Dundee Society in the 19th Century

James Scrymgeour and the Dundee Band of Hope

A lecture given by Sheila Marshall in August 1997.


In the Eastern Cemetery, on the west side, about half-way up toward the side entrance, there stands a monument. It is bigger than the normal headstone, is classical, with an urn on top. In summer it is shaded by the leaves of a Camper-down Elm. These sweep down almost to the ground, gently hiding it from view. Alongside are four yew trees. A closer inspection reveals that it is quite an impressive stone, decorated with a very fine sculpture pattern. As I pushed back the leaves I was quite surprised to discover, on the front, the head and shoulders of a man, sculpted out of white granite. It was indeed the stone I had been seeking, for, immediately below the face, was the name James Scrymgeour and an extensive inscription:

Erected by Public Subscription to the Memory of James Scrymgeour, who in the consistent advocacy of temperance, and as the agent of the Prisoners Aid Society and also for the Dundee Industrial Schools, devoted his life to the reclamation and elevation of the lapsed and fallen, and whose warm sympathy and active assistance were ever readily extended in aid of every movement for the religious, moral, and social well-being of the community.


To banish want from pale-faced care To wipe the tear from Misery's eye Is such a bliss as Angels share And tell with joy beyond the sky.

A visit in winter reveals the stone showing well above the gnarled and twisted branches of the Camperdown Elm, which is grafted on to the straight trunk of the Whych Elm. The straight trunk gives height to the tree and then allows the branches of the Camperdown Elm to drape down over the stone. The tree originated on the Camperdown Estate, now the park, and the original tree is still there.
The stone told me a great deal about James Scrymgeour. Not just that he was 66 years of age when he died but that he was loved by his fellow-men, who had had the stone erected. Also, that he was in favour of Temperance, like many others, and had worked on behalf of the Indus¬trial Schools and the Prisoners Aid Society. He seemed generally to have been a good man but there must be more.

The Search

My interest in the Band of Hope had taken me to the Local History Section in the Wellgate Library. When quite young, my aunts had at¬tended the Band of Hope at Princes Street Con-gregational Church and had been enthusiastic about the Tuesday night meetings, which often had "Magic Lantern" slides to enliven the lectures. In the summer there was always "the picnic", and indeed it appeared that there was much fun all round. The Minister was not in charge of the evening but a Mr Bradford, whom my aunts remembered with affection. I wanted to find out more about this Band of Hope. What was it? When did it start? Who attended? There were so many questions and all I had to go on was some vague idea that it was some kind of entertainment, had a connection with the church, and my aunts had said that temperance had come into it.
It was during my research in the Wellgate Library that I first met James Scrymgeour. On looking up the Index in The Local History Section, I came across a card saying:

PARCEL 16, 2 VOLUMES, 1852-1860
Bills, posters, tickets, Cuttings etc. Collected and Mounted by James Scrymgeour. To be found in rare books section.

I asked if I could see it and waited for the assistant librarian to come with the books. After a while she appeared, carrying two very big, very heavy, and very dusty ledgers, in a somewhat dilapidated state. It turned out that one vol¬ume had tried to be a copy of the other but had not been finished, lacking much of the information. So I could concentrate on the one volume - James Scrymgeour's Historical Scrap Book, kept by him over the years 1855 to 1860. The contents proved extensive and fascinating and it will be possible to touch only on the most interesting items,

Origins of the Band of Hope

The problems created by the amount of al¬cohol being drunk had been recognised before an aged Irish lady, a Mrs Carlile from Dublin, visited England in 1842, on a temperance mission.
She spoke to mothers and Sunday School teach¬ers and had great success. When she returned in 1846-47, more than 70 years of age, she directed her efforts chiefly at children, visiting private and public day and Sabbath schools. Thousands of children took the pledge of her. It had been a common practice to call the children the "hope" of the world and a number of them collecting together would naturally be called "a band", so the name Band of Hope emerged quite naturally. When she was paid a visit at the age of 83, Mrs Carlile, who was almost blind but with all her faculties, was still labouring and praying for her Band of Hope

To return to Dundee, the Dundee Temperance Society had been formed by 1838 as an adult society. Subsequently, the Dundee Directory for 1852 listed the Dundee Band of Hope with the names of its main office-bearers: -

President John Arthur 83 Hawkhill
Secretary John Irvine 6 High Street
Treasurer Arthur Begg 20 High Street
Superintendent James Lothian 7 Victoria Square
Banker R.H. Thorns 16 St Andrews Square

I do not think that the Dundee Band of Hope was the first in Scotland, but it must have been one of the earliest.

