If Scientists from NASA were to enhance this photo of the Dundee skyline from our front window you’d be able dear reader to pick out Cox’s Stack almost 300 feet in the air! Unfortunately I can’t afford to hire a Scientist from NASA! Cox’s Stack a local landmark is the last chimney standing from the days when the city was known as Juteopolis employing 50000 people in over a hundred mills with such chimneys. Cox’s Mill in Lochee aka Little Ireland was the biggest and spawned what I’m pretty sure was an urban myth that you could ride a coach and horses round the top! The Jute Barons the owners were not averse to pissing contests!
Then industry made billions for the the Jute Barons.But these truly were Dark Satanic Mills with cholera typhus high infant mortality and life expectancy in the thirties etc. and it was an industry built on child and female labour. When boys like my grandfathers reached adulthood they were made redundant as they no longer constituted cheap labour.Given the conditions people endured it’s not really surprising that drink and industrial strife loomed large.
The Girl with the Green Felt Hat was a mill girl in Dundee’s Little Ireland. Her name was Susan Devine and she was the inspiration behind the strikes of 1911 which came about when Cox Brothers tried to get fewer people to do more work for less money than the already miserable wages they paid. Wearing her Green Felt Hat Susan Devine emerged from the crowd and stood and addressed them con brio and thousands marched down Lochee Road into the City Centre. Made ribald comments to Police and onlookers too. And there were skirmishes and lock outs
but they kept going for a month and refused to return until those made redundant had been re-employed.
The following year 1912 Cox Brothers purchased revolvers for their foremen such had been the extent of industrial strife in the Jute Mills. And Susan Devine? She disappears off the radar. Melts back into the crowd of history aged around twenty-eight.But here’s to her and her Green Felt Hat. That sort of spirit lives on in the women of Dundee today. Dear reader I should know – I married one! Oh and apologies for the cropped photo below!