Silence of the looms
As early as the 1870s it was clear that Dundee’s greatest competitor was going to be the land of jute itself, India. The irony is that the Indian jute industry was established by Dundonian engineers and mill managers, lured by higher
wages and a better standard of living.
By 1900 Calcutta had overtaken Dundee as the world’s biggest single jute manufacturer. The writing was on the wall for the Scottish jute industry. Even so it was slow in coming. The Dundee mills were modernised, working conditions improved and high levels of production continued through two world wars and well into the 1960s.
The end came with the advent of a new fibre – polypropylene. A small handful of jute firms adapted and survived and Dundee became one of the world leaders in polypropylene. While the old mills closed or were converted into warehouses, nightclubs and housing, other 20th century industries also arrived. Today the city can boast a burgeoning new technology industry as well as being a centre for pioneering medicine.