Tracey Investigates A Hidden Gem


There’s a huge amount of regeneration going on in Dundee at the moment. Yet in the bustling centre lies a piece of ground which, comparatively, has changed very little since 1564.

The Howff (an old word meaning “meeting place”) is a cemetery that lies straight across from the “Friend” offices. It was once part of a Greyfriars Monastery, and the land was gifted to the burgh of Dundee by Mary Queen Of Scots.

With graves and markers dating from the 1600s, there are so many stories to be told as you wander round. I first became aware of The Howff when I moved to Dundee rather a . . . lot of years ago. I loved it straight away.

It’s a popular spot with so many people. There have even been a number of pop group photoshoots within its walls over the years, thanks to “Jackie” magazine!

It’s the legends and mysteries that keep people gripped, though.

A few years ago, some volunteers set up the Dundee Howff Conservation Group SCIO to protect the headstones, and to map the cemetery with a view to trying to discover everyone who rests there.

It’s not an easy task, as over the many hundreds of years headstones have been moved  — plus, the area was used as a mass burial site for cholera victims.

Notable people buried there include James Chalmers, inventor of the adhesive postage stamp, and many sea captains and master tradesmen.

Mediaeval Mystery

The Conservation Group now offer guided tours. I popped along to one last weekend, on a suitably dark and damp day. Perfect for learning about stone carvings, superstitions, grave-robbing and ghosts!

One mystery that the group  is looking to solve is the strange appearance of a mediaeval grave marker that dates from the 12th century.

Why is it there? Until enough money is raised to have a proper detailed look at the markings on the stone, the mystery remains!

If you ever find yourself in Dundee, it’s well worth a wander round —  and could no doubt provide you with lots of inspiration for writing stories!

Check out Lucy’s recommendations for more things to do in Dundee.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!