Ken : – In 1942 Annie’s grandson is in the North African desert. Near a place called El Alamein. He’s never been abroad before… (Exit put on Churchill hat.)
Em : – … unless you count a summer holiday to the seaside…at Broughty Ferry! Now in the North African Desert Boab’s future career plans don’t involve jute. ( Three WW2 soldiers kick ball.)
Boab : – What a goal! When the war’s ower I’m gonna be a professional – I’m no goin back to work in a mull an deh afore meh time like meh granny.
Tam : – Deh afore yir time? Yir in a war!
Boab : – Hope an faith! Besides jute’s on the wey oot.
(Kick the ball again. Enter Officer.)
Officer : – (Bellowing) Get that ball away and get fell in. On parade now!
Boab : What’s this aboot, Sir?
Officer : Yours not to reason why soldier!
( Churchill enters.)
Officer : – The men are ready for your inspection now Prime Minister (Churchill stops to speak to Dan )
Churchill : – Where are you from soldier?
Dan : – Dundee! (Churchill shudders and turns to Tam)
Churchill : – Where are you from soldier?
Tam: – Dundee!
(Dan walks round Tam so he is next in line.)
Churchill : – Where are you from soldier?
Dan : – (Cheeky.) Dundee.
(Tam walks round Dan.)
Churchill : – (Horrified) Where are you from soldier?
Tam – Dundee…..
Churchill : – (To Boab.) Where are you from soldier?
Boab : – Dundee. Got flung oot o’ the mulls– but you got flung oot o’ the toon!
(Exit horrified Churchill.)
Officer : – It’s the guardroom for you soldier! OOT. (Exit. Dragging.)
Em : – Bob, from a heckling tradition was sentenced to fourteen days in a military jail for insulting the Great War Lord and the leader of the Nation. Bob never became a professional footballer but…he had a story to tell his grandchildren. (End of scene. Song. ‘If Dundee Was Africa’)
Shey’s guidebook and bag
The Indian servants get ready to deal with the jute wallah. Today Shey’s the only one here handing all the props to herself.
Our stage and property manager takes a permanent break from acting by joining the management instead.
The back o’ Shey’s book
The official tour guide takes charge
Our sound guy from last year smiles with relief that this year he’s got a gig elsewhere
As we set up for the Indian rammy, it looks friendly
Get up the road ye young ****** ……
An American visitor is selfie daft where the official guide, Ken the Irish famine contingent and the Dundee jute workers are concerned.
Shey struts it as a singing suffragette, belting out Vote, Vote, Vote for Neddy Scrymgeour. Broad Dundee words BUT with a post accent….
one of the new crop of placards after a few of last year’s bloopers….
Mary Brooksbank and Susan Devine, the mysterious woman in the green felt hat. From ‘O Halflins and Hecklers an Weavers an Weemin,’ by John Quinn.
Susan Devine : – Mary Brooksbank! What are you daein here – you’re still a lassie!.
Mary : – Eh’m here tae learn fae you Susan Devine how tae fight back against the brutality o’ Capitalism and the Jute Barons!
Susan : – Well said. We’ve got a good crowd today.( Policeman appears. Susan gives him the finger. )
Policeman : – What’s going on here?
Susan : – (Ignoring him) Cox Brothers have decided to cut the number in a squad fae ten tae eight and lay off thousands. For the people that remain that means mair work for less money!
(Chants from everyone onstage. ‘Everybody Out! Everybody Out! Everybody Out!)
Susan : – Right you are – and we’re staying out until everybody’s re-instated. (Starts chant. All join in ) ‘March doon the Lochee Road girls. March doon the Lochee Road!’
Policeman : – You can’t do that without permission – you need a licence!
Mary Brooksbank : – Is that so? Well there’s a lot o’ women here and no many men…..
Policeman : – I’ll need reinforcements!(Blows whistle. Exit.)
Susan : – Roond tae Cox’s hoose at Clement Park. An we’ll tour the ither mills fur support. (All chanting and marching round) ‘We’re gonna win an we’ll pit their windees in. We’re gonna win an we’ll pit their windees in.. .fur we are the weemin o’Lochee! (Takes off green felt hat and throws to Em. Marches off brandishing shuttle.)
