Jute, Jam and Journalism

Jute, Jam, Journalism and Beyond

Period: 15-21 February 2021

This week we are going to find out about the Heritage of Dundee.

We are lucky to be part of this wonderful city full of exciting industrial history and invention.

Did you know the inventor of the adhesive postage stamp was born in Dundee and the first ever radio broadcast was sent from Dundee!

This inventiveness and creativity continues today with biomedical and biotechnology research - Ninewells Hospital is the largest teaching hospital in Europe! Then there is the amazing video game development such as Grand Theft Auto which you will be sure to have heard of thanks to the University of Abertay. Not to mention our journalism history with DC Thomson’s newspapers and comics!

Jute, Jam and Journalism!




Jute production was a significant industry in Dundee and helped build Dundee into an industrial powerhouse. Textile production employed many thousands of people in the town and merchants travelling to India came across a different crop that was cheap but difficult to work with. The factories in Dundee made it work, and at one point every piece of jute cloth used anywhere in the world was produced in Dundee.

Jute was very strong and used to make ropes for ships. It was also used to make cloth for all sorts of things: sacks, boot linings, ship ropes, to name but a few.

One thing that made it possible for Dundee to become the capital of jute production was using steam engines to power their machines. Being built on the edge of the river - in fact the estuary - as we heard earlier, so there was access to enough water to power many steam engines at once!

If you watch a kettle boil, you’ll notice steam comes out the top when the water boils. Some kettles even whistle when the steam becomes energetic enough to push out the top. This is very similar to how a steam engine works. In a boiler, the water is heated until it turns into steam. The steam then travels up and out of a pipe which pushes a piston and makes it move.

In 1769, James Watt improved existing steam engines to make them more efficient. Dundee’s very own Verdant Works hosts an 1802 model Boulton and Watt steam engine, which you can see work below.

Have a go at making your own Hero’s Steam Engine with out worksheet!

If you’re ambitious, try building a full Watt steam engine with the directions at this web site: steamsciproj.blogspot.com

Watt Steam Engine Video
Boulton and Watt Rotative Bea Engine (Facebook Video)
Boulton and Watt Rotative Bea Engine (Facebook Video)
Boulton and Watt Rotative Bea Engine (Facebook Video)
Boulton and Watt Rotative Bea Engine (Facebook Video)
Build a Soda Can Hero's Steam Engine
Build a Soda Can Hero's Steam Engine (PDF)


And now for the tasty part - Jam!

How did Dundee become known for making jam - or marmalade to be historically correct.

Way back during the 18th century, a chap called James Keillor bought a stranded Spanish ships cargo when it had to shelter in the harbour due to bad weather.

Part of the cargo was a load of Seville oranges which were slightly past their best. His mother Janet took the bargain oranges and boiled them up with some sugar and made orange marmalade. Janet did not invent marmalade as it had been made in Spain and Portugal but known by another name. The difference Janet made was to cut up the peel and add it back into the recipe - not the fibre inside just the peel - cut up finely! She also made it slightly runnier and it was then used to spread on toast and sandwiches.

James Keiller and son sold their marmalade in their grocers shop in Dundee. Eventually, they built a small factory on the high street to manufacture the marmalade in larger quantities. Do you think this is how one of the shopping centres in the town centre got its name?

We love these ceramic marmalade jars (see images on Wikipedia.org).

We decided to have a go at making DSC marmalade - why don’t you give it a try. Ours was a little runnier than it should have been but was quite simple to make.

Boiling sugar gets very very hot so you will need to do this with a grown-up but it was good fun and you only need oranges - some from the reduced counter would do, sugar and water.

You are meant to use a muslin to wrap the orange flesh and drop in the boiling mixture but we didn’t have one so used a small dishtowel instead. Have a look at the worksheet and have a go!

Can you design a label for our marmalade jars?

James Keillor was also thought to be responsible for the Dundee Cake - have you ever seen one in the shops. It looks like a fruit cake with almonds on the top!

This is a more modern version but the same idea!

One of Janet Keillers great great great grandsons was a noted Archaeologist Alexander Keiller and one of her great great great great grandsons is Monty Don who is a television presenter and well-known gardener!

A very famous Dundee family!

If you would like to learn about what makes jam set why not have a look at the information below (from Compound Interest).

What Makes Jam Set? – The Chemistry of Jam-Making
What Makes Jam Set? – The Chemistry of Jam-Making
Let's Make DSC Marmalade
Let's Make DSC Marmalade (PDF)
Ceramic Jars
Ceramic Jars
Dundee Cake
Dundee Cake
Alexander Keiller (Archaeologist)
Alexander Keiller (Archaeologist)
Monty Don
Monty Don (Television Presenter)

Medical Technology

Dundee has a renowned reputation for research and development in medical innovation. With Ninewells Hospital being the largest teaching hospital in Europe it is easy to see how this has happened. How many scientists and laboratory technicians do you think are working at the university in partnership with the hospital, developing equipment and discovering new treatments?