Memorial of the Directors to their Fellow Townsmen

The Memorial document sets out the Direc¬tors' intentions and the aims of the Band and raises a number of points of particular interest:
The Directors had been much inflenced by Solomon's words: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. So they acted on the principle that "prevention is better than cure" and from the be¬ginning envisaged a juvenile abstainers society.
At a time when the population of Dundee was about 80 000 and growing ( Lochee would not join Dundee until 1859), not less than £4 000 per week was being spent upon intoxicating drinks in Dundee, a large portion of that sum from the hard-earned wages of the working classes.
Little less than £1 000 per month was being expended by the Parochial Board, besides what was given by the hands of private benevo¬lence, to enable the paupers to drag out a mis¬erable existence, the great majority of whom had been brought to a state of destitution, directly or indirectly, by the indulgence of a vitiated appetite for intoxicating liquors. A large proportion of the crime was committed by those who drank in excess.
1100 members, 300 of them depositors in The Penny Bank, had not only been secured from becoming drunkards but were also having a benefical effect upon their parents and friends.
The Directors resolved that, to help them in achieving their aims, they should raise a fund of £500, or more, to enable them to secure their present place of meeting, capable of holding 1,309 young persons, and to carry on their peaceful warfare with more energy and upon a larger scale.

Band of Hope Certificates

Perhaps some of you have one or two of these documents used to achieve the aims of the Dundee Band of Hope at home for it was dearly loved and memorabilia may have been kept and passed on. For example, a beautiful certificate which was given to those who were deemed to have qualified through their "Promotion of Sobriety":

Be thou Faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.

Member's signature
David Burt, President
Thomas Paul, Banker
Wm. Scrymgeour, Secretary
James Scrymgeour, Superintendent

Round the outside were four very nice vignettes: at the top, the Dundee Coat of Arms - the Pot of Lilies, held by two Dragons; on the left, the new City Churches, restored after the fire of 1841; below, the Royal Arch, with a fine array of sailing ships behind it; and finally, a view of Broughty Ferry Castle in ruins, since this was before its restoration. William, the Sec¬retary, was Jarnes Scrymgeour's brother and it is interesting that the whole Management had changed.
A second very attractive Certificate, also beautifully decorated round its edges, was awarded to recall "Training the Young in Habits of Sobriety". Highly decorated and in fine script, the certificate bore the same sentiments as the first and may have been given after an initial number of weeks' attendance. The example in his scrapbook had been signed by James Scrymgeour but he noted at the side of the card that his signature was in the number and date spaces. Other similar certificates were distributed, including those for Continued Effort in Cleanliness and Orderliness, for Continued Effort in the Study of the Holy Scriptures, and as Reward for Missionary Enterprise on Behalf of Temperance.

The Penny Bank played a significant part in the work of the Dundee Band of Hope by help¬ing adults and children to save, even the small contribution of one penny. James Scrymgeour's collection includes an example of a small leaflet which could be purchased by the children for twopence. Very attractive and highly decorated in colour, it was to be pasted inside the front cover of a bible which was bought from the Penny Bank. The title of the Dundee Band of Hope appeared under a figure of Christ and then, in the centre of the leaflet, the name of the Penny Savings Bank, the inscription - One of 600 Bibles purchased by the Juvenile Members from their Savings, the child's name, and a moral rhyme:

The Bible is justly esteemed
The Glory supreme of the land
It shows how a sinner's redeemed
And brought to Jehovah's right hand.