Mary Brooksbank : – And they didnae go back until the fowk that had been laid aff were re-instated. There were major disputes elsewhere such as the Carters’ Strike. The spirit of revolution was in the air. But of course the Jute Empire struck back. Black Watch soldiers were brought into the City of their heartlands to keep order. Early in 1912 Cox Brothers sanctioned the purchase of revolvers for their foremen. And Susan Devine? She melts back into history. Me? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
Em : – Susan Devine didnae quite melt back into history. (Brandish hat.) This is still remembered round here sometimes. (Get Suffragette hat and shawl.)
Ken : – As for Mary Brooksbank she was quite a woman – mill girl poet orator revolutionary family woman and voice of the poor. She was blacklisted and jailed for standing up to be counted. What can never be jailed though is her legacy
. was the story of jute in Dundee. How it got there, how Dundee came to be known as Juteopolis and how the mills are all gone now, how the Irish came during the famine in their droves, quadrupling the population in no time at all in a city which was unprepared for the onslaught, how they joined Highlanders being cleared off their land, courtesy of the Duke of Sutherland.
But it was also the story of weaving in the city and how the city and its people, who are not an easily impressed people, have always kept their story moving forward.The title says it all.Halflins were children who did half a day at school and half a day in the mills. Hecklers? Well, Dundee gave the world the word.
Weavers speaks for itself. As for the Weemin? To quote poet Dundee poet Ellie Macdonald… and I did get to quote these lines in the play and boy did it give me a thrill to deliver them.
‘For any woman brought up in the Dundee tradition there should be no straining for equality no, need for a new consciousness of the power of women. We have inherited a freedom which seems unnecessary to verbalize. We are just waiting for the world to catch up.’
Why did the women have this freedom? Because they were the family breadwinners.
Shey…Well…..talking that… because there’s a story that William Wallace went to school in Dundee and got in a ‘rammy’ –a row–with the English governor’s son, Selby, killed him,
thus becoming an outlaw but not before being hidden by a weaving woman just outside Dundee who sort of suggested he disguise himself…..
Shey. Indeed. Dundee has quietly furnished the world with one or two weel ‘kent’ folks, or folks who were inspired by their stay in the city.
Mary Shelley said Dundee was where she got her idea for the famous ‘unbeast.’ Ian Fleming’s grandfather worked in the jute mills here. We also had a scene involving from mill girl, to missionary to magistrate Mary Slessor.
She was also known as the Mother of All the People. So we had a wee song about her too , one of two we wrote especially for the show, here sung by the most fabulous choirs, Loadsaweeminsingin and The Lochee Linties. In the middle of the first proper utterly chaotic run through, what they had done from scribbled music with Mr Shey’s words had my jaw on the deck.
We had the world’s best known writer of bad verse,
William McGonagall … with two of his drunken hecklers….
and an enactment of the only known instance of the famous Scottish play where the lead character refused to die.We had a wee onstage riotcourtesy ofDundee woman Mary Brooksbank who wrote the Jute Mill Song, a visit from Mary Queen of Scot’s ghost, . And did I mention Winston Churchill, famously served a maggot in his kipper here
and flung out the town which, despite being the drunkest city in the British empire elected a prohibitionist instead.
We also had a scene featuring Joseph Lee, Dundee’s fighter writer and forgotten WW 1 poet. Michael Marra’s daughter Alice, also a professional musician, sung her dad’s amazing Happed in Mist as a solo at this point. It was stunning. Here’s his version.
and then Mr and I recited one of the poems before the scene started. Alice was so stunning I could hardly speak. For once.
‘I dreamed that a man went home last night, from the trench where the tired men lie.
And walked through the streets of his own, old town. And I dreamed that man was I.’
