December 1909

The Tree of Liberty in Dundee

View from the LawThe action of Dundee School Board in trying to secure the Belmont grounds for a new West End Academy will probably mean the end of Dundee's "Tree of Liberty".

In the Belmont grounds grows a hale and green tree - "Tree of Liberty".

More than one hundred years have gone by since it figured in one of the most stirring events of the stirring times which marked the latter decades of the eighteenth century.The tree rears its stately proportions at the south-east corner of the grounds, just inside the retaining wall in the Perth Road. Thereby hangs a tale, but how many who live in Dundee and pass the tree day by day know its story?

The tree is a memento of the French Revolution, the great shibboleth of which was Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. These words had a magic effect on the minds of the people, and they were shouted parrot-like by the reformers in our own country. One of their great demonstrative ceremonies was the planting of trees which they called "Tree of Liberty". In tree-planting Dundee was not to be behind. One Wednesday night after a turbulent meeting at the Cross, the mob, led by a shoemaker named Downie, marched westward to Belmont grounds, which had just been newly laid out and planted with trees and shrubs. The ringleaders selected a good sapling from the meadow, and, with wild shouts of triumph, carried eastwards to the Cross. In the centre of the square, near to the old Market Cross, they planted the tree. There were no causeway blocks on the streets in these days, and the transplanting of the sapling was easily accomplished.

They then decorated the branches with ribbons, oranges, rolls and biscuits and christened it the "Tree of Liberty". The mob wildly delirious, shouted "liberty, equality and fraternity", and danced around the tree like demons. To further celebrate their triumph, they lighted a bonfire near the tree, and amused themselves by firing pistols, squids and crackers and rendering the air with their shouts and derisive laughter.

The Lord Provost and Magistrates had assembled in the Town House, and with mingled feelings of fear and contempt they watched the uproarious scene. Provost Riddoch, a staunch Tory, who reigned in Dundee for nearly thirty years, and a self-elected Chief Magistrate, came from the building and mingled with the crowd. The mob shrank back, as the Provost was held in some fear by the people. They wondered what he was about to do, but to the surprise of all beholders he raised his hat, bowed to the tree and walked three times around it crying "liberty and equality forever". The mob cheered the Provost who after performing this tribute walked quietly back to the Town House.

The bonfire which had been blazing merrily for hours was beginning to die away for want of fuel. A shout was raised in the crowd "Get Gordon's coach". Mr Gordon kept a hotel on the north side of the High Street, but it was cleared away when Reform Street was cut out. He was looking from one of the windows of his house when he heard the ominous shout. With commendable present of mind he cried "Here lads, tak' the keys to my coal cellar, there's two tons of coal there, and they'll mak' a grand fire". The mob cried "Three cheers for Mr Gordon" and helped themselves to the fuel.

Angry feelings now began to pervade the mob. A certain Bailie Webster had given vent to some disparaging remarks about trees of liberty. A rush was made to his house to smash his windows. The Bailie lived in Heathfield Cottage, Hawkhill. The house was enclosed by a stone wall and a gate. One of the crowd declared that gate would be locked and they would not get inside. But the gates and walls could not resist the fury of the wild mob. A flaming tar barrel was hurled against the barrier and in a few minutes was completely burned down. With a wild rush the frenzied crowd invaded the grounds and with stones and bricks they crashed every pane of glass in the building. They returned to the Nethergate and wantonly broke the windows of the house which was tenanted by the Baillie's son.

Before the Provost paid his homage to the "Tree of Liberty" he had secretly dispatched an order to Perth for assistance of a body of troops. The military arrived in the town on the Thursday but their services were not required. Afraid, however to excite the feelings of the mob, the Provost allowed the "Tree" to remain in the High Street till Sunday when the town would be quieter. The Town Officers were then ordered to pull it up, and it was cast ignominiously into the "thief's hole". After a lapse of a few days it was carried back to Belmont, and replanted in the place where it now grows so luxuriously.

Christmas Cards

For friends abroad
New Selection
Lundie's Stationary Warehouse,
35 Reform Street, Dundee.

The Duncan Boot Mart

21, Murraygate, Dundee
A new shoe house at the Old Address fully stocked with all the newest shapes, styles and patterns for Spring and Summer trade.
Easter Holiday Footwear - all ready at:
Duncan Boot Mart, Dundee.

Canada's Grand Trunk Railway System

Intending emigrants to Canada and the United States should consult us before booking for the latest information.
Passages booked by all Atlantic lines.
Glasgow Office - 75, Union Street.

Wash-day Worries Are Over

From the day you use the first tablet of
Balmoral Cleanser
It is the "Scotch soap for Scotch folk," made with Scotch thoroughness. It is made with "solid fats," and so it lasts very much longer than the ordinary kinds; does the work very much better and very much more quickly. Leaves your linen spotlessly white, fragrant and pure, without backache, hand-smart or rotting clothes.

Remember to ask for "Balmoral" and note the trade mark.
3d. per 16-ounce full-weight twin-tablets.

William Whittet

Sewing Machine Makers, Importer and Dealer in all kinds.
39, Castle Street, Dundee.

Eiffel Tower Milk Pudding

A 4d packet makes a delicious milk pudding in ten minutes. Try It. You will be delighted.