Historic Dundee Drinkers to go Under Hammer

Jane Swadel (above) features heavily in the book. Picture: Alan Richardson

Police mugshots of Dundee’s heaviest 20th century drinkers are set to go under the hammer next week. Published in 1905, the book depicts dozens of citizens who were banned from the city’s bars after flouting the era’s strict public drinking laws.

Anyone convicted under the Inebriates Act of 1898 three times in the space of 12 months faced being added to the book and having their picture and description circulated around the city’s bars.

Those pictured could then be fined up to 40 shillings if they tried to buy alcohol again – and landlords could be fined up to £20 for serving those depicted.

Each page describes one offender – with names, addresses, places of employment, a description and space for “peculiarities and marks” to be noted. It was signed by the constable in charge.

Jane Swaddel, aka Jane Williamson, a factory worker, was the oldest person listed, aged 63. It was noted that she “wants teeth in the upper jaw”. She was included after being convicted under the Licensing (Scotland) Act on 15 March 1905.

John Boyd, 46, of Commercial Street, Dundee, found himself listed after being “found in a state of intoxication and incapable of taking care of himself, and not under the care of a suitable person”. He was convicted at the Police Court in Dundee.

He was described as of “proportionate” build with “fresh” complexion. But officers noted under “peculiarities” that his left eye was “awanting”.

Dundee auction firm Curr and Dewar, which is selling the book next Tuesday, said it was being put under the hammer by a former landlord who ran a pub on the site of the current Bissell’s Bar on Dundee’s Polepark Road.

Steven Dewar, of Curr and Dewar, said: “I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s quite fascinating really – a real snapshot of the time it comes from. It was very much a recognised thing at the time, but I suppose it’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t be allowed to do now in case it contravened someone’s privacy.

“It covers a big age range – from 16 to 63 – and surprisingly is mostly females. These are all hard-working people living at a hard time – jute mill workers and factory workers.

“We’ve only valued it at £50 to £100 but that’s just because we’ve no idea what it will be worth to someone.”


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One thought on “Historic Dundee Drinkers to go Under Hammer

  1. Robert C. McArtor

    I serve as the Scrivener to Chief John Alexander MacArthur of that Ilk, Chief of Clan Arthur, and I am the former editor of the newsletter Arthur’s Table. I remain interested in any news of Clan Arthur and Scotland. Thank you. Bob McArtor


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