Since the 19th century, doctors, nurses, surgeons, and many other people have been working to make Dundee – and the world – healthier! Just a few historical names are:

  • Mary Lily Walker (1888) – Though she had a promising science career ahead of her, she decided to quit and become a social worker. She formed the Dundee Social Union which cared for postnatal mothers and infants/children. She was passionate about increase the quality of health in young children.
  • Rebecca Strong (late 19th century) – She was a nurse who began in Dundee. She moved to Glasgow and began a more modern system for educating nurses in Scotland.
  • Allardyce Healthcare (1901) – This company began in Dundee in the early 20th century designing surgical and orthopaedic equipment. They still operate today and supply equipment all over Scotland and northern England.
  • Margaret Fairlie (1940) – She was a gynaecologist in a time when female doctors were rare. She developed smear tests to check for cancer, and she was the first female professor in Scotland.
  • Sir James Mackenzie (1951) – He invented the polygraph to diagnose heart conditions. In 1951, he led the Dundee surgical unit to become a leader of cardiovascular (heart) surgery.
  • James Walker (1952-1966)– He established the first comprehensive birth records in Tayside which are still used for research about adult diseases today.
  • James Riley (1952) – His research led to a better understanding of allergies and allergic reactions.
  • Ross Mitchell (1961) – He was the first neonatal physician in the UK, taking care of babies born with illnesses and other problems.
  • Sir Alfred Cuschieri (the 1980s) – He pioneered keyhole surgery in the UK and still works at Ninewells teaching surgeons how to perform minimally invasive surgery (surgery that doesn’t leave a lot of damage behind).
  • Dr. Anil Mehta (2003)– He established a European cystic fibrosis registry.

As you can see, many really great new medical developments have happened in Dundee, and there are so many research projects going on today! Will you be the next great surgeon at Ninewells? Try your hand at the activity below to start practising!

Tayside Medical History Museum
Tayside Medical History Museum
Watch a demonstration of keyhole surgery here from our show “Medical Myths and Mysteries”!
Sir Alfred Cuschieri celebrating the opening of our Medical Marvels exhibit in 2018
Sir Alfred Cuschieri celebrating the opening of our Medical Marvels exhibit in 2018
Keyhole Surgery Skills
Keyhole Surgery Skills (PDF)


Until about 40 years ago, shipbuilding was a major industry in Dundee. Particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries, some of the best ships in the world were built in Dundee due to its access to the North Sea and its sheltered docks on the River Tay.

In 1824, the HMS Unicorn was launched. To this date, it is the oldest most original ship still in existence! She (ships are referred to as ‘she’) was built just after the Napoleonic Wars, and so she sat safely for many years, used as a training ship for Naval Reserves in Dundee from 1873 until 1968. Now, she is protected by the Unicorn Preservation Society and has a place in her home in Dundee for the foreseeable future.

In 1901, the RRS Discovery was launched as a scientific research vessel. Dundee was chosen to build the Discovery because the shipbuilders here had a reputation for building ships that could handle Arctic and Antarctic voyages. The Discovery made many scientific voyages in its 30 years as a research vessel, going to the Antarctic twice in its lifespan.

Interestingly, the Discovery was quite a slow, heavy ship, and the captain had his doubts about it. But it turns out, it was perfectly equipped to deal with the South Sea as it was heavy and had smaller sails, so it dealt with high winds well.

Today, the City Quay and The Port areas have been converted into housing and commercial (shops and restaurants) areas, but The Port still provides a place for ships and boats to dock. Currently, there are plans to build a full marina to allow even more boats to dock in a protected harbour.

Dundee Maritime Trail – Read more about shipbuilding in Dundee and complete a scavenger hunt around the city to learn about ships’ flags!
HMS Unicorn
Read more about the HMS Unicorn’s History
RRS Discovery
Read More About the RRS Discovery’s History

Don't Forget The Birds

Remember it is still Winter so don't forget to keep looking after the little birds in the garden and parks. It is very, very cold and not much growing for them to eat. Also little birds get used to being fed by us so it is important to keep filling the feeders if you can or put out kitchen scraps such as bits of apples and chopped up toast crusts.

Nesting time is almost upon us, and we were thinking about how to help make sure the birds can make cosy nests for their eggs and little chicks when they hatch.

The dog groomers, like the hairdressers, are closed at the moment, and one of our dogs Poppy was in need of a trim. So out with the scissors and Poppy is feeling much better - although her ears are a little uneven - but we have a pile of dog hair clippings left

Do you think the hair will make a lovely cosy lining for the nests?

We gathered them into piles and clipped them into clothes pegs and then hung them on the washing line ready for the birds to help themselves when they start nesting!.. You could do the same thing if you are having your hair trimmed at home or you could check your hairbrush for loose hair.

Poppy Dog
Poppy Dog

Also see our other Home Learning Topics information and our Learning Resources.

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