Two seated figures were depicted on either side of the rhyme: on the left, a man holding a tablet in his hands; and on the right, a woman holding open a book, likely to signify a bible. Between them was what looked like-a communion cup. I am not quite sure of its significance but someone in the audience might have a suggestion. The plate was signed by George Girdwood, Lithographer, Dundee, who did much of the Lithography work for the Dundee Band of Hope.

The Annual Picnic

The Annual Picnic was great fun and al¬ways mentioned by those older residents of Dundee who, much later, had been members in the Band of Hope Union and whom I had an op¬portunity to interview: (I have their impressions on tape.) A poster, advertising the Annual Outing of the Dundee Band of Hope gives an indication of the scope of such an event. In the example, the impressive title, The Grand Fete Champetre at The Castle ofKinfawns, was in keeping with what was on offer at the country seat of the local proprietor Lord Gray. By the permission of William McLaren Esq, the Band of Hope, would have the whole of the policies, not the castle itself but the gardens and grounds, to use or ex¬plore. ( William McLaren would, I think be someone like the Estate Factor of to-day.) Those attending, or otherwise officiating in¬cluded the Temperance Missionary - probably Mr Malcolm McLean, six clergymen, and the elite of the working temperance movement: an impressive array indeed.The language of the poster is wonderfully evocative:
The programme embraces an imposing Pro¬cession of all the Excursionists, with BANDS OF MUSIC, Flags and banners, along the beautiful carriageway from the east lodge to' the Castle, headed by the officer carrying SIR WILLIAM WALLACE'S great TWO-HANDED SWORD.
(It was kept in the Watt Institution at this time - the fore-runner of the Albert Galleries and I presume that it went to the Wallace Monument when it was opened.)

Vocal and Instrumental Music... a short ad¬dress or two from Clergymen and others at the Castle... a Parade around the Castle and through the Gardens to see the, flowers and fountains... Walk to the summit of the hill of Kinfauns, towards the East of Wallace Tower, to which all, by 100 at a time, will be admitted to view the magnificent prospect which the leads command. The view embraces about 20 miles of the windings of the Tay and its conflu¬ence with the wandering Earn, with the blue Lomonds beyond.... also a clamber up the Hill of Kinnoul for the purpose of obtaining a view of the City of Perth, its beautiful environs, with The Grampians beyond. The Wild Music of the HIGHLAND BAGPIPES will be brought into requisition during this clamber when the fine exhilarating and curious aerial effect produced by them will be realised among the echoing crags and sylvan nooks. A fairy-like Picnic under the Trees, Mr FARMER of Princes Street Coffee-house supplying Tea, Coffee and other Refreshments, at the same Rates as in Town. SWINGS for girls under the boughs of the Fine Old Trees. Also SWINGS for Boys and the merry Pastime of FOOTBALL for Old and Young.

ONE HUNDRED VOLUMES OF USEFUL, BEAUTIFUL GILT-BOOKS will be given away in PRIZES, viz:- PRIZES for the best Bouquets of Wild Flowers. PRIZES for rolling down the soft and grassy slopes. PRIZES for Foot Races of short and easy distances. The Race Course being railed in, all can witness the pro¬ceedings, and enjoy the humours of the Race with freedom. THE BEAUTIFUL VARIEGATED BALLOONS, of SIR JOHN FRANKLIN and ROYAL MONTGOLFIER designs, will be sent up in the air. Each Balloon not less than 10 feet in circumference. Each Balloon to bear the following names respectively, viz:- "Excelsior", "Honesty is the best Policy", "Bonnie Dundee", "Band of Hope", "Dundee Temperance Society", "Scottish Tem¬perance League", "United Kingdom Alliance", "Kinfauns Castle", "Temperance Triumphs", and "We'll win the Day".

