Trade guild allow first female member in 321 years

Rev Dr Janet Foggie became a member for Dyers of Dundee. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Rev Dr Janet Foggie became a member for Dyers of Dundee. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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ONE OF Scotland’s most famous ancient trade guilds - the Dyers of Dundee - has admitted its first female member in 321 years.

The Nine Trades of Dundee are based on the individual crafts of baxters (bakers), cordiners (shoemakers), tailors, bonnetmakers, the hammermen, weavers, skinners (glovers), fleshers (butchers) and dyers.

The “Nine Trades” were all granted a charter, or Seal of Cause, to give them power to elect their own deacon - leader of the trade, formulate acts, and run their own trade in the city.

They now function as charities, raising money for good causes.

Though the real dyers were often women, the fairer sex had been banned from the ranks of the trade guild for over three centuries “by social convention”.

The new female Dyer - the Rev Dr Janet Foggie - was inducted to the Dyers at a ceremony held at the Royal Tay Yacht Club, Dundee.

The Church of Scotland minister was already chaplain to the Nine Trades of Dundee.

She said: “For the dyers in particular, it was a trade that involved women historically so there was nothing in their constitution that said a woman couldn’t be a member, it had just become a social convention.

“What the dyers are doing in my mind is bringing that into the 21st Century by widening our view of ourselves.

“Obviously, as chaplain to the trades, it’s lovely that they’ve asked me to be their first woman member and that is a privilege.”

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Dr Foggie is not the first woman to be admitted to a Dundee trade, as the weavers, of which she is also a member, began accepting female members around four years ago.

Tim Heilbronn, outgoing deacon of the Dyer Trade of Dundee, said: “I was the ninth deacon since the craft opened to a wider membership and I am delighted celebrate this landmark occasion by becoming only the second of the Nine Trades to admit lady members.

“Dr Foggie has been a fantastic supporter of the Nine Trades since her appointment six years ago as chaplain to the Nine Trades of Dundee and the Three United Trades and it is most fitting that she should have this honour of being our first elected lady member.”

Today, the nine trades donate around £50,000 to good causes each year - mainly to help in education and training for young people in Dundee.

Grants are given to Abertay University, and awards and prizes are available for students at both universities in the city, along with its schools and colleges.

Youth groups such as the Air Training Corps and the Sea Scouts are also assisted, as are many students carrying out projects to further their careers.

Although originally a “closed craft”, in order to protected the interests of the dyers and their apprentices as the trade numbers dwindled, the final three members of the craft met in 1996 and agreed to partially open the craft to allow anyone whose occupation involved working with colour, in any sense, to apply for membership.

Membership numbers now around 50, and includes photographers, artists, designers, printers, and architects.

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