Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Notable University Figures (1): Sir James Alfred Ewing

This is the first in a regular feature in which we will explore the lives of some of the outstanding individuals associated with the University of Dundee and its predecessor institutions. It is fitting to begin by looking at the life a very eminent figure who was born and raised in Dundee and who was associated with University College in its earliest days - Professor Sir James Alfred Ewing.

Professor James Alfred Ewing 1889
James Alfred Ewing was born in 1855 and was the son of the Reverend James Ewing. The senior Ewing had been minister of St Andrew’s Church, but left the Church of Scotland at the great disruption of 1843 to found St Andrew’s Free Church. James Alfred Ewing received his schooling at Dundee’s West End Academy and High School before obtaining a scholarship to study for a degree in engineering at the University of Edinburgh. His academic career began in 1878 when he was appointed Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Physics at the newly established University of Tokyo. While in Japan he researched earthquakes and developed new types of seismometer. He also gave the name to the phenomenon of hysteresis.

The Principal and professors at University College Dundee, 1889. Ewing is 4th from the left.

In 1883 Ewing returned to Dundee as the first holder of the chair of Mechanical Engineering at University College, Dundee. While at UCD he became known for his social work as well as his research. He was horrified by living conditions in his home city and was involved in schemes to try to improve them, notably taking a leading role in work to improve the city’s sewage system.

The Ewing Building at the University of Dundee
Ewing left Dundee in 1890 to take a chair at Cambridge and thereafter enjoyed a highly successful and varied career. After Cambridge he took the post of Director of Naval Education at the Admiralty and during the First World War he was head of the famed Room 40 specialist unit involved in deciphering German coded naval messages. In 1916 he became Principal of the University of Edinburgh, a post he held until 1929. Ewing was knighted in 1911 and died in 1935.

Archive Services hold a series of letters written by Ewing while he was at University College as well as pamphlets either by or about him (UR-SF 44). There is also material about his time at Dundee in a number of the College records of the period. Today Ewing’s name lives on at the University through the Ewing Building which was erected in 1954 and named in his honour.

Kenneth Baxter

Monday, 27 June 2011

Graduation 2011

Some of CAIS' graduates on the steps of Dundee's Caird Hall
(L-R)  Fiona Bourne (MLitt Archives and Records Management),
Fiona Musk (MLitt Archives and Records Management),
Michele Noad (MSc Records Management and Information Rights) and
Donna Kynaston (MSc Archives and Records Management (International)) 
The University's summer graduation ceremonies took place last week. On Wednesday we celebrated the success of more than thirty of our students who graduated from the full range of programmes offered by CAIS including Archives, Records Management, Information Compliance and Family and Local History.

Michele Noad with Leslie Turner
(Postgraduate Certificate in Family and Local History) at
the School of Humanities reception
Graduation is also the time each year that we celebrate the awards to undergraduate students in History named in honour of our former colleague, Dr Mary Young. Congratulations to Bryan Dawes (Mary Young Archive Prize (Level 2)) and Helen Healy (Mary Young Archive Prize (Levels 3 and 4)).

Our warmest congratulations to all of our graduates and to all those who graduated from the University of Dundee last week.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Tom Craigie 1926-2011

The staff of ARMMS were very sad to hear that Tom Craigie, formerly a local businessman, died recently at the age of 84. Mr Craigie was a regular researcher for the past six years and with his keen sense of humour, friendliness and cheerful attitude he became one of our most popular readers. Indeed, he was practically part of the department, on occasion referring to us as his staff, while we, in turn, would threaten to ‘dock his wages’. Each Tuesday Mr Craigie would travel to the Archives from his home in Carnoustie and spend most of the day on his research. He would keep us posted on his movements so that we knew the days he wouldn’t be in – more often than not his absence was due to trips to Italy with his son and daughter-in-law. Each Christmas he kept us well supplied with shortbread and biscuits.

Mr Craigie first visited the archives a few years after the death of his wife. He was looking for a photograph of the old railway bridge that crossed the eastern end of Americanmuir Road where he and his wife had often met during their courting days back in the 1940s. Although no photograph could be found the search sparked his interest in the Dundee and Newtyle Railway Company. From that point on Mr Craigie became the Archives’ most regular reader over a period of six years, working methodically through our substantial Dundee and Newtyle collection.

His research also took him to the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh. He identified previously unseen archival material relating to the Dundee and Newtyle railway and Mr Craigie’s knowledge of the railway’s history was undoubtedly unparalleled; he spotted mistakes in leaflets or museum displays instantly. Ultimately his goal was to publish his research in a book that would certainly have cast new light on the history of the company.

Unfortunately Mr Craigie died before being able to do so, his death coming as a shock to the ARMMS staff. His absence from the search room will be keenly felt and he will be sadly missed by all. He will live on in our memories as a very special man.