Perfect Pandemonium at 37 High Street

File 253
File 253 contains papers relating to the Central Improvement Scheme

The things that turn up in the archives never cease to amaze me. And often in the place least expected! I was looking for some information about the decision to build the Caird Hall in the Town Clerk’s subject files. File 253 contains accounts, minutes and correspondence relating to the purchasing of property for the Central Improvement Scheme. Mostly dry, standard sort of documents. But something jumped out at me as being a bit different. It was a handwritten letter. As the Corporation had bought a number of properties they now found themselves as landlords to a number of tenants. One of those tenants was Miss Jessie Moir of 37 High Street. In July 1914 she wrote to the Corporation to complain about her new neighbour.

From a little bit of research we know Jessie was born in the late 1860s and lived with her brother Edward, a wine merchant, and his wife Christina. When Edward died in 1907 Jessie and Christina, along with Christina’s children, moved to the High Street. With Edward gone, the two women had to support themselves and the children. So they started a dressmakers shop. Jessie describes the building as being “very superior” and they presumably had a refined clientele.

Perfect Pandemonium
Jessie Moir writing to the Town Corporation to complain about her new neighbour

Her letter complains about her new upstairs neighbour – John Sime, whom she calls an “agitator”. John was the secretary for the Jute and Flax Union – a growing union for the many thousands of Dundee Mill Workers, including many women. Obviously these were not the women would patronise Jessie’s dressmaking services. Jessie complains about “the type of people” traipsing up and down the stairs, accusing them of “smelling of drink and the mills, spitting all over”. The women she describes as “shawly women” causing a “perfect pandemonium” at lunch time, forcing Jessie to keep two ladies indoors until after it was over. She then threatens to leave the premises if this is not sorted out. I can just imagine Jessie sitting in her parlour complaining to Christina about the loiterers on the stair and seething about her new neighbour.

She eventually moved out of 37 High Street in 1917 to 1 South Tay Street. She died in 1932 at 11 Oxford Street, leaving £1400 (almost £90,000 today) to her Niece Margaret Grant.

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