Any friend of the Movement or their Children de¬sirous of spending a day under our colours are quite welcome to join this Excursion, our object being to provide a day's harmless amusement and recreation under superior auspices, in op¬position to the temptation and scenes that too often disgrace heterogenous Excursions. As the summits of both the hills of Kinfauns and Kinnoul are of very easy distance from the Castle, and the East Lodge within stone's throw east of the railway station, the Juveniles will undergo no great fatigue even should they traverse all the bounds included in the Programme, which is quite optional. The Excursionists will muster within the gates of the public Seminaries at 8 o'clock Morning from which they will March in Procession to the Railway Station, when a SPECIAL TRAIN will be in readiness.
No-one, on any pretence what-ever, but such as held the Ticket printed for the occasion, initi¬ated by our Secretary and counter-iniatiated by a Railway Official, can be admitted to the Policies of Kinfauns, or to any of the carriages of the Special Train. All those visiting the Hill of Kinnoul are required to show their Tickets at the Gamekeeper's Cottage on their return, to the Castle

Any-one the least affected by Intoxicating Drink forfeits all the Privelages of their ticket.

The Adults, as well as the Juveniles, must be-subject to the orders of Messrs WILLIAM FOOTE and JOHN STARK, the Marshals. THE RETURN TRAIN may be expected in Dundee by SIX o'clock EVENING, at farthest. Now the Tickets - for Juveniles price 7d: for Adults, 1s 1d:
There follows a long list of names of people from whom the Tickets might be bought and these are included since someone in the audience might just recognise a name of interest:
To be had of Mr DAVID BURT, book-seller, 88 Nethergate: Misses MORRISON & SCRYMGEOUR, Drapers, 71 Wellgate; Messrs JAMES-ALLAN SON, Perfumers, Murraygate & Crichton St; HENRY LORIMER, Straw-hat Maker, Reform St.; JOHN BAIN, Hosier, Murraygate; ROBERT FARMER, Princes St. Coffee-House; WILLIAM FOOTE, Blacksmith, Ann St., Maxwelltown; ROBERT ELDER, China Mer¬chant, Hawkhill; JAMES McARTNEY, Ironmonger, West Port; JAMES I HILLOCKS, Druggist, Perth Rd.; JOHN THOW, Turner, Seagate; RUSSELL SINCLAIR, Lochee; Also at the Dundee Temperance Society's Meeting, at Lamb's Hall; at our own Meeting in Hammerman Hall, & the Library and Penny Bank in Castle Lane; also at the Eastern Band of Hope Meetings held in Hamilton's Sessional School, Meadowside; and of all the Directors.

Signed by James Scrymgeour, Superintendent, at Dundee on 19th August 1858 and produced by Park, Sinclair & Co. Printers, Dundee, the poster was set out in detail. Nothing was forgotten. A subsequent leaflet tells of the success of the outing and that, apart from the inevitable weather problem with showers, "most of the excursionists disposed to be merry and hilarious" and all were home again in Dundee by half-past six. The Grand Fete Champetre was over for another year.
There were other picnics - two at Rossie Priory, one at Broughty Ferry and others involving trips on the River, to Perth and Newburgh, with music on board the boats the "Samson" and the "Hercules". They didn't all go smoothly, but that is another story

Weekly Meetings and Sermons

A series of sermons and some 102 weekly meetings were provided in two years. The subject matter for the meetings varied from Biographies and Nature, Science, Temperance, (of course), Reading, Smoking, Snuffing, Swearing, Sabbath Breaking and general subjects such as 'The Pilgrim Fathers", "Sketches of the Covenanters", and 'The World of Silence". In the last, James Scrymgeour spoke about the difficulties of the deaf, something which he was to know well as he grew older
In all, eight meetings involved sermons given by some of the more prominent Ministers, such as the Rev George Gilfillan of the later Gilfillan Memorial Church, who spoke on 'The Band of Glory Above", and the Rev Peter Cameron of Chapelshade Church on "The Thorn in the Flesh".

