Thursday, 11 September 2014

Mary Lily Walker Building Opened

Last week saw the official opening of the new Mary Lily Walker Building.  Based at the High School of Dundee, the building will house their newly established nursery.  There could be no more fitting purpose for a building that bears her name, given that her key concern was the health of young children.

The ceremony marking the opening of the building took place on 1st September.  It was a grand affair, with approximately 75 people in attendance, amongst them the Lord Provost of Dundee, Bob Duncan.   He said, once again, how important and interesting that he thinks the story of Mary Lily Walker is for Dundee.  He is keen that it be known by all the residents of the city, and he is hopeful that the new nursery will be one more way of helping that to be achieved.

Mary Lily Walker was a pupil at the High School during the early 1880s.  Her years there were one of the experiences that helped to craft her very strong identity as a Dundonian.  It was this attachment to the city that would later led her to return to it after spending time in London.  Her strong bonds to the city led her to focus her efforts for reform on the city of her birth, rather than take up invitations to focus on other British cities that were also struggling with poverty and inequality.  It was precisely because she was a former pupil that the High School wanted to honour her memory formally.

Fascinated by the story of
Katie Morag, read by the author!
The speakers at the opening ceremony included John Halliday, Rector of the High School, as well as the guest of honour, Mairi Hedderwick, author of the classic Katie Morag series.  Along with treating the attendant children to a reading of her stories, Dr. Hedderwick expressed her personal interest in the story of Mary Lily Walker.  She was delighted to receive a copy of Mary Lily’s biography (written by author Eddie Small and published in 2013).

The photos in this blog show how chuffed the Mary Lily Walker Project Group was with the new plaques bearing her name, and how pleased they were to be amongst the many guests opening the new building.  We look forward to supporting the work of the new nursery team, led by Sarah Tosh.  We are very grateful to the High School for choosing to remember and commend the memory of their former pupil in this lasting way.

Team celebrations!

The launch gathering.

The new nursery team.

Unveiling the plaque

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Going to the Auction

Mary Lily's  efforts featured in the press this week — even though most people wouldn't have recognised that, because she didn't feature directly in the story.  

A set of 'mugshots' from 1905 turned up as an item at a local auction.  The shots showed individuals who had been barred from local pubs for drunk and disorderly behaviour.

The press dubbed the photos as 'Edward drunks' and 'Edwardian ASBOs'.  In contrast, our team saw in the photos the ravaging consequences of trauma and poverty — which is exactly what Mary Lily Walker was trying to fight.  Of the 40 photographs, 80% were of women, many of them immigrants from Ireland.  Their tired faces and worn shawls said a lot to us

The advance price for the photos was estimated at £100 - £200.  We went along hopeful of making the purchase, with the aim of donating them to an archive.  But the final bid of £1500 turned out to be well beyond our league!  However, now that we know such documents exist, we intend to keep our eyes open for more of them in future!

Here are a few shots of Auction Day, with Suzanne Zeedyk travelling an emotional path from hopeful to nervous to accepting.

Friday, 7 March 2014

A Show of Hands...

On Thursday (6th March), Suzanne Zeedyk trained 450 Dundee staff in attachment.  Part of her presentation described the activities of Mary Lily Walker.  Suzanne began by asking attendees who knew the name of Mary Lily Walker to put up their hands.  AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED!  This is a photo of how many people raised those hands!!!  

This shows the success of our efforts of the last year.  It is so celebratory to realise that THIS MANY PEOPLE now know the name of Mary Lily Walker.  Wonders never cease.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Dundee Womens' Festival 2014

Dundee Women's Festival starts this Saturday 1st March, running throughout March. Their schedule is full of film, music, drama and history-based activities We're very pleased to be able to say that they've included some talks and events on Mary Lily Walker!

For more on the events, check out their Facebook page

Exhibition: Mary Lily Walker - Forgotten Heroine of Dundee
From Monday 3rd March
Time: During Central Library opening hours
Venue: Central Library, The Wellgate, Dundee DD1 1DB
Cost: FREE
Details: This exhibition provides all sorts of insights into Mary Lily Walker’s life and legacy. It contains a plethora of photographs and documents, all of which help us to make the connection between the Dundee of her day and our own.

Mary Lily Walker and her Sisterhood
Monday 3rd March
Time: 18.30 - 20.30
Venue: Number Ten, 10 Constitution Road, Dundee DD11LL
Cost: FREE
Details: Since the centenary of her death was celebrated in June 2013, residents of Dundee have
become familiar with the life story of Mary Lily Walker, Dundee’s forgotten heroine. What there
hasn’t been time to tell are the stories about the women who loved her, supported her work,
and joined her in her vision. This event will give us a chance to meet some of those women.

The discussion will be led by Suzanne Zeedyk and Pete Kinnear, two of the researchers on
the project. It will include readings from actual correspondence of the time and memories written by the women who missed her presence, long after she was gone.

Mary Lily Walker’s World – from the Top of the Tower Café
Wednesday 12th March
Time: 10.00 - 11.00
Venue: Top of the Tower Café, University of Dundee, Floor 9 Tower Building, Perth Road, Dundee DD1 4HN
Cost: FREE. Book a place via or phone 0845 075 3694
Details: For those who are understandably reluctant to brave Dundee streets in March, come and see Mary Lily Walker’s world from above. 

We will meet in the Top of the Tower Café, in the Tower Building of the University of Dundee. Researcher Pete Kinnear will guide you through her world, looking down from the expansive windows of the Cafe. You can even help yourself to a bacon roll and cuppa, in between questions! Event is free but places limited and booking is essential.