The Caird Hall was built from a legacy by the Jute Baron, Sir James Caird. It was officially opened in 1923, but in 1921, the first large assembly in the new Caird hall was a speech by the then Dundee Liberal MP, Winston Churchill. It was a heated occasion as on the day there was a large march of the unemployed and mounted policemen had to guard the square in front of the hall to ensure the marchers did not approach nearer. Two representatives did manage to ask Churchill what was to be done – and he did say he would return to London to see what could be done.
Churchill said on the day: “I speak to you for the first time in this fine hall, which I hope and trust, as the years pass by we may make a famous hall, a hall from which the wisdom and sagacity of Dundee may be a light throughout Scotland, some rays of which may even penetrate to the murky areas in the remote regions of the south!”
(Reference – “Mr Churchill in Dundee”, Page 7, 24th Sept 1921 – Glasgow Herald – The Glasgow Herald – Google News Archive Search)
Churchill was a Dundee MP from 1908 to 1922, however, there were mixed feelings in Dundee about their MP as can be seen from this news clip from 2015 on the 50th anniversary of his death.
In 1956, after retiring as Prime Minister, Churchill went to Aachen in Germany to receive the Charlemagne Prize for his contribution to European Unity and nowadays he is listed as one of the founding fathers of the European Union.
We can only speculate on what Churchill would think today, but the history of Churchill’s views on Europe and European unity are discussed in this article.
The Council Chambers sit on the west side of the City Square. There is much of interest to see inside the Council chambers, and amongst those things we can find some interesting information about Dundee’s twin towns. Dundee is twinned with Alexandria in the USA, Nablus in Palestine, Würzburg in Germany and Orleans in France. In the Council Chambers you can discover the stained glass panels in the doors to the Lord Provost’s Suite and to the Councillors Lounge which came from the City’s twin towns of Würzburg, Germany and Orleans, France. And the flags in front of the gallery are the Official Flag of the City of Dundee, the Saltire of Scotland, the Union Flag and the flag of one of the City’s twin towns, Würzburg, Germany. Council Chambers | Dundee City Council
The twinning association between Dundee and Würzburg is very active.
The cities of Dundee and Orléans were first twinned in 1946 and it was the Dundee-Orléans Fellowship who organised the twinning. This group was largely made up of those who had run a club for the Free French submariners based in Dundee throughout the Second World War. This is probably the oldest continuing twin-city link in Europe.
On a wall outside the Council chambers, you will see the following plaque, presented to Dundee by the Officers and Men of the Polish army in World War II:
To read more about the design of the buildings on the Square: City Square | Dundee City Council.
Sir James Caird made his money from the Jute industries. Dundee had the nickname ‘Juteopolis’ due to the number of Jute mills at that time. Until the end of the 19th Century, Dundee produced nearly all the jute that was used in the world. Many Irish workers migrated to the city, with a large percentage of them being women. These women workers were involved in political activism through the Ladies’ Land League. To read more about the conditions for these workers and some history of jute milling: Migrant Textile Workers and Irish Activism in Victorian Dundee – History Workshop.
Walking Route Instructions: We will now walk across the Square towards the High Street, where we can see the statue of the Dandy cartoon character Desperate Dan! We will turn right along the High Street in the direction of Commercial Street, taking a right turn at the Optical Express building and at the junction we can find our next stop, the statue of Adam Duncan.