary Slessor — are perhaps particularly appropriate for a church website. The photograph on the right is of the Wishart Arch, believed to be the only remaining part of the 16th century city walls. It is named after the Protestant reformer George Wishart, who is reputed to have preached near there in 1544.

Mary Slessor Mary Slessor was remarkable in several respects. One of the distinctive aspects of Dundee is that — long before the advent of feminism — women enjoyed considerable economic and social independence. This was a consequence of the high demand for their skills as spinners and weavers in the city's jute mills: indeed women were frequently the main breadwinners of their families. It was against such a backcloth that, at the age of 27, one of Dundee's mill girls — Mary Slessor — found the courage to establish herself as a missionary in Calabar, Nigeria in 1876. She is remembered both for her formidable determination and for her great kindness. The image of Mary Slessor (left) is taken from a recent Scottish banknote issued by the Clydesdale Bank.