The Grand Annual Festival

This Festival took place on or near Christmas Day and the a document in James Scrym-geour's collection refers to the event held in Bell Street Hall on Christmas Night 1855, with Baillie Moir in the Chair. The proceedings began with a Hymn, Around the Throne of God in Heaven, followed by a Blessing by the Rev Robert Menzies and then by a TEA SERVICE, with thanks to be returned by the Rev L Parker. What a TEA SERVICE was one can only guess but it appeared to be a good start to the evening, accompanied as it was the first of many musical events. The Juvenile Flute Band, under the popular leadership of Mr John Thow, played Auld Lang Syne, Bonnie Dundee and other tunes. I say "popular leadership" because as far as I could find, Mr Thow led the various Bands at all kinds of occasions held by the BoH in the five years which I studied. The theme of the Chairman's Address by the Rev Peter Grant was 'The Formation of Habits". One gets the impression that the Addresses were not too long, the speakers were well aware of their young audience. Now was time for Happy are we a'thegither, a cheerful, rousing song, performed by its author, Mr Charles Balfour, who figured quite prominently throughout the events of the Dundee Band of Hope. This was followed by another Tune by the Band - Andrew wi' his cutty gun. (A cutty gun was, I think, a short clay pipe.) How often have we heard the title of the next Address by Mr Malcolm McLean, the Temperance Missionary - "Waste not, want not"? Mr Charles Balfour again, with his Our Little Jock and then 'The Service of Oranges", during which I presume that an orange was handed out to each person. (I can recall even when I was young, receiving in the Christmas stocking an orange, an apple and one penny.)

During the Fruit Service the Band played Rosa Lee - a Negro Melody, The Lee Rig and Quadrille and then it was time for another address. One can only wonder what James Scrymgeour had to say on "Grandeur among Boys in humble Life". More music, a Tem¬perance Hymn We'll win the day, and Cheer boys, cheer by the Band. The Rev William B Berwick, another speaker favoured at Dundee Band of Hope meetings, addressed the audience on "Counsels to the Young", after which the "temperance melody" The Drunkard Wife would have a suitably sobering effect. Mr Balfour sang a third and last song, Jelly Pieces, by someone called "Desire", as a prelude to the serving of Jelly Pieces by Mr Lamb and the stewards. Meanwhile the Band played The Troubadour. (Mr Lamb would be Thomas Lamb who, in the 1860's, built Lamb's Temperance Hotel, where the Alliance Trust is in Reform Street now. I think he was involved in the Dundee Band of Hope from the beginning.) The final address, by the President Mr John Arthur, on the theme "The Law of Kindness", was followed by another Temperance hymn - The Band of Hope is Free, a sacred hymn - The Children's Marching Hymn, and, in conclusion, God Save the Queen. It was a fine programme indeed.

James Scrymgeours Contribution

there were other occasions too numerous to mention, but throughout all this time James Scrymgeour was both Treasurer and Superintendent. He took over when the Dundee Band of Hope was in financial straits. He struggled to pay off the debt of £99 - not much to us today but a considerable sum in the 1857. In addition to mounting the programme, he organised the meetings, sometimes lecturing, and generally ran the Dundee Band of Hope. Needless to say his exertions caught up with him and his health suffered.
Suddenly, on March 16th 1860, a notice appeared in the papers from the Directors of the Dundee Band of Hope intimating that James Scrymgeour, late Treasurer and present Superintendent, intended to retire from the Management from the 31st. May. 'To secure him against all liability connected with known and unknown accounts", these were to be lodged with Mr William Foote, Blacksmith, Ann Street, Dundee, within a month from the date of the advertisement or all right to payment would be forfeited. Notices appeared thereafter to encourage persons with money in the Penny Bank to withdraw all their money and to ensure that all Library books were returned. James Scrymgeour was indeed retiring

The Grand Finale was a concert held on the 29 May 1860. The venue was the Corn Exchange, which we know as the Kinnaird Hall. (It was closed down as a cinema in the 1950's.) James Scrymgeour was going out in style. About 100 performers gave their services free in what must have been quite an evening - a big thank-you to everyone who had taken part in the ordinary and extra Meetings of the Dundee Band of Hope. Including professionals and am¬ateurs, every instrumental band in town, several Church choirs and Musical Clubs, an estimated 600 persons had given their services freely to the Dundee Band of Hope.

In Conclusion

Finally, we return to the stone in the Eastern Cemetery. James Scrymgeour, who had been so much admired by his fellow man throughout his life, was the example for his son, the late Edwin Scrymgeour, the first and only prohibition MP at the Palace of Westminster. I think he would have been very proud of his son.

There is more to the story of James Scrymgeour but that is another tale to tell.


Iain D. McIntosh, 2022