Shey…I played tour guide Em Fae Dundee,opposite Mr who played Ken O ‘ Dundee,the sort of keeping everything together hardly off the bloody stage, parts, William Wallace, A singing Suffragette, and on the Sat night cos we were two members of cast short, Mary Brooksbank, mill worker Jeanie
and an American tourist. Oh and on opening night I do believe I also played an unscripted football fan…don’t ask……….A certain blond wig was on the wrong props’ island at that stage…
Shey. Pretty difficult because none of the stellar cast ever intended to be on this play and so far as I was concerned my directing days were done. Five weeks before the play was due on the theatre company who had been involved pulled out. Meantime the fabulous choir run by Alice Marra, had learned all the songs, several of which were written by her late father, Dundee musician Mike Marra. Tickets had been sold. It took two weeks to put together this cast under the name of a theatre co Mr and I once ran.
Oh and of this cast, if we now add in the sound technician, there were four originals. Lol, here’s an oldie. Anyway of our ‘new hastily constructed’ cast, only five had ever done any serious theatre work. And two who had, could not do the Saturday night. I had to think about the overall look of the play–hence the tee shirts and the cast never leaving the playing space, I had to think about the difficulties of that nonetheless wonderful playing space the High Mill at Verdant works, a former mill now a museum, about working each scene in a way that would let folks who had never been on a stage, shine–for example rather than cluttering the Highland clearance scene with a cast of thousands, why not just have the whole thing read, even the ‘Be off with you’ bit from the proclamation, as if it was part of it. I also divvied up the parts in a way that might allow them to rehearse together where they were related to one another. We had the mill during the day but that was no use to some of the cast. There was no time for blocking rehearsals going on for weeks, or technical or props ones either. This play went out there on opening night having been run start to finish twice. There were bits that had been talked through, in terms of business and props at a meeting and then only had one rehearsal. I have to say the cast were wonderful. LOL and I am not saying that cos more than my Mr were family.
And it’s not easy being right up against an audience, although, the audiences were wonderful, it’s not easy never going off stage either, although okay…we did have a slogan, ‘Every night a different show.’ That was in terms of the ad libbing Mr and me did after he did little things, like start the wrong scene, not know what scene we were meant to start.
Shey…No doubt, all down to the fact that on opening night, I spoke the word you never EVER say onstage or off…….
When, in a noble moment as Mr wandered up and down waiting to hear the immortal words ‘Turn Hellhound, Turn.’ and would be waiting yet since he’d cut the speech that made scene of the entire scene, and my older girl who had taken the sword fight scene off me the night before, stood saying, ‘ What do I do Mum?’ and she is trained, I stepped forward and spoke. I also had McGonagall escaping the killing fields not floors. Oh well. You know, a fabulous time was had by all. Mr Shey loved us for putting on a different play from what he wrote. And yep, the cast were so good, I’m glad they all said at the after show party, they are well up for another run.. ….
It’s an anthology of poetry from in and around the City of Dundee in the early 21st Century –‘a cast of voices who speak for and about Dundee in poetic terms’.
This is no longer the Dundee of the Jute Mills – it is the Dundee of the V&A on the Waterfront (without forgetting the struggles of the past and the poverty which still stalks) The anthology expands on earlier anthologies Seagate and Seagate II and Whaleback City which was inspired by the city its history its architecture and its landscape and its people.
Times being hard and poetry sometimes being a difficult sell it has taken poet Andy Jackson the Editor a couple of years to get off the ground. In the 20th Century Dundee’s poetic and literary reputation was overshadowed somewhat by the ghost of McGonagall.
But scratch below the surface and we can boast Mary Shelley having lived worked and conceived Frankenstein here,
War Poet and Fighter Writer Joseph Lee judged on a par with Owen and Sassoon, The Republic of Letters in the 19th Century the poetry and songs of Socialist icon Mary Brooksbank and more recently the work in word and song of Michael Marra two distinguished Professors of Poetry in WN Herbert and Don Paterson. AL Kennedy anyone? Then there’s prize winning poet John Glenday, Ellie McDonald Street Poets Gary Robertson and Mark Thomson. There’s the comic genius of DC Thomson’s Dudley Watkins creator of Oor Wullie Desperate Dan etc and contributors to human happiness thereby. And you’re still at the tip of the iceberg! Hence I’m honoured to be in this company. The Official launch where I’ve been asked to read along with other poets takes place at the burgeoning Dundee literary festival in October. The festival this year has drawn Hollywood actor Alan Cumming Poet and former Makar (Scots Poet laureate) Liz Lochead, prize winning author James Kelman and more.
MARY BROOKSBANK– The Jute Mill Song
Michael Marra If Dundee was Africa.
The Seagate is today one of the main thoroughfares in the heart of the city – effectively its first street dating back over a thousand years. The name originally ‘Seagait’ means road to the sea.
A good question. I suspect there is one but that it may be buried away beneath the streets of the City with other hidden history such as that of our hamster forebears! Put it this way – if there isn’t one there should be!
Cox’s Stack is an iconic city landmark today an Italianate campanile chimney towering around three hundred feet above the skyline. It’s in Lochee aka Dundee’s little Ireland and at one time it stood above the largest jute mill in the world when the industry employed near fifty thousand people mostly women and children on what were known as the killing floors. Cox’s is the one chimney left out of over a hundred.
I wanted to write it because it speaks to the history of the City of Dundee and the spirit of innovation and survival which has characterised its people my forebears among them down the centuries.
Urbi et Orbi – the city and the world. At least that’s what I aim for. One of my fellow poets in it Beth McDonough said she thought of me as an ‘urban poet’ which I took as a huge compliment. Edinburgh Glasgow London Rome and York have also inspired me. As does History particularly as a Scot of Irish descent the history of both countries. The first ever poem I wrote was about the battlefield at Prestonpans. I’d gone to the nearby sports centre to watch my daughter in a badminton tournament and at the break I went for a walk and was struck by the juxtaposition of past and present.
The Battle of Prestonpans was the first significant conflict in the Jacobite Rising of 1745. which ended at Culloden in 1746
A man more sinned against than sinning. Scratch beneath the cliché about ‘best writer of bad poetry’ and you might be surprised. He was probably autistic and he may have been playing the ‘daft laddie’. In addition he has stood the ultimate test – that of time. WN Herbert Dundee’s makar(official poet) a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University described him as a ‘journalist’ with an amazing ‘ability to be inspired by absolutely everything’. That said some of his rhyme and meter would give you a migraine!
Not one – unsurprisingly I’m particularly fond of some of the greats in the canon – Yeats, T.S.Eliot, Dylan Thomas and John Donne. And Bob Dylan. I’m also partial to Seamus Heaney and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
I’ve written a play about the jute story – ‘O Halflins an Hecklers an Weavers an Weemin’. We’re planning to stage it in the High Mill at Verdant Works Museum Dundee next year. There are some poems in the pipeline on different subjects – I’ve just had three accepted for the Hampden Park Football Museum Memories’ Project in conjunction with Alzheimer’s Scotland. And I’ve written a modern historical novel about a Dundonian in Edinburgh in the politically turbulent Scotland of the early 1970s (UCS work-in/Miners’ Strike/Bloody Sunday etc). He meets a beautiful English girl who reminds him of Maddy Prior lead singer of Steeleye Span. They make a date for during the blackout in a Catholic Teachers’ Training College/Convent but instead he meets an Irish girl. When he sees her in trouble at a protest march about Bloody Sunday he goes to help and it complicates from there…so I may have some edits to do soon. It’s called ‘The Eyes of Grace O’Malley’.
An EXTRACT from Cox’s Stack by John Quinn part of the Seagate 3 Anthology.
‘The ramrods gone the vandals come
to silent killing floors
where halflin forebears
scurried like morlocks
between nether worlds of dust machines
and infanticide of hearing.
Spinning girls of golden fibre
and bronze farthings
watched women weave
a woman’s town sans suffragettes
and grown boys become men elsewhere.’
A Scottish ex-English Teacher of Irish extraction. Tour Guide at Scotland’s Jute Museum Verdant Works Dundee, John has had work published in ‘Poet and Geek’ ‘South Bank Magazine’ ‘Poetry Scotland’ ‘Dundee Writes’ and ‘Then Dawn Treader’, not to mention Seagate 3.
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