During the 19th century Dundee grew from its trading port origins to become a major player in the shipbuilding, whaling, textile and railway engineering industries. Dundonian firms owned and operated most of the jute mills in India (jute is a natural fibre used in making ropes and sacking), and the city’s textile industry employed as many as 43, 000 people – little wonder Dundee earned the nickname ‘Juteopolis’.
Dundee is often called the city of the ‘Three Js’ – jute, jam and journalism. According to legend, it was a Dundee woman Janet Keillor who invented marmalade in the late 18th century; her son founded the city’s famous Keillor jam factory. Jute is no longer produced, and when the Keillor factory was taken over in 1988 production was transferred to England. Journalism still thrives, however, led by the family firm of DC Thomson. Best known for children’s comics, such as The Beano, Thomson is now the city’s largest employer.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Dundee was one of the richest cities in the country – there were more millionaires per head of population here than anywhere else in Britain – but the textile and engineering industries declined in the second half of the 20th century, leading to high unemployment and urban decay.
In the 1960s and ’70s Dundee’s cityscape was scarred by ugly blocks of flats, office buildings and shopping centres linked by unsightly concrete walkways – the view as you approach across the Tay Road Bridge does not look promising – and most visitors passed it by. Since the mid-1990s, however, Dundee has reinvented itself as a tourist destination, and a centre for banking, insurance and new industries, and its waterfront is currently undergoing a major redevelopment. It also has more university students – one in seven of the population – than any other town in Europe, except Heidelberg.