Friday, 23 March 2012

Dundee at War

From the Boer War to the First World War through the eyes of the Neish family of Tannadice and Clepington.

In our collections we have three large scrapbooks which have always been something of a mystery. At first sight they seem just to contain press cuttings but on closer inspection they also include telegrams and other ephemera covering the period 1896-1917. This was a period of national and international conflict and the volumes include material relating to British military campaigns during the second Boer War, the Boxer Rebellion and the First World War, as well as to the Russo-Japanese War and the Dogger Bank incident. Events of national importance, such as Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, are also mentioned.

Until recently the provenance of these items was obscure, all that was known about them was that they were seemingly compiled by a member or members of the family called Neish. Further research now suggests that these scrapbooks were put together by a close relative of William Neish of  Tannadice and Clepington, whose family were active in the military at this time and an influential family in Dundee. Key members in the family are described below: 

  • William Neish (b c 1815): born in Dundee, became a well-known barrister in the city. Married Margaret Ann Watson and had nine children.
  • George Watson Neish (1849-1931): son of William, founded the firm of Neish, Howell and Haldane in London
  • Sir Charles Henry Lawrence Neish KBE CB (1857-1934): son of William, Registrar of the Privy Council from 1909 until 1934
  • Edward William Neish (c 1865-1938): son of William, a Sherriff Substitute from 1905 to 1932
  • Major Colin Graham Neish OBE (1860-1931), son of William, had a notable career in the army
  • Lt. Col Francis Hugh Neish (1863-1946): son of William, served in Sudan, the second Boer War and at Mons at the start of the Great War.  
  • William Neish (c 1882-1931): son of George Watson Neish, was a Major by 1914.

William Neish is 4th from the left
Both Lt. Col Neish and his nephew William, who were serving with the Gordon Highlanders, were captured at Mons. No doubt inspired by the plight of his brother and his son, George Watson Neish served as Convener of City of Dundee and Forfarshire Prisoner of War Help Committee throughout the Great War.

An odd coda to the family’s war service came when Colonel W. E. Gordon of the Gordon Highlanders lodged a case for slander against the publishers John Leng & Co. Their newspaper The People’s Journal had printed an article which implied that Colonel Gordon had needlessly surrendered the Gordons at Mons.

Lt. Col Neish, who had had a poor relationship with Gordon since the surrender, was called as a witness. It was hinted that Gordon blamed Neish for the surrender, although the latter denied any involvement in ordering it. During the case it emerged that Neish and two of his brothers owned shares in John Leng & Co. Gordon’s legal team implied that the family might have used the article to deflect blame away from Neish himself, an allegation they strongly denied.  Colonel Gordon won his case and £500 damages, but the question of who had ordered the surrender and why remained unanswered by the verdict.

The Neish family’s name lives on today in the Jock Neish Scout Centre cited on the family’s land at Tannadice. The Centre was named for Colin Francis Ian ‘Jock’ Neish (1897-1977), a former officer in the Black Watch and the son of Major Colin Neish, who devoted much of his life to the scouting movement. A less obvious legacy of the family is the name of Dundee United’s stadium Tannadice Park. Built on what was the Clepington part of the Neishs’ lands, it owes its name to the Neish estate at Tannadice.

It seems, then, that the scrapbooks were compiled by members of the Neish family to record their involvement in the various campaigns with which they were involved. Whatever their origins Archive Services has a fascinating resource covering the key conflicts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries which shaped the world we live in today.

For more information about the scrapbooks and other collections relating to war and military campaigns contact

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


ARMMS and CAIS publish a newsletter each month which we post on our website and send out by email. This is the most recent edition of eARMMS, rounding up our news from February. Let us know if you would like an email copy each month.

In this edition:
  1. New Exhibition in Tower Foyer Gallery
  2. Papers of former Academic Secretary
  3. Who Do You Think You Are Live? 2012
  4. Oral History Project
  5. New Archive Accessions
  6. Archive Classes
  7. Disaster Planning
  8. Article in Comma
  9. JISC Research Project on FoI
  10. The Michael Peto Photographic Collection Project

1. New Exhibition in Tower Foyer Gallery

The latest exhibition by Museum Services in the Tower Foyer Gallery features some of the most recent additions to the University's fine art collections. These include paintings, prints, photographs and artists books purchased from the last two Degree Shows at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design; original comics art by the legendary Dudley D Watkins, acquired with a grant from the National Fund for Acquisitions; prints by leading contemporary Scottish artists Katy Dove, Toby Paterson and Louise Hopkins; and new additions to the Centre for Artists' Books collection from the Visual Research Centre. The exhibition continues until 14 April.

2. Papers of former Academic Secretary

Kenneth has been going through a most interesting accession of material very kindly donated by Dr Ian Francis, who retired recently as Academic Secretary. The accession consists of a number of key documents mainly relating to the governance of the University since its foundation in 1881 which were collected by successive members of the University's administrative staff.

3. Who Do You Think You Are? 2012

CAIS was represented at the annual Who Do You Think You Are? Live event, held on the 24th-26th February at the London Olympia. We answered questions about records and archives, distributed information on our short courses and Masters degrees in Family and Local History by online distance learning and signed up a record number of new students to our Master’s degree in Family and Local History and Beyond the Internet, our short courses for family historians.

4. Oral History Project

Archive Services are progressing the Oral History Project, which aims to capture the experiences of individuals connected to the University and the University archival collections. Recent interviews have included David Torrie (former editor of The Dandy), James Petrie and David Sutherland (DC Thompson artists), Alastair Ross (former Duncan of Jordanstone student and sculpture lecturer) and Ellena Salaryia (midwife and researcher).

5. New Archive Accessions and Accruals

New accessions to the archive include DVDs of short films and news items relating to Duncan of Jordanstone. Accruals to existing collections include Peter Haining and the Attic Archive, Publishing Scotland and Canongate. Further deposits have also been received for the Comics Collection, including 2000AD.

6. Archive Classes

Caroline spoke to students about the Archive collections during a lecture for the History Level 1 Britain in the 20th Century students. Classes have also been held in the Archives for students taking Red Scotland, the History of the Book, Britain in the 20th Century, Reading 17th Century Scotland, Shakespeare, and Scottish Soldier. All subject areas are welcome to use the archival collections for teaching and research support. Further information is available from Caroline at

7. Disaster Planning

Jennifer, Caroline and Matthew are updating the departmental Disaster Plan. Training will be held for all staff on 26 April.

8. Forthcoming publication: Article in Comma

Alan has recently completed an article examining the nature of standards and standardisation for a forthcoming issue of Comma, the journal of the International Council on Archives.

9. JISC Research Project on FoI

Records Management Services have contributed to a JISC research project which is attempting to establish the true cost of compliance with the Freedom of Information Acts. Five recent requests to the University were tracked in detail to assess the amount of time needed to process them, to locate and retrieve relevant information and to write and send appropriate responses to the applicants.

10. The Michael Peto Photographic Collection Project

The Michael Peto Photographic Collection Project promotion has included a meeting with our Patron, Rector, Brian Cox, to discuss strategies for fundraising and external activities, the production of a fundraising and promotional prospectus and meetings with galleries and curators in the UK and the US.