Port of Dundee
Review and History

The Port of Dundee is an important industrial city and seaport in Eastern Scotland. Located about 64 kilometers north of Edinburgh, it lies on the northern banks of the Firth of Fay, an inlet of the North Sea. In 2006, over 142 thousand people called Dundee City home.

Port History

The area around the Port of Dundee was first inhabited by Iron Age Picts. The Port of Dundee was designated a royal town (burgh) in the early 12th Century. For the next four to five centuries, it was the victim of many sackings and bloodshed visited upon the town by the English. Although Edward I revoked the charter, Robert the Bruce replaced it with a new charter in 1327.

By 1545, the Port of Dundee was a walled city, but in 1547, it was destroyed by English bombardments. It was besieged again in 1645 during the War of the Three Kingdoms, in 1651 during the Third English Civil War, and again during the Jacobite uprisings. Fishing was important to the town from early days, and it was home to one of Scotland’s biggest whaling fleets. The town contained few stone buildings before 1860.

Modern Dundee was created in 1892 and made an autonomous county in 1894. The Port of Dundee grew first as an export point for wool. When wool became less profitable, residents turned to importing and weaving jute. In 1820, the first 20 bales of jute from India were unloaded on the docks, and the city was never again the same. When men learned in the 19th Century that jute fiber mixed with whale oil made sturdy bags and carpet backing, the Port of Dundee’s textile industry became inextricably linked to whaling.

Growing quickly, the city grew in reputation as a jute manufacturing center, producing linen, rope, carpet, and canvas. While these goods are still important to the Port of Dundee’s economy, new light manufacturing industries have appeared since World War II. When it became less expensive to make jute cloth on the Indian subcontinent, the last jute mill closed in the 1970s.

During the 19th Century, the Port of Dundee grew into an important ship-building and maritime center. Among the two thousand ships built there between 1871 and 1881 was the RRS Discovery used for Antarctic research by Robert Falcon Scott. Its busy whaling fleet traveled the world. The Antarctic’s Dundee Island was named after the whaling expedition from Dundee that discovered the island in 1892. The Port of Dundee’s whaling industry ceased operating in 1912, and the port’s shipbuilding activities ended in 1981.

Today, it is known for making confections and preserves, particularly marmalade. In the late 20th Century, the Port of Dundee’s traditional manufacturing industries began to decline, and the service industry has grown in importance. The city is now an important research and education center focusing in biotechnology and information technology. Little of its past survives in the modern Port of Dundee outside a handful of historic buildings and a town gate.

Over 300 thousand people live within a 30-minute drive of the city center today, and many commute from nearby counties to work in the Port of Dundee. At the turn of the century, the city supported about 95 thousand jobs at four thousand companies, and investment in the city continues to increase.

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