Friday, 26 June 2015

Dundee's Oldest Suburb (and its fleeting ghost)

Some years ago I read a debate in a local paper about what was Dundee's earliest suburb.  I seem to remember the journalist said it was the Magdalen Green, which would have been to the west of the medieval town, adjacent to the River Tay.  But there was no doubt in my mind that the earliest satellite settlement was probably Logie, on the north-west road out of the burgh.  Did pre-industrial up and comers migrate here to escape the sewage filled vennels of Dundee?  No, it was likely an independent, adjacent settlement that in time became incorporated into the town, never quite blossoming into full identity on its own.  Despite the fact that the place-name Logie seems to derive from the Gaelic word for hollow, the most prominent feature in the area is the mound which overlooks Lochee Road, and around which the latter curves around.  Once the site of an old kirk, the green hill is now a forlorn graveyard stranded in an urban settling.  But the landscape, a holy site on a hill once crowned by a church, gives the clue that we have here a candidate for an ancient Celtic church.  Artificial mounds and small hillocks (think of St Vigeans near Arbroath) were once favoured by early ecclesiastical builders in our area.  The church and lands of Logie-Dundee were gifted to the Abbey of Scone by Alexander I in the early 12th century. But little more is heard of it until it is mentioned in the Pontifical Offices of St Andrews under the year 1243.  On the 11th September, 1243, Bishop David of Birnam travelled here from Benvie to the west and dedicated the kirk anew.  It was part of a grand tour, a rolling programme of the bishop re-dedicating existing, ancient places of worship in the east of Scotland.  (Many other Angus churches had been visited and re-dedicated in the previous year).
    Logie eventually housed one of Dundee's earliest housing estates, but its identity was eclipsed by its eastern neighbour Dundee and its western upstart Lochee.  The kirk building long ago vanished, but well into the 19th century it was still a lonely an isolated place.    A report in the Courier on the 22nd June, 1869, reported a ghostly incident which happened here about ten days previously.  A police constable on the beat, shortly before midnight, passed the kirkyard and saw a lofty white figure gliding majestically among the tombs.  He then heard a stone, apparently thrown towards him by this vision, whistling past his ear.  The doughty, non-superstitious P.C. raised his lantern and bellowed at the spectre that it faced sixty days in jail if it did not quit the graveyard immediately.  But the ghost appeared not to heed the officer's warning and remained where it was. Just as he was about to leap over the wall and apprehend the ghost,  a woman and a man appeared beside him on the road.  They soon spotted the apparition and the lady screamed 'in utmost terror', nearly fainting.  When she calmed down, her companion suggested going with the policeman to investigate the ghost, but she would not be left alone on the road.  Eventually she gave in, but as the two men entered the kirkyard, the tall white 'whatever' receded and vanished towards the rear of the kirkyard.  The newspaper report leave its readers to conjecture whether the thing vanished into the earth, or took a more human exit, divested itself of disguise and vanished into the neighbouring buildings.  The constable and his helper searched the whole of the ground, but found nothing.  It was reported that the same figure was seen (but by whom?) about an hour later.  But apparently this short-lived ghost was never sighted again, which seems a shame, for if anywhere deserves a decent and honourable haunting in Dundee, it is surely this ancient place.  Never mind.

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