13 September 2008

Jute, Jam and Journalism

I've been in Dundee for the last few days. I've been here before, but haven't had much of a chance to explore the city until this trip. There are some lovely buildings and the city's location on the banks of the Tay is picturesque. A lot of development is going on along the waterside to make the most of the views along the river.

Book on Hindustani for the Jute Industry, from Verdant WorksYesterday afternoon I visited the Verdant Works, a celebration of the jute industry. I had known that the jute industry was very important for Dundee in the nineteenth century, but didn't really know anything more about it. Jute is a tall annual plant that grows in north-east India and Bangladesh, on the Ganges delta. For many years the raw fibre extracted from the plant was shipped to Dundee for processing.

Via Google Book Search I found an article of 1874 in The Chemical News and Journal of Physical Science by a Professor Hodges, which described the importance of the product:
At the present time jute is used for the manufacture of a great variety of fabrics ; in fact, it will serve for the production of every kind of coarse textile material. It is even used as a substitute for hair, and can be formed into admirable chignons. The dust from the mills is employed to make silk hats, and the waste fibre yields an excellent pulp for the manufacture. Stair-carpets of jute, with bright colours, can be sold at 3d. per yard

The part about it being used as a substitute for hair didn't surprise me - the fibres look like a length of Rapunzel's hair as they go through the processes in the mill.


Lucy Corrander said...

I'm glad you said about Rapunzel's hair. While I was reading the quote, an awful image arose of people going round with their heads looking like the frayed undersides of chairs.

I haven't been to Dundee for a long time. When I knew it (which wasn't well) it was a network of dingy, grubby streets with shops from the 1960s thrown in.

Can't take it away from The Tay though, can you?


Linda said...

You certainly get the opportunity to travel a lot. It is enjoyable reading about trips.

Amy said...

I'm pretty sure my husband was in Dundee this spring. The name rings a bell - I'll have